My pleasure I.A. You are always welcome.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Ralph's Rants presents an interview with author IA Watson!
Hello Ian, and Welcome to Ralph’s Rants; how are you today?
IW: Slightly sleepy. It’s 3.09am here in Yorkshire, UK, and I’ve just finished writing my 5000 words for the day. This interview is by way of winding down for the night.
Ian, tell my readers a little bit about yourself.
IW: I did almost all the interesting things in my life by the time I was 21. I toured Europe, got my heart broken in Innsbruck, wrote my first stage play, directed my first stage play, dated an actress in it – don’t do that – chased off to Paris one mad weekend, met my future wife (not in Paris), went ghost-hunting (didn’t find one), sank a yacht, that kind of thing. Since then, wife, kids, management jobs, all the real-life stuff.
Now the most interesting thing about me is that I sometimes write books. This is a good thing. I want people to be interested in the books, not the writer.
Oh, and when I do write things, it’s as I.A, Watson, not Ian Watson. There’s another, highly successful, very popular author of that name who isn’t me. So I had to make up a middle initial.
Ian, you are one of, if not the most prolific guy in adventure writing or new pulp as it’s called. How do you keep up your productivity?
IW: I’m lucky because when I write I write fast. And I like to write, so I do it a lot. Plus, going back to your last question, the kids are nearly grown up and moved out now, the wife isn’t the wife any more, I’m paid shockingly high amounts for consultancy work so I don’t have to do it more than a couple of days a week, and therefore I get plenty of time lurking in front of a keyboard.
Does writing come easily to you? Or is it something you have to work at?
IW: It mostly comes easy. I have to work harder to do mystery stories because they require more intricate plotting and breakdowns and I have to work harder writing historical because they require a lot of research. Historical mysteries are the toughest of all.
Although few fictional stories use genuine, 100% best-as-we-know-it history, I still like to get my backgrounds right, or at least to select the bits I change through artistic choice rather than ignorance.
Research can be rewarding for a writer. For my ROBIN HOOD series, I’ve actually argued with the modern-day Sheriff of Nottingham, had a guided tour of the hidden tunnels under Nottingham Castle, and been “received” at nearby Belvoir Castle for a personal library visit. Other projects have got me to the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace (complete with cucumber sandwiches on the lawn), a working rescue lifeboat, and a very spooky backwoods cabin somewhere in Vermont. We’ll save those stories for another interview.
What does I.A.Watson’s writing routine routinely look like?
IW: You wouldn’t want to see it. It involves me rolling out of bed, padding to the bathroom, stomping downstairs to bring in the milk and make coffee, crawling back upstairs to the study and turning on the PC. High drama stuff. There are five websites I look at before work: The Order of the Stick, Something Positive, Girl Genius, Darths and Droids, and Doctor Who News. Then I check e-mails, triage the really urgent ones, and start to write.
I am not allowed to eat until I’m finished writing. I find it really hard to write with a full stomach. I just want to go to sleep.
You are well known for your Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood stories and novels; besides those two what are your favorite characters to write?
IW: A while ago, Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Press mentioned to me that I was unusual in not having developed series characters of my own. This was mainly because nearly everything I’d written up to that point was reactive; someone had asked me to do it. “Ian, how about penning a Holmes story?” “Ian, we’re putting together an anthology about airman detective Richard Knight.” “Ian, do you want to pitch a Spider meets Black Bat tale?” That kind of thing. I’d never really produced something and then said, “Hey, does anyone want to publish this?”
Then I got to the point where I’d run out of commissioned work. I had thirteen projects off with editors, grinding their way towards publication. I’d caught up with all the “Hey Ian’s”. So I decided to write some stories I really wanted to tell with some characters who were entirely my own to use as I wished. Those characters are probably my favourites.
I wanted to do the whole “connected universe” thing that all the cool kids are trying these days. I decided that there should be three corners to it, a weird science strand, a supernatural strand, and a high adventure/superhero strand. I’d put out a book for each and see how it went. I’d create a cast appropriate to each genre.
