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The Real Writing Process of Tim Lebbon
Episode 2143rd July 2022 • The Real Writing Process • Tom Pepperdine
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Tom Pepperdine interviews Tim Lebbon about his writing process. Tim discusses why he wrote the first draft of his last book in longhand, whether he sees himself as a planner or a pantser, and why his latest book, The Last Storm, is the best thing he's ever written.

You can find all of Tim information on his website here: https://www.timlebbon.net/

And you can follow him on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/timlebbon

And you can find more information on our upcoming guests on the following links:

https://twitter.com/Therealwriting1

https://www.instagram.com/realwritingpro

https://www.facebook.com/therealwritingprocesspodcast

Transcripts

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Hello and welcome to The Real Writing Process.

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I'm your host, Tom Pepperdine.

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And this week, my guest is the British horror and dark

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fantasy writer, tim Lebbon.

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I'm so happy to have Tim on as a guest.

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Firstly, because he's a lovely gent, lovely to talk to and

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his books are a great read.

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But also he has written so many of my favorite characters in an

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epic career of tie-in novels.

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He's written Hellboy.

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He's written Ripley in Alien: Out of the Shadows.

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He's written Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly: Generations.

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He's also written in the Star Wars universe and done the film

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novelizations to 30 Days of Night and Kong: Skull Island.

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And if that is not all, his original stories have also been turned into films.

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The Silence became a Netflix film, starring Stanley Tucci, and Pay the Ghost

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was a film with Nicholas frickin Cage.

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It was an honor to pick his brain and learn about his writing process, but

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also an arguably more importantly, what his favorite beverage is.

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Dear audience, may I present my interview with Mr.

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Timothy Lebbon.

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Hello.

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And I'm pleased to say that this week I am joined by Tim Lebbon.

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Tim, hello!

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Hi Tom.

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Great to be here.

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Hello.

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Thank you.

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I'm glad that you are here too.

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And as always, my first question is what are we drinking?

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Well, I'm halfway through a mug of really good Colombian coffee at the moment.

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I was toying with the idea of a beer, but it's still late afternoon.

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So coffee is the way to go.

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And it's Columbian because my son's on the way to Columbia in three weeks time.

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Oh, wow.

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To do traveling.

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So I'm yeah.

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Okay.

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Is coffee, your regular writing drink?

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Yes, I'm a bit of a coffee fiend.

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I know lots of writers are tea first thing in the morning, but then on

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coffee late morning, probably only two or three cups a day, to be honest.

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But I've got a nice coffee machine and if I go a day without coffee, I'm climbing

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the walls, which is probably not a great thing health wise, but, you know,

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uh, but it's a good working drink, I guess it keeps you focused with the caffeine.

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I guess so.

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Yeah.

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I'm not conscious that it gives me a hit, but it obviously does.

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Like I say, climb the walls.

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If I don't have one before mid-afternoon, I'm getting antsy and

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I'm also, I can also have a coffee, 11 o'clock and then go to bed.

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I know some people who won't drink their coffee past midday

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because they can't sleep.

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It never affects me.

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Okay.

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And where I'm talking to you now, is this your writing spot?

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Is this your writing desk?

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Yeah, I'm in my office at home.

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Excellent.

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And how long have you had a dedicated writing space?

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I'm very lucky, actually.

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We live in a three bed semi in a nice little village in South Wales, but

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it's, it's got an extra room downstairs.

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Like they, I think when we bought the house it was

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advertised as the dining room.

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And it was a while, and then it became half an office to me and

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half the playroom for my daughter when she was born 23 years ago.

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But since I've been writing full-time, which is a little over

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15 years, it's been it's my room.

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As you can see I've got books everywhere.

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I've got record player, reading chair, posters.

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It's a mighty fine man cave, I think.

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Yeah, I sort of got two really, cause we've got a cabin in the garden where

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all my books, bikes and weights.

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But my wife's been working there through lockdown.

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So it's, that bit in the garden is now partly office, partly man cave.

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And do you find that you can only write or you write your best work in your

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office, or can you just write anywhere?

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So that that varies.

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Lockdown changed that quite a bit because I made a decision just

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before lockdown and I decided I'm going to write a new novel on spec.

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I'm going to write it longhand in notebooks, which have still got piled up.

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And then lockdown happened.

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So I went with the idea of writing in notebooks and it meant that

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I was circulating all around the house throughout the day.

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Because like I say, three bed semi.

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It's quite sizable house for four adults.

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And the cabin in the garden really saved us through lockdown because I spent a

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lot more time sitting out there writing.

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Usually straight on a computer, but for that one novel, it was a handwritten.

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So I do a fair amount of writing away from home, in cafes and things.

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And I can do that quite comfortably.

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I find distractions at home, noise at home is more distracting for

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me than distractions outside.

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So if I sit in a coffee shop and it's really noisy, I can write.

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Yeah.

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But if I sit at home.

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For instance now I'm just looking at my dog in the back garden he might

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start barking soon as it's dinner time and that's a distraction.

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But if I'm in a coffee shop, I just stay at the table.

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I do find that I can write virtually anywhere as long as I've got

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either a laptop or a notebook.

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Okay.

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And what you're working on now.

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So your last book was a first draft, I guess, in notebooks.

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Yeah.

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Is that something that you think you'll repeat or was it just the plot

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of that lent itself to being written longhand or was it just an experiment?

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It was an experiment because I'm good friends with Rio

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Youers, a Canadian writer.

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He's a great guy, incredible writer, Rio.

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And he writes everything longhand.

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He writes, I don't think he's ever written anything straight on to the computer.

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And he writes longhand in pubs and cafes and sometimes at home,

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but usually away from home.

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It was a few years ago when he was living in Vienna and I, so it's a long

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story which I'll try and cut short.

