Name Alex Davis
Where are you from
Originally Essex, have been living in Derby for the last 15 years
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I studied Creative Writing at the University of Derby starting back in the year 2000, and liked the city so much I decided to stick around. I met my now-wife at a writing group I was running shortly after my Uni years, and we’ve also got a three-year-old daughter, Betsy.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I tend to find in freelancing in writing there’s always news of some kind on the go! But the headline is definitely my first novel coming out this summer, The Last War, which is the start of a science-fiction trilogy from Tickety Boo Press.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I was tiny really, inspired initially by my favourite TV shows like Count Duckula and Dungeons and Dragons. The Fighting Fantasy adventure books – and in turn novels – were a massive part of me wanting to have a go at creating my own genre stories as a teenager. I suppose for me it was a bit of wanting to be something like my heroes and the people I idolised in writing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The definition of ‘writer’ has always been a sticking point for me, because if you do sit and write then surely you are a writer? It’s this distinction between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ in writing that people sometimes seem to preoccupy themselves with. If you collect stamps, you’re a stamp collector. If you go jogging, you’re a jogger. If you write, you’re a writer. You may not be paid, or published, but you are every bit a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first serious novel I wrote when I was about 23, and I took three months off work to get that written. It was a fantastic time really – I’d just moved in with my wife-to-be and here I was doing what I’d always dreamed of doing. It was a sort of Gothic ghost story, though on reflection the plot was a bit thin and the style was pretty overblown. The first novel you put to paper will never tend to be the best – anything in writing is first and foremost a matter of practice.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
The style for The Last War is kind of a combination of influences, because although it is science-fiction, it’s not high-tech or futuristic. It’s about a new alien civilisation – the Noukari – trying to get a society off the ground. Throw in the elements of a mysterious race of creators (or gods?) and an untapped psychic potential and you have an explosive mixture, which is largely what the book is all about.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The idea was that the Noukari were created as a species for peace and nothing more in the Ensium Galaxy, where the story is set. But society being what it is, tensions of some kind are always inevitable, so The Last War comes from the concept that the conflicts that we encounter in this book should be the last. But it’s a trilogy, so it’s not much of a spoiler to say there’s plenty more drama and unease to come.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’ve been wrestling with this myself for a bit, and I suppose the core point is about religion and whether it does more harm or good. The core concepts of religion in an early society are generally helpful – it’s the first time things like morality and consequences of actions are realised, and we move beyond the survival of the fittest/the biggest and strongest can just take whatever they want. As an idea, I think religion can work. In practice, it’s often more problematic than it should be.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Not much of it! We’re in a distant galaxy and on an alien planet. With that said, the aliens have a lot of human aspects, so readers should certainly be able to identify with their struggles.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not really – it was just an idea I was interested in, this kind of origin story. My publisher described it to me as ‘biblical’ in tone and style, which really pleased me. That’s the kind of thing I was going for.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I’d say Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury and Vermillion Sands by JG Ballard. Both wonderfully written books that I have just come back to time and time again.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently re-reading the wonderful A Graveyard for Lunatics by Ray Bradbury. I think it’s an overlooked classic of his, and possibly the most complete novel he ever wrote. It occurred to me to re-read it because it has some thematic similarities to a book I published with my small press, Andrew David Barker’s The Electric.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m lucky in doing what I do that my anthology editing brings me into contact with any number of very talented writers. There’s an Australian horror writer, Amelia Mangan, I’d advise everyone to watch out for – I’ve published a few of her stories, all of which have been absolutely fantastic, and her first novel is forthcoming. If it’s a patch on her shorts, it’ll be superb.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Well, even though The Last War isn’t out until July, I’m currently working away at the sequel, entitled The Last Days. I’m about 10,000 words in and coming up to a really interesting crossroads in the story, so going to be fun finishing it off. In terms of my anthology editing, I’m currently working at We Can Improve You – an anthology on the theme of Augmentation – and Nice Day for a Picnic, both are which are co-editing with my good friend Brian Marshall.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Can I say the whole SF/Fantasy/Horror community? There’s a phenomenally supportive world of writers, editors, bloggers and reviewers out there that I’m lucky to call myself a part of. If you need a hand, there’s always somebody willing to offer it, and equally I’m always happy to be called up for favours where I can offer something useful. There’s so much talent out there, and so many people wanting to see our patch of fiction succeed on the whole.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do, but my own definition of ‘writing’ is pretty broad. I’ve worked in writing for the last ten years, even though my book is only out this summer. I’ve run writing events, I teach creative writing, I run a small press (Boo Books), I proofread and copy-edit for a number of publishers, so writing is at the heart of everything I do, whether it’s my own or someone else’s. I’ve been delighted to see many people I’ve worked with go on to great success with their writing.