SIR MUMPHREY WILTON AND THE LOST CITY OF MYSTERY, set in World War II, covers a Saturday-matinee cliffhanger serial story where the main character is John Steed-meets-Winston Churchill – with a time manipulating pocketwatch. Honestly, I’m surprised nobody else had already done it.
THE TRANSDIMENSIONAL TRANSPORT COMPANY features a quartet of entrepreneurial mad scientists who do what it says in the title. When I write about them I’m channelling Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and my head is full of crackling black energy dots. The point of view character, delivery boy Swift, is as hard-luck a hero as they come. Archscientist Dr Hal B. Harker is somewhere between Reed Richards and Doctor Who with added bubble pipe.
VINNIE DE SOTH, JOBBING OCCULTIST, is an urban fantasy-horror book with a complete cast of ghouls, werewolves, wizards and the like. Vinnie himself is the white sheep of a terribly nasty occult dynasty, socially inept because he grew up trying not to be assassinated by his siblings rather than learning how to talk to girls at parties, but really clever when there’s a rampaging monster or malefic spirit to be thwarted.
What have you released recently?
IW: Well, in 2014 I set out to get twelve published credits in one year. I failed. I got to eleven, but because of publishers’ delays I just missed the target. I tried again in 2015 and managed to just squeeze in at the last minute because of my inclusion in the massive multi-creator omnibus extravaganza that is LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION (I’m one of 98 creators in there).
Before that my work appeared in the anthologies THE AMAZING HARRY HOUDINI, STRANGE & COZY, OCCULT DETECTIVE MONSTER HUNTER, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SEMI-DUAL, SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE volume 6, and an all-by-me story collection, WOMEN OF MYTH.
This year I’m determined to publish less and sell more. 2016’s objectives are about readership levels. Maybe I should do some interviews?
Care to tell us all what the works are about?
IW: I really like retelling legends in a modern way. I got the taste for it with my four ROBIN HOOD books and again with ST GEORGE AND THE DRAGON Books 1 and 2. WOMEN OF MYTH comes from that corner of my brain. It’s a collection of four stories featuring very different main characters – heroines if that doesn’t imply adjuncts to a hero – who appear in four very different roles in traditional fiction.
Blodeuwedd, the Flower Maiden of Welsh myth, was literally made to be a hero’s wife. She fell in love with somebody else. Her writer in the medieval Mabinogion very much disapproves of her infidelity. A more modern reading might be about a woman’s right to choose. It was an interesting story to revisit.
Cinderella is a tale that goes back right to Greek literature, although not by that name. The idea isn’t just about a girl with missing footwear who luckily gets swept away from domestic drudgery by a prince. It’s also an example of another ancient trope that says the prince doesn’t get to be a worthy king unless he recognizes the Lady of the Land despite her humble disguise.
Hesione was a Trojan princess who got chained to a rock to be eaten by a monster. She’s in there to represent every heroine who has had to put up with being rescued by a big hairy hero – Hercules in her case – and then has to live with the consequences. There’s a case for arguing that if Hesione had only been eaten then the Trojan War would never have happened.
Finally, there’s Lilith, who Hebrew legend names as Adam’s first wife, mother of demons, enemy of Eve’s daughters.
I wrote this book because I’m a man, a pretty lacking feminist, an enthusiastic mythographer, and I felt as if I had something to say. I just didn’t quite know what it was until I’d written it.
What else do you have upcoming this year, that you can talk about?
IW: It’s a race now between various publishers to see what comes out next. Neck and neck even favourites are Airship 27 with HOLMES AND HOUDINI, a novel which the title describes pretty well, and Chillwater Press with LABOURS OF HERCULES, an epic fantasy that I started one day in protest at having other looming deadlines.
My pleasure I.A. You are always welcome.
In other work, I’m at the editing phase of a new anthology of RICHARD KNIGHT stories, based upon the old Keyhoe character. I’m just turned in a story for SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE volume 12, having supplied content for all the intervening editions after the most recent, volume 7. There are a couple of projects that have been in “development hell” for five and three years respectively, and maybe one day they will break free. I’m aware of about a dozen things accepted for publication that will doubtless emerge when the time is right.
