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?
I’m David, I write under the name of D.A Lascelles and I am 45 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in South Shields, a little town near Newcastle on the North East coast. I joke that people from South Shields are the Nights Watch because they guard the Wall (Hadrian’s wall, that is, the final fort in it was in that town).
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e. your education, family life, etc.).
I live in Manchester with my wife and our dog, Sky. I started out as a clinical scientist, with degrees in Physiology, Biomedical science and Immunology, before moving into education and getting a PGCE. I’ve taught in sixth form and vocational colleges but now mostly write education resources on a freelance basis, which gives me more time to write other things and dabble in photography.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
At the moment I am stepping back from writing because I am in the middle of a period of revision of my writing style and methods – working to be more focused and improve myself. I now have (at last count) three novels I am working on, which I guess is a strange definition of ‘stepping back’ but none of them are close to publication yet. The last thing I released was a story for the anthology ‘Out of this world alpha’s’. Gods of Diplomacy is my contribution to that and is a tale in the same world as Gods of the Deep, my novel.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always written in some form or another. Ever since I was very young. I remember being a voracious reader in primary school and also experimenting with the ideas and styles that I was seeing in what I read. I stopped for a while, lost the habit, but picked it up again in the early 2000s when I started seriously looking at publication.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess when Gods of the Sea was accepted for publication in an anthology (Pirates and Swashbucklers). This was also the same year that Transitions, my novella, got accepted by Mundania Press.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It is hard to say which is my first as two were released more or less at the same time… so I will use both.
Transitions occurred because I was involved in an online writing group that worked on BBW romance stories – the aim being to make sure the main characters in romance stories were realistic body shapes instead of all being Hollywood thin (and also that the overweight best friend was not the comedy sidekick). We collaborated on a series of paranormal romances which was intended to be released as the ‘Shades of Love’ anthology but actually ended up as individual novellas. It was a great group that included the late lamented Judy Bagshaw (who was very much a mentor figure for me) and the amazing Skyla Dawn Cameron. In working on this I realised I had two fragments of story in my hard drive. One was a contemporary romance about two university students that I had abandoned because it simply didn’t seem to have any drive or focus, the other was a historic piece set in Roman Britain (in South Shields, in fact, which was called Arbeia then). I had the idea to combine the two and make a ghost story about lost love.
Gods of the Sea arose because I answered a call for submissions to an anthology about pirates. I decided to write the story of two characters my wife and I had played in a now long gone Live Action Roleplay system called Adventures in the Arcroc. I got permission to use the setting from the organisers and basically did an origin story about how a rich merchant venturer called Rachel Drake rescues a hapless professor of ethereal studies from drowning and how that leads to their working together.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Transitions was a pretentious nod to changing seasons (the novella was set in autumn) and changes in general – the transition between past and present, life and death etc. I wrote a sequel using the same characters as a short called Tranformations (about a gender changing fey called Ash) so I was sort of aiming for a theme. If I decide to ever write more in that series I will have to think of a title beginning with T.
Gods of the Sea came from the first words of dialogue spoken in the story, the first words of the prayer a character makes to get aid from what looks like almost certain death at the start. Again, I used that to create a theme so now we also have Gods of the Deep and I am busy writing Gods of the City and have released Gods of Diplomacy as a short.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Anarchic. I do a lot of thinking about what I want to write and shape the ideas while I am walking or in the bath or whatever and then I try to get that down as soon as I can. But it tends to be intermittent when I can get the time. Recently I have had a lot of success with a ‘write something, anything, every day, even if only a handful of words’.
One of the things I need to work on is novel structure. I can do shorts fine, but when I try to write a full novel I get bogged down. So, I am working on being more of a planner and have been using Scrivener to help with that
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
One reason I find the characters in the Gods series so easy to write is because we played them in an LRP game for so many years. Much of the rest of the Arcroc is fantasy but there are elements that are based on real life. For example, the descriptions of the coast near the city of Berg are based on the cliffs and beaches near my hometown, including an exaggerated description of Marsden rock as a spirit gateway (which unfortunately collapsed into the sea many years ago).
