I’m back with another interview! I’ve received about twenty so far. Today I bring you Steve Turnbull, author of “The Dragons Esternes” series. This year to SPFBO he has brought DRAGONS OF ESTERNES to the table. Click on the link below to go to the buy link on Amazon!
Past SPFBO5 Interviews (Click on the book cover)
And now I bring you the interview with Mr. Turnbull! First, a little author bio which he was gracious enough to give me:
When he's not sitting at his computer building websites for national institutions and international companies, USA Today bestselling author Steve Turnbull can be found sitting at his computer building new worlds of steampunk, science fiction and fantasy. Technically Steve was born a cockney but after five years he was moved out from London to the suburbs where he grew up and he talks posh now. He's been a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy since his early years, and spent twenty years editing and writing for computer magazines. Nowadays he writes screenplays, prose and computer programs.
And an author photo!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’m an old white British dude, who writes books with diverse characters – and who has very strong opinions on the difference between “settings” and “genres”.
I write stories in SF, Fantasy and Steampunk settings, the genre of those stories may be thriller, action-adventure, crime, slice-of-life, whatever.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
What is this “develop” you speak of? Mostly I’m a pantser, I have an idea for the sort of story I want to write, with or without pre-existing characters. I usually have an idea of how I want it to end (because you need a destination). Then I just start.
That’s how I wrote DRAGONS OF ESTERNES, my SPFBO5 entry, which is 280K long and no padding.
On the other hand my multiple protagonist, multiple throughline, SF epic MONSTERS was planned in detail because everything had to end up at the same time in the same place for the climax.
Tell us about your current project.
It’s a story set in my steampunk universe and is the second in the Veronica’s Life series which is slice-of-life disabled erotica. I write these books under a pseudonym to avoid accidental cross-reading but, as with all my steampunk, the stories overlap and characters from one story may appear in others. As they do here.
Without going into lurid details, Veronica is a hunchback (severe kyphosis) and has been kept out of sight by her parents (who have yet to appear – they stay away from her).
The story is how she slowly achieves empowerment in a world where the odds are stacked against her. Because it’s “slice of life”, there’s no specific bad guy and nothing world shattering happens. It’s just Veronica’s life and how she succeeds – and, being erotica, there’s lots of explicit sex along the way but it’s all done in the best possible taste.
After I’ve finished this (nearly done) I’ll be writing a couple more shorter give-away stories to use in free book promos. One for DRAGONS, one for MONSTERS, and maybe one for my FROZEN BEAUTY steampunk stories.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
It’s not my first, I entered the fantasy story ELONA a couple of years ago. ELONA is set in the same world as DRAGONS and, yes, characters from that book appear in the other. In fact ELONA was the first publishable book I wrote and was intended as a trilogy, but I haven’t written the second two. My plan is to get those done next.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
I have so many books that’s not an easy answer. From DRAGONS, there is Kantees who’s a slave at the start of the book. She lacks any self-confidence and the last thing she wants to be is a leader, all she wants is to find her people.
In my MALIHA ANDERSON steampunk books, Maliha is an Anglo-Indian who has no place in any society but she’s of Holmesian intellect with an eidetic memory – she solves crimes. But she has a personal story line witihin the books as she gathers a “family” around her.
For MONSTERS, Chloe Dark is just an ordinary schoolgirl in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world – in fact the apocalypse hasn’t finished yet, but the people are pretending it has. MONSTERS was my response to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except there’s no supernatural and no magic, it’s pure SF. And Chloe isn’t ordinary at all.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Read more, write more. You learn how to write by writing, not by talking to other writers on Twitter (guilty as charged).
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I like my fiction to be as real as it can be.
My fantasy world has entire an geological history, and evolution. Except it also has magic which is part of the natural world too—so some animals are also magic.
My steampunk world has only one change to physics: In 1843 Sir Michael Faraday demonstrated his “Principle for the Partial Nullification of the Effects of Gravity”. The rest is alternate history. Social history diverges only very slowly form that point, though it gathers momentum, so my Steampunk world is historically accurate – except where it isn’t.