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We went to a vampire convention in Transylvania, which does, does

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sound as incredible as it was.

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Amazing.

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Me, Rio and Chris Golden were guests there.

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And one evening we did a read thing in a cemetery in Transylvania.

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There was lightning, bats flying around in the church belfry and

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we heard barking in the distance.

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We were told afterwards was wolves and you can't get any better than that.

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Well you can, because in the morning I had chunks of Transylvanian grave

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dirt in the treads of my boots.

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So that's a Transylvania story.

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And I stayed with Rio in Vienna for a few days after that.

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And we have good chat about our writing processes, and I really fell in love

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with the idea of writing longhand.

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That's why I did this novel longhand.

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Back to your question and I'm going to do it again, not immediately.

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And that the reason, two reasons.

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One reason when you've written 100,000 word novel in notebooks,

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then you have to type it up.

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It's a real tough task.

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Reason number two, my handwriting is so terrible that

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sometimes I just got the gist.

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So you know I was typing up my own handwriting thinking, what

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did I, what does that word say?

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uh, I think if I did do it again, it would be, I do it how Rio does

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it, which is you'll write a thousand words and you'll transcribe it

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and edit it as he goes along.

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So even talking to you about it now, I'm about to start

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a new novel, very very soon.

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Even talking to you about it now, I, I still might consider

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doing it longhand because of the sort of freedom it gives you.

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When I decided to write the novel longhand, a couple of years ago, I had

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romantic notions of sitting on top of mountians with a cup of massive coffee,

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and then frigging COVID happened.

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And I wrote the whole thing at home.

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That was my rounadbout ambling way of saying I'm not sure if I'm you know.,

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I think it's, it's fascinating to write like, you know, like you say a

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hundred thousand words in long form.

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Did you find that your writing sessions differed greatly, like

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the length of time that you could write was either longer or shorter?

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I guess, you can move around a bit more than being chained to a computer

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or a laptop, but I guess there's a risk of hand cramps, so pros and cons.

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Did you write longer or shorter or did you keep to a set time?

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Probably shorter time-wise, but I think the writing was more intense.

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And it changed the way I wrote quite significantly, I think.

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Because when I'm not a great typist, I'm a three finger typist.

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Okay.

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Three fingers, thumb, space bar.

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Three or four finger typist.

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I'm fairly quick at it, but I make mistakes.

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So when I find, when I'm typing, I'll often go back and

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I'll be editing as I go along.

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Because I see that I've made mistakes, so I go back and edit.

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But handwriting was just flow.

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I'd cross the odd word out here and there, but I didn't worry

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about editing as I went into long, which showed when I transcribed.

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But then transcribing in itself was uh, was the first edit, really.

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Yeah.

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So I think the writing periods were shorter.

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Partly, like you say, hand cramp s.

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So partly for that reason.

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And also partly cause it was during lockdown and there

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four of us in the house.

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So I'd have an hour in one room and then I had to go to another

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room for another hour, maybe.

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Because my daughter is finishing a degree at home.

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My son was doing A levels at home.

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My wife was working at home.

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Yeah.

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Sounds hellish.

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But to be fair, to be honest, the first lockdown we still quite enjoyed.

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We were just at home together and it was quite nice.

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But it did make working quite difficult.

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So the writing periods were shorter, but I was getting the same sort

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of word count down that I aim for when I'm working on a novel.

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Which is probably, I aim for a couple of thousand words a day when I'm

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really in the saddle on a novel.

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And I was just thinking with writing, I don't want any kind of like plot

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spoilers, but first or third person.

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Sometimes if you're writing first person, it could really feel like journal entries

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and with third person, I guess it's that more classical style of a novel.

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Omniscient narrator.

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Would you be comfortable saying, whether it was first person or third person?

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Yeah.

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There's a bit of both in a novel actually.

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I like writing, I like mixing it up in a novel.

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So in the novels, the novel I wrote, it's called The Last Storm.

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It's going to be published in July by Titan Books.

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And there's some first person, some third person.

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I do, I enjoy writing first person, cause it is, does feel like you say almost

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like a journal entry and almost as if you're in that head of the character.

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But also I find, I think for a full length novel it can be a bit intense

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and also you need to get away from that character sometimes to find

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out what other people are doing.

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It's a sort of a chase story.

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So a family chase story in some regards.

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And I've done that before in novels, first and third person.

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It's difficult to do sometimes, but I think if you, somebody who I love

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as a writer, Mike Marshall Smith.

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I love him as a person as well.

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He did it in a novel quite a while back and I thought that was fucking great.

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I really appreciated that and enjoyed it.

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I do try that occasionally.

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Cool.

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That's excellent.

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And I also wanted to ask, more general about your writing process.

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Before you dived into writing it longhand, do you have a specific outline?

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Do you map a lot of the plot and the events before that, or are you much

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more of a by the seat of your pants?

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You know where you're going, but you want to just create in each writing session?

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Pantser or plotter.

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Yeah.

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I'm more of a pantser, to be honest.

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So sometimes I'll write a novel that's based on a proposal

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that I've sold to a publisher.

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Other times, such as with Eden and The Last Storm, I wrote the novels on spec.

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So it wasn't like a polished proposal that I'd written to send to a publisher.

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So what I usually do, I'll think about a novel a lot before I

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write it and make lots of notes and they're really scattershot.

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If I open my file of notes, it might be 10, 15, 20 pages long, but

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it's not in any particular order.

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And then I plan as I go along.

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So once I've thought about the novel and I found my way into it,

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which always involves, for me, the first page of a novel as, as a

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reader and even more importantly as a writer is, is really important.

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I need to feel that my first page or two really sings, you know?

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Really needs to feel three-dimensional and the characters need to sing off the page.

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Once I find my way into a novel, I tend to plan on ahead

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a couple of chapters at a time.

