Interesting blog by Ian Weir about the differences between writing a screenplay and writing a novel:
Two reasons – the first reason being that Alison Jane Reid (formerly of ‘The Times’ and ‘The Lady’) did a fabulous online three-part video interview with one of my favourite actors, John Simm, last year (you can view it here) and she is now about to publish a new, in-depth profile interview with John in the re-launched ‘Ethical Hedonist‘ online magazine at 3pm tomorrow – as we all know, truly in-depth interviews with Mr Simm are as rare as … well, imagine one of the rarest things you can think of. He’s a very private man; so for Alison Jane to have managed that video interview and another in-depth profile piece means that she is something rather special as journalists go.
The second reason is that as a newly-self-published author, I appreciate the effort that goes into promoting your own project – and Alison Jane is working very hard to get backing for her new magazine. She is well-known for her high-profile celebrity interviews (remember the Colin Morgan one?) with interview subjects like Hugh Bonneville, Sam West and of course John Simm – and the promise of more of these to come has to be worth donating at least the price of a cup of coffee!
On Writing ‘The Methuselah Gene’
I’ve been writing ‘The Methuselah Gene‘ (previous working titles have included ‘All Our Yesterdays’, ‘All Our Tomorrows’ and -very briefly- ‘Time Will Tell’) for almost four years now. It evolved from a mind-bending, time-spanning love story (not much like ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ but the same genre) into a much darker tale of death, kidnap and the long-reaching effects of genetic research that I could hardly have anticipated when I wrote the very first line back in 2011!
As all writers know, you start with an idea which mutates with each draft; sometimes you begin with one premise and stick with it until the final draft, changing very little of your core story along the way; sometimes you realise that the original idea just doesn’t work as you get deeper into the plotting and writing, and one small tweak will change the whole premise, hopefully for the better.
‘What if?’ are two words which excite me more than any other when I’m writing. Sometimes they are silent, spoken internally (and occasionally, out loud to myself); sometimes in conversation with family, friends or fellow writers. All those ‘what-ifs’ get noted down (sometimes neatly, more often not) and will be mulled over at length – but when an idea is good, your pen can hardly keep up with your mind… that feeling should almost be made illegal, it’s that good.
The original lead character of the story, Eva, was a widow and a bereaved mother in the very first draft – that much has never changed, although Eva is no longer the central character, and the deaths of her first husband and daughter are twenty-five years in the past. The deaths of her family were accidental in those early drafts – until one day I found myself thinking ‘But what if it wasn’t accidental? What if they were murdered? Who would have done it, and why?’
That question led me down a whole new path, which took the time-slip element of the first version, made it time travel instead, and made Eva’s new partner (Tom) a bereaved parent too. Research into the reason for his son’s death threw in mutated DNA in the form of Progeria, and we were off – the love story became a mystery and a detective story with a science-fiction premise. Although not quite so much of the science in the story is fiction, as it happens, because the research which is key to the central plot is in fact happening right now … which makes this, I hope, the optimum time to tell the story!
Also ‘pursuant to our interests’:
Related to ‘The Methuselah Gene‘ only in that it deals with the science of DNA, the story of Genetic Fingerprinting is about to begin filming in Michael Crompton’s new drama for ITV, ‘Code of A Killer‘.
Starring David Threlfall as Detective David Baker and John Simm as Genetics Professor Alec Jeffreys, ‘Code of A Killer’ tells the true story of how, in 1984, Alec Jeffrey’s ground-breaking research enabled Baker to catch a double killer by using the killer’s unique DNA fingerprint to tie him to the murders.
It is hard to imagine a world where the police don’t have access to Jeffrey’s DNA-Fingerprinting techniques – definitely one to watch!
Before you wonder if I’ve written at a million miles per hour, it isn’t ‘All Our Tomorrows’ but a collection of short stories I’ve been working at on the side.
‘The Journey and Other Short Stories’ is now available in paperback from Amazon here – it will also be available in electronic form very soon.
The first in a series of contemporary mysteries with a science-fiction twist
The Journey – young widow Eva King is trying to rebuild her life following the death of her husband and infant son when the train she and fellow traveler Tom are travelling on derails.
When Eva and Tom make their escape from the wreck, they discover that London has been attacked, and that Tom’s wife and two young children are missing. But all is not as it seems…
Gideon’s Road – a man wakes up to find himself lying in a cold country lane. He has no memory of who he is, where he is or why he cannot remember what happened to him.