I use a lot of real places in my writing. I set Transitions in Birmingham, where I was living at the time, and used Jilly’s Rockworld in Manchester as inspiration for the nightclub in Transformations. I am currently working on a novel set in Prestwich, the place where I live now.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Generally, not specifically travel for a project, However, as Ian McDonald (British SF writer) once said: authors never go on holiday, they go on research trips. Whenever I travel, I am looking for ideas and inspiration.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
For Transitions, the publisher appointed a cover designer who worked to my brief (and even changed it when I hated the original one). For my collection of shorts (Lurking Miscelleny) I got a cover from Skyla Dawn Cameron (did I mention she was amazing?). For Gods of the Deep, I commissioned a piece of art from Lauren C Waterworth, an artist I met at a Steampunk event where I was selling books. She did me a wonderful oil painting of my characters and let me keep the original sketches, which I scanned and put into the book as illustrations. The oil painting is still on the wall in our house.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Transitions has the message that big women can be awesome. I think the Gods series has a similar message because two of the main (and best loved) characters in that are female. In fact, one character was supposed to be male but very quickly became female during the writing process. There is a sort of message in Transformations about gender fluidity and the like but I am not sure that one suits the more modern take on that topic and I think I can do it better now. There is also a theme of ‘magic and science’ in a lot of my work – riffing off Arthur C Clarke’s dictum that ‘sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. Everyn in the Gods series is a ‘Professor of Ethereal Studies’ who is building a mathematical and scientific basis around old superstitions. In some of my SF writing, there are cultures who use technology in a magical way.
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 have been very impressed by Tasha Suri (author of Empire of Sand) and am also a great fan of Russell Smith (author of the Grenshall Manor series) and Micah Yongo (Author of Lost Gods). For SF I have recently been reading Emma Newman’s Planetfall series and have got into the work of Pat Cadigan. I am not sure I really have a favourite but I guess it is a toss up between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Fellow writers are always supportive. In my early days, I was in an online writing group with the late Judy Bagshaw who was very much a mentor to me. More recently I have joined an in person writer’s group and we do crit sessions 4 times a year and I have found this to be very helpful in my development as a writer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
These days it is very difficult to make writing a full time career. Most published authors have another job they do to pay the bills (John Scalzi did a wonderful blog on this a while back – his advice was to have a full time job or marry rich). The ones I know who are full time writers are all either insanely popular award winners (and even then they worry about bills sometimes) or retired and using the time they now have to focus more on writing. I am currently trying to make a career out of educational resource writing. I’ve only just started this so we will have to wait to see how it pans out.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I am always seeing ways I could improve something and I am learning how to be a better writer every day. Based on recent feedback from my writer’s group, I may have rewritten Gods of the Deep as a longer story instead of the novella it turned out to be. Threaded in more strands of plot and expanded the world building and character development a lot more.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I guess I always learn something when writing. I remember reading a lot about how docks work and the names of dock workers the world over for Gods of the Deep. Never used much of it but it is all there…
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Professor Everyn Crowe would be played by Oscar Isaac, partly because he has about the right skin tone but also because I think he can pull off the right level of imposter syndrome balanced with wide eyed geek that I always see Everyn as having. Rachel Drake is a difficult one to cast. I am not sure I could think of someone to fully match her. Maybe Eva Green?
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Writing groups are invaluable. If there isn’t one local to you start one or find one online. They are great for critiques and cheerleading support.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Keep reading and enjoying all that you read.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I do a lot of reviews for the BSFA review (https://bsfa.co.uk/bsfa-publications/) so I am often reading something they have sent me. Currently this is Dread Nation by Justina Ireland which is an interesting zombie apocalypse in a post Civil War America story. One reason I like being a reviewer is that it gets me access to books I might not normally pick up.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I have vague memories of a child’s version of Robin Hood that I read in Primary school. I also remember reading a lot of Enid Blyton and, of course, the Hobbit was a popular book.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Happy and sad things linked to dogs.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
One person? There are so many!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I take part in Live Action Roleplay and Photography. Though, really, writing is one of my hobbies too. Unless you count writing as my work in which case I teach as a hobby…
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I am a huge fan of anything fantasy or SF out there. Recently watched all the Marvel films and have been keeping up with Game of Thrones.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Potatoes, Purple and… eclectic. My music taste is hard to define. I have a thing for weird cover versions.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
If I am no longer writing then it means I am no longer able to write… so dead or otherwise prevented… which means a lot of other things are not possible either.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I am sure there will be a party. I’ll be there with a camera and a laptop – leaving a lasting record of that party.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I am not sure. I want a tree planted for me when I die so maybe a plaque near there can say some nice things about me.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
www.dalascelles.co.uk is my website and I can also be found on Twitter (@areteus) and facebook (D.A Lascelles).
D.A Lascelles is a former clinical scientist turned teacher. He writes in his spare time and his first short story, Gods of the Sea, was originally published in Pirates and Swashbucklers Anthology by Pulp Empires (pulpempire.com/mag/). His novella Transitions, a paranormal romance novella, was later released by Mundania Press (www.mundania.com/) and he has also released a collection of short stories under the title Lurking Miscellany.