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When I was writing it longhand, I had a notebook, which was next couple of

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chapters this happens, that happens.

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But when I'm writing on the computer at the end of my day writing there's

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always a big wad of notes that I've planned for the future chapters.

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I'll usually have a rough idea of where it's going.

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I'll always have a rough idea of where the novel's going, where the story's going.

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But sometimes people die when I wasn't, might not have been expecting them to.

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Yeah.

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And it sounds glib but I always say I speed up writing when I get to

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the end of the novel, because I want to know what happens at the end.

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You usually have a rough idea, but I'm also keen to get there.

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I certainly don't plot novels out in great detail.

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Which often results in me writing myself into a corner, but I quite like that.

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Like writing yourself into a problem and you have to think your way out of it.

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Because that's what happens in life.

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You encounter problems, you have to work your way around them.

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Sorry.

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I, yeah, just one other quick thought.

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I also think if you plot a novel in great detail and actually plan scene

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by scene like you might do if you're writing a screenplay, for instance.

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You've told the story already.

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So it might not feel so fresh when you're actually writing it.

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No.

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Absolutely.

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And I think that, of the pansters I've spoken to, that seems

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to be the school of thought.

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What I really was interested in asking, if it's not a overall plot

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that is the Genesis of the idea of the story, what tends to form the

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initial elements of a story for you?

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Is it that you have a character that really interested you and

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what kind of world is this person live in, or is it a scenario and

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a kind of broad strokes society?

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And does it vary, but do you find that you felt you'd lean towards character

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or world scenarios when you first start developing an idea for a book?

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Probably much more scenarios and ideas and concept.

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Sometimes if I like my novel, The Silence, for instance.

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I can remember which I wrote seven or eight years ago, six or seven years ago.

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I can actually remember the moment where I thought monsters that hunt by

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sound, then I'll call it The Silence.

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And that was the g enesis of that novel.

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It's rare that I'll come up, fairly rare that I'll come up with the character

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and then the novel comes from there.

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It's usually a situation or like I say, a concept.

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My last, Eden, The Last Storm, and the novel I'm about to start

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are all sort of climate or driven by climate change cli-fi fiction.

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I don't really like the term, but cli-fi horror.

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Yeah.

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So w with Eden, I knew with Eden, it was the idea of a adventure racing

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team going somewhere dangerous.

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Evolved into the the climate change idea.

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With The Last Storm that was always going to be there anyway.

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And now I think I need to write a third one.

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Yeah, so usually often a really small idea.

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But as with The Silence, it's just high concepts and that was it.

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But that doesn't happen very often.

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Yes.

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And with Eden as example, adventure runners in a dangerous setting.

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How do you then go, cause it's quite a band of characters and

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they've all got their own agency.

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How'd you go about developing your characters?

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Do you like do character maps or are they based on certain archetypes?

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How do you go around developing your characters?

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Usually I've gotten an idea of what it'd be like as I go into the novel,

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but the development for me happens as I'm writing most of the time.

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Which often means that I have a fair amount of character

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editing to do when I go back.

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But it sort of feels like I'm a stranger meeting them for the first time.

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So they've got their lives behind them in a background, but I don't know them.

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I don't know anything about them.

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So going into the novel I'm discovering them is the same way that reader is.

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I've done various things that you're told, oh, you should do a character interview.

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And I've done that.

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20 questions.

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Ask each character 20 questions and write their answers.

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So that in your head they're rounded people before you go

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in and start fighting them.

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I don't do that all the time.

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I'm trying to think of how that worked with Eden.

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I think, yeah, it's like a sort of a fluid thing.

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I don't remember sitting down and writing lots of character notes.

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Possibly for the, for Jenn and Dylan the main characters.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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But just develop as I go along really.

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Again, and I think if you write pages and pages of character stuff, before you start

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the novel, you know everything about them.

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And, part of the fun of writing a novel for me is the same fun I get

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from reading a novel, sometimes.

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It's finding out about the story and finding out that the

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characters and what happens.

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And I suppose building a novel as I go along is the same way that

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I'm discovering novel as I read.

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Yeah.

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And I think, a story comes in drafts, and I think it sort of people who new

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to writing or don't write, don't realize how many iterations of the story are

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told before the one that gets published.

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Developing character that way.

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You tell the story and the characters bring out and like you said there

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earlier ,sometimes a character may die when you weren't expecting it.

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The impact that will have on the other characters and how their actions and

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motivations may change because of that is what you find exciting about the stories?

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Yeah.

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I know some writers who love to plan things out and might react

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in horror, but I think that's the glorious thing of, there is no right

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answer in how to write a story.

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And I always find it fascinating to hear the people who start and go,

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yeah, I have no idea what happens, but then that's why I'm writing it.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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And I don't think any two people write write a novel in the same way, be honest.

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It's not just pantser v plotter it's yeah, everyone's got a different approach.

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And, you know, I have different approaches to different novels as well.

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This novel I'm writing now is, about to start writing, I've written a

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full proposal for it for a publisher.

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So that's a different process.

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So the last two, which I wrote on spec.

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Different in a way, but then I'll often I do often say if I write

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a proposal and sell a novel to a publisher, I never look at it again.

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I just go write the novel.

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When you write proposals, is this for an existing IP and existing universe?

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Well, it can be, but it can also to be for, this is for

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an original novel of my own.

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Okay.

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And with this proposal that you've written, so you'd know

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the ending already, or is it just more of a hook on the concept?

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I don't really know the ending.

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And like I say, if the publisher I've sent it to when, if, and when they buy it,

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I'm pretty hopeful it's going to happen.

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I might not look at the proposal again.

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I'll put it in a drawer, I'll write the novel.

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I will, I'll pick out plot points from it, but then a lot will change, inevitably.