Taken in by elderly widow Alice, he learns that the world around him has been devastated by a deadly virus, and that very few people have survived.
I Think You Knew My Father – Journalist Marc Harrison gets more than he bargained for when he takes the place of an indisposed rival on the first manned mission to Mars.
Cover art by Harry Saxon: http://about.me/harryasaphsaxon
Who I am: A fifty-something reader, writer and all-round drama and theatre geek. I won’t bore you with the usual ‘I’ve always loved books and in particular science-fiction’ (although it happens to be true)…. long story short (ish):
What I did: In 1980, I founded the official ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ appreciation society, ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, because I wanted to join a HHGTTG fan club and there wasn’t one (or if there was, I didn’t know about it). Prior to that, I had written, edited and produced fanzines and comic strips for shows like ‘Star Trek’ ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’, ‘Captain Scarlet’, run mini-conventions and generally followed my enthusiasms wherever they led me. Then I did some ‘planet normal’ stuff – got married, had a family, went to my day job and pretty much forgot about all those other exciting, extraordinary things … But when ‘Doctor Who’ regenerated in 2006 I re-discovered my Inner Geek, and by 2007 I had embraced internet fandom (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination – and if you know where that comes from then you’ll know where I’m coming from) and started to write again. For four years I talked about science-fiction and imaginative drama with like-minded people, wrote fiction based on a variety of shows and fandoms, and realised that what I’d wanted to do all along was WRITE.
Sometime during 2011 I began writing my first original fiction – a contemporary romance with a science-fiction twist, ‘All Our Yesterdays’ – which rapidly grew from a short story into a 140,000-word manuscript. I wasn’t sure if it was any good, and suspected that I needed to improve if I was to have any hope of getting it published, so I sought professional feedback from Barbara Rogan and The Writers Workshop, whose Eloise Millar told me I had promise, but recommended that I go on a creative writing course. I did – and because when I engage with an idea I never do anything by halves, I went on four of them. ‘Getting Started – Writing Fiction Online‘ and ‘Writing a Novel Online‘ with Faber Academy, ‘Craft of Character‘ with LitReactor’s David Corbett, ‘Self-Edit Your Novel‘ with The Writers Workshop… and I’ve signed up for a screen writing course with The Writers Workshop, starting in June. Like I said, I don’t do anything by halves.
I’d love to be able to say that ‘All Our Yesterdays’, (which became ‘All Our Tomorrows’ which is now ‘The Methuselah Gene’) is finished and about to be published – but it isn’t, not yet. It’s a Work in Progress, and has been set aside whilst I wait for final feedback from Faber, and to allow everything I’ve learned over the past six months to settle. I have the feeling it will be a trilogy, so it deserves fettling time! In the meantime, I’m researching for a new novel, ‘Who Killed Maggie Wren?’. And completely unlike the way I started ‘All Our Tomorrows’, which began as a ‘pantser‘ (take an idea and run with it, see where it goes – and it has been all over the place, believe me), this one is going to be researched and plotted to within an inch of its natural before I write a word.
What I do now:
I still work at my day job, and the rest of the time I read books (crime and science fiction, psychological thrillers, the odd romance, books about writing, books about people); I write (blogs, a bit on twitter, humongous emails to long-suffering writerly friends) I’ll continue to study writing, and no doubt watch a lot of telly.
What this is: It’s my portfolio (just as it says at the top). It’ll tell you a bit about me, and on subsequent pages you can see samples of some of the stuff I’ve written (but not the naff stuff from years ago, because that would be embarrassing), hints about some of the stuff I’m going to write. Some of it might be transformational writing (fan fiction) so let me say here and now, if you’re an industry professional with a vested interest – please don’t sue! I’ve never made any money and don’t want to make any money from it – it was all part of my learning curve, and I think it would be dishonest to deny its existence, or the huge part it played in my education as a writer. Look, Russell T Davies (whom I admire) wrote fan fiction – a lot of people who now work in television did too. They might not have published it online, but they still wrote it.
I want to explore it all, and maybe, if you like my style, you might ask me to write something for you… I’m a member of The Writer’s Guild, though I have never yet had a paying job – primarily because I haven’t had time to go out and look for one. I’d like to be able to give up my day job (wouldn’t we all) but that’s a big step and I have bills to pay, so softly, softly, catchee monkey. On here I will be writing about things that interest me (hopefully they might interest you, too).