What are you working on now?
I’m nearing the end of work on Redlaw: Red Eye, the sequel to my vampire novel Redlaw which came out at the end of last year. This takes the central character on from his original role as a man policing vampire immigrants, transplants him from the UK to the US, and shows how he is coming to terms with his new role as a defender (rather than persecutor) of vampires. It’s a tough, fast-paced suspense story featuring a squad of partially-vampirised supersoldiers and plentiful gunplay and bloodletting.
What have you recently finished?
Before I started work on Red Eye, I completed a novella, Age Of Anansi, which is about to be released in ebook-only format. It focuses on the African spider trickster god and all the other trickster gods of folklore and religion as they come together for a once-in-a-generation trick-playing contest. The outcome of this contest can often be fatal, so the stakes are high. I had a ball writing it. I like the novella length since you can do almost everything with it that you can do in a full-length novel but you can also dispense with subplot and suchlike, just get right down to the core of the story and keep it thumping along at a gallop. The plan is to release one of these Age Of… e-novellas to accompany each forthcoming Age Of… novel, and then, once I’ve done three of them, put them out in a paper-form omnibus.
What’s recently or soon out?
Age Of Aztec is due imminently. That’s the fourth in the series, and it’s about Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, Huitzilopochtli and co., the Aztec pantheon whose names are so long and ornate they could make your spellchecker explode. It’s by far the bloodiest of the Pantheon novels, and the most apoclayptic, taking place in a world where the brutal Aztec empire wasn’t crushed by the equally brutal Spanish conquistadors with their Christianity and their smallpox-laced blankets, but instead has grown and expanded to become a world-spanning concern, maintaining its rule through fear, intimidation and regular wholesale human sacrifice. The book is set in the year 2012, and the plot ties in to the Mayan Long Count Calendar, which of course predicts that time is coming to an end this December. So people should buy a copy of the book now, while they still can…
I also have a teen novel and a children’s novel out shortly, respectively Warsuit 1.0 (about a boy who half-accidentally commandeers the heavily armed robot exo-skeleton his scientist father has been building) and The Black Phone (about a pair of young detectives who solve mysteries at their school and in their hometown). Both, fingers crossed, will turn into ongoing series.
Describe your typical writing day.
I start work around 8.45, having walked #1 son to school. I spend the morning writing a few pages longhand – yes, longhand, with pen and paper – with my cat Ozzy sitting snoring next to me. Then, around midday, I transfer the morning’s work onto the computer and tinker with the text for another couple of hours. I can’t write fiction straight onto the screen. It just doesn’t work for me. I’m of a generation where pen and paper was all we had, and I like the directness and immediacy of that process, complete with all the scribbly crossings-out and careted insertions. It’s more – I’m going to use the word “organic” here – organic than keyboard and screen. Also, what with Facebook and other online distractions, I’d most likely not get anything done if I spent the entire day at the computer. And my eyes would fall out of my head, too.
What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
I favour two of my older novels, mainly because they’re the two I’m most satisfied with, the two where I seemed to get my point across best: Days and Provender Gleed. They are the early work I’m proudest of and, as a contributing factor to my pride, the ones that received the greatest acclaim at the time. I also have a fondness for my double-novella Gig, just because it came out almost exactly as conceived and because all the elements (the palindromes, the “Ace double” back-to-back aspect, the desire to write a rock music story that works) really seemed to gel.
Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I’m going to duck this question somewhat, in that I’ll have a huge, brief enthusiasm for a certain author which then gets superceded by an equally huge, brief enthusiasm for another author. I have real reading ADHD, so who I’m enjoying right now will shortly, inevitably be replaced by someone else. In other words, you’d only be getting a snapshot of my current taste, which is bound to change. But I’ll always look forward to something new from Eric Brown, and I have a penchant for Jonathan Maberry’s uber-violent stuff and I’m glad, too, that Kim Newman is getting back into fiction after a longish hiatus.
If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
For God’s sake don’t do it! Find yourself a proper job! But if you must become a writer, if you insist on doing it, talent is one thing, ambition another, but the greatest attribute you can have, the one that matters above all else, is persistence. There are very few overnight successes in publishing, and the people who hit big early on tend to be the people who fade away quickly and are never heard from again. Also, if you want to survive, especially in today’s market where everything seems to be in freefall and nobody knows what’s going to happen next, think commercial and original. It’s the only way to be. Work out what sells and try and bring something new but true to that particular table. People will then surely sit up and take notice.
So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
Yeah, you’d like me to say, like Private Frazer, that we’re all doomed, doooomed! But we’re not. E-publishing is definitely the coming thing and will, I imagine, account for the vast majority of book sales in future. The issue of file-sharing is a knotty one. I mean, obviously selling someone else’s work via an unlicensed website and not paying them for it is an infringement of copyright and punishable by law, but that’s not going to deter some people. However, I believe there’s a majority of honest punters out there who don’t mind paying a decent whack for their books, safe in the knowledge that money is going to the creator, because they understand that if the demand for free or ridiculously cheap rip-off stuff continues, the supply will eventually dry up and the medium will die. I also believe – and this is me speaking as someone who refuses to allow an e-reader of any kind anywhere near his house – that ye olde-fashioned paper books will continue to be a viable product and bookstores will continue to be a feature of our high streets. Books have survived everything that’s been thrown at them for hundreds of years, and they are the perfect delivery format for the “software”. So, basically, I’m pretty optimistic. Which, in my experience, is a surefire recipe for disaster.
James Lovegrove was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and is the author of over 37 books. His novels include The Hope, Days, Untied Kingdom, Provender Gleed, the New York Times bestselling Pantheon series (The Age Of Ra, The Age Of Zeus, The Age Of Odin), and Redlaw, the first volume in a trilogy about a policeman charged with protecting humans from vampires and vice versa.
In addition he has sold more than 40 short stories, the majority of them gathered in two collections, Imagined Slights and Diversifications. He has written a four-volume fantasy saga for teenagers, The Clouded World (under the pseudonym Jay Amory), and has produced a dozen short books for readers with reading difficulties, including Wings, Kill Swap, Free Runner, Dead Brigade, and the 5 Lords Of Pain series.
James has been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the British Fantasy Society Award and the Manchester Book Award. His short story “Carry The Moon In My Pocket” won the 2011 Seiun Award in Japan for Best Translated Short Story.
James’s work has been translated into twelve languages. His journalism has appeared in periodicals as diverse as Literary Review, Interzone and BBC MindGames, and he is a regular reviewer of fiction for the Financial Times and contributes features and reviews about comic books to the magazine Comic Heroes.
He lives with his wife, two sons and cat in Eastbourne, a town famously genteel and favoured by the elderly, but in spite of that he isn’t planning to retire just yet.
James wrote the chapter ‘The World of the End of the World: apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).