Sunday, 31 July 2011

Interview with Fred Gambino

 

Fred Gambino has been drawing for as long as he could remember; and he still has some of his early drawings, often inspired by early British sci-fi shows like Dr. Who and the Gerry Anderson puppet series. It seemed that a career in Illustration, in particular a career in SF or fantasy illustration, was inevitable. After graduating from the Derby College of Art and Technology, now Derby University, he took a part time job delivering groceries, painting in his spare time. Trips to London with his portfolio, eventually led to his first book cover commissions. Fred continued to work as an illustrator for clients on both sides of the Atlantic. His clients include Penguin, Warner books, Little Brown, Thames Television, National Geographic, Scientific American, Leo Burnet, Der Speigel, DNA Productions, Paramount, Agent 16, Whizzkids, Lego, Mattel, AVP and The US Postal Service.

In 2001, Fred was approached by DNA productions to work on the Oscar nominated "Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius" for which he was concept artist and matte painter. From 2002 to 2003, he worked on a TV series with the working title: "Project X", for Tinopolis TV and Lego. He was responsible for early visual development of all aspects of the show, from environments to characters. 2003 to 2006, Fred returned to Dallas to create concept art, production art, and matte painting for DNA's and Tom Hank's Playtone company feature, "The Ant Bully". This was followed by visual development for two more features, "C Horse" and "The Star Beast "; and later in 2006, he worked as a character designer for the Dutch film company AVP. In 2007, Fred worked as concept artist for Enne Entertainment, Salamanca Spain, on "Life in a Pickle " and concept artist for JPS Studios, Austin Texas, for “Epic Mickey”. A post as Art director on " Escape from Planet Earth " Rainmaker Entertainment, Vancouver Canada, followed this. In September 2008, Fred worked at Framestore in London as a matte painter on “The Tale of Despereaux”. And, in 2009, he worked as Art Director and Visual Development artist for Turner Broadcasting LA on “Firebreather”. Fred is currently based back in the UK, working on various publishing and freelance projects. His interests outside of work are watching movies, hiking and cycling. A book of his work, entitled "Ground Zero", was published in 2000 by Paper Tiger.


 
  1. You are a well-known painter, illustrator and concept artist who specialises in science fiction and fantasy art. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with your work, tell us about your career and the work you create.

I started out as a book cover illustrator, working in oils originally and then acrylics. I did all sorts of covers, including historical romance, war, science fiction and fantasy. I also did game box covers, when they became an option to do, and also advertising. Originally, I was just represented in the UK; but eventually I got an agent in New York and I started to get work from The States also. Eventually, I saw the writing on the wall and made the move into digitally produced art. I thought I had missed the boat, but it turned out I was slightly ahead of the pack and was considered to be something of a pioneer amongst my peers. This resulted in my featuring in a book called “Masters of Fantasy Art”, which aimed to contrast the work between traditional and the new digital art. It was that book that the director of “Jimmy Neutron” and founder of DNA animation in Dallas, John Davis saw. Something about my work struck a chord with him, and so I got a call to work on “Jimmy” and then “The Ant Bully”, which was my break into film and animation concept work.

Life-Size Dragons

  1. Why did you choose to produce science fiction and fantasy art, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

I didn’t really choose it. When I started, I was just hoping to be a jobbing illustrator, hence the variety of stuff I did; but I’ve always had an interest in SF, so I guess it was a natural progression.


  1. Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?

No, other than hoping to get paid for it. I am always working to a brief or manuscript, so any underling theme would be the author’s.

Empires End


  1. We are both Gerry Anderson fans. How did the sci-fi shows on television, during your childhood, influence you?

Hugely. I always wanted to be Steve Zodiac. I had a crush on Venus! No doubt the younger readers, and I mean anyone under 40, will wonder what I’m on about; or if they do know, will wonder what I was on; but there wasn’t much in the way of science fiction on the TV in those days and I just loved the escapism in those shows. Actually, John Davis is also a Gerry Anderson fan and I think my reference to Garry Anderson in the book was one of the things that attracted him to my work; so you could say I owe the last ten years of concept work to Gerry. I met him briefly when I interviewed to work on the CG version of Captain Scarlet; but before they offered me the job, I got the offer to work in Dallas on “The Ant Bully”.


  1. Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular work?