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Because it's six months work and at the end of six months, I'd have

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written my way through the novel and met the characters and the ending I

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had in the proposal might not suit.

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And when I deliver novel, the publisher is not going to go back to the proposal

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and say, oh, this isn't exactly the same.

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If I wrote a historical Naval romance instead of a climate change horror

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thriller, they might have problems, but it's going to be a similar sort of story.

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That's cool.

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And you have written in existing IP with Alien tie-in novels and the various

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sort of movie books that you've written.

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How has it writing when there's a pre-established mythos compared to

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your own original books, is that easier or much more challenging?

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It's a different challenge, I think.

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I wouldn't say it's easier or harder, and each property brings different challenges.

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So I've written Star Wars, Alien, Predator, Hellboy, 30 days of night,

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Firefly, and they're all licensing regulations are all different.

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The relationships between publisher and licenser are different.

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They all necessitate like a detailed proposal before you

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start writing, like Star Wars, I had to write a detailed proposal.

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And I was surprisingly for me, I thought it was going to be really

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stringent, but I was given free reign really, which was quite nice.

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The Alien book came from, so the first Alien novel I wrote was part of a trilogy

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with me, Chris Goldman and Jim Moore.

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A two page proposal from Fox.

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So we were given the real rough outline.

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Okay.

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And then we had to expand it, but then I wrote an Alien vs.

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Predator trilogy, which just all my own sort of idea of far future.

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And then, like I say, everyone's different and novelizations of movies

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is you just give them the script and you say, turn this into a novel.

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So that's probably the easiest tie-in work to do.

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But you're often told here's a script, we need it in a month.

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And by the way, it's not the shooting script.

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So you have to do changes at the end.

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Okay.

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So there's often difficulties with that as well.

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Yeah.

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And because some of the Alien Vs Predator, you've got your own characters.

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And so that's yeah, a bit more freedom, but when you're first Alien, the Fox

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,proposal you actually had Ripley in it.

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And did you feel any pressure to really get the voice of Ripley, right?

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Or was that just more in working with the editor at the end?

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No.

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I felt a lot of pressure, but also I'm, that was my dream

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job, a Ripley Alien novel.

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I'd always wanted Alien, I love the Alien films, in lesser

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degrees as, as the sequels go on.

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Alien is my favorite film of all time.

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And when we saw, when we saw the proposal from Fox.

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One of the novels was a Ripley novel and I said I want to do the first

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one and then it was all agreed.

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Great.

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Yeah, that was great.

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So there was pressure.

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I think I've got her voice okay.

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And even, even someone who got it even better, Dirk Maggs adapted the novel

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for audio drama and the woman playing Ripley, can't remember her name for

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the life of me, but she was fantastic.

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And Dirk got her voice just perfectly.

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Oh, that was great.

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That was great fun to write.

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Really great fun.

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Yeah.

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Cause I guess it's just when it's your own characters, the audience trust you

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and just put their own imprint on it.

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But when everyone can hear Sigourney Weaver's voice in

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their heads when reading it.

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Yeah.

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I can imagine that's very challenging, but thrilling at the same time.

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Moving more onto your daily process now with you know,

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you about to start a new book.

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Do you, you know, as a full-time writer, do you have a set schedule

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for when you go, right, now I start writing now I finished writing.

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Do you have a certain hours a day or like you said earlier, you

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try and get a few thousand words.

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So is it more well, I've done everything else.

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I've cleaned the house, I better start writing now.

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So is it structured or is it a bit more loose?

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It's fairly structured.

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And that comes from, even though I've been writing full-time for 15 years,

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I was in a 9 to 5 job before that.

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And we've got two kids who are now grown up and almost, my daughter's away.

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She's in uni.

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My son's 18.

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He'll be gone to uni in September and he's traveling soon.

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So we're empty nester s, almost.

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But my wife works at home, still, because of COVID.

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So I'm still sort of sit at my desk at nine o'clock.

:

30, if I get up that early, do social media crap, and

:

then nine o'clock start writing.

:

And then usually if I'm actually, it's been a while since I've actually been

:

writing a novel at my desk or wherever, but usually once I reached, sort of

:

2000 words, whether that's by midday or three in the afternoon I'm, I'm feeling,

:

oh, I'm think I'm done for the day.

:

Creatively tired a little bit.

:

So I tend to try and work from nine to five with maybe at lunchtime

:

run or lunch with my wife.

:

But then I'll often be working in the evenings.

:

My manager is New York.

:

My manager, my film manager is LA.

:

So if there's any stuff to talk about with them, it's usually

:

late afternoons or evenings.

:

And, you know, you're always working as a writer.

:

That's what I always say.

:

It's the only job where I can be sitting at my desk with my feet on

:

the desk, staring out the window.

:

And my wife says, what are you doing?

:

And I can say writing.

:

Yeah.

:

And it's right.

:

you know, I do carry on through the evening as well, sometimes.

:

As someone who's been a full-time writer for 15 years, because throughout the

:

podcast, I'm speaking to people at various different stages of their career.

:

And the thing I've noticed with people who have just made the

:

transition from a full-time work to, or part-time work to, full-time writer

:

is that they still dress for work.

:

And this is I get up and get washed and dressed and stuff like that.

:

And I feel for the benefit of, we were both very relaxed.

:

They were both in our loungewear, I would generously call our

:

t-shirt and joggers and hoodie.

:

Was there a time when you dressed more formally for your writing sessions that

:

just got more relaxed as you went on?

:

Or was it always just a thrill of when you first stopped the day job to go, I'm never

:

having to wear a shirt and tie again?

:

No, it was straight into jeans and t-shirt, and never pajamas to be honest.

:

I do like to get up change and dress comfortable clothing.

