Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hello! I’m Richard Abbott, and am 58 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in Hampshire and Surrey (two counties in the south of England, for readers not in the UK) and now live in London.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Well, I’ve sort of carried on education throughout my life, partly in the academic sense and also because my job requires I go on mastering new skills and techniques. And also because continuing education is important to me.
Family life – two adult children always manage to generate surprise and delight.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have two projects on the go in my science fiction universe – fairly near future, exploring things like human-AI relationship. At some stage I’ll focus on just one but right now they are both contending for which will be first. In a couple of months I should know… Besides that, I am still working out how to promote the most recently released book, Half Sick of Shadows.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I actually started many years ago but shelved the project, and then like so many of us life intruded for a long time. At that more recent time I was writing a lot of formal material and wanted to be more creative and imaginative.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose that would be when I finished the edited version of the first book, though of course it’s a process which carries on and changes.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had been studying the ancient history of Egypt, Israel and Canaan in an academic way, and the plot for In a Milk and Honeyed Land emerged out of that. It was an attempt to flesh out in fiction some of the gaps in our knowledge of those times.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I wanted to suggest the well-known phrase “land of milk and honey” but also highlight that it was from the point of view of inhabitants of the land, not newcomers.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I like writing in different genres rather than sticking with one – I started with historical fiction and since then have embraced science fiction and fantasy. I hope to return to historical settings – probably prehistory – some day, but it’ll be a while. The common theme is that the books deal mostly with ordinary life (rather than kings, galactic overlords, and such like). I like writing about inter-personal relationships and don’t like dwelling on gore and violence. People often describe my writing as quite lyrical or even poetic, though it is definitely prose.
Things that are challenging? Moving from one arena to another rather than getting totally steeped in a single place and time.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Well, I use experiences from life and work to build ideas and scenes, but I am quite careful not to model characters too closely on anyone I know. The main characters – whether in the future or the past – tend to be professionals of their age, using their skill and knowledge to tackle problems… this neatly describes my working life, but you would be hard-pressed to identify any one character in the real world.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have visited Egypt, Israel and Jordan, and although that wasn’t specifically for book research it certainly helped. I’d love to go to Mars or the asteroid belt but that doesn’t seem especially likely just yet!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Covers have mostly been a joint creative effort between me and an old friend who is a photographer and skilled at image editing. But for the most recent cover I used an original watercolour painting which gives a very different feel to my usual ones.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think that a great deal of human nature remains the same in past, present or future. And human relationships are important in any age.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I like a lot of new authors – some who spring to mind are Rob Bayliss (who recently appeared in one of your interviews), Antoine Vanner, David Frauenfelder, Theresa Thomlinson, and RM Gilmour. But it seems cruel to name a handful, when there are so many whose writing I appreciate and enjoy. My favourite author has to be Ursula LeGuin, who for many years has brilliantly combined fascinating people and human situations with compelling and unusual settings.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Again, how difficult to pick out just one! But I think for consistent support, encouragement, appropriate and incisive criticism, and friendship I would name David Frauenfelder.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No – I enjoy my day-job in IT very much and would not want to give it up (quite apart from the money side of things). Writing fits around the edges as best it can.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. It’s always tempting to go back and fiddle, but I’m happy with the outcome so resist the temptation!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, and was constantly surprised and pleased with how open-ended he made it. It so easily lends itself to many different adaptations.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Gosh, I’m not very good on actor’s names. But I chatted with a friend who suggested Alice Krige for The Lady, central role in Half Sick of Shadows. This was mainly on the basis of her role in the Star Trek film First Contact, where Alice successfully blends remoteness and intimacy.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Nothing original, just to persevere. And definitely to keep reading a wide range of other books, both recent and older.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
It sounds a bit trite, but many thanks for your warm interest in what I write!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I have just finished The Sargasso of Space, by André Norton, and am about to start Queen of a Distant Hive, by Theresa Thomlinson.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It’s almost certainly not the very first book I ever read, but it was certainly early on, and made a huge impression – Heather Hill, by Elleston Trevor. I still turn the story and characters over in my mind quite often.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh – word play or situations where someone’s situation unexpectedly changes for the better.
Cry – Unfairness which is deeply rooted in a situation and seems impossible to change.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Any of the handful of people who have been into space, from any nation. I would love to hear them talk about how the experience has changed them, face to face rather than in a prepared interview or article.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I like walking, especially in Britain’s National Parks and most especially in the Lake District.
And oddly, given my day job, I like keeping up with modern trends in computer programming. For example, I have published numerous Alexa skills which you can track down in the Amazon store under the name DataScenes Development.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch very little TV outside of the few things I like – I can’t imagine just turning it on to sit in front of whatever’s there. As a rule this means long-running series rather than one-off programmes. The just-starting Star Trek series is definitely on the list. I like films which have an interesting or provocative plot rather than pure action.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: wholefoods and alternative stuff.
Music: very diverse really but choral music and various prog rock groups are at the top.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Find other ways to be creative, most likely writing code for one or other of the emerging AI systems.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“He loved his family and enjoyed what he had.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Web site: www.kephrath.com
I try to keep them up to date but they always lag a bit, especially the web site. The blog is usually a safer bet for discovering recent updates.
Web site and blog are as above
Facebook is at https://www.facebook.com/richard.abbott.777
The most recent book, Half Sick of Shadows, is at https://www.amazon.com/Half-Sick-Shadows-Richard-Abbott-ebook/dp/B06Y4LN6RP/
Pictures attached are a mug shot of me, and the cover of Half Sick of Shadows