26 October, 2015

#Interview with Steve Turnbull, #Author of Maliha Anderson Series

About the Author:
When he's not sitting at his computer building websites for national institutions and international companies, 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, but it was poet Laurie Lee's autobiography "Cider with Rosie" (picked up because he was bored in Maths) that taught him the beauty of language and spurred him into becoming a writer, aged 15. He spent twenty years editing and writing for computer magazines while writing poetry on the side.

Nowadays he writes screenplays (TV and features), prose and computer programs.

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Interview with the Author:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
Although I had written before (novels and poetry) it was the end of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” that really kicked me into gear. I was so sad it was over that I decided I needed to write a British Buffy – except it wouldn’t be supernatural it would be straight SF. So I wrote the script to a TV series that I called Monsters.
I sent it out to screenplay editors and one very experienced producer said I could write. So spent several years writing screenplays and then switched (back) to prose.

What inspires you to write?
The need to tell stories. I have so many inside me that must be told that I have to write. It wasn’t like that in the beginning. There was a time when I could have stopped, but then I wrote more and more, faster and faster, now I really could not stop.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
Well my current story is the sixth book in my Maliha Anderson series. She’s a young amateur detective in a steampunk Edwardian world and over the series she’s been solving murders and learning about herself.
When she started, in Murder out of the Blue she was very isolated—being an Anglo-Indian in a very prejudiced world—but as the series progressed she has gathered people around her, mostly misfits themselves, that have become her family.
I think everybody feels isolated in one way or another, so it’s something we can all relate to.
This is the last in the series where all the threads finally come together.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Oh yes. My first two novels were written when I was 15 and they were terrible. I still have one and, every now and then, I’ll pull it out and take a look. It reminds me that I have improved.
There is another one, a YA Viking urban fantasy, that’s sitting on a computer I don’t have access to, but I do want to resurrect that one, it was quite good.

Tell us about your writing process.
I spent 20 years as a magazine editor and journalist which taught me how to write “to length”, “to style” and “to deadline”.
I love deadlines and I never rewrite.
So I decide what I’m writing (I have a schedule to publish one book per month this year) put my head in the right place and write. I do minimal planning, I usually know the beginning and the end, but even the end can change. Everything else can vary. So I start at the beginning and write to the end. Then I polish it once and send it off to my editors.
In the meantime I’ll be commissioning one of my cover artists. Once it comes back I go through the corrections and decide whether to keep them or not—obviously I accept the typographical and grammatical corrections but sometimes an editor will make a suggestion I disagree with. In that case I will either ignore it or, more often, write that bit differently.
And finally I put it all together, publish the ebook and then the print version.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
Oh goodness, I think my favourite scene will be near the end, it’s the big ending which is the climax to the entire series. But I can’t talk about that, and I haven’t written it yet.
However there is a great scene which needs a bit of explanation: I’m writing three series currently and they all take place in the same steampunk universe. The Iron Pegasus series features two teenage sisters in 1896, while the Maliha Anderson series takes place in 1908/9.
So, two characters from Iron Pegasus appear in this book, and Maliha is so excited when she meets them because she read the pulp books about the sisters when she was at school. It’s all very meta.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Ha! Sadly yes: Maliha is very impatient with people who don’t see things the way she does. I’m afraid I do that.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Do I have a quirk? I’m not sure. I think being a journalist forced any quirks out of my system because there’s no time for that sort of thing. I’m very straightforward on this. I just write.
Except … I prefer to have instrumental jazz blasting in my headphones to block out all external noise. I can actually write anywhere, but I do better if I’m cut off like that.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I love to read, though I don’t get as much time as I would like. I’m probably a bit boring when it comes to favourite authors just the standard ones like Tolkien, CS Lewis, Heinlein, Asimov and I’m not sure how much they really influenced my style.
The way I write has been dictated by two things: the magazine journalism which demanded an “easy-to-absorb” style and the autobiography “Cider with Rosie” by the poet Laurie Lee, which taught me that language could be beautiful.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?
Write what you want to read.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing? 
A writer has three hats: Writer, Editor, Reader – you must only wear one at a time.

What would be the dream cast for your book if it was to be turned into a movie?
One of the most important rules of screenwriting is that you must not cast your screenplays in your head because then you’re writing for the actor. That’s a bad thing because you have no control on who will be cast. So I never do that. In fact I don’t even describe my main characters. I let the reader create them in their own mind.

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
Infinite paper, infinite ink and a pen.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
Doing my day job. I am a contract web developer by day, I’m good at it and I really enjoy it. The time I spend at work is relaxing for me. I know that seems counter-intuitive but because I’m a contractor I don’t get involved in office politics and if I don’t enjoy the working environment I just leave and go somewhere else.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
See an erupting volcano because that would be awesome.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
- I’m technically a cockney.
- I pedaled across the Sinai Desert on a bicycle.
- My wife and I have been married for 30 years. (Is that a fun fact? Well, we think it’s fun.)

What do you have in store next for your readers?
My schedule for the rest of the year, after Maliha Anderson #6, is the next episode in my YA series Iron Pegasus, called Harry in Italy; then I have an anthology of other writers with stories in my steampunk universe Tales of Voidships; then either the fifth Iron Pegasus or fourth Frozen Beauty. 
Then the prequel to the Maliha Anderson series: episode zero.
Next year I need to write the second and third parts of my fantasy series, and I want to convert Monsters into a book series. That should keep me and my readers busy.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
To be honest, I am so honoured that people enjoy reading my stories, it’s very fulfilling, so I want to say thank you.

Check out the Books by the Author:
Maliha Anderson series: http://bit.ly/maliha-series
Iron Pegasus series: http://bit.ly/pegasus-series
Frozen Beauty series: http://bit.ly/frozen-series

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