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Today's Chat with Sarah features Adam Guest. He has authored July's book of the month, Worldlines. This interview will focus on the sequel to that, The Futility of Vengeance.
To view the first official review, click here.
To view the second official review, click here.
To view the book on Amazon, click here.
To view the interview for Wordlines (complete with links to its review and Amazon page), click here.
1. Tell us about your ideal writing environment.
Silent and tranquil and preferably no internet connection!! Because I write first-person narratives, I feel I have to get into character when writing, so that Gary's responses to certain stimuli occur naturally to me, rather than them being my own reactions. It's very difficult to do that in a chaotic environment, or if I keep being distracted by things online whilst researching. I write much better at night once everyone else is in bed.
2. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
For me personally when I'm writing novels, I think it's important to have an end goal. If you know how the story starts and how it ends, then you have some idea of the route you're going to take. If you start writing before you decide how it will finish, I think you can give yourself problems.
I also think it's important that, even in a fictional world, your characters are relatable. In these days of political correctness, there is pressure on writers to write perfect characters who love and respect everyone equally. But the world isn't like that yet. So characters like Gary, who is a 21-year-old man driven by his emotions, is going to say or do things that I myself as a 36-year-old dad of two wouldn't do now and, likewise, if Gary reacted the way I would, then that wouldn't be in keeping with the character of a 21-year-old man. The difficulty is in selling that to a reader; that this is the character speaking, not the author.
3. How do you start your stories?
I write Many Worlds one worldline at a time. So I plan the story at a very high level end to end, decide where the crossover points are going to be, then fill out what will happen in each worldline. I then try and write them as separate novellas, and then bolt them together afterwards. I read and review each worldline as a linear story as, if I can make each one an enjoyable read in its own right, it bodes well for when the story comes together. But it's usually fully drafted and been through a round of editing before I ever fully read it end-to-end.
4. Let's talk about your book The Futility of Vengeance. A sequel to Worldlines, these books involve lucid dreaming. Why did you decide to include this?
Lucid dreaming is a very empowering experience, and I would encourage anyone to learn the techniques and experience it at least once. When I first drafted Worldlines, the idea was that Black Line Gary would suffer from a form of sleep addiction, where he was so proficient at lucid dreaming it made the waking world seem mundane by comparison. But that on its own isn't enough to carry a story, unless his actions there were to suddenly have real-life consequences out there. The story changed quite significantly, but the crux of being able to communicate across worldlines via lucid dreaming remained.
I felt it was different, and reader feedback suggests they feel it is too. I actually looked for literary fiction on this subject before I ever penned Worldlines, and when I couldn't find anything of note that did what I wanted to do, that was when I decided to attempt it.
5. Did the publishing of the first book change anything about the subsequent books?
Yes, most definitely, and the publishing of FOV will influence what happens when Between The Lines comes out next. The main thing that I learned is that a good editor is worth their weight in gold. There's nothing more frustrating than spending four figures on an editor, getting the edited copy back, sending it off for review, and then getting comments saying how you need to get it professionally edited when you already have done. Because I'm not an editor, I don't pick up on the things they've missed either, so the first time you realise the editor you used is a bit rubbish is when readers start calling you out on it.
Consequently, I used a different editor for FOV, who did a much better job. Once I'd had their work validated, I paid them to re-edit Worldlines too (the third different editor I'd used for that book), to ensure they were both edited to the same standards. That was about 9 months ago, but there are still people with old versions of Worldlines who call out poor editing even now.
6. Was this book easier or harder to write than the first?
Harder, much harder. Worldlines had been planned in my head for a number of years before I wrote it, and whilst I'd created the endings for the different lines to make follow-up novels possible, I hadn't thoroughly thought through what those stories would look like. In my head there were three follow-ups; one where Green Line Gary sought vengeance on Black Line Gary, one following Blue Line Gary's quest for freedom, and one following Gary and Michelle in a more normal life in the Red Line. Consequently, the blue line didn't appear in the first plans of FOV.
That's when the idea of both Gary's seeking justice at the same time occurred to me. In a linear view, this would be one person pursued by two protagonists. But in a Many Worlds scenario, the black line is branching off all over the place meaning that, even if they were both successful, the Gary who commits the crime is still highly unlikely to feel those repercussions such is the number of instances of him that have since spawned within the multiverse. That's the story I'm trying to tell.