:

I mean, I started, sort of transitioned from working full time in my day job,

:

and then becoming a writer by, I have three and a half years part-time in my

:

day job, which was the local authority.

:

And then I did become one of the scrappier ones in the office.

:

So over the last year with two, I go with the black jeans and polo

:

shirt instead of shirt and tie, which most people recommended.

:

I always never, where's where's your tie, Lebbon?

:

But it was, I transitioned from am smart clothing to scruffy.

:

I'm much more comfortable scruffy, to be honest.

:

I think it's when you're spending long periods of time, fairly static.

:

You do want to be comfortable.

:

And I think perceptions that have changed of writers from the start of the show to

:

now, and progressing, is that often the cliche gift people think that to get a

:

writer is a nice pen, a nice notebook, and I find most writers don't like use pens

:

and notebooks, and if they do, they don't want a nice one because it's all just

:

scrubbed, scrappy ideas and they go oh, that, pen's too nice to write my divel.

:

Or just, I, I can't have a notebook where I can't tear

:

the pages out, it's too lovely.

:

And so I'm beginning to think that the perfect gift for writers is loungewear.

:

A really comfy hoodie or joggers.

:

These are the gifts a writer needs.

:

Yeah.

:

Interesting.

:

When I did start writing my novel longhand, I was looking

:

for the perfect notebook.

:

Because I want you to write with a fountain pen, even

:

though my writing's terrible.

:

So I bought, I did buy a nice fountain in pen and I Code & Quill notebooks.

:

I was the recommended.

:

I actually, they had to send them from America.

:

I'll probably because of Brexit.

:

I'd probably pay a fortune in import fees.

:

But if they want to sponsor the show, I'm open to it.

:

Yeah.

:

Fantastic.

:

I bought two of them.

:

Filled them up.

:

And then the rest of the novel did end up in scruffy little notebooks that I found.

:

I've got a bit of a notebook problem, actually.

:

I've got dozens of the things lying around, but what writer doesn't?

:

Yeah, absolutely.

:

Another thing that I'm beginning to realize with writers, that often there

:

can be a point during the first draft stage, where often there's the feeling

:

that you've forgotten how to write.

:

That actually, you're a terrible writer.

:

Why am I doing this?

:

After 15 years full-time, do you recognize at what state of the book is it?

:

Like two thirds of the way through, is it 80%?

:

Is it earlier?

:

Is there a certain stage that you hit and it's your imposter syndrome stage?

:

Yeah, it's usually the middle of the book.

:

Almost always guaranteed to hit the middle of the book and you go on in with

:

the enthusiasm, great opening, heading towards what's going to be an exciting,

:

to use the screenplay structure, act two is always the tough one for me.

:

The imposter syndrome rises and falls.

:

I'm aware that I've, I'm making a living from writing, which is lovely.

:

And I've written lots and lots of novels, some people would say too many.

:

But there is, there's always the doubt that you can carry on.

:

There's always the fear for me that it'll dry up and I won't get to continue.

:

I'm fairly confident I will, because I was talking about my good friend Rio

:

Youers, he's such a fantastic writer.

:

Rio focuses on a novel at a time and that's it.

:

At the moment I'm starting a new novel, I've got an audio project,

:

which I'm hoping it's going to happen.

:

Over the last couple of days, I've been doing a lot of screenwriting.

:

So I've got feature, film, feature scripts out there.

:

And a pilot written solo and two collaborative pilots.

:

So I've written, so I've got lots of stuff flying around.

:

And I'm hoping some of it will land.

:

So for me, the imposter syndrome is sort of a couched fear.

:

And I think most writers experience that fear.

:

I, I know some writers who are very wealthy and they still say oh I'm

:

fucking terrified, it's all going to end.

:

And I think that's a sort of a healthy attitude in a way,

:

that it keeps you on your toes.

:

If you get too blasé about what you write, first of all, you end

:

up writing the same stuff again and again, which isn't healthy.

:

I don't think.

:

And then you might just not end up putting the same amount of

:

effort into writing something.

:

And that, that will show through with your readers.

:

So I think it's important.

:

For the same reason, I try to make every novel the best one I've ever written.

:

Sometimes on the half way through I'm thinking, I'm

:

thinking, no, this really isn't.

:

But something like The Last Storm, for instance, that is out soon.

:

I was writing long hand, and all the way through I was thinking,

:

I'm not really sure about this.

:

I finished it and I was ready to type it up.

:

Oh, I'm really not sure about this.

:

And then now I honestly do think it's one of the best novels I've written.

:

It's really propulsive and it's cinematic and yeah.

:

And people are reading it and loved it.

:

So it also goes to show you, you just can't really tell.

:

I don't think many writers can be really objective about their work.

:

And I guess, sort of, to counteract the imposter syndrome it's just

:

reminding yourself of that fact.

:

And just giving yourself that little coaching session,

:

just talking yourself up.

:

Is there any other techniques that you have, if you feel that you

:

all maybe like spiraling a bit?

:

Where you really get the fear but you can push yourself out of

:

it, or is it just more of a, you know, it's temporary and you just

:

have to ride through that emotion?

:

Yeah.

:

I just write through it, to be honest.

:

Whether I've got contract for a novel or not, I'm always fairly

:

hopeful the thing's going to sell.

:

It's the same way as if when you write yourself into a corner,

:

you've got plot problems, you write through it and fix it afterwards.

:

If you've got the fear and you're worried that things aren't quite going to turn

:

out as you hope you just keep going.

:

And the old adage, something always comes up.

:

In my 15 years full-time, I've had some more ups than downs.

:

Sort of writing wise and earning wise.

:

So I've been quite lucky to have some Hollywood stuff done and film options.

:

But also I write a lot.

:

I write a lot more than some writers.

:

A lot writers publish a novel every year, 18 months.

:

The last couple of years it's been a bit slower.

