PODCAST SHOW NOTES
Join hosts Veronica and Darren as they discuss the intricate relationship between buying a packet of chips and corruption, the paradox of a morality that will kill to maintain its peaceful philosophy, what aspects of humanity should be ventured into the stars and what it means to not have a brass razoo... oh, and a gobsmackingly thought provoking interview with prolific science fiction author Ishmael A. Soledad! So strap yourself in for some fascinating conversation, industry news, book reviews and a whole lot more...
What Country do you write on?
Yuggera country most of the time, sometimes Gugu-Badhun, occasionally Lancastrian.
When did you first admit that you were a writer?
I don’t think I have, even now. I still think of myself as an ‘aspiring writer’, partly because I believe it’s a journey that does not end (cue Lamahl).
What was your favourite book as a child?
Biggles of 266. I was (am) a total aircraft tragic. I bought it when I was five with my pocket money. Still have it on my shelf at home (with breakfast stains, pencil lines, budgie bite marks)
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write science fiction I wanted to read; character driven fiction with the ‘science’ hidden, more or less as a backdrop. I also got to the point where I was sick and tired of every sci-fi book having wars, battlefleets, death and destruction as central (and overriding) themes. I wanted conflict, but not between good and bad people/aliens, but conflict between people who are essentially good (whatever that means) but whose goals and ends clash.
Do you write for yourself or for a particular audience?
I wrote solely for myself, and a faint hope one or two others would appreciate it.
Is there anything specifically Australian about your book?
Yes, although it’s a bit hidden. Two of the four main characters are Australian (Victorian actually, but a long way in the future) and half of the first part of the book takes place in Victoria a few hundred years into the future. It’s not overt, it’s tucked away throughout it, but if you’re Aussie you’ll see it.
Are there any secrets hidden in your writing?
Yes, one or two. As with most fiction a great deal of background to the characters is left unsaid, but percolates through. There’s a couple of small homages to my favourite authors over the years, and to my early morning addictions. But if you’re looking for mind-blowing secrets, you’ll be disappointed.
Why do you think listeners should read your book?
Sha’Kert’s a more thoughtful and considered sci-fi novel than most (imho). It’s cross-genre character driven as well, accessible to non-sci-fi readers, so if anyone was looking to cut across genres and have a first look at sci-fi, it’s where I would go.
It’s also a multi point of view, all first person narrative; so it’s again, just that little bit different.
Is there a message in your book? What’s the main message you’d like readers to take away after reading your book?
The main message (if there is one) is that good people, acting in their own best interests, can come into conflict for no other reason. And, perhaps, that it is foolish to ignore the knowledge and help of those around you.
Who is your most or least favourite character to write?
In Sha’Kert I think it was the daughter, Penny. She might be a second-level character, but she was a lot of fun. There’s so much underneath that kid that never comes out in the book, an unwritten history and interaction with the planet that may, one day, stand on its own in another book.
And she was the hardest to write; from a six year old kid with all the symptoms of Battens’ disease, to a precocious eight year old finding her way in a new world and new society, a young mother in her prime in communion with an alien world, to a sixty something sole survivor looking back on a life of frustration.
What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?
The day my publisher said they’d take it on. It was a seriously uplifting and humbling thing, to have a professional see my writing as having worth and potential.
What genre/s do you write in?
Science fiction in the main. I’ve one or two small local history projects going but they’re more a semi-vanity press thing for friends and family.
What genre/s do you mostly read?
It’s probably better to ask what genres I don’t read! The more I write, the broader my reading gets. The bulk is still fiction (science and general), history, philosophy, economics, biography, and science. I don’t touch pure romance or erotica; or westerns (and you can blame my dad for that last one!).
What book are you reading at the moment?
Two on the go at the moment. Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Gabriels’ The Meaning of Thought.
As a writer, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?
Always start as a plotter but, along the way, my characters hijack the plotline and drag me along with them, so I guess I’m a hybrid.
How much research is involved in your writing?
A lot. Readers are smart, and pick up on inconsistencies and errors quickly. Sci-fi readers are both forgiving (it’s a fictional universe out there I’m creating so anything goes) and viscous (if you get the basics wrong, get the science wrong, they tell you about it) so research is critical. In Sha’Kert the key challenge was to get the Amish community correct, to project them a few hundred years into the future but still keep them real, not make them caricatures. That involved a huge amount of reading, talking, and a visit or two.
What’s your writing routine if you have one?
I’m a pen and paper writer (shows my age I guess) and when I’m most creative is late at night when the world’s gone away. Over the years I’ve found that between about 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. the ideas flow easily and rapidly (in writing, study, and work) but marriage put a stop to that quick smart. So I tend to write from about 9pm onwards; it takes about half an hour for me to get into the right frame of mind, and I try to get a thousand words at least down. I then type up the work sometime on the weekends.
Where do you write?
I’ve commandeered (been allowed to think I have more like it) one bedroom in our house. I’d love to have an attic or a small shed, but that’s the stuff of daydreams.
In the room I’ve got a desk, a chair, and a wingback Chesterfield, a perfect set up for me.
Who helped you most when you were starting out?
My wife, 100%. Support and, strangely enough, permission. Most writers I talk to say a lot about what they sacrifice in terms of time, other work or hobbies; I think that our significant others pay a higher price, mainly because they’re on the outside looking into a solitary, grinding path; and try to explain how four years or more’s work compresses into a few hundred pages of paper and ink? Good luck!
What’s the most useful writing advice you’ve been given?
Never write for anyone else; ignore the reviews; and treat success and failure the same.
What’s your writing goal for the next twelve months?
To finish the first draft of my next novel.
What inspired your book cover?
A combination of a Scottish loch on a misty morning, and the coastline in the northern part of Norway formed the backdrop; the rest straight from my imagination. Very fortunate to have a brilliantly talented artist take my ideas and bring them to life.
Who would you most like to read your book as an audiobook?
If it were possible I’d choose Bob Ross, the 1980’s tv painting guy; that guy had a voice that could make a shopping list a pleasure to listen to. But as he’s dead, that’s no option. Of the living, probably Richard Feidler from ABC’s Conversations.
What words of advice would you give an aspiring author?
Just write. Don’t think, don’t hesitate, don’t doubt. Just get into it and follow your heart.
Any final words for potential readers or writers?
Sha’Kert’s a bit different than a lot of other science fiction. If you’ve never touched sci-fi, or wanted to but couldn’t get over the science bit, give Sha’Kert a run. You’ll be pleasantly surprised (but you’d expect me to say that , wouldn’t you?); have a look at the reviews on Goodreads from others who are not sci-fi readers and make up your own mind.