What kind of a gauntlet does your hero have to run through during the course of your new story?
IW: Hercules is literally the archetype of the warrior hero. He was doing that whole walks-in-from-nowhere-and-fights-the-monster stuff in stories three thousand years ago. But on the whole I don’t think he’s been very well served in the modern age of fiction.
Partly that’s because he is an example of a really early “shared universe”, where he interacts with hundreds of other characters from other stories, fights, teams-up, romances, and everything we’ve come to expect from a modern comic book with crossovers. It’s hard to grasp all of the cast backstories, to spot cultural and religious allusions that give those stories weight, and to find ways of presenting some of the more unsavoury aspects of Hercules’ character without whitewashing him. It has often led to very watered-down caricature portrayals.
My rule in writing LABOURS OF HERCULES was to source everything from something that was written back in the classic era. That’s why there are so many footnotes in there, to the annoyance of my editors.
The gauntlet? The story starts at the most difficult moment in Hercules’ life. At the height of his prowess he went mad, cursed by Hera, mistook his own infant children for enemies, and killed them. Their ghosts follow him. His wife disavows him. His confidence is gone. He wants to die, but doing so would leave his murdered offspring to drift as nameless phantoms forever. We don’t start with bold, bluff, heroic Hercules. We start with a man who has lost everything and who blames himself.
If you’re of the school of writing that says, “work out the worst thing that you could do to your character and then do it”, then that’s where Hercules is when my account begins. His punishment and redemption, the means of giving his ghosts peace, is to undertake ten quests for his most hated enemy (he did twelve, since two were officially disallowed).
Hercules’ arc is about remaking himself into a different kind of hero. He stands on the cusp of the evolving heroic ideal. He is the last great Greek monster-fighter and the first champion of the underdog. In the end he takes on Death himself and batters his way into heaven to foment change there.
I think that’s a pretty fair gauntlet, but if Hercules can’t run it then who can?
How many stories and novels are you planning on writing this year?
IW: I don’t have a plan so much as a general order of what I want to write. The volume depends upon how much of my other (better paying) job turns up and what people ask me to produce for them. In between trying to respond to commissions, I’d like to complete the novel I’m working on right now, a sequel to THE TRANSDIMENSIONAL TRANSPORT COMPANY called PREMIUM DELIVERY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH. I’d like to find time to do second volumes for Sir Mumphrey Wilton and Vinnie De Soth as well.
At some point I want to write “The Death of Robin Hood”, a final chapter for the character I’ve followed through four volumes to date. Then I want to turn to a set of King Arthur stories that I’ve been meaning to get out there for years now. Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 6 are done, but volumes 4, 5, 7, and 8 won’t write themselves.
I should also start cleaning out the back-catalogue of other material that’s accumulated on my hard drive. There are seven or eight novels on there that need a final polish before they are fit for public consumption, and another five or six that need a lot more work before I’d show them to anybody else.
Yes, I probably need to look into finding some more publishers.
It was a pleasure having you here today, Ian. Feel free to leave links to your website or direct links to purchase your books.
There’s a full list of the forty-odd books at http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm along with a few free stories and samples, plus links to lots of other writers’ websites. There’s also pretty much the only picture of me on the internet there, which everyone tells me is a truly terrible one. They just haven’t seen all the rest.
So one last question-coffee or tea?J
Well, since I already spoiled that one earlier in the conversation, let me describe my coffee mug. It’s a hand-made cup that holds ¾ of a pint, acquired for me by my wife in happier times. If psychics ever required an object closely associated with me to locate where my corpse has been hidden, that mug would be an ideal item for the experiment. And, given how seldom it gets washed, it is entirely possible that the ring-stains inside it are now more intelligent than me and may actually be the real writer of all my works.
Thank you for inviting me into your webpage.
My pleasure I.A. You are always welcome.
As always all of my own books are available at http://RLAngeloJr.com or http://tinyurl.com/ralphsamazon
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