J.S. Collyer recently released her debut science fiction novel, Zero (published by Dagda Publishing), the first in the Orbit series. (Read my review of that HERE.) Read on as she talks about her influences, future works and who'd play her characters in a movie.
1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I've been writing stories since I was a child. We had some RE homework once in secondary school which was to write our own short story version of the Tale of The Good Samaritan. Mine went on for about 18 pages! So storytelling has always been a great love of mine and once I get going it’s hard to stop me.
I think I first decided I wanted to write novels when I started University and my first Creative Writing course. The more I learned, the more I loved it and the more I believed I might one day be able to write a book.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
When I was a child I loved C. S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles. I still read these books today. I also loved The Hobbit by Tolkien. A lot of fantasy, in short. When I was a bit older, secondary school age, I got into Star Wars in a big way. This is when I started to read SciFi and have been hooked ever since.
These days, I try to keep it varied so I do dip in to the odd bit of literary, historical or horror fiction, by my first and great loves always were and, I suspect, always will be, SciFi and Fantasy.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel Zero?
Advance reviewers draw a lot of similarities between Zero and Serenity and its TV spin-off Firefly. I certainly don't mind this, but I have never actually watched them myself. I suspect I will enjoy them when I do, but I'm waiting for Zero's release so I can state hand on heart that I came up with the ideas more or less independently.
Some of my biggest influences were actually anime films and series I enjoyed a lot as a teenager. I loved the sort of post-apocalyptic worlds films like Akira, Ghost in a Shell, Aeon Flux and Patlabor produced so effortlessly that felt so real and looked so amazing. I wanted my universe to feel real like them, where you saw the impact the environment and the events had on the characters and not just it be all about spaceships and laserguns. Though, I obviously have no objection to spaceships and laserguns, I just prefer them to be an augmentation rather than the focus.
4. Why choose sci-fi as your main genre?
Spaceships and laserguns! It's true that I love, as I say, character-driven fiction that really sucks you in to the human levels of the plot. But, for me, this whole experience is heightened when it's set against some sort of extraordinary backdrop. I like to live in worlds I could never possibly get to in reality. I like escapism in my fiction, basically. I like narratives larger than life. Sci-fi definitely delivers this for me.
5. Was there any intended symbolism behind Hugo's rebellion?
I don't know that there was anything more in Hugo's strive against his restraints that what many people feel when they start to see a world they thought they understood in a different light. Hugo's experiences make him re-examine everything he previously believed and I think this may mirror the struggle we all go through when we find ourselves making our own choices and ones which don't necessarily fall in with what people expect.
6. Will we ever see these characters again in the future, or a story similar to this? (I'd love to learn more about Kinjo!)
The sequel is currently at the drafting stage. I think you are right, I think there is more to tell about some of these characters. The sequel is called 'Haven' so anyone who has had a chance to read Zero will be able to guess which characters this book will allow us to learn more about. It's shaping up to be grittier and darker than Zero, so far. It's a challenge, but I'm loving it.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I have started a fantasy novel in the past. I still think the story has potential but I've come so far from where I left it off, that I feel it needs to be started over. Fantasy is my other great love, however, so I do hope to return to this shelved project one day. I also have a rough idea sketched out for a vampire horror novel. Hoping this might come about maybe end of 2015/16 after Haven and another science fiction novel (working title Waste) which I have planned to write after Haven, that will be my first venture outside the Orbit series.
8. If you were in Hugo's situation in the beginning of the novel, what would you do?
At the beginning of the book Hugo, for the first time, does something against regulations for what he saw as the greater good. He lost his own troops in the process, but I still think he would have done it again given the time over. I like to think I would do the same: make a hard decision for the greater good and be prepared to face the consequences, though I am grateful that I am not likely to ever have to call the order to open fire!
9. What side of the Whole World War would you be on and why?
The Whole World War is something only touched on in Zero. The Service was born from the aftermath of this world-wide conflict, since it was the only force with enough power and resources to restore some sort of balance to the world and its orbiting colonies. The Service has had to squash many rebellions in the past, including a previous fight for independence by LIL of the Lunar Colonies. In those fights between the Service and the rebellions, I think I, like Hugo, would end up fighting for the establishment, just because I would hope it could deliver its promise and maintain the peace better than any more fighting by lesser-equipped rebellious factions. I feel I am somewhat like Webb in that respect: not the rebellious type, not enough principles.
As for the Whole World War...I think this will be revisited and expanded on, if not in Haven, then in the third book in the Orbit series, working title Silence which is also on my mental shelf awaiting its turn. I guess when I learn more about the Whole World War, I might be able to choose a side. But what I strive for in my books is there being no clear-cut right or wrong, good or bad guys, empire or rebellion. I think I would find it hard to choose.
10. Would you like to see Zero in theaters? If so, what actors would you like to see play your characters? (I had actually thought it would make a great anime!)
I would LOVE to see Zero, The Film. I have a very cinematic approach to writing and saw all the scenes play out in my mind's eye as I wrote them complete with soundtrack, camera angles, special effects, the works. Specific actors is a tricky one as Ia hve such clear pictures in my head for what these characters look like. But I think it’s best to put looks aside and think about which actors would best perform the attitudes. Along these lines, I think Christian Bale or Tom Hardy in the role of Hugo would be sublime. I see Webb as someone younger and infinitely cheekier. Perhaps Jensen Ackles or Cillian Murphy, though I definitely picture Webb taller. I’m sure I could get over this though. As for my supporting cast, would always love to see Sigourney Weaver (maybe as Admiral Pharos?) and Leena Heady (Rami?) in there!
Gerard Butler as Colonel Luscombe, anyone?
But yes, I think it work wonderfully as an anime, as anime was a huge influence when writing it!
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
In ten years’ time, I hope to have completed the Orbit series (Zero, Haven and Silence) as well as started my new SciFi novel outside the Orbit universe (Waste is potentially number 1 in a new series, potentially a stand-alone) and also to have written the vampire horror I have bubbling in the back of my mind. I would also like to have an agent and be writing novels for a living, or at least be able to cut down to part time to write the rest of the time. I want my stories to be out in the world and the world raring for more!
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I also like to draw so I think if I wasn't writing I would be doing more drawing/design work, perhaps I might have taken some graphics courses and be producing art digitally as well as by hand. I have fancied doing a graphic novel at some point, though it is going to take a while to get up to speed with the technology to be able to do this well.
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
Zero's sequel, Haven, is the main focus now. It is taking longer than Zero, partially because it's got slightly heftier subject matter and partly because it is that 'difficult second novel'. I went into it a little complacently, expecting it to be a breeze since I wrote the first draft of Zero in four months, but of course had completely forgotten the focus and time that drafting does take. Progress is steady, however, and I am hoping to have the first draft complete by the end of 2014.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
Robin Hobb is one of my favourite writers of all time. She does Fantasy, but her biggest influence on me is the way she made her stories so human and real. I have said how I admire this in storytelling and Hobb is one of the best I've known. No matter what sort of project we worked on, I would like the gravity and humanity she would lend to the narrative.
Another would have to be Anne Rice, just for the love I have of her work. I would love to have her advice and input on a horror/vampire project! She would certainly lend decadence and darkness.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
What a delightful question! I'd like to take this opportunity to also thank you for this. I've really enjoyed answering your questions.
Ok, three surprising things? Let me see.
Fact 1: I shave my head...(though not completely).
Fact 2: I'm five feet 11 and have trouble finding trousers long enough
Fact 3: I have never seen Firefly or Serenity.
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