:

I tend to publish a couple of novels a year.

:

Whether they be originals or tie-ins or collaborations.

:

And work and other stuff as well.

:

I'm a working writer, I call myself.

:

I'll take on projects because their bread and butter sometimes, like novelizations

:

and tie-in work, which I love doing.

:

But also, if I had a hundred percent choice, I'd just write my own novels.

:

One novel a year for six figures, I'm not that lucky.

:

Yeah.

:

And how do you find collaborations?

:

And are they something that you actively seek out or are they just things that are

:

offered and you feel like, yeah, that's the person I really want to work with?

:

I, I've never collaborated with somebody that I didn't want

:

to work with, that's for sure.

:

And generally my main collaborator is Chris Golden in the states.

:

Who we've written eight novels together and a screenplay and short stories.

:

And we've we got a novella coming out soon, which isn't announced

:

yet, but it's going to be amazing.

:

It's going to look beautiful.

:

And we were really good friends.

:

We know each other very well.

:

Well enough to say what you did, didn't work, you know.

:

And uh, also uh, we know each other well enough to know the

:

process of how we collaborate and feel and do it very smoothly.

:

And I've collaborated with, Steve Volk and I have written

:

a couple of scripts together.

:

And Stephen Susco in the States, screenwriter over there, we've

:

written a pilot together.

:

Uh, I really I do love collaborating because it's, first of all, it's like

:

a, it's a sounding board for your work.

:

Yeah.

:

That's one reason.

:

Another reason is you end up writing something you'd never

:

would have written on your own.

:

Yeah.

:

Perfect collaboration is when you create a third voice.

:

So we've each got our own personal writing styles.

:

As a collaborative team, if your voice is different from two individuals,

:

you've created a third voice.

:

You've created a third writer in effect, if that works then it's worked.

:

And our agent, my agents Howard Moore, in New York.

:

At the time of our first collaboration, me and Chris, he wasn't Chris's agent.

:

He is now.

:

But he read the book and he said, oh, so you wrote the first chapter, Tim.

:

I said, no, it was Chris.

:

So it worked from the beginning, so I really, I love collaborating.

:

It's it's really so exciting and refreshing, especially

:

if it's with someone new.

:

So I'm always open to collaboration a little bit.

:

Yeah.

:

And with the different formats, because I think that a lot of people don't

:

realize how different the disciplines of writing a short story, a novella,

:

a novel, a screenplay are that there are different beats, there's

:

different techniques to writing those.

:

Is there, with uh, the difference between a novela and a novel?

:

I guess as a pantser, do you know that going in, like this is going to be a

:

shorter story or this might be a hundred thousand or is it just sometimes you go

:

to write a novella, and then it's I'm still going and I've hit 50,000 words.

:

This might not be a novella anymore.

:

How do you know, like what kind of story length you're going for?

:

Yeah.

:

I'm usually fairly good at judging that, I think.

:

I wrote a novella last year.

:

I just decided I've got this really rough scene in my head.

:

I'm just going to start writing.

:

It'll probably be a novella.

:

And it turned out about 25,000 words.

:

It's not often I'll sit down to write a new novel and it

:

comes in short, for instance.

:

Sometimes bit long, but that's just an editing thing.

:

I'm quite good at judging the length of, length of things.

:

If I'm invited into an anthology to write a short story and they've got a five

:

or six thousand word limit, I might hit 7,000 words, but I'm not going to send

:

them something that's 17 or 18 thousand.

:

A story's as long as it needs to be.

:

Yeah.

:

And I guess with the 15 years of full-time experience, it's more instinctive now?

:

I guess.

:

But a short story is a very different beast from the novel, obviously.

:

So I'll know if an idea is a short story idea or a novel idea.

:

But then sometimes a short story idea can turn into a novel idea.

:

Like my novel, The Last Storm.

:

I actually wrote a story called Hell Came Down, about 20 years ago, I think.

:

Which the sort of core idea of that is the sort of basis of the novel.

:

You wrote the short story, but you felt that there was

:

more of the story to be told?

:

Yeah, partly that, and partly that the central idea could lend

:

itself to a bigger scale story.

:

Yeah.

:

And with screenplay, because you have a very cinematic style of writing.

:

I would say that there's a very strong visual core to your

:

prose, which I really enjoy.

:

And I think it lends itself, which is why you have such great

:

novelizations of film and film tie-ins.

:

But writing screenplays is very different.

:

It's very sparse.

:

It's not as descriptive.

:

It's very dialogue heavy.

:

How do you approach the start of a screenplay when you're mapping that out?

:

Because as you said before, you tend to be more scenario based, but a screenplay

:

tends to be very character driven.

:

And you have that that dialogue.

:

So how has your approach to screenplays?

:

Lot more, lot more planning.

:

When I write screenplays I'm a planner.

:

As opposed to pantser, most of the time.

:

I do know some screenwriters who will start with a scene where

:

it see where it takes them.

:

But the ones I've written up to now, certainly if you're a collaboration with

:

somebody, there's a lot more planning.

:

I think 20% of writing a screenplay is actually sitting

:

down writing the first draft.

:

Okay.

:

80% of it is planning it and thinking about it and making notes and character.

:

For me anyway.

:

Yeah.

:

And plotting scene by scene before you actually write it.

:

So actually for me, sitting down and writing the first draft is..

:

I can do it really quickly because I know every scene.

:

I know the beats.

:

I do still feel I'm really learning about screen writing.

:

I've written a few screenplays now.

:

Quite a few.

:

Again, quite few in collaboration, but a few on my own.

:

I know I'm enjoying learning a back to it as well.

:

I'm enjoying feedback.

:

I've got a great manager in LA who he's really focused on story.

:

And he's very sharp.

:

I've said to him a few times, why aren't you writing screenplays?