I’ve been asked this a few times and I have to say no. I don’t have a favourite, I’m always most excited about the thing I’m working on at the moment, and when it’s gone I move on to the next thing. I tend to dismiss my earlier work but sometimes when I’m forced to look at it, I find a few gems in amongst the other stuff; but they are few and far between. Mostly, I tend to just see the flaws and how I would do it better now. You never stop learning, or you shouldn’t anyway.


  1. How is creating science fiction or fantasy art different from creating other genres?
It isn’t really. Although you are creating machines and worlds that don’t exist, the most successful, in my opinion, are the ones grounded in reality; and all the rules concerning, perspective, composition and colour, apply to any representational genre.


  1. What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?

I like coming up with the initial concept and getting the reference material together. In the old oil and acrylic days, the actual process of producing the art was work intensive and tedious although absorbing. I much prefer working digitally, I enjoy 3D modelling and rendering, and it’s great adding those finishing touches that bring the whole thing alive.


  1. What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how do you overcome it?

There isn’t any one thing. Sometimes the whole process just flows and works without a hitch, sometimes I can get stuck on an idea or design. My favourite solution to that is to get on the bike and cycle 40 or 50 miles; I do my best thinking on the bike. The worst problems are when you have everything in place but it just isn’t working. In these digital days that isn’t quite so bad, as you can try anything to save the day. Replace the sky, no problem, move the figure, make it bigger, again no problem. In the old days it could be a disaster if after a week or more painstaking work you stepped back and thought, this just isn’t right. It was necessary to work things out very well before you started. Working digitally gives you so much more freedom.


  1. Tell us about your book, ‘Ground Zero’.
The book was published by Paper Tiger in 2001. Paper Tiger were having something of resurgence after a period of time in the doldrums. I just happened to be the new “digital” guy just at that time, so I was in the right place with the right work at the right time. It was a lot of fun writing the text and putting it together and to get some great artists and writers to participate, like David Brin, Elizabeth Moon, Robert J. Sawyer, Jim Burns and Chris Moore, who each wrote an introduction to the different chapters. It’s still available from Amazon. Although there are some acrylic pieces in there, most of the work showcased is my early digital stuff.


  1. Evolution is an inherent facet of science fiction art. What new developments are you aware of, with regards to the application of technology, in this genre?

The speed and quality of what can be produced digitally has increased enormously since I started just over ten years ago; but I think that as far as illustration for books is concerned, there is a move now to produce animated art for new media like the iPad and iPhone. With publishing finally becoming a digital medium, big changes are in the air; but at the moment it isn’t clear how things will turn out. On a negative note, the facile nature and ease with which digital art can be produced nowadays has cheapened it in some eyes and that is reflected in the fees you can expect. Concept art, which is all about ideas rather than a polished finished product is where the action really is for illustrators at the moment. Most of my contemporaries, who are still doing well, have moved into film or TV.
  

 

  1. You were the concept artist on the 2001 Oscar-nominated computer animated film, ‘Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius’; and you produced concept art, production art and matte paintings for DNA's and Tom Hank's Playtone company feature, ‘The Ant Bully’. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding film and television?

After spending decades working on my own as an illustrator, I have really loved working in a studio environment; and I’ve learned such a lot from all the very talented people I have worked with. My work has improved enormously as a result. I have also spent time working in Dallas, Vancouver and LA, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. My only reservation is that the projects have to end.


  1. What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in art?

Despite all the technical wizardry available today, all the old skills of colour and composition still apply. Learn those skills, learn how to draw and paint, as it will stand you in good stead and put you above the others. It’s no accident that a lot of job ads looking for concept and texture artists, also ask for good traditional drawing skills as well proficient computer skills.


  1. Tell us a little about any good science fiction or fantasy art you’ve seen recently.

There is so much of it on the net these days I hardly know where to start. I am a fan of the Concept Ships web site.

Firebreather


  1. What do you do, when you’re not being artistic?

As mentioned previously, I like to cycle a lot and hike. We also go to the movies three or four times a month. The little cinema we have in town, shows a huge variety of films from Hollywood blockbusters to obscure subtitled foreign films. We watch all sorts of stuff.


  1. Where can we find you and your art?
My web site is www.fredgambino.co.uk, and a list of publications with my work in it can be seen here http://www.fredgambino.co.uk/publications.html Otherwise, watch “Jimmy Neutron”, “The Ant Bully” or “Firebreather” from Cartoon Network and “Escape from Planet Earth” from Rainmaker, due to be released next year, I think.

