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Karl Drinkwater - Four Way Interview

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester, but has lived in Wales half his life. He is a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics and Information Science. When he isn't writing, he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake and zombies - not necessarily in that order. His latest novel is Lost Solace.

Why science fiction?

My favourite books have always been any form of speculative fiction. As a child I began with ghost stories, which were the first books to make me completely forget I was reading. By my teenage years I was obsessed with fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Although I read literary and contemporary books, non-fiction, historical works, classics and so on, it is speculative fiction that I return to when I want escape and wonder. When I read reviews of my last book, the fast-paced novella Harvest Festival, I was surprised that a few reviewers called it science fiction. I never intended that. To me it is suspense, horror and action. But it made me realise that it was time to write a science fiction story. On the one hand I wanted to be able to look into issues of identity and fluid personality (which is how the Clarissa thread evolved), but I also wanted to take the tempo and mood of Harvest Festival and run with it across a longer tale. That required a scenario that involved a need for movement, quick thinking, and a goal that may not be obtainable, but with consequences for failure that don’t bear thinking about. Everything grew from that kernel.

Why this book?

Last year I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and wrote drafts of a collection of contemporary stories exploring love and relationships. Towards the end of the month the book was finished, but I hadn’t achieved my writing goal – I needed another few thousand words. I decided to reward myself for my hard work, and write something that I thought would be a fun short story. I began Lost Solace. However, the book didn’t end when November ended – the story kept growing and changing. What began as a short story turned into a novel; the original male protagonist mutated from some kind of shallow Indiana Jones who plundered Lost Ships into Opal, on her more personal quest; the armoured war droid companion of my draft notes became a hi-tech suit and spaceship, backed up by Clarissa’s intelligence and a truly-forming relationship. I have never had so much fun writing. I would sit down each day, skim over some ideas for where the story might go, but then let it change direction whenever it needed to. It was a joy to write and re-read, and as a result that project took over from the short stories, which are still sat, unedited, a year later!

What’s next?

I tend to have a lot of projects on the go. In 2018 I’ll be working on a new edition of one of my literary/relationship novels (2000 Tunes), which is a homage to Manchester and its music and people, set in the year 2000, when the main characters are determined to change their lives. I will get the NaNoWriMo short story collection finished and work with my editors to determine which stories to keep and which to throw away (I have around 120,000 words of short stories – only the best half will escape the cutting room floor). I will also get the first draft of my next book written. It will almost certainly be a sequel. If Lost Solace does very well then I will continue Opal’s tale without too many delays. However, two of my other books have been popular and fans often ask me for sequels (Turner and Harvest Festival) – so those are other options. Beyond that I have six other works plotted out and just waiting for me to get down to writing their first drafts. Two of those are sci-fi, three are horror, and one is literary/contemporary.

What’s exciting you at the moment?

Everything about my fiction, especially seeing how each book is received, and writing the new ones. Usually I keep a folder for each future work and as I ponder ideas over a couple of years I keep adding to it – so by the time I come to write my first draft I have no shortage of characters, story elements, locations, ideas, scenes, snippets of dialogue and so on, which act as puzzle pieces to fit together as the narrative is shaped. Out of the thousands of files and links for each new work, I may end up only keeping and incorporating a handful of them, but the selection of material and the research involved is tremendously engaging. I also love letting my imagination have free rein so that I end up surprised at the unexpected, which feeds into my excitement for the project, and hopefully the writing itself. Another thing that helps is that I don’t write in a single genre. In some ways that is bad, because it makes it harder to develop a core audience; but on the other hand it means everything feels fresh and unexpected to me (and hopefully my readers), and I can also select the best mood, format and genre for the story I want to tell, rather than being too constrained by expectations and rules.

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