Novel: Demi-Monde: Winter
> What is Demi-Monde: Winter about?
The publisher’s blurb says:
‘The Demi-Monde: Winter is the first of a four book series. The eponymous Demi-Monde is the most advanced computer simulation ever devised. Created to prepare soldiers for the nightmarish reality of urban warfare, it is a virtual world locked in eternal civil war. Its thirty million digital inhabitants are ruled by duplicates of some of history’s cruellest tyrants: Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Holocaust; Beria, Stalin’s arch executioner; and Aleister Crowley, black magician and ‘the wickedest man in the whole world’. But something has gone badly wrong inside the Demi-Monde, and the US President’s daughter has become trapped in this terrible world. It falls to Ella Thomas to rescue her, yet once Ella has entered the Demi-Monde she finds that everything is not as it seems, that its cyber-walls are struggling to contain the evil within and that the Real World is in more danger than anyone realises.’
My blurb says:
‘It’s a rumbustious SF/Fantasy thriller that examines the duality of human existence … and has fun while it’s doing it.’
Booklist (December 15. 2011) says:
'elegantly constructed, skillfully written, and absolutely impossible to stop reading. It ends with a beauty of a cliffhanger too ...'
> Several reviews have mentioned the steampunk elements of your book. What drew you to steampunk?
I don’t think the Demi-Monde is steampunk! Sure the Demi-Monde is technologically constrained to the technology extant in the year 1870 but that’s about it. I would prefer to call it a near-future fantasy thriller; the near future of the world that created the Demi-Monde, the Real World. This is set in the year 2018 … a very neurotic and suspicious 2018.
> How long did it take you to create the virtual world you use in the book?
Months, and piles and piles of research. If you go to www.thedemi-monde.com you’ll get an idea of the background work I did. But in creating a fantasy world it’s necessary to get it right otherwise it’s impossible for the reader to suspend disbelief. For example, writing the briefing documents for the religions rife in the Demi-Monde (UnFunDaMentalism, ImPuritanism, HerEticalism, HimPerialism, RaTionalism, nuJuism and Confusionism) was a real challenge: they might just be the religions of our world stretched and distorted to breaking point but they took an age to finesse. Reductio ad absurdum and all that.
> What made you want to be a writer?
Watching the TV series ‘Jekyll’ and thinking, ‘I can write better crap than that’.
I like ‘em all but I suppose my favourite has to be Vanka Maykov, the Russian conman and faux psychic. Everyone loves a rascal. Unfortunately any attempt by me to identify myself with Vanka (the best-looking man in the book) has been torpedoed by my wife Nelli who says I’m too hard-hearted to be Vanka. She thinks I’m more like Burlesque Bandstand – crook, sneak, pimp and general low-life. Great!
> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?
Nah. One of my characters describes the Demi-Monde as "the most extreme and pernicious of dystopias". A holiday destination it ain’t.
> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?
A book called ‘Dark Charismatic’ which was my re-imagining of the Jekyll and Hyde tale. It took me three months to research and six months to write. It must have had something because it got me an agent but that ‘something’ wasn’t enough to entice a publisher into taking it. Fools!
> What was the hardest scene for you to write?
The next one.
> If you still have one, what’s your day job?
I write full time (and I mean full time).
> What is your university degree in and does it help with your writing?
I’m a qualified accountant, so I’m used to horror stories.
> When and where do you write?
I write in my office (a tony word for a desk in a spare room). I start at 08:30 and I go on until … well, I’m writing this at 21:50.
> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?
The Best is writing the words ‘THE END’.
The Worst is editing. Publishing contracts should come with a health warning. Just like cigarettes there should be a sticker on them somewhere which says something like:
SIGN THIS AND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WILL BE SPENT EDITING YOUR BOOKS
The Rees Coefficient of Editing states that for every hour you spend writing, you'll spend at least six editing.
Now I ain't moaning (I'm just so pleased that I've won the Great Prize in Life that is getting a publishing contract) but it's something every novice writer should be prepared for. You write your book (and by the time it's finished I bet it's gone thru at least four iterations: edits #1, 2, 3 & 4) and you've had your beta-readers plough thru it (it's a great book but ...) and given their two-pennyworth (which you've dutifully incorporated as edit # 5). Then your agent gives his opinion (which you listen to 'cos he/she will be selling the bloody thing) and so you do another edit (that's # 6). Then a publisher buys the thing and you think ... phew ... great ... that's it ... what am I gonna write next. That's when the publisher comes back and says something like 'great book, but wouldn't it be better if this character was a woman and you brought this chapter to the beginning and what do you think about flashbacks and could we crop it by 20,000 words and, by the way, how to you feel about a new title ...'
That's edits # 7, 8 & 9. And they're BIG edits, BIG time-consuming edits, edits you take MONTHS over. But you do them and then the book goes off and you think ... phew ... great ... what am I gonna write next. And that's when you get the copy edit where the publisher lets the Copy Proof editor (whose sole purpose in life is to protect the English language from philistines like you) have a go at your book and he corrects the grammar/spelling/impression you had that you were literate, covering your opus in Rain Forest destroying quantities of red ink in the process. That's edit # 10.
But it ain't over. Once this is done it goes off to be typeset, which is the process that takes your gibberish and makes it look like a book. And you've got to edit that - CAREFULLY - 'cos this is absolutely the last chance you'll have to make sure that you haven't done something stupid (and you have, betcha money on it!), so that's edit # 11.
You do that and then you think, phew ...great ... what am I gonna write next. And then your agent phones and says 'Great news, the book's sold to the Americans'. And you think 'WOW' and then you get an e-mail from New York which starts 'great book but ...'
> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?
How fickle it is.
> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?
Just remember if your book doesn’t offend/infuriate/perplex at least some of your readers, you ain’t writing a book, you’re writing a brochure.
> Any tips against writer’s block?
Stop being a wuss and write!
> How do you discipline yourself to write?
The thought of starvation.
> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?
I sent ‘Dark Charismatic’ to three agents, two rejected it (one saying on the basis of three chapters that ‘he knew how it would end’ … well, as it was meant to be the first book of a trilogy, even I didn’t know how the bloody thing would end) but one accepted it (and me). The book went out to loads of publishers and they all turned it down, so then I started to write ‘The Demi-Monde’ and the rest, as they say is alternate history.