Thought is more dangerous than you think...


Thought is more dangerous than you think...

In a distant galaxy known as the Cosmic Sea, Baron Seti Aljyk has caused the Second Psychic War by seizing Najura, the last of the ancient swords of power, and usurping the imperial throne from Sakara Rey, the True Emperor. On Earth, young schoolteacher Roman Doyle remains unaware he is Prince Armon Sakara, heir apparent of the True Emperor. That is, until he encounters Chi-Ro Jin, a Veteran of the Psychic Wars. Chi-Ro’s mission is to return Roman to the True Emperor, but Roman believes that Chi-Ro is crazy.

When Roman’s wife, Soraya, is abducted by the Baron’s assassins, Roman is forced to make the epic journey to the Cosmic Sea. However he does not go alone. He is joined by his shamira Chi-Ro, Nuri Nemsys a beautiful secret agent, Anah Sadaka the mysterious captain of the Starglider Sanura and Roman’s friend, Zachary Silverman, a quantum physicist.

With his dormant psychic and astral abilities awakened by an alien drug and pursued by the Baron’s assassins, Roman, his friend, and the Veterans of the Psychic Wars face evil and danger in uncharted space and on alien worlds. Roman must overcome his fears, master the martial art of Hatari Ikou, and learn the secrets of astral projection, in order to rescue his wife, retrieve the sword of power, and bring the Psychic Wars to an end.



Read the Press Release

Watch the Trailer


Saturday, 30 July 2011

Interview with Kevin David Anderson


Kevin David Anderson’s novel Night of the Living Trekkies, which debuted at the San Diego Comic Con, from Quirk Books, is a funny, offbeat Zombie novel that explores the pop culture carnage that ensues when the undead crash a Star Trek Convention.  Publishers Weekly gave Night of the Living Trekkies a starred review and the Washington Post listed it as one of the top five Zombie novels not to miss in 2010.

With a lifelong passion for monsters, the walking dead, and all things that go bump in the night, Anderson was a guest at the first ever Zombie Culture convention, ZomBcom held in Seattle 2010, with other Zombie/horror genre icons like George A Romero, Bruce Campbell, and Max Brooks.  Anderson was a panellist alongside Pride and Prejudice and Zombie’s sequel and prequel author Steve Hockensmith, discussing with Zombie fans, horror, the undead, and the mash-up genre in literature.

With a background in marketing and media, Anderson has managed national award winning ad and public relation campaigns.  He is an active member of the HWA and SFWA.  Anderson’s work has been promoted in print, radio, online and in video format (book trailer).  Recent interviews include the Los Angeles Times, Star Trek Radio, Total Sci Fi Online, and BuyZombie.com.


  1. Tell us about ‘Night of the Living Trekkies’.

    Night of the Living Trekkies, from Quirk Books, is a funny, offbeat Zombie novel that explores the pop culture carnage that ensues when the undead crash a Star Trek Convention. The idea came to me a few years back while watching one of my favourite documentaries, TREKKIES. Directed by Roger Nygard and staring Denise Crosby, it’s an in-depth and entertaining exploration of the devoted fans of Star Trek and their world, from home life to conventions. 

  1. Why did you write this book, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

    I don’t know why I wrote the novel, but I do remember it was one I tried not to write. Even though I loved the idea, it was hard to believe that any publisher would take it on, considering the possible rights issues that might be involved.  But about the time I was considering whether or not to write it, I heard about a novel called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I thought, if there is at least one publisher that was willing to test the limits of public domain, then maybe there were more.  So I went forward and coincidentally the same publisher and editor of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took on Night of the Living Trekkies. 

  2. Is there an underlying message in ‘Night of the Living Trekkies’?

    If you happen to be at a Star Trek convention during a Zombie outbreak, whatever you do, don’t get caught wearing a red shirt.  
  1. You worked as a marketing professional managing award winning advertising campaigns. How influential has this expertise been in the creation of this unique work?

    Writing advertising copy was my first professional writing opportunity. It allowed me to explore my creative side while earning a living. Eventually I wanted to write about things that interested me, and didn’t involve promoting consumer products. But coming up with good ad copy taught me to be focused, to the point, and when possible, entertaining.    