:

Because he's brilliant.

:

But he is, he's very good at taking what I send him and telling me what

:

he likes and what he doesn't like.

:

And then we brainstorm how to fix it.

:

And I have learned through my earliest screenplays.

:

And I'm about to learn now, I think.

:

It's much more of a collaborative process as well.

:

My manager has helped me enormously on the stuff I've written now.

:

And it's going out there into the big wide world.

:

And if anyone likes any of it, it will be more rewrites.

:

I often say, I don't think a story's ever finished.

:

You never quite finish writing a novel, I don't think.

:

Even when it's published, you'll still change things round in your head

:

sometimes and you think, oh, maybe I could have done something different.

:

Screenplays very much the same, I think.

:

Yeah, and with your manager, it sounds very much it's the equivalent

:

of an editor on a, a novel.

:

He's, Michael's just, he's embedded out there.

:

He knows he's been working in Hollywood for years and years, so

:

he knows lots of people out there.

:

He knows what people are looking for.

:

He knows the sort of stuff that might attract a big producer or streamer,

:

or, you know, a film company.

:

So he's doing his best to make sure what I've written is going

:

to attract some attention.

:

He's putting his time in to help me.

:

Cause he sold loads of stuff, he's very experienced.

:

He's read, god knows how many screenplays he's read.

:

So I do still, like I said, feel that I'm at the beginning of screenwriting career.

:

But also it's, and I love it.

:

Cause it's just, it is just another form of storytelling.

:

I think as a writer, I've always just liked to think I'm a storyteller.

:

I happen to write, I'm sort of known as a novelist, I guess.

:

But I love writing novellas and short stories.

:

I'm hoping to get into some audiodrama soon.

:

Yeah, just spreading dtorytelling wings.

:

I love telling you the stories and whatever format I can get

:

to do it in is, is good for me.

:

So with the audio dramas, is that something that you've just

:

started writing that format?

:

Haven't actually started writing anything yet, it's like a pitch.

:

It's a pitch that I've got out there which I'm hoping is going to land soon.

:

I can't really say much about it, but it could be quite exciting.

:

Yeah, absolutely.

:

Because it is it's its own discipline and with podcasts now, like audio

:

dramas really getting a resurgence.

:

So..

:

Yeah, they're massive.

:

And it will be even, it would be different even from screenplays

:

because you can't see anything.

:

All through audio.

:

It's a real, it's a real challenge, but I still like challenging

:

myself sometimes as well.

:

It's another way of trying to, try and stop writing becoming

:

stale by another route.

:

And that's why I've always got several projects on the go.

:

Different novels, short stories, screenplays, and the audio at the moment.

:

And have you, to get into the mindset, have you been listening

:

to a lot of audio dramas?

:

Yeah, quite a few.

:

I love Sandman.

:

I mean, Dirk's great.

:

Dirk Maggs.

:

And the Alien stuff he's done is just fantastic as well.

:

The adaptation he did of Out of the Shadows, my novel, was just amazing.

:

And that was all Dirk.

:

I wrote the novel but Dirk did the adaptation and directed it.

:

And Rutger Hauer was in it, how cool is that?

:

That is very cool.

:

Yeah, it's amazing.

:

I often get emails or tweets about that.

:

And people saying, oh, I loved it.

:

And I always say it was, this was Dirk.

:

But I'm enjoying listening to them and like we were chatting about before we

:

started recording, I'm getting into listen to podcasts and things like that as well.

:

And trying to, I'm past half a century now, so I'm trying to keep

:

up with current trends and keep aware of what's going on out there, so

:

that I can keep writing basically.

:

Well, I think the technology is certainly advanced, but it does feel

:

like things have gone in cycles.

:

Because obviously before TV and cinema really took off, the radio plays, famously

:

Orson Welles War of the Worlds adaptation, they had a huge place in society.

:

And I think it's now, people are commuting and they got the headphones in.

:

And it's just listening to something rather than holding a

:

book or having their heads down.

:

People want to see the world.

:

And yeah, so we're looking around a lot more, being in their environment,

:

rather than neck pain of constantly looking down at their phone or their

:

Kindle, their book, or whatever.

:

That it is interesting how it's developed and how, obviously myself as a podcaster,

:

it is a real way to touch people and that the audience is growing and growing.

:

So yeah, it's a good market to get into.

:

And I really hope it takes off.

:

I'm sure if it does, it'll be excellent.

:

Well, it's quite exciting.

:

I think if what I'm hoping happens, then there'll be some excited fans.

:

Oh great.

:

Not for me.

:

Something else, but

:

Oh okay.

:

I see see see.

:

Yes.

:

I would love to uh, sort of like, we can revisit in a few years.

:

Have you back on the show.

:

Yeah.

:

One of the things, cause you mentioned people tweeting about

:

uh your work and stuff like that.

:

What's your opinion of social media as a writer?

:

Do you feel that Twitter is a useful tool for writers?

:

I've got a real love, hate relationship with social media, I must say.

:

So I, yeah, I get drawn in.

:

I spend too much time on social media and I'm very aware of that.

:

I'm trying not to.

:

But I get drawn into stuff and I think I'm getting better at it.

:

I tend not to get into arguments on social media.

:

It's ,what's the point?

:

Yeah.

:

People shouting into a hurricane.

:

I mean, my publishers will always say, you need a social media

:

presence and I've always had one.

:

Like, Facebook and Twitter I use and I'm being told I should be on Instagram.

:

So I need to learn about how to use that.

:

I think it is important.

:

It it's certainly been much more important the last couple of years.

:

Cause it's such an easy way, easier way to keep yourself as part of the

:

writing community in a reading community.

:

And, I made friends on social media and I got, actually got friends

:

that I'd never met on social media.

:

You know, we regard ourselves as friends.