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The timescale was tight, but I don’t think the end result would have been that different to be honest. You put it out there because you’re pleased with it, and if the publisher likes it – which Gary at Tickety Boo certainly seems too – then you can’t ask more than. You can drive yourself to madness by constantly changing things, looking back and trying to attain perfection. There is no perfect book.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Like I say, it was largely genre TV as a kid and then the Fighting Fantasy titles as I got a bit older. Later into my teens it was people like Michael Moorcock, James Herbert, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov filling my bookshelves.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’d be more than happy to – in fact you can check out a free prequel story to The Last War, entitled The Day of Creation at http://www.ticketyboopress.co.uk/thelastwar-1/. It’s a bit about how the Noukari came to be, and hopefully will whet the appetite for the novel. I’m working on some more tie-in stories as well as the main novel.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time! I work as a freelancer, which is a challenge in its own right, and take on some of the childcare (although that has lessened a bit with little one just starting nursery). If there were 30 hours in a day I’d be a much happier man.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Ray Bradbury, without question. To me the greatest short story writer of all time, and a sporadically brilliant novelist too – although I’m not sure the longer medium always brought out the best in him. Phenomenal ideas combined with beautiful and deft writing. Nobody ever did it better. Among current writers, Conrad Williams is a horror writer I am a huge fan of – his work is brutal but moving, and treads just the kind of ground I like in my darker fiction.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Just for promotion! Obviously I do a fair bit in and around Derby, as my home patch, but I have travelled to conventions and events all over the UK. They’re always a blast to do.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
That was Gary Compton’s handiwork over at Tickety Boo – and I love it as well. You could tell right away he’d read and enjoyed the book, because it captured the essence of it so well.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Definitely deadline. Once you have a plan down, it’s simply a matter of putting words on paper. That may not be a glamorous way to look at the art of writing, but I’m pretty practical in my approach to getting novels finished. I aim for a set word count every day, and had to angle for about 1500-2000 each day on The Last War to leave time for editing. I’ve got a bit longer on book two, which will be nice for sure.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I think you learn something from every book, to be honest, and this one was much more of a lesson in how published authors do it. I like targets and deadlines, but if I’m writing for myself there’s no consequence in missing them. When you have a publisher waiting, it very much changes the game, and has now very much become another part of my freelance portfolio.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Lots of it! In fact at my website I offer a new piece of writing advice each day, which you can check out at http://alexblogsabout.com/100-bits-of-advice-for-writers/. Some of it practical and some is creative, and it’s kind of a sum total of experience from my own writing and years of teaching writing too.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Being as the book isn’t out yet, I’ll just be happy to have some readers! Basically I hope that people largely enjoy what they read, and are interested in the species and setting that the book is about. It’s such a long journey getting to having a book out there that it’s simply a pleasure to be here on the cusp of publication, and I intend to enjoy every minute of the journey.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My memory is pretty lousy, but I do remember getting stuck into 1984 and Brave New World in school very distinctly, and also The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, which always stuck with me. Very powerful stuff – he’s an underrated writer for younger readers.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I like comedy that’s a bit out there and a bit unusual – favourite comedians would be guys like Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr. I miss seeing Frankie on TV these days. I’m not much one for crying, but the odd film will get me going – I watched Megan is Missing yesterday and that brought a tear to the eye. Bleaker than bleak.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’ve never much been one for celebrity, so probably would be one of my favourite writers, either Bradbury or Ballard.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
I’d never really want anything too self-aggrandizing. I suppose for me it’s be about always trying my best at things, and wanting to make my little patch of the world that bit better. Making a positive impact on people in my work is really important to me, and I love to see people enjoying an event I’ve run or loving a book I’ve put out there.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I like films, horror and SF in particular, and also reasonably into my sport, particularly stuff like horse racing, snooker, golf and tennis. Football I do follow, but a bit less so.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I tend to watch more comedy on TV that I do drama, and love a lot of the adult animations (South Park, Family Guy) as well as much of the Adult Swim stuff. Film-wise I tend to like things that are a bit different and push boundaries.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food has to be Italian, without a doubt. I’m always wearing black, so I suppose that would have to be the colour! Music has usually always been metal, but finding myself more into rap these days, although tends not to be the mainstream stuff. I love a delve on Youtube to find an interesting artist.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I can’t envisage a life without writing. It’s what I always wanted to do, and I’ve applied myself pretty much entirely to that. Freelancing is tough, and there are often knockbacks and difficulties, but I’m also kind of living my dream. It’s nice to see it through other people’s eyes, because that’s when I realise that I could be stuck in the 9-5 grind doing a job that mean nothing to me. I’ve always been driven by what I wanted to do rather than earning money, which I suppose has worked out OK.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?