There's also a different type of pressure with book two. When writing Worldlines, there was no expectation. Very few people, even in my inner circle, thought I'd manage to complete a full-length novel, let alone write anything that was any good. Worldlines is good and I'm proud of it. However, the expectation that you can then do it again is definitely something I hadn't expected.
7. You mentioned that there's a lot of you in Gary. Are the other characters modeled after those you know?
Not in the sense that Michelle is based on a certain person and Sinead is based on someone else. I wouldn't do that; it wouldn't be fair to the person I modeled the character on.
That said, there's a lot of female characters in the books. In my own life, I have more female friends than male. This means that when trying to gauge how Sinead might react to a certain situation, for example, I may ask my partner or my best friend, or even my mum, how they would react in a similar scenario. Of course, they all then given me completely different and unrelatable answers, but it does allow me to use that as a guide and develop the character's personality from real-life personality traits.
8. In the previous interview, you mentioned the third book was due out in June. Has it been released and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
In terms of the release, sadly not. As I said above, I need silence really to be able to best focus on my writing. During the back end of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, when the schools were closed and we were home-schooling our son whilst also trying to keep our then 2-year-old daughter entertained, did not produce a good writing environment. Add to that the fact I've also had to give up writing full time and return to doing a proper job I can actually earn some money off, then the time I have available to write productively is considerably lower than a year ago.
That said, it is about two-thirds written. I have one chapter of the second novella to write, and then the final one. It will be called Between The Lines and will complete the blue line trilogy. It's loosely inspired by an urban myth I read about a few years ago called The Man from Taured. It again transcends multiple worldlines but, unlike its predecessors, the story is not exclusively told from Gary's perspective. Part of it is written from Sinead's perspective and part of it from Betsy's. This also makes getting into character a bit more difficult as, when writing Gary, I can relate to him, due to the fact that I was a 21-year-old man a long time ago. But I've never been a teenage girl, or a 60-year-old woman, nor do I ever plan to be, so making those characters relatable is more of a challenge.
One of the most common criticisms I see female readers give male writers is when they write female characters who aren't the least bit relatable to real women. It was one of the things that motivated me to attempt it, and I guess time will be the judge of how successful I am at it.
How about a few more fun questions.
9. What is your biggest fear?
Flying! I hate doing it. The problem when you live on an island such as the UK, which on a global scale is quite small, is that you have to fly to get to most places. They say it's the safest way to travel and, statistically, it is. However, if I were to be involved in a car accident there's a good chance I'd be ok. If anything goes wrong at 10,000 feet up in the air, down is the only way that plane is going. I envy people who can sleep on flights, I can never relax enough to do so.
10. If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
The main wish at the moment is for my writing career to be able to take off and to fund myself so I can stop the IT consultancy work and write full time. That's the ultimate dream.
I also have a lifelong wish to see Garth Brooks in concert. He last toured in the UK in 1994, when I was 9, and we weren't able to go. Me and my partner actually had tickets to the opening night of his comeback show in Dublin in 2014 before they got cancelled. Since then, he's not performed a concert outside of North America and, with my fear of flying, he's more than likely going to need to venture to this side of the Atlantic before that wish can come true.
My final wish would be for the ability to turn my hearing off. My partner's nan is quite deaf and wears a hearing aid. However, this does mean that when she's at our house, and the kids are being unbearably noisy, she has the ability to just press a button and not be able to hear it. I'm not going to lie, I seriously envy her when she does that.
11. What's your favorite smell?
Petrol, or gasoline as you call it in the US. I'm actually really funny about smells as you may recall when we last spoke, I am autistic and therefore I do have sensory issues. It means a lot of smells people like, such as coffee, is something I find overpowering.
I do like the smell of petrichor, which is the smell you get when you step outside after a storm when it's previously been hot and dry. Interestingly, I'd never come across that word until I was writing Between The Lines and I wanted to describe it but didn't know how to. As I was researching how best to do it, I discovered it had a name. Now I use it whenever I can to try and make myself sound clever
12. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I think I'd choose Doctor Watson, from the Sherlock Holmes series. I love everything about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work on Holmes, and I'd love to be part of that world. I wouldn't like to be Holmes himself though. You see a lot of times in fiction that, in order to portray one character as significantly cleverer than all the others, they dumb down the other characters to make the intelligent one stand out. That doesn't happen with the Sherlock Holmes stories, because Holmes is a genius, and so was Conan Doyle to create him. To be Watson and to be able to admire that genius firsthand would be considerably more enjoyable and rewarding than being that genius yourself.
-Louisa May Alcott