Dominic Green – Science Fiction Writer [Author Interview]
The author interviews are making a return to Themself! First in the new series is Dominic Green, a Hugo nominee and science fiction author. I reviewed his book Warlords of Llantatis earlier this week, it’s one of my top books of 2016. I have a feeling that I’ll shortly be reading a lot more of Dominic Green’s work.
Interview – Dominic Green
I remember filling exercise books with ridiculous, poorly-spelt, derivative stories written in pencil. I was about 33 at the time. I don’t remember ever making a decision that I wanted to write stuff. That would be like a fish making a decision that it wanted to breathe water.
2. Do you write for a living, or do you also do other work?
No. The vast majority of writers don’t write for a living. The popular image of writing is always J K Rowling or Terry Pratchett – both very talented people, of course, but that sort of success is very rare. I work as an environmental programme manager in a bank, and I don’t make money out of this racket.
3. How did you get into being a professional writer, and how much effort did it take to be able to write full time?
4. Were you always good at telling stories, or has it come to you as an adult?
Bless you for saying I’m good at telling stories. No, I think I’ve always been able to do it. As a kid, the most marvellous feeling in the world was when the teacher read one of my stories out to the class on an episodic basis, and a classroom full of boys who usually fidgeted and threw paper darts at each other across the room went deathly quiet and actually listened. Presumably, I imagine, out of sheer horror at my basic lack of knowledge of English grammar, but who’s counting.
5. Were you good at English in school?
And college. I have a degree in it. Having a degree in tax law might have been more profitable.
6. What do you read for enjoyment?
Sadly, I’m reaching the age where my favourite authors are all dead – Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Isaac Asimov, Terry Pratchett (sob). But Neal Stephenson and Alan Moore are still alive. Alan Moore even lives in my town – I see him pottering around with his big beard occasionally. At the moment, I’m reading one of Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, along with The Light of Other Days by Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter, a Precious Ramotswe book by Alexander McCall Smith, and Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.
7. What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
First, make sure you’ve got another job, because you’re going to need to eat. Second, if you’re not writing because you enjoy it, go train as an estate agent, they make more money. Three, marketing your book is at least as difficult as writing it is ever going to be.
8. What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?
Arthur Quiller-Couch: Murder your darlings.
George Orwell: Never use a long word where a short one will do.
Fred Whitmore: Take your mouth off the siphon tube after you suck.
Jack Harford: Control the elbow, and you control the entire body of your opponent.
9. What is the strangest advice you’ve been given?
That you can remember the call of a pigeon because it sounds like ‘Take Two Cows, Taffy’. Why on earth would pigeons be inciting Welshmen to cattle theft?
10. How do you deal with the stranger reviews?
I’ve never actually had a review I could describe as strange. I remember years ago, when I used to pretend to be an archaeologist called Reverend Colonel Ignatius Churchward von Berlitz on Usenet, receiving a death threat for having suggested Egyptians (and everyone else in the world, incidentally) might be Jewish. It wasn’t the best death threat. It had poor sentence structure.
11. Who do you write for?
Readers (rather than publishers, editors or critics). Readers are the most wonderful people in the world – it is a miracle that they even exist. People who will sit and listen to some bullshit that came out of my head, with every sign of enjoyment. Some of them even pay for the privilege. How weird is that?
12. What sort of things do you write?
For about fifteen years now, I’ve been writing the Ant and Cleo series, which is (unlike Warlords of Llantatis) suitable for children, and tells the story of two English schoolchildren abducted by a (British-made) UFO and whisked off to the newly independent United States of the Zodiac. The work I’m most well known for, though, is probably the twenty or so short stories I’ve had published in Interzone, the most successful of which was The Clockwork Atom Bomb, which received a Hugo nomination. I also had a novel, Smallworld, published by Fingerpress a few years ago, and other books – Tirnahiolaire and Cowboys and Dinosaurs – are available on Smashwords and Kindle.
13. Do you do much research? If so what is your favourite source?
I do tonnes of highly detailed scientific research for my science fiction stories, and then ignore all of it. I mainly research online, though it is frustrating that to a certain extent, if a piece of research happened before 1995, it might as well have been engraved on Sumerian tablets and buried underground for all the internet knows about it.
14. What do you have in the drawer? (i.e. what have you written but not yet published)
Episode 9 of the Ant and Cleo series (which I don’t yet have a title for) – that’s 90% complete. I have also written an espionage novel which is 95% complete. I did this because I happened to be sitting at my keyboard one day and came across an article gushing about how it was time for a black female disabled James Bond, to which, of course, the correct answer is “Why in God’s name would you want a female James Bond?” The original Bond books are nowhere near as dismissive of femininity as the 1970s schlock Bond movie adaptations – one of the books is even written from the point of view of a woman – but they’re still artefacts of a bygone age, both in terms of social mores and in terms of the existence of any sort of global British espionage network. The UK isn’t an empire any more and pretending it still is is at the root of many of its current problems. But here’s the thing – I still love flying cars and magnetic watches and dumping the hero into the shark tank. So I wrote my own book, Elder Shepherd, which has a black female protagonist and has, I’m hoping, more realistic excuses for the fact that the cars can fly. I’m also writing a paranormal investigation thriller set in 1986, and planning the plot for episode 10 of Ant and Cleo.
15. Describe your writing process, what, where, when and how please?
I find I work best on trains nowadays. I used to work best in cafés, but cafés now all have broadband, so I get distracted by GIFs of snowboarding monkeys. My method for writing is this – sit down and write, and do it for half an hour to an hour every day. If you can do that, you will find entire novels slide pleasurably out of you. Also, I’d advise any writer to learn to touch type.
16. What is your best method or website for promoting your books?
Kindle works better than Smashwords, certainly. Smashwords is a great site, but it doesn’t sell ebooks with anything like the single-minded ferocity of Amazon. I have never spent money on Facebook or Amazon advertising, and though I may still do so, I have an instinctive feeling that it would be money wasted. It’s time-consuming to find individual people who are willing to review your books, but it’s still better than trying to fight millions of corporate advertising dollars.
17. What question do you wish I’d asked you?
“How exactly did you become the immortal billionaire President of the World, Mr. Green, and what tips do you have for us on conquering the tender hearts of women?”
18. Where can we read your words?
This is my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dominic-Green/e/B01CLRG0X0
The order you should read Ant and Cleo in (I often get asked this one) is:
I’ve added links to Dominic Green’s work on either Smashwords or Amazon Kindle where they’ve appeared in the text. Despite his skill and longevity as a writer (Dominic Green has been published since 1996) Dominic Green is self-publishing. Please support Dominic Green by buying one of his stories, they’re mostly all 99p on kindle, and I’m certain that you’ll enjoy them.