Hey guys, got a new interview for you all, today it’s with aspiring and up and coming author PS Livingstone. Hope you all enjoy!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’m 38 and live in Glasgow. I’m a biology teacher by day and a writer whenever I can be. My genre is difficult to define, but I’m calling it contemporary epic. It’s set in modern times but transects different realms, so doesn’t really work as urban fantasy. My books definitely have that traditional fantasy feel and a complex magical system to go along with it. They focus on fae and demons, with a healthy slice of world mythology thrown in. The books are character driven and examine relationships of all kinds.
The first book, Awakening, is out for queries at the moment. I’ve had good feedback and no feedback (as is the way of querying), but I’m hopeful it’ll find a home. If not, I’ve been gearing up to self-publish. I wanted to explore all the avenues and options.
I’d like to produce a bestiary of all the creatures I’ve made up, so that’s something simmering away on the backburner. It gets updated as I go along.
I also dabble in short stories in a variety of genres. Short fiction is a great way to hone skills and try out ideas.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I’m firmly in the pantser camp, so my plots tend to develop organically. Sometimes, I’m genuinely surprised at the end of a chapter. I have an idea of where I’d like to end up, but I don’t stick to it if something better comes along, and I often make drastic changes once the first draft is done.
Many of my characters have evolved from a single phrase – I could picture that person saying something a certain way. I’m a big believer character sheets. Other than world building, it’s the only planning I do. Once I have that starting point, I write their physical appearance, personality traits and personal history. I often write stand alone scenes with my characters, partly for fun and partly to see how they’ll react to different situations.
Tell the world about your current project!
I’m currently working on Book 2 of my Transcendent Saga trilogy, tentatively titled Revelation. It’s in first draft form and I’m about 45k words in. Probably another 100k to go. Don’t worry, I’ll cut that down in my first edit. It’s darker than the first book and I’m taking some new creatures out for a ride, which is fun.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!
This is impossible to answer. I have a huge cast of characters, as many fantasy novels do. We get to know a lot of the minor characters better, and I don’t think I could pick out just one. Sorry, is that a cop out?
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
I’ve been to a few, the latest being FantasyCon 2019. I had a good time and chatted to some lovely people. I’ll admit, though, I was a little intimated by how well a lot of them knew each other and I’m never quite sure on what the protocol is for going up and saying hello. I reckon it’s probably down to me to get better at this.
The year before I went to the Festival of Writing. I’ll say that one wasn’t for me and leave it there.
The ScotsWrite Festival, organised by the Scottish SoA, was brilliant. I got so much out of the sessions and met some epic people. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. They’re hoping to do another one in 2021, and I’m so there.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing in 2015, slightly by accident. I’d been having a chat with my brother-in-law about creative outlets – he’s a massive supporter of everyone having one – and I realised I’d been neglecting this part of my life. I’ve always loved the English language and language itself, so I starting putting some ideas down on paper and it grew arms and legs. It led me here, so we can blame/thank him for that.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Years ago, I lived in Brazil for a while. They’ve got an amazing culture and some of the friendliest people I’ve met anywhere. There are so many places I didn’t manage to visit, so I think I’d go back and see what adventures unfolded.
What advice would you give new writers?
There’s no right or wrong way to write. Find whatever method works best for you and then hone those skills. Take on board feedback and remember that, if people are offering to help, that is what they’re trying to do. If 10 people tell me something isn’t working, it probably isn’t. You can be too close to your own work at times, so getting perspective is crucial. Lastly, don’t write what you know – write what you enjoy.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?
I use my science background to think about how systems work. It’s important to have rules in your world, no matter how fantastical it might be. Even if you don’t explain every facet of it to your reader, it needs to make sense. Belief can only be suspended so far before you lose your audience.
What inspires you to write?
Writers and their stories. I was always read to as a child and then encouraged to read on my own. The imagination and craft of so many wonderful authors gives me inspiration and aspiration.
For me, reading is about enjoyment. If someone can read my book and be happy, I’ve done well.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Self-doubt. I once heard writers described as creatures where chronic self-doubt meets massive ego. I think there’s truth in that. I can be so precious about my characters and writing, yet I constantly worry it’s crap. Some of it is crap, but that’s what editing is for.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I don’t have much of a routine, mostly down to my day job. Some days, I’m so drained I just don’t have the brainpower left to write. I don’t produce good work when I force myself, so I have to be realistic about it. It’s easier in the holidays – I manage more of a routine then.
