TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery!
Gareth: Thanks for inviting me.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Gareth: I can be a bit of a fidget. I tend to get up and pace around when I’m writing. I also read bits out loud, and have been known to wear a variety of hats while working.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers?
Gareth: I have a fondness for Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, JG Ballard, Philip K Dick and Raymond Chandler. But if you asked me who my favourite writers working TODAY were, I’d have to go with William Gibson, Iain Banks, Adam Christopher, John Courtenay Grimwood, Lauren Beukes, and M. John Harrison.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Gareth: I’m a bit of both. When starting work on a novel, I’ll write an outline, which usually comes in at around four or five pages. This tells the general story, and this is what I use as my roadmap. But within that outline, there’s plenty of room for digression, and for the characters to go off in unexpected directions. I usually write with an end in mind, but the journey to get there is one of discovery.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Gareth: Finding the time and the energy to do it. I have to be very disciplined.
TQ: Describe Ack-Ack Macaque in 140 characters or less.
Gareth: A science fiction detective story with a Steampunk sheen and a primate twist, featuring monkeys, ninjas, Zeppelins, mad scientists and evil robots.
TQ: What inspired you to write Ack-Ack Macaque?
Gareth: The character came first, and I constructed the rest of the world around him. I’d also wanted to write a detective mystery for a while, and somehow the two ideas became tangled in my head.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Ack-Ack Macaque?
Gareth: As the book is set in an alternative Europe, where Britain and France merged in the late 1950s, I did quite a bit of reading up on history and alt history forums. I also read a few articles about primate behaviour, and viewed every image of a Spitfire’s cockpit that I could find.
TQ: What is the oddest bit of information that you came across in your research?
Gareth: The fact that in the late 1950s, Britain and France really did talk about a "union", with the Queen becoming the French head of state. France was having economic troubles, and faced a building crisis in Suez. But the British PM, Anthony Eden, turned the idea down. If he had said yes, (as in my novel) then the shape of Europe would be very different, with the balance of political power resting in London and Paris, rather than Paris and Berlin.
TQ: Ack-Ack Macaque seems to bend genres. What would you say are its genre and sub-genre roots?
Gareth: At heart, it’s science fiction, in so far as I try to explain everything that happens. There’s no outright fantasy, and even the Steampunk bits are there for a good reason. It’s also, as I said, a detective story. So, if you’re asking which books could be named as predecessors, I’d have to choose Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, as it’s another alt history detective story, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.
TQ: Tell us something about Ack-Ack Macaque that is not in the book description.
Gareth: One of the main characters carries their dead spouse around in their head.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Gareth: The monkey was definitely the easiest. He almost writes himself, and he’s such fun to write, because he’s so objectionable. The hardest to write were the two main antagonists. With villains, it’s too easy to slip into the “James Bond” mode and make them evil psychopaths. Instead, I try to work hard to give them real motivations and believable personalities. They have to believe that their course of action is the right one.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Ack-Ack Macaque?
Gareth: It’s very difficult to answer this without giving too much away. And very difficult to pick a favourite scene. There’s a knife fight on top of a flying aircraft carrier; and a very moving scene towards the end of the book, where one of the main characters has to make a very personal life-or-death choice.
TQ: What's next?
Gareth: I’m currently working on another two novels, switching between them as the mood takes me. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about either at this stage, so you’re just going to have to stay tuned… In the meantime, please feel free to bombard Solaris Books with pleas for an Ack-Ack Macaque sequel. :)
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Gareth: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
About Ack-Ack Macaque
Solaris Books, December 26, 2012 (US)
December 12, 2012 (UK)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
|Cover Illustration by Jake Murray|
In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque.’ The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence.
A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins circle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. In Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon...
Ack-Ack Macaque may be found on Facebook and or you may follow the monkey on Twitter!
To see more books be Gareth click here to be taken the "Books" section of his website.
Gareth is the author of the novels Ack-Ack Macaque, The Recollection and Silversands, the last two of which were favourably reviewed in The Guardian, and the short story collection The Last Reef, which Morpheus Tales described as “One of the finest collections of SF short stories I have had the privilege of reading”.
Gareth regularly contributes short stories to anthologies and magazines, and in 2007, one of his stories came top of the Interzone annual readers’ poll for best short story of the year. He has also co-written stories with Paul Graham Raven and Aliette de Bodard.
When asked why he writes science fiction, Gareth replies: I guess I’ve always been fascinated by stars and starships. As the Only Ones sang on their 1977 punk masterpiece, Another Girl, Another Planet: “Space travel’s in my blood, and there ain’t nothing I can do about it.”
As a teenager, he was once fortunate enough to have coffee with Diana Wynne Jones, and still has the handwritten notes she made on one of his early short stories.
Gareth has been interviewed by numerous magazines, websites, and podcasts, and has appeared on BBC Radio 4′s Today Programme. He is a regular attendee at British genre conventions, and was a guest of honour at BristolCon in 2012.
He lives near Bristol with his wife and two children.
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