Reports of a Blur/Oasis style rivalry between himself and R.A Smith are always hotly denied as are the almost non-existent rumours that they are one and the same person. They have on a number of occasions been seen standing next to one another at Steampunk fairs which proves both theories wrong. He is also, despite claims made by his students, neither Australian, Hungarian, John Travolta nor Chucky from Child’s Play
Gods of the Deep
Gods of the Deep has been several years in the making. It began life as a short story in the Pirates and Swashbucklers anthology by Pulp Empires that was published way back in 2011. That story, Gods of the Sea, covered the meeting of the two main characters – Rachel Drake and Everyn Crowe – and how they survived a pirate attack on Rachel’s ship using Everyn’s knowledge of the Ethereal realms. After this was published the editor, Nick Alhelm, suggested that I might want to develop a longer story set in the same world. I liked the idea and started working on Gods of the Deep after asking Nick for the rights to Gods of the Sea back so I could include it as the first in what became a series of three stories included in this volume. Gods of the Sea shows us how they meet, Gods of the Deep takes us deeper into both characters’ pasts and the third story, Heart of the City, is a standalone tale involving a gruesome murder in the city of Berg which Everyn is asked to help investigate. Finally, there is The Final Sacrifice, a story that was originally submitted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthology but didn’t quite make it, which looks at an event in the wider world Everyn and Rachel inhabit and an old lady who is more than she seems.
While Gods of the Sea was written in record time, literally over a couple of days in small bursts of writing, Gods of the Deep suffered from ‘second book syndrome’ in that it was harder to get written. I would write a section then lose my thread and take ages to get back to it. It languished in my hard drive for a long time before two events triggered me to work to completed it. The first was a visit to Malta and a tour around the medieval cities there. Those narrow, overhung streets were perfect for my image of the city of Berg and it triggered some ideas. The second was the 2016 EasterCon (Mancunicon) where I participated in a number of panels and discussions with other authors and one or two things said in those discussions set of a cascade of ideas which led to the completion of Heart of the City. I cannot tell you what those ideas were because of spoilers but I can say that they really got me moving on this project.
Guest post – Theories of magic.
Gods of the Deep originated as an idea about a more empirical methodology underlying magic. It is not particularly a new idea, after all it dates back to at least Arthur C Clarke’s concept of ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’, but it is one that has always fascinated me. I developed this idea in some of the characters I have played in live action roleplay and started inserting it into my fiction.
It is an idea that can be explored in many different ways. For example, in the Waypoint universe (as seen in some of the stories in Lurking Miscellany) I have a race of aliens who seem primitive and superstitious but whose religion is actually based on ancient technology. Their priests are actually those who understand technology and who can use it to serve their community but the majority are kept ignorant out of a desire to protect them from the dangerous aspects of science. In Gods of the Deep, however, I flip this idea and take a fantasy world where magic is real and have a character who is trying to apply scientific principles to it. That character is Professor Everyn Crowe.
Part of the inspiration for Everyn was Isaac Newton, a man who I see as someone who was trying to make sense of the universe using mathematics as his tool. Newton is considered to be one of the first ‘proper’ scientists – he applied consistent methods to his research in order to gain reliable and repeatable results, something that was largely unheard of at the time. He was also known to dabble in more esoteric arts, being especially known in his later year for his work on alchemy which, naturally, failed but did later lead to modern chemistry. Like Newton, Everyn is seeking meaning through equations and formulae and when we meet him at the start of the story has already had some success in controlling the entities of the spirit realms by the application of such methods. He has designed a compass which allows him to navigate the ethereal realms and has worked on mathematical proofs for many of the properties of ethereal creatures.
Of course, like all academics he needs funding and as always funding comes with a price. In this case, Everyn meets Captain Rachel Drake, owner of Drake Enterprises. She is a merchant venture who is always out for a profit and in Everyn she sees a chance to use his abilities to navigate the ethereal realms as a way to make money.She is initially seen as somewhat mercenary but later shows more of a heart. Through their adventures together we find out more about how the ethereal worlds work and both of them are tested – Rachel finding out what she is prepared to do for money, Everyn being asked to consider abandoning his empirical ways to embrace an ethereal patron as his god. Throughout all these adventures we have the thread of trying to standardise the chaos that is the practise of magic in this world and considering which is better – an empirical approach or total faith in the beings who grant that power.
Professor Everyn Crowe is just a harmless academic with an interest in the Theological and Ethereal Sciences. He’d expected his life to consist of quiet hours in the library and tinkering with his newly invented etheric compass. He is therefore surprised when his studies into the quaint anthropological practises of some isolated villagers living on the coast of his native Creatha result in him being unceremoniously thrown into the sea.
Luckily, Captain Rachel Drake of the Neptune’s Wing is on hand to supply a rescue. If Everyn can avoid being cast overboard by her crew for being a witch, she may have a use for his unusual academic specialities.
A collection of tales of pirates, swashbucklers, demons and adventure.
Gods of the Deep (Kindle edition): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gods-Deep-D-Lascelles-ebook/dp/B01IFM258O/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1468622849&sr=8-7&keywords=Gods+of+the+deep