New interview this weekend for you all, this time with Justin Lee Anderson, author of “Carpet Diem”. I haven’t recovered my witty bones yet, so I’m going to save you having to listen to me talk and just get right down to it! I’ve also interviewed 15 of my fellow entrants, not bad so far, but I plan on interviewing as many as possible if I can.
Check out a selection of past interviews down below:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’ve been working as a professional writer and editor for almost 20 years, now. I started out writing restaurant reviews, then got into other things, and I eventually landed a job as editor of an Edinburgh guidebook. Ever since then I’ve worked in those kinds of jobs – the more creative the happier I was. My first novel, Carpet Diem, was first published in 2015. It took me over ten years to write, for multiple reasons, not least because I diverted into screenwriting for a number of years after doing well in a BBC sitcom-writing competition. Carpet Diem is a comedy fantasy in the vein of Tom Holt, Douglas Adams or Good Omens. This year, I went full time, thanks to investment from a partner into our own little publishing company, and I’m planning to release two books a year starting with the one I’m currently writing. It’s a more traditional (non-comedy) fantasy with an RPG vibe. I’ll also write a sequel to Carpet Diem next year, and I’m planning an Urban Fantasy series down the road. So I guess the answer to “what do I write” is fantasy – though there’s a decent chance I’ll branch into sci-fi at some point!
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I have no idea! I tend to have ideas and characters swimming around in my head for ages. The longer they’re in there, the more developed they become. I’m very much one who doesn’t do the bulk of my writing at the keyboard – I’m always thinking about it, and pondering it internally. My wife’s always telling me I should write stuff down more, and I’ve taken that advice when I get stuck. I tend to sit down with a pad and paper, write down each of my characters and then make notes on what they’re thinking and feeling at that point of the story, and what their motivations are. That helps get me to the next scene. In terms of plot, I usually go in knowing roughly where I’m going, with beginning and end, and multiple plot points or ‘moments’ along the way, and then I tend to pants it from there – though I am becoming more of a fan of plotting with my current WIP.
Tell us about your current project.
Carpet Diem is a bit of a mad idea. The premise of a living room carpet that will settle a bet between God and Satan came to me after reading the Sandman issue, Calliope, where a writer is cursed with a constant flood of ideas – some of which were just brilliantly lateral, as you’d expect from Gaiman. Once I had that, I thought of the most unlikely character to own that carpet – a hermit who hasn’t been outside in 13 years. Once I created him, and some of the other characters, I knew it was a comedy, and I knew I wanted to do something where there are no clear good guys and bad guys, which was why I took a twist on God and Satan being nothing like our own mythology of Good and Evil – they’re actually brother and sister, and men and women are different species. The book’s had a wonderful reaction, being compared to some of my own favourites, like Good Omens and Tom Holt, as well as introducing me to new authors. I started reading Ben Aaronovitch after lots of people said I reminded them of him, and I love his stuff, so I’m glad they think so!
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
There are two, really. Simon Debovar is the main focus of the novel to begin with. He’s a 40-something recluse who’s been in the house since most of his family were killed in a pudding-related disaster. He thinks all other people are all selfish and rude. He’s got a very strong moral compass, which leads to a lot of indignation, but he’s also quite immature, due not least to his lack of social interaction. Until an angel and demon show up at his door, he basically lives on TV, baths and the internet. But the book wouldn’t be the same without his alcohol swilling, sex-mad Great-Aunt Harriet. She’s basically a whirlwind, who crashes into other people’s lives and leaves carnage in her wake. They’re both very damaged, in different ways, from losing their family. I loved writing them and playing them off each other.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Write something you’d want to read. Write in your own voice, don’t try to mimic someone else. And believe in yourself. Even if nobody else wants to publish what you write, you can do it yourself, and find the audience that wants to read it.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Well… it starts in Edinburgh, my hometown? I suppose, beyond that, there is a large part of the middle of the book that came to me in a dream – both the setting – an idyllic, mystical island – and one of the plot threads. I woke up from that dream and was like – “yes, that’s the next part of the story”.
What inspires you to write?
The love of doing it. I love stories. I’m not fussy about which media – books, TV, movies – any good story will get me. When I experience things I love, it makes me want to make my own stories, and when I see things I think I could have done better, it makes me feel confident enough to give it a go!
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Oh, mostly time. I had a very busy, rollercoaster of a life while writing this book. It’s no coincidence that I finished it in four months when I had the opportunity to work on it full time. I’m absolutely loving having that chance again.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
It’s probably the least funny chapter of the book, actually. Without any spoilers, it’s a scene where one character tries to rescue another from a psychopath, and it doesn’t go to plan. When I wrote it, I was reading a lot of Jo Nesbo, and his dark, Scandinavian vibe definitely influenced that whole chapter. I love how that scene ends, too. If it’s ever made for TV or film, I really want to see that scene.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
That I could, really. And that at least some people want to read my writing!
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Good question. I was having the difficulty with my WIP, and I literally had to sit down and handwrite backstories for all of them. Once I did that, I had a much firmer idea of who they were as people, and it was easier to write them. But I think voice can be the most challenging part. Every character should have a distinctive voice, at least in your head. I think, by the end of the first draft, I will have that down for each character, and I expect to be editing a lot of their speech in the early parts of the novel – especially for one or two characters.
What are your future project(s)?
I’m currently writing Draoidh, the first book in a trilogy called Eidyn. It’s somewhere between sword and sorcery and litRPG, with a healthy dose of political and cultural allegory in there. The kingdom is based on the etymology of place names around Edinburgh, as well as a lot of the history of both Edinburgh and Scotland. The premise is that we join the story just after the end of a bloody, devastating war against a draoidh (mage), who has been neutralised by being trapped in the kingdom’s main castle. The main character is also a draoidh, and the King’s Envoy. He’s sent on a mission by the king, but keeps finding that things aren’t quite right in the kingdom. The story follows him and his companions as they try to figure out what’s really going on and who’s behind it. It should be out late 2018/early 2019. After that, I’ll write a sequel to Carpet Diem, and then books 2 and 3 of Eidyn. And then I’m planning the first in an Urban Fantasy series, called Vores, which is a sort of a murder-mystery / political thriller involving the race who are the actual inspiration for the mythology of vampires – haematovores. There’s also some magic thrown in. I originally wrote Vores as a comic script years ago, then as a TV script, which was nearly picked up by the BBC, and I can’t wait to turn it into a book.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
The two things I always thought I probably should have seriously considered as careers were a detective or a politician. I’m one of those people who feels like he *should* go into politics, but doesn’t really want to be a politician, which probably actually makes me an ideal candidate! But I don’t think my wife would forgive me. If I’d had the skill, I’d probably have followed in my dad’s footsteps and been a football (soccer) player.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I’m on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/justinleeandersonauthor/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/authorjla) and Instgram (https://www.instagram.com/justinleeandersonauthor/), and will respond on whichever of those someone wants to chat to me!
And here’s a global book link to Carpet Diem: http://viewbook.at/carpetdiem