Interviewed by a Book Character, by Geoff Nelder
One of my favourite authors, Geoff Nelder and I have belonged to the same writing groups on and off for many years. Working with him has been inspirational and I consider him both a mentor and friend. What a great idea for one of his characters to interview his creator, for Suppose We from his Flying Crooked Series.
SUPPOSE WE…begin with a bio
Suppose I start with my bio as written by cantankerous Commander Penn Booth, who is opinionated, gruff, pirate-red beard, who makes wrong decisions and blames the consequences on others.
Over to Penn, the commander of intergalactic spaceship, Suppose We.
Geoff Nelder was born in Germany, which would explain his Teutonic approach, turning me into a bombastic egomaniac character, but wait…his parents were Brits, so that doesn’t work. Maybe his ornery writing belies the fact he was dragged up in cider country before migrating to the icy north of England – Sheffield, Huddersfield, Chester and Manchester – the man’s a gypsy! Ah, he was a teacher for 40-years, that’s bound to knock any soft edges out. I discovered in Nelder’s private finances that he makes more money as an editor and as a judge than from his own fiction. Haha. Serves him right.
I’ve locked Geoff Nelder in the brig and jettisoned the key, so I’ll answer the blog questions for him.
What tropes interest him as a writer?
Tropes? Tripe more likely. He thinks he leans mostly to hard scifi, but he writes thrillers and fantasy on the sly. I say “write” but… it’s like he thinks he’s funny. Not many readers do. For example, ‘he walked slowly as fast as he could’ crops up in all his stories. A kind of siggie or watermark running joke. I suppose his Escaping Reality novel is best described as a humorous thriller but only if you are amused by a sexy romp on bubble-wrap. When I twist his arm far enough up his back, he admits to being a sucker for the apocalypse trope: he writes his characters into escape and survive modes. Such as in his ARIA trilogy where the world’s population is hit by an infectious amnesia pandemic. A topical pandemic trope – I ask you!
After the fool brought out Escaping Reality, it was followed by another thriller Hot Air. I mean
how do you shoot down a hot-air balloon? Yet he did. Then Nelder’s inner science fiction worm took over in Alien Exit in which aliens, hiding inside the Earth’s crust, leave for home but time quakes ensue. A trio of scifi novels follow in Aria based on the original genius premise of infectious amnesia.
Nelder took his wife to Malta on holiday and the grim history of mass abductions and slavery inspired him to write Vengence Island. As you might expect there’s unwarranted sex and debauchery in the harem. Lately, Nelder was commissioned to write a novella trilogy. Flying Crooked kicks off with Suppose We, followed by Falling Up with in-progress Kepler's Son bringing up Nelder’s rear. At least a hundred shorts have escaped his computer into magazines and anthologies.
How did SUPPOSE WE develop?
Good question. Has Suppose We developed properly? It might have done if Nelder had cast myself, Commander Penn, as the protagonist but no. It came about when on his favourite Greek writing retreat, Nelder found an email from his Aria publisher complaining that modern scifi has lost the adventurous style of exploring strange planets, unhuman-like aliens and conflicts to overcome. Nelder thought of a simple idea: a spaceship crash-lands on a faraway planet so far in advance of Earth that the locals ignore the humans. More. That idiot Nelder is a blasted vegan and wanted to make Suppose We the first vegan science fiction book with a vegan protagonist set on a vegan planet. Grrr! I, as that protagonist’s commander, am NOT a vegan. So, arguments happen but I grudgingly accept it makes for an interesting read. A butterfly lands on Nelder’s laptop in Greece, so the impressionable idiot lets it become a character in the book!
How long did it take Nelder to write SUPPOSE WE?
A whole year. The first draft took only three months but it took longer than that to get copyright permission to include Robert Graves’s poem Flying Crooked. Just because a bloomin’ butterfly features in the book and it isn’t even a real one!
Nelder does nothing by routine. He can’t sit still for longer than two hours even when at his Greek retreat. Ideas and exercise visit him on his many bike rides whether in the UK or Europe. If you see Nelder on his bike there’s likely to be his laptop in the cycle bag. Even for a day he’d go to a café (pandemics notwithstanding) to write and edit.
Excerpt from SUPPOSE WE - Chapter 3
The escape pod crashes into a forest, hanging in a tree.
Gaston stayed a moment surveying their new world. The lilac sky flickered through a canopy
way up above them. In theory, that’s where the foliage should be densest, competing for sunlight, but you never knew on strange planets. Perhaps they’d not heard of photosynthesis and evolved a new way. Below, the foliage density should decrease with increasing darkness, but there might be hostile creatures, or vicious plants. A tendril of a translucent purple ivy-like plant approached his face. A heady scent filled his nostrils reminding him of jasmine and cedarwood.
“Bonjour mon ami, m’appelle Gaston, you?”
Delta butted in. “Stop talking to the plants, Doofus, we’ve got to get down.”
“Ah, but you never know. These might be sentient and in charge of our survival. Remember our hand guns are only to stop us dying in the last resort.”
She’d deployed the ladder under the hatch. Luckily it plunged into the gloom unhindered by anything thorny. He scrambled over.
