Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Interview: Sci-fi Author, Doug Strider.

I featured Doug on written-with-a-sword a few weeks back, and he was kind enough to allow me to not only review his ebook 'Space Danger!' for your enjoyment, but also submit a guest post about himself. Now, to top it all off I thought I'd invite Doug back for a short interview. I also have the pleasure of meeting Doug in person at an author event in London, and I must say he's a top bloke! Let's find out a little more about the enigmatic and intrepid galactic explorer turned comedian!

1.      For the benefit of those who might not know you prior to this interview, please introduce and tell us a little about yourself.
My pen name, for reasons that are as mundane as an afternoon searching through Google for something relatively unique, is Doug Strider.
I have been, and still seem to be, involved in podcasts such as The BoxRoom Podcast, DWO-Whocast, Lost Bearings, Soldiers of Tangent and The Bearcast. The last two are still stuck with me inside them like a comedy parasite putting posters up in their intestines and ordering pizzas with someone else’s credit card.
I’ve been a writer for over 20 years. This is a bit of a fib. I wrote some things 20 years ago and then had a 20 year break because of reasons but now I’m back, cursing Word and developing a superlative beer tummy (although I’m also fighting it, no idea which side is going to win).
2.      What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or less words, what would you say?
Space Danger! Which is a sci-fi, space-pulp-opera type affair. To sum it up I’d say: The second-best crew in the fleet are given the task of saving the galaxy. Probably.

3.      What inspired you to write this book? And how are your story ideas born?
Always loved sci-fi. It’s one thing my dad and I had in common. My earliest memories are of me playing as a space hero so I thought that getting back into my first genre love would be a fantastic re-starting point.
It was originally going to be an audio comedy/drama adventure in collaboration with Danny Davies (who I do The Bearcast and Soldiers of Tangent with) but I asked if he wouldn’t mind me doing a novel of it instead and he was happy for me to go ahead.
Story ideas are usually born of idle speculation about stuff when I’m standing outside having a cigarette and staring vacantly into the heavens. I’ve lost so many ideas though so I’ve managed to start writing the damn things down. Generally they come from what-ifs.
4.      What was the hardest part of writing your book? And if you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
The hardest part is finding the time! It’s mostly written in the pub on the way home of an evening, hence the battle of the tummy barrel, so I have to figure out something else really. This method of writing a few hundred, or less, words at a time eventually works though, it soon builds up, but it can feel a little disjointed writing in small bursts. Remarkably it seems to flow rather well when I read it all back. Then I edit the shit out of it to make sure it flows.
I don’t think I’d change anything in the book so far. Will see how I feel further down the line. Maybe when I’m in a bit of a mood so I can call myself an idiot and have a fight with myself (then buy myself a bottle of red wine to make amends. Any excuse really!).
5.      Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
If you frequent a pub long enough they give you a free drink at Christmas.
That and I’m rubbish at planning. Background characters pushed their way to the front and made me make them main characters, the cheeky buggers. Also, the destination I want them to go is ignored because of the “What’s that over there?” factor and they go trundling off over there and I’m left looking like a fool as I write down what I didn’t expect them to be doing.
6.      Do you have a favourite line or scene from your latest release?
I have a particular fondness for two scenes in particular. The first where Midshipman Harris is suffering the temporal bends and for no reason known to himself, or science, mimes paying for an orange. The second is the escape pod scene further in with the third rule of survival (I’ll not spoil that one!).
7.      Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not as such. Not really. This isn’t about the best ship in the fleet, or the worst. It’s about the second-best. At a push I’d say it’s more about living with that realisation, or grumbling about it incessantly, and remaining British in the face of everything.
8.      Can you tell us anything about your next book?
I’m releasing Space Danger! in four parts and am still working on Part 3 at the moment. But I do have plans for my next project. Ideas are forming, characters are peering out of the smog and dropping me notes to say whether they’re available or not, the spirit of London is peering closely at my thoughts and disapproving mildly, and there are small, strange things skittering around my feet that I’ve only caught glimpse of out the corner of my eye.
9.      Do you normally read other books in the same genre of your own?
Yup. Mostly! Sci-fi and fantasy are my genres of choice so I flit between them like a dog with two owners calling my name. I’m trying to avoid reading too much sci-fi while I’m writing in that genre though. Likewise my next project is more fantasy based so will avoid that type of stuff when I’m working on it. I hate to read things back and go, “Hang on a second, that idea is from so-and-so. Bugger. Delete.”
10.   Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I can’t really say I have one definitive favourite. I’m a keen observer of the worlds of Robert Rankin, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter, David Gemmell. Those off the top of my head.  I tend to steer towards the more absurd than anything. Otherwise it’s atmosphere and stopping every now and then to stare dumbly at the universe while I have a really good think about things.
11.   What books have made it onto your wishlist recently? And why?
I really should get a wishlist. How much do they cost?
I’m a uselessly random book buyer. I get recommendations from my partner Jen, Twitter acquaintances and I wake up sometimes with a new book on my Kindle that was completely down to a drunken whim.
I’ve recently read the PC Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch and am this close to pre-ordering his new one Broken Homes which is out in July.  So that probably counts. I really got drawn into his London, the police procedure and the “weird shit” that is forcibly suppressed by those in charge which is getting rather more tricky the more Grant fucks things up. Great stuff!
12.   Any advice for other writers/indie authors out there? And what’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
If you think you can’t write then you’re probably wrong. Try it. You might like it. If you’re right then have a biscuit, a cup of tea and then try again.
If you want to write then write. See where it takes you. Take a notepad, jot down ideas as they occur. Work on one project at a time!
It is also considered good luck to buy me a beer. I don’t know why. I don’t make the rules.

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