Interview with Gareth L Powell

Gareth L PowellI met the wonderful Gareth L Powell at BristolCon, and then again at FantasyCon. He kindly agreed to answer some questions via email as I was too much of a bundle of nerves to actually ask face-to-face, and so I promptly took advantage of the opportunity and polled the Swindon FreeWriters for what they wanted to know from an award-winning author…

SFW: Thank you so much again for letting us be nosy! The Swindon Writers would like to know…what was your first piece of writing, and what’s been your most current?

G: I can’t remember my first piece of writing. I’ve been scribbling stories for as long as I can remember. My short story collection, The Last Reef (Elastic Press 2008) contains some of my first short stories to see publication. The title story was the first of mine to appear in Interzone.

My most recent novel is Macaque Attack, the final part of the Macaque trilogy (Solaris 2015), and my most recent short story is Ride The Blue Horse, which you can read online if you follow the link from my website:

SFW: Where do you write? What’s your set-up?

G: I write at home. The back room is my office, and I write while the kids are at school.

SFW: Do you write to any music/sound? If so, what?

G. Usually write to silence, but if I’m in the mood for music, it has to be something instrumental. Lyrics can be too distracting. Brian Eno’s ambient albums are a favourite.

SFW: What’s the book / piece of writing that you’re proudest of?

G. That’s like asking which of your children is your favourite. I am fond of all of them, although Ack-Ack Macaque (Solaris 2013) is the one I’m best known for, and the one that won the BSFA Award, so will always have a special place in my heart.

SFW: Who’s your favourite character to write?

G. The monkey (Ack-Ack) is tremendous fun, but I have to be careful to stop him completely dominating every scene he’s in.

SFW: What’s your favourite part of writing – what do you most enjoy about it?

G. I like it when I’m about two thirds of the way into a book and it’s flying along with its own momentum.

SFW: Thank you so much! We’re currently all finishing NaNoWriMo so wondering what questions to ask was a nice break from hating writing and wanting to quit…but then that seems to be a normal part of Nano!

G. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

The Introvert/Extrovert dilemma

I’ve volunteered myself for a whole load of extrovert activities. At the time, I had a ‘sod it’ attitude because it all sounded like fun. However, I’m now wondering if I’m insane…

I seem to go through stages. I have days, weeks, when I’m feeling friendly and personable; I can chat to multiple people (I talked to everyone at our last Swindon FreeWriters meeting for four hours – I NEVER talk that much!) I can chat to people at work, new students, random people at Hackspace…I can be outgoing, personable and friendly. My housemate is always astonished at how extroverted I can be for someone that really doesn’t like doing it.

And then I get the flip side. I get nervous, scared, insecure and worried; at the worst points, I get panic attacks. I find it hard to know what to say, or even if I’m interesting enough to talk to people. I struggle with paying attention to conversations; it all gets very hard work and I’d much rather be curled up with a book!

By the way, on a related note – want to know how to talk to people? Just be interested. Ask questions and find things to follow; what do you read? Where are you from, where do you work, why are you here? Add in personal anecdotes to make people relax (oh, I like that author, my favourite bit is X) but don’t make it about you; listen and react. It works for me – but then I am much more of a listener than I am a talker!

Anyway. I’ve signed myself up for multiple extrovert activities in the next few weeks, and I’m now getting pretty nervous about them. I’ve finally got a date for my Dresden Files casefile, along with my new game;  it’s the new academic year at work so I’ve got tours to do and students to talk to; and I’ve also got BristolCon

Frankly, I’m pretty nervous about my panel. However, @NickHembery sent me a wonderful podcast from Writing Excuses on being a good panelist and moderator, and it has helped…a little…

The highlights:

  • Be concise, considerate, and topically relevant; it’s ok to not cover everything.
  • The panelists are chosen as people who are good at what they do, who connect with the audience, and who are nice!
  • Engage in conversation; are you actually listening, or are you just waiting to talk?
  • Engage with other panelists and refer things over to them.

I’ve already started making notes and reading a couple of books, so I hope I’ll have something to talk about. I’ve got another week to worry about it, anyway.

Beyond that…I’m giving in to my introvert side for a few days, and hiding with my laptop. I might even get some writing done!