What inspires you to write?
Nothing 🙂 I just write. Inspiration is overrated.
The muse wants you to think you need them, but it’s a lie; the muse is a junkie – if you start creating they’ll turn up anyway, they can’t stay away.
Both Neil Gaiman and Dean Wesley Smith have both said they can’t tell whether what they wrote was when they were sparking with energy, or ill. Creativity happens when you intentionally create.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
It’s really long (as I mentioned). So keeping those words hitting the page was probably the hardest part.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I generally write for a couple of hours every evening and do extra at weekends if I can. But it’s not rigid, and I don’t beat myself up if I miss.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I don’t have favourite chapters, I do enjoy writing sparky dialogue between characters, I suffer slightly from something Joss Whedon once mentioned about how, given half a chance, he would write entire episodes of people just talking – but he’s not allowed to do that for TV.
But I can do it in a book.
That said, I am very sensitive to plot and character development, so if neither of those things is happening, the dialogue stops.
There is one rule in all art that really is a rule: Don’t bore the audience (reader, whatever).
Everything you learn about writing, every guideline people might tell you, they are to help you avoid breaking that one rule.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Nothing specific, but I got better at writing, because all writing makes you better.
(I only have to look at a page of the novel I wrote when I was 15 to know, as an absolute certainty, writing makes you a better writer.)
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I kinda covered that, but basically: I am whatever the story requires me to be. Though even when I plan, I will allow the characters to show me things I hadn’t thought of before.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I can’t say I have a problem with that. I never do character sheets, horoscopes, personality tests, or any of that stuff. I have a rough idea of the person. I start writing and I discover who they are.
What are your future project(s)?
Once I’ve finished writing The Taste of Veronica, I mentioned I’ll be writing a couple of introductory freebies, then the rest of the Patterner’s Path series of which ELONA is the first. My main problem is that I have just too many series and I have different fans of each.
But ultimately I have the goal of being full time, so that means I have to focus on the commercial books. Which unfortunately means the steampunk has to take a back seat, and I have so many story ideas for that world.
MONSTERS and DRAGONS are the way to go for me. And those books tend to be huge.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I do have a favourite book. It’s the prequel I wrote to my MALIHA ANDERSON books, and it’s called The Taliesin Affair. It’s a crime thriller set at the boarding school where Maliha is being educated. It was particularly difficult in some ways because I had made references to this story in chronologically later stories, before I even knew what had happened. So I had to make sure there were no contradictions (and I have a wonderful continuity editor who keeps me on the straight and narrow).
Favourite authors? Stephen Donaldson for one because his command of language is incredible. Laurie Lee, the poet, for a similar reason: every sentence is a work of art.
What makes a good villain?
A villain has their own life, their own goals, and the more understandable and relatable those goals, the better villain they are. Magneto from X-Men is probably the best example because you completely understand why he wants to dominate the normal humans – and sometimes you feel that maybe he isn’t even wrong.
If I have a weak point, it is the bad guy. On the other hand, I have written some thoroughly despicable people.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Writing is what I do in my spare time.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
My day job is just fine. As a web developer for big and complicated web sites, I make them do clever things behind the scenes, (I don’t do the pretty front-end stuff). And I enjoy it, no need for anything else.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
I’ll take a small asteroid please. Build a habitat inside it and then stargaze – because the sky is full of stars.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Arthur Dent, Trillian and Zaphod Beeblebrox – we could go anywhere in the Heart of Gold, and there would be some amazingly improbable coincidences.
Finally, 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 most active on Twitter and Facebook, I do have a personal website at the place with the most up-to-date book information is my publishing company website https://taupress.com/.
I also have my bi-monthly newsletter which is packed full of hopefully interesting stuff – it’s less about me, more about interesting things I’ve seen on the Internet. The best way to sign up for that is to go to the Tau Press website and select a freebie to download, which will introduce you to my writing as well as my list.