I work best late at night, as there are less distractions. I’m a night owl by nature.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
I loved writing the last few chapters of my first book. Most of it is set underground, which was challenging but fun, and I got to bring all the threads together. You’ve got to appreciate the reveal.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
I’ve learned my writing has got better. I don’t make the same rookie mistakes I did the first time around. Writing is always a learning process, so it’s satisfying to know I’ve embedded those experiences into practice.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Pantser, all the way when it comes to plot and writing a first draft. My world building is detailed and intricate, so I’d say architect. Pantser architect – I love that.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Drinks, definitely drinks. I could go without snacks, and frequently do. I find it easy not to snack at home and can forget to eat. I never listen to music while writing. Total silence or I can’t concentrate. Basically, I can’t think and chew gum.
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
I don’t have one. I suppose winter is easier, because there’s nothing much to do in the allotment then. I spend a lot of time growing fruit and veg in the spring and summer.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
As I said before, I make up detailed character sheets and write mini scenes. I have conversations with them in my head – sometimes out loud. Yes, I’ve had some funny looks. I’ve never struggled to understand my characters, because they come from me (exaggerated, of course).
What are your future project(s)?
I’m working on a sequel to a short story I had published, which I might turn into a serial, but it’s still in early stages.
Book 3 of my trilogy is on the horizon too. Weirdly for me, I’ve written the final chapter of the final book. I rarely write ahead, but I couldn’t do anything until that scene was on paper.
Outside of writing my own stuff, I’m getting more involve with the writing community, particularly the British and Irish Writing Community and their online magazine Bard of the Isles. I’ll be stepping up my role in that, which is hugely exciting. More to come on that soon.
What is your favorite book ever written?
That really is a tough question. Probably The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, although it’s technically a graphic novel. That’s allowed, right? His worldbuilding and characterisation are second to none, and he can make you feel for even the most dislikeable people. Everything about that story is right.
Who are your favorite authors?
Neil Gaiman (obviously), Terry Pratchett, Mark Haddon, Naomi Novik, Robin Hobb. I’m sure I could name more, but those ones come to mind first.
What makes a good villain?
It varies and is a combination for me. I love a baddie with charisma, one you love and hate in equal measure. I’m also a sucker for the ‘what ifs’ – someone you know would’ve turned out different if they’d had the chance. And there’s the unapologetic villain who’s just plain evil. They’re great fun to write and read.
What they can’t be is two-dimensional. Too many villains just fill a space in the story and aren’t explored, existing only to be the protagonist’s antagonist. I want to learn about them, understand their motivations, and maybe empathise a bit.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spent a lot of time in my allotment: growing my own food organically matters to me and it’s great for mental health. I also love going to the movies, hanging out with my boyfriend and cats, and I do pole fitness. Life is better upside down.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’d love to run a wildlife sanctuary. I’ve taken in many injured animals over the years and nursed them back to health. I’m a strong supporter of animal rights, the fight against climate change and promoting biodiversity. Anything that supports a better balance with our environment and shows a little kindness is perfect for me.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
I like both, but I’d give up tea before coffee. My espresso machine and I are simpatico.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
Right to the end – I want to know what’s there.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
The Creative Penn is great for indie authors, but I don’t follow any religiously. I like to dip in and out, and I always read blogs from the people I follow on Twitter and interact with in online groups.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Absolutely. Big shout out to Phil Parker, Damien Larkin, Lee Conley, Em Jackson, Sarah Linley and Jenny Hannaford. Their support has been amazing, often acting as my cheering squad. I’d be lost without them and they’re damn talented folk, too.
I’m giving you a special shoutout, Michael, for supporting writers, taking the time to gather their thoughts and putting them out there. Thank you.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Lucifer (The Sandman), Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher) and Lisbeth Salander (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). I think we’d drive Route 66, because I’ve always wanted to, and stop at everything cool along the way. It’s going to be one mental trip – I’ll let you know how that pans out.
What superpower would you most like?
To be able to fly with big angel wings. I’m sure there are cooler and more useful powers out there, but the idea just makes me happy. I actually have a mutation which gives me enhanced abilities. It’s so lame, though, that I won’t say more.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (the gold and black one).
Hunger Games trilogy (black background).
Hmmmmm, I’m sensing a theme.
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
Go and hug my family and friends. I’ve missed them so much.
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 have my own website: www.pslivingstone.com
Any and all communication is good, so please feel free to reach out. Thanks for the interview, Michael. You’re a star.