Saturday, 21 July 2007

I had an unusual experience a couple of days ago, when I was interviewed over the phone by Paula Berinstein of the The Writing Show ( which posts podcasts online. The subject of the interview was my novel Scales, and the questions made me think harder about my approach to writing the story than I actually had when writing it!

The plot concerns a present-day Englishman - Cade - who wakes up months after being almost killed in an explosion and fire, and finds that he is no longer entirely human - he is not only covered in reptilian scales, but also has acquired some non-human abilities. The inspiration for this came from a dream I had in which such scales were growing over my skin. I wanted to explore the implications of this, so I used the first person point of view, and a linear chronology: the story is told as it happens, and the reader knows exactly as much as Cade at any given moment. This does place certain limitations on the story-telling, as every scene features Cade and we only know his viewpoint; we can't find out what's happening elsewhere, unless Cade learns about it from someone else or from a news item. However, I think it provides more immediacy and tension than a more conventional third-person narrative, and is better suited to this kind of story.

The first part of the book developed organically - I basically started writing to see where it would lead. This took me so far then left me stuck, so I put it to one side for almost a year until the outline for the rest of the story came to me (in one of those valuable sessions when lying half-asleep in bed one lazy morning).

I regard this as a rather traditional kind of novel, in various ways. There is nothing clever in the construction or techniques used, it's just a straightforward story. I don't claim any particular originality for the plot elements, which come from standard SF conventions; psi powers, parallel worlds, alien civilisations and threats to humanity (partly self-generated, partly from outside). Its length of 220 pages is on the short side by today's standards (although typical of the 1950s/60s fiction I grew up with), but it does mean that it is fast-paced. The phrase "I couldn't put it down" has been used by Paula and other readers, which is gratifying.

The interview on The Writing Show should be available for downloading in about a week. You can read the first couple of chapters online on my publisher's website, by following the link from my home page.

1 comment:

Paula B. said...

Hi, Tony,

There's nothing wrong with writing a straightforward story. In fact, it's very hard to do, which is why so few people succeed at it. :)

This week's Writing Show examines the issue of point of view in fiction, and surprise, surprise, I touch on some of the points you've made about first-person narration. I must have been prescient when I recorded the show. :)

I have finished editing your interview, which I think will rivet listeners to their earbuds. (Hm. Nice image.) Posting is scheduled for July 29th.

Best regards,
Paula B.