Most of his life he’d been teased on his mere one metre sixty-five height and sixty-kilograms weight. An average size for the lower twenty percent in the twenty-sixth. He had the last laugh. His diminutive form gave him an edge for spaceflight and now for the agility required to ease through this jungle. Top down. Except…
Delta came too. All two-metres tall of her, bringing ninety-kilograms of ladder-stretching mass – ah that could mean the ladder would reach the ground?
He sent out a warning. “Avoid the plants if you can. They might have toxic barbs, superglue sap, carnivorous flowers…”
“Yeah, thanks. Keeping my gloves on and my eye-protectors, but we’ll have to hug the trunks of these things before hitting the deck, I guess.”
Eye-protectors, you fool, Gaston. He fetched them out of his suit upper pocket. Were those ivy strands, lianas? Were anastomosing vines a universal botanical feature?
“End of unencumbered ladder coming up. It’s gone over a mix of peeling and smooth silvery bark of what on Earth could be a Eucalyptus. I’m risking letting a foot touch, then stand on it.”
“Go for it, I’m right behind you.”
Comforting—not, though she’d have her pistol out acting as his protecting angel. His booted foot touched the branch. “Feels solid, just like a tree on Earth. I’ll try both feet. Good. I’ll test my weight on it. Mon Dieu!"
The branch sank under his feet then as if it surrendered, broke off at the trunk. As the amputated branch fell slowly down he remembered the half-g, but it hadn’t affected them
otherwise. The branch met others on the way down and took them too.
He’d stepped lively back on to the ladder. “Delta, our ear implants - switch audio to external.”
A chorus of wailing screams waved through the air, as if they were at a Mumbai funeral. The banshee was accompanied by heady aromas, as if figs were being crushed below.
Ironically, the falling branch had created a kind of well in the foliage, down which their ladder continued. He wondered if the forest had noted their plight and was helping. Or, if at the end of the ladder, the fallen branches had arranged themselves as vertical stakes, sharpened.
Oops, his foot met clear air. “We’ve reached the end. I’ll need to use my cam on infrared to see what lurks beneath.” They were within an arm’s reach of a tree trunk, so he refused to panic just yet.
“Good, there are broken branches and a beaucoup leaf litter, but also bare, hopefully solid, ground. All around thirty metres below. If we swing the ladder, we should be able to dig our blades into the bark of the nearest tree and hold on. Any other suggestions, Delta?”
“I’ve been examining this trunk, since all else I can see is your thinning bald patch. There are flowers growing directly on it. Anything dodgy?”
“Typical tropical rain forest behaviour. My hair is not thinning, it must be a reflection from my perspiration.”
“Got ya. Starting a pendulum swing now.”
The mathematical model of a pendulum with two weights on one string is complex. A kind of tricky Hooke’s Law. Gaston started the calculation in his head but hit the tree before he’d filled in the variables.
The blade in his right hand slid into the bark and further in, as did his hand, up to his elbow.
“Ah, slower! I need to extricate my arm.”
At least his hand was cool, moist and being tickled. It was as if the tree was a giant cucumber, but with lively seeds. In spite of a released odour of wet dog, Gaston had to control himself to stop laughing then D’accord. He convulsed with hysterical laughter.
“Gaston?” Delta called him several times to break through his incongruous hilarity. She climbed
more around than on his shoulders, careful not to push his right arm deeper into the tree and around to the other side, clipping a carabiner onto his belt. It was attached to hers.
“I’m working my way around the trunk to connect to you from the other side so we can climb down like a lumberjack. You know those tree climbing competitions?”
“Oui, but be ever so careful or your hand too will—ah!”
Delta slipped. She used the free carabiner as a kind of hook, but it merely sloshed into the tree. No holding power. She fell more, preventing a catastrophic plunge by flailing gloved fingers and boots into the bark like a demented animal. It was no use. Her upper body fell backwards and down. Gaston followed as they were linked. They fell slowly but accelerating and wordlessly, saving their breath for the inevitable expletives on impact.
Delta landed on her back, falling into leaf litter and half-rotted branches plus those that had fallen earlier. Gaston fell equally slowly and tried twisting to avoid landing on his colleague, but he had no means for lateral motion. If Delta had felt buried in soft mulch before, she was interred more by the force of Gaston. He rolled off her as soon as he recovered his breath. She half bounced back up like a floating block re-emerging with isostatic buoyancy.
They both laughed like school children at their survival.
Delta spluttered, “Half gee!”
A grinning Gaston waved his right arm. “Look, no glove. The tree has taken it.”
His partner stopped laughing and frowned. “And your hand.”
Geoff’s website is https://geoffnelder.com
Facebook author’s page is http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy
ESCAPING REALITY http://hyperurl.co/nyjaiv
HOT AIR http://hyperurl.co/di4y0h
ARIA LEFT LUGGAGE http://smarturl.it/1fexhs
ARIA RETURNING LEFT LUGGAGE http://hyperurl.co/tgtid6
ARIA ABANDONED LUGGAGE http://hyperurl.co/26trxv
INCREMENTAL http://mybook.to/Incremental inc 25 shorts
VENGEANCE ISLAND http://mybook.to/VIsland
ALIEN EXIT https://mybook.to/alienexit
SUPPOSE WE, https://mybook.to/SupposeWe
FALLING UP https://mybook.to/FallingUP