New book released by local author, Clive Ousley.
Our Music and Gigs correspondent, Clive Ousley, has just released his latest Sci-Fi book – a real treat for fans and new readers alike! Here is my interview with him:-
When did you first start reading SF?
I remember an English class at primary school where the teacher Mr. Scott read from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. These two authors’ imaginations and concepts just blew me away. I was definitely addicted to SF by the time I was a teenager and must have read all in that genre the local library contained.
Who were your favourites?
In those days classic sci-fi writers like James Blish, Robert Heinlein, Harry Harrison and Isaac Asimov – they were still producing some brilliant stories. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey was a great book and when this classic film came out it kept my attention to such a degree someone could have stolen my popcorn without me noticing.
Which writers influence you?
At school I read John Wyndam’s Day of the Triffids and this began my fascination for post apocalyptic Sci-fi. Then I read his classic The Crysalids and it was probably then that I became totally hooked. In the 1980’s my favourite was Robert Holdstock, more a fantasy writer, but still a huge influence. Nowadays I still read Sci-fi quite widely but like individual books rather than follow current authors.
Have you always wanted to be an author and how did you get started?
I remember writing a dozen A4 pages when in my twenties about a guy looking down from an orbiting spacecraft at a devastated Earth below. Then life took over and I didn’t seriously take up writing until we bought our first computer in 1997. Then I discovered Microsoft Word and I was away. I’ve always written on computer and never taken to writing longhand and transcribing into the digital format like some writers prefer.
Do you have a certain approach, e.g. have to write at a certain time, number of words, place, space etc?
I always try to write for a couple of hours first thing in the morning. It’s when I feel the most focused and being a constant fidgeter it’s when I can sit quietly and concentrate without having to sort out a dog or feel the need to tidy the garden. I never try to achieve a certain word count, there’s too much danger of writing rubbish just to achieve a daily goal. I cannot write in public places like cafes either – there are just too many distractions. So a corner of our spare room holds a comfy chair and large work surface etc.
Does anyone proofread for you? Do you share your work as you progress or only once finished?
My wife Margaret gets to read it first when I’ve finished revising and editing. Then, I have a retired editor and journalist friend who very kindly offers to go through a novel with editorial suggestions. She also reads the whole book as a reader would, but not being familiar with sci-fi her comments are often skewed to more down-to-earth fiction. For my current novel Travelling Sideways I had in mind getting three friends to read it and comment in a critical way. But then after the first friend had promised to keep it to himself, and then read two thirds without making any useful comment, he then wanted to send the book on to others. I had to stop sending these instalments and make sure he didn’t pass it on – in no uncertain terms. I mean, hundreds of hours of work just to be given away! I’ve been put off giving the manuscript to anyone other than my wife to read since that incident.
How long roughly is it from conception of ideas until you are happy with the completed work?
This varies depending on the amount of research that’s needed, the time of year (I always write more in the winter and on rainy days) and how fired up I am with the story. Travelling Sideways took nearly two years because of its complexity. I even spent hours walking Greenwich, London on Google maps to ensure I described the place accurately in the book. I also physically walked Llanychaer in the Gwaun valley a lot to get that location realistic too. This novel has gone through numerous edits, even extending the beginning after I’d written the whole thing. But it was worth it and its definitely the most original story I’ve ever written.
How do you come up with and develop the plotline?
There should always be some kind of conflict to interest the reader. This could be two key characters that don’t get on, and one wants revenge, or a confrontation between two groups or just the build up to a war. I start with the main plotline even if I don’t know precisely where it will take me in that chapter or the next. Sub-plots tend to slot in easily as you go.
With Travelling Sideways I found that time travel cannot be written in the usual linear way and I had to add more to earlier chapters as the story progressed. It’s like time traveling within a time travel novel – a fun and interesting way to develop a complex plot.
How do you choose the setting for the books and are they based in reality?
As a sci-fi writer and reader I personally dislike stories that are based in imaginary societies on planets that have no link to Earth or even the human race. A lot of fantasy and Sci-fi books have been based in unbelievable locations and realms – without any kind of link or anchor to the world we live in.
How do you come up with personalities and names for your characters, and are they based on people you know?
When developing characters I like to have fish-out-of-water people. My last novel (Execution Grove) had a WW2 fighter pilot reincarnated by an alien race and a home-loving woman abducted to reorientate him. The setting was a defunct spacecraft orbiting a planet in another solar system – guaranteed to put the characters under considerable stress.
Personalities tend to follow when you have the characters life experience and corresponding traits.
I tend to look online at websites that list christian names, (usually for naming babies) the correct name then somehow leaps out, surnames just come from anywhere – newspapers, TV or uncommon names I come across. With my Jadde novels set 5000 years in the future I took everyday names and distorted them, as perhaps would happen over millennia. Martin became Nardin. Malcolm became Malkrin and Sara became Seara.
I never base characters on people I know but I have had correspondence from two people on this, one from England who thought he was in every novel and one American who apparently recognised his uncle.
Tell me about the new book?
As mentioned earlier it’s called Travelling Sideways and involves time travel mixed with alternative realities. It’s set in both Pembrokeshire and London. The book blurb describes the story best.
No one outside Martyn’s family knew about the time travel project in the barn in case the Russian secret police or school commissar came to investigate. Then Martyn discovered he was the only one able to go back in time to assassinate Vitaly Alecsokov – the president of Russia. Most importantly, he had to do this when Alecsokov was a junior minister in the years before he authorised the 2010 invasion of Britain.
When Martyn’s chance comes to free Europe, he discovers his time machine has a discrepancy that sends him into a similar alternate universe – and then into another.
This book does for time travel and alternate realities what Harry Potter does for young wizards and magic
When and where can people buy it?
Travelling Sideways is available now on Amazon Kindle.
If you were going to recommend a first sci-fi book to someone what would it be?
It’s just so hard to choose so I’m going to offer two. As Travelling Sideways is Young Adult fiction then I’d recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Kline and for a really mindboggling alternate reality read my choice would be Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.