:

It's a strange thing, really.

:

Yeah, but it's, I do think it's too easy to get drawn

:

into stuff that doesn't matter.

:

The amount of times I've written a tweet, being angry at Partygate

:

or whatever the hell it might be, and then realized what's the point?

:

If I write this tweet and put it out there, it's not going to change anything.

:

It doesn't matter.

:

Nobody cares that I'm angry at Boris Johnson or whatever might be happening.

:

So I just delete it and then go about my day.

:

Without any stress.

:

Uh, so it's definitely a networking tool rather than a promotion tool for you?

:

I guess it's a bit of both really.

:

I self-publish some of my older books as e-books through Kindle.

:

And yeah, if I knew how to promote them, I'd probably sell more of them.

:

I do tweet about them.

:

It is a promotional tool for getting the word out there about

:

books, new books, and new deals.

:

It's also, I think it's more important that it's word of mouth tool.

:

So I can go and talk about my new novel ad nauseum and people

:

soon get pissed off with me.

:

Just seeing posts from me about my new book.

:

But the great thing about social media is the social part of it.

:

Where people start talking about books they've loved and how great they are.

:

And then other people see that and it spreads the word.

:

I think it's more useful in that way.

:

But it is, it's also useful and quite important having a sort

:

of a public face as a writer.

:

Having somewhere where people could communicate with you.

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And I like, I like that.

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I like hearing what writers, what readers thinking like work.

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Like I say, love, hate relationship.

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I'll always be on it.

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I've had breaks from social media of a few weeks at a time.

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And it's felt nice, but I'm always drawn back in.

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I don't know many writers that don't use it, to be honest.

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Not many at all.

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You know, you can be Chris Evans, and not have the phone and not be on social media.

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But then have 15 assistants around you.

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I haven't got the luxury of having an assistant.

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Last two questions.

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Firstly, it's my belief that writers continuing to grow and develop their

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writing with each story that they write.

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Obviously your last novel was written longhand, but was there anything

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else within the writing of that story that you feel you'll now apply

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to the book you're about to write?

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Was that something that you learned about yourself or about your writing

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style or technique that you think this, I need to do this next time?

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Um, that's an interesting question.

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I'm not entirely sure, to be honest.

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The fact that it's thematically the new novel is, has got the climate change

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link, which I guess shows importance of writing about stuff that interests

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you and worries you, scares you.

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The popular question for a horror writer is what scares you.

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And I, I did have a dream last night about a flying spider,

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which scared the shit out of me.

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But generally stuff like that doesn't really scare me.

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What scares me is my family in peril and the world in peril,

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which it is with climate change.

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I'm writing about what scares me.

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And that isn't always the case, I don't think.

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But I think with Eden and The Last Storm and the novel I'm about to start writing,

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I am talking about stuff that worries me and scares me and worries me for my kids.

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So I've always had, the link between humanity and nature has always

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been a thing through my books.

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And I guess the last few years when climate change and global warming is

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being thrust to the fore more than ever before it's become strong, stronger theme.

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And I agree with you, I think, I can't remember quite how you put it.

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Improve, adapt, change.

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So I always always want to think, if you have ask a writer, what's your best book,

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the answer should always be the next one.

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Yeah.

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Because I've got favorites out of what I've written, but I always want to

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think that my best books ahead of me.

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And lastly is the one piece of advice you've been told or read that

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consciously helps you with your writing?

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So one thing that you find yourself returning to that helps

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you with the way that you write?

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I think I'd say write what you want to read.

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Because in doing that, you're telling a story that excites you

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as a reader, as well as a writer.

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And that, you can also go back to the idea that, like I said earlier, I speed

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up writing towards the end of a novel, because I want to know what happens.

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I know roughly what happens, but not necessarily who's going to live and

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die and how the story is going to end.

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So once I finished the novel, then it's published.

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I'll never pick up my own novel and read it again because by then I've

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read it 54 times and I'm sick of it.

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Which is another reason to write something that you enjoy reading, because

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you're going to be reading it a lot.

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Yeah.

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Like you mentioned earlier, drafts.

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Draft after draft.

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I feel I do two or three large drafts of a novel, but there's those loads of

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tinkering that goes on in the meantime.

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So yeah, write what you want to read.

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Because you're excited about it, you might be passionate about it, and it's

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a story that you want to tell people.

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That's great.

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We'll end there, Tim.

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And just thank you very much for being my guest this week.

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It's been great.

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I thank you very much.

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And that was a real writing process of Tim Lebbon.

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I'm very pleased to say Tim's latest book, The Last Storm comes out this

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Tuesday, the 5th of July, 2022.

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Of course, if you're catching up with this in the future, it's already

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out and you know, it's a great book.

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It might be the book that brought you to listen to this interview.

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In that case, hello!

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Hope you enjoyed it.

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For everyone else listening to this on the day, it goes out all or shortly after.

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Get on buying this book.

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If you can, pre-order it and get it this week.

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The future audience knows how good this book is, but they can't tell you

:

because we don't have the technology to communicate across time that way.

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However, trust me and trust Tim when we say it's the best thing he's ever written.

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And he's written some fucking good stuff.

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I'll leave Tim's website and social media links in the show notes.

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He has now joined Instagram.

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So do go and like his posts and see the man in all his beauty.

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As for me, this is the end of season two.

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The season that almost broke me.

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Honestly, a sincere thank you to all my listeners, but I was not

:

expecting so many of you so soon.

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This podcast is a production team of one, and I have learned the edges of my limits.

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So I'm pleased to say there will be a shorter season

:

three and it will go beyond.

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But now I need to take a summer holiday, read some books, and discover some

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amazing authors that spark my curiosity in how they write what they write.

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You can find me on Twitter most of the time @therealwriting1.

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But until the autumn, look after yourselves.

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