Tabitha: Hiya, Alasdair! Thanks for joining me. How much do you read, and who are your favorite authors?
Alasdair: I read a lot. Not anywhere near as much as I’d like, but it is very hard to find the time at the moment.
To be honest, I mostly read mind candy rather than ‘worthy literature’ these days. A nice thing about the growing indie market and the free samples on Kindle is that there are a lot of scifi stories available, and sifting through for the decent ones isn’t too difficult.
My all-time favourite author was Iain M. Banks. I started reading the Culture when I was at Cambridge. Excession was the first, and it gripped me. Recently, I’ve been enjoying Christopher Nuttall’s Ark Royal series. I also love Simon Scarrow’s Roman series and Julian Stockwin’s Kydd series. I am eagerly awaiting Jasper Fforde’s next book, though none have quite yet matched The Eyre Affair.
Going back to classics, I love Sharpe, Hornblower, Foundation, and many other series.
T: That's quite a list of SciFi greats! So, what would make you count yourself a successful author? What's your definition of success?
A: There are several levels of success. The first was actually selling some of my books. I have been lucky enough to do OK at that one. I read somewhere that most authors don’t sell more than fifty copies of their book. I’ve no idea if that statistic has any basis in truth, but I like to remind myself of it. Liberty sold over two hundred copies in the few weeks it was on pre-release.
Secondly, I feel that getting a decent set of customer reviews is a measure of success. Independence got seventeen, averaging 4.2 stars, and Liberty managed three 5-star reviews from ARCs. I would love for Liberty to be critically acclaimed. The New York Times, The Guardian, or any other national newspaper commenting upon it would be amazing.
I’d love to happen across someone reading one of my books. I have had someone mention seeing one of my walking guides in a youth hostel library. My mother did bump into someone who had a copy of The Best Bits of Physics. One of the downsides of eBooks is that someone could be sitting across from me on the train reading one of my works and I’d never know. At least if they had the paperback I’d spot the cover.
Then, of course, there are bestseller lists. Both stories in the Two Democracies: Revolution series have done reasonably well on Amazon category rankings. Placing on one of the renowned listings is unlikely, but would certainly be counted as success.
Then, of course, there are awards. “Alasdair Shaw’s novel Liberty wins a Hugo Award” or “The Nebula Award goes to Alasdair Shaw” would be an irrefutable mark of success.
Finally, there is the moment that someone answering an interview like this lists me as one of their favourite authors!
T: That's a good range of ways to count yourself successful. And now you've started *my* daydreaming about the Nebula. Ahem. Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?
A: I often find that it helps to have music in my head when writing. It helps to get the rhythm right for the scene. However, actually listening to music stops me in my tracks. It is probably because it doesn't stop when I pause to work out the best word to put next.
A big no-no, for me at least, is to try to write when I’m not in the right frame of mind. Not only does it flow very slowly, but whatever I do get down usually needs heavy editing. Instead, I write when I have time and feel I want to. Being a part-time author means I have the luxury of not having to write every day, but on the other hand it can mean that when I am ready to write there are too many other things that need doing.
T: What is your favorite way to avoid writing?
A: Going and doing something outdoors. That could be anything from gardening to caving. I haven’t been able to run much recently, due to a knee injury, but I still walk as much as I can. Whilst I am not actively writing, I do find that ideas work their way to the surface when I am out and about. During a recent five hour trek across mountains in South Wales, I made some connections that will be significant in the next book.
Right now, I am taking part in this interview instead of writing a space combat scene in Equality the sequel to Liberty!
T: Happy to provide some time away from writing for ya! What is your favorite quote?
A: It’s a tie between:
“It pays to keep an open mind but not so open your brains fall out.” – Carl Sagan
“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” – Douglas Adams
T: Gotta love Sagan and Adams references. +2 cool points. Thank you so much for taking time away from writing for this interview!
Readers! Interested in checking out Alasdair's writing? Head on over to Amazon to pick up a copy of Independence, the short story that launches Two Democracies: Revolution!
Alasdair Shaw grew up in Lancashire, within easy reach mountains and caves. After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.
He has been rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, kayaking and skiing as long as he can remember, and enjoys passing the love on to others. Recently he has been doing more sea kayaking and wild swimming.
Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor. Despite the heavy slant towards the physical sciences, he is also a moth recorder and bird observer.
He started his writing career with Walking Through the Past, a series of walking guides to historical sites in Britain’s mountains and moorland published by Archaeoroutes. He then got into writing physics textbooks, revision guides, and practice exam papers for ZigZag Education and BBOP: School Physics Resources.
The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. The third story, Equality, will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.
You can sign up to Alasdair Shaw’s mailing list here, and you can follow information about The Two Democracies series on facebook and twitter.