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Please welcome Tony Talbot in BookLikes’ Author Talks!
Tony Talbot is a British Young Adult author. Inspired by the novels of Australian author John Marsden, he took up writing in 2008 and hasn’t stopped since. You can find Tony's books on BookLikes, follow his blog at: Tony Talbot and win Tony Talbot's book! Read on to know more.
It is said that our dreams reflect our lives. In your situation it was a dream that made you become a writer. Could you tell our readers more about it, and have you ever thought of becoming a writer before that dream?
There was a film made in the 1970s – Capricorn One – where the first mission to Mars is faked in the desert. There's a scene where feet approach the capsule, seen through the window. In the dream I had, it was someone's face through the window when they're re-entering earth's atmosphere from a moon landing. That didn’t really work, so I changed it to someone without a helmet or spacesuit appearing in a moonwalk. Back in mission control, two reporters are there and happen to catch it on camera.
I'd thought about being a writer before then, on and off, but never had the nerve to get started. I'd dipped into a few writing books, most notably Stephen King's On Writing, (which is the best writing book ever written. Read it!). I decided to give my story a go and see if people liked it. Which they did, which gave me confidence to keep going.
You write mainly short stories. Why have you decided to choose short fiction?
Short stories are a blast! I love writing them, making everything small and compact and neat. It appeals to me to work small as well as on novels…and not every story has the potential to be 60,000 words. Just walking through a short story with one character can be a lot of fun, and it's a great way to keep things interesting.
We can read in your bio that your wife is an American, and you’re from UK. Do you experience any cross-cultural differences which then become inspirations for your stories?
Not differences, but when I was casting around for a book, my wife suggested Japanese-American internment during World War Two. She's from Washington State, one of the places affected. I didn't know anything about that part of American history, and was shocked at the number of Americans who don't either – and the result was American Girl.
Your writing is a mix of various literary genres with the majority of YA. How do you know in which genre the story will end up? How does you writing process look like?
I try and make a decision what genre the book will be before I start, but I don't try to follow the conventions for it. Whatever writing style works best is what I try and go for. Writing in sci-fi or historical fiction genre are really secondary to what's going on to me...which is the characters in that world and how they interact.
My writing process is very seat-of-the-pants. I don't pin a character down and demand to know what their favourite colour is or what they're going to be doing in chapter four. I like to let them get on with it and make their own mistakes.
Your first science fiction book Medusa is out. Congratulations! How did you come up with the idea for the book? Was Sci-Fi difficult to write?
I subscribe to a science magazine full of speculative ideas, and one article was about immense floating cities. An image popped into my head of a girl riding a jet-ski towards one a few weeks later. I didn't know anything about her or her world until I started writing.
SF wasn't really difficult to write, but it was important to me to get the details right – so my characters don't use days or weeks as a measure of time, and the science in the book is grounded in reality...just a far future reality. I asked some friends to come up with some new swear words as well, which was a lot of fun.
How long does it take a write a novel / short story for you?
It takes about a year from draft zero to finished product, including the cover and beta-reads and endless, endless edits!
Can you point one favourite character from your books, and tell our readers why?
It would have to be Jenna from Over the Mountain, my first book, because she's very much like me: Loves rainstorms and is quite reserved.
Do you have any writing habits which help you keep the story going?
I try to work on a story as often as possible when I get rolling, or self-doubt starts to set in. Sometimes I have to walk away when I get blocked with it though...I start to write slower when I can feel one coming on.
Could you tell our readers which authors inspire you and your works?
I've read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and from them, I learned characters and the trials you can put them through. All the cards are on the table with those two, they don't hold anything out of their reach. My wife told me about Australian author John Marsden, and I'm always blown away at how good he is, even on a re-read. I've been digging into Patrick Ness recently; When a Monster Calls beguiled me with its simple language and then sucker-punched me to tears with the ending.
There are so many good authors out there, and I learn something from all of them.
In your recent post you write that the author’s imagination is a gift but also a curse. What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?
I love being to create a world from scratch and make it believable enough that it feels like you've been there. To step into someone's fictional shoes and to walk around, and then translate that onto a page. Worst part is thinking that I'll never write anything that good again. The weight of my own high standards!
What are you working on right now? Do you have any new books in development at the moment?
I'm thinking of a coastal sea-side town, quite isolated, as the galaxy comes to an end: The stars are going out, millions every night, and for some reason Earth is being left until last...
What are the characteristics that each author should have? Any advice for aspiring writers?
Patience and persistence! No one expects a pianist to be able to perform Mozart overnight, and writing is an art like any other: don't expect to be great first time. Keep practicing, and you'll get better. Read everything you can, good and bad. And read On Writing by Stephen King, the most encouraging book on writing out there.
What are you reading now?
My wife wanted to buy "Kenobi" by John Jackson Miller, because she liked the cover! She read it and enjoyed it, and I'm about seventy pages in and feel the same way.
Paper books or e-book? Why?
I love them both. I love being able to carry the complete works of Dickens in something so slim as a Kindle, but the weight of a hardback is reassuring as well.
Some authors cannot read books when they are writing.
Do you read books while writing a novel or short story?
I couldn't read when I wrote my first book, but then I realised I'd probably never be able to read again if I stopped every time I started writing!
What titles won your heart? Recommend must-reads for our readers.
Most recently, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. As I said, it suckered me with its simple language and powerful ending. Old classics work best for me: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank. Must reads for everyone.
Your favorite quotes?
Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. – Allen Saunders
Books are a uniquely portable magic. – Stephen King
What’s your favorite writing and reading spot?
(Our readers would love to see some photos ;-))
I read everywhere I can find a spot, so here's my writing space in the spare room:
The little TARDIS beside the computer is a USB hub that makes the "materialisation" sound when you plug something in. And the light flashes on the top. ☺
All those toys on the upper shelf...
My wife makes these business cards for me as a little matchbook:
...and my work in progress!
And here's a candy from Tony Talbot:
30 e-book copies of Medusa!
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