  1. Of the characters you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular character?

    A few of my short stories involve an over night truck driver named, Dale. His past is mysterious and his adventures are surreal.  His life is extremely different from mine and through him I can experience many of the choices that I didn’t make in my life.  
  1. What did you find most rewarding in the writing process?

    There are many things I enjoy about writing, but I’d have to say that writing the words “THE END” tops the list. Whether a short story or a novel, the feeling of completion is indescribable.  Which is very misleading, because writing "THE END" upon finishing a first draft, is by no means, the end of the writing process.
  1. What did you find most challenging in the writing process, and how did you overcome it?

    Writing is a solitary endeavour. There are no bosses hovering, insisting that you produce. You have to find your own reason and motivation to put your butt in the chair and do the work.   Being productive only comes from routine, and routine only comes from the writer’s dedication.  That was a tough thing to master. It took years to create my routine, but now that it is in place its harder to break then I could have imagined.     
 

  1. An award-winning trailer was produced for ‘Night of the Living Trekkies’. Tell us about that, and other methods used to promote and market the book.

    I had little to do with its production, but I’m extremely pleased at how it turned out. The book gets a fair amount of promotion on its Facebook page, the Quirk Books web site and appearances at conventions like Comic Con and ZomBcon. 
  1. What advice would you give to new authors with regards to marketing?

    I have yet to market a book on my own, so the only advice I have is to sell your manuscript to the biggest publisher you can, and let them do all the work.  
  1. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal reader?

    My ideal reader is someone who buys a copy of Night of the Living Trekkies for all their friends, relative, acquaintances, Facebook and Twitter friends, frendamies, enemies, BFFs and or nemesis. But I imagine that any reader who enjoys a good Sci-fi and pop-culture laugh, would love the novel.     
 

  1. Would you like to see your book adapted for the screen? If so, do you have any aspirations or reservations regarding this? 

    There have already been a few attempts at acquiring the film rights for Night of the Living Trekkies, and it may actually happen. As far as reservations - as long as Paris Hilton isn’t in it, I’m good. 
  1. What are you doing now?

    Currently I have two book proposals out to market.  I’m revising a YA novel, which I hope will go out to market in the next few months; and I’m ping-ponging between two other novel projects: a short story collection and a novella I’m co-authoring with a friend, short story author and editor of PodCastle, DK Thompson. 
  1. Describe ‘Night of the Living Trekkies’ in one sentence.

    Roddenberry meets Romero.
  1. Where can we find you and your book?

    Me, I’m usually at Starbucks. Not because I enjoy the coffee, I just don’t have an office, so it’s where I write.  Night of the Living Trekkies can be found at most bookstores, B&N and Amazon.  The German edition just came out (July 2011) and a Spanish edition is on the way.  

Interview with Alan Tucker


Alan Tucker, author of A Measure of Disorder and A Cure for Chaos, is a dad, a graphic designer, and a soccer coach; mostly in that order. He's had a lifelong adoration of books, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, progressing through Alan Dean Foster's Flinx, and continuing on with the likes of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine and Naomi Novik, to name a few. Tucker's first book, A Measure of Disorder, has, "a dreamy, movie-like quality to it, which my mind effortlessly brought to life," according to a recent review from Squeaky Clean Reads. Austin at Reading Teen says about the second book in the series, A Cure for Chaos, "I really admire the genius of Mr. Tucker for creating this world that is so awesome and … well, believable." Describing his motivations, Alan says, "I wanted to write a book that I'd enjoy reading; one that I hoped my kids would enjoy too!"
  1. Tell us about ‘A Measure of Disorder’.
The story is about an eighth grade science class that goes on a field trip into the forest near their hometown of Boise, Idaho. While there, they mysteriously fall asleep and find themselves in a new world they later discover is called Mother. Through their travels in trying to find a way home, they are transformed into people and creatures native to Mother, each presenting its own challenges of adjustment and acceptance.
  1. Why did you write this book, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
I loved adventure stories as a kid. I particularly identified with Alan Dean Foster's Pip and Flinx books, which fostered a love of reading in me. I found myself with some extra time in the summer of 2009 when my daughters were away, visiting their mother, and I decided to use that time to develop a story idea I'd had kicking around in my mind for a while. At first, it was just a fun exercise for me, but as it progressed and I had a few people read it and tell me how much they enjoyed it, I decided to polish it up and see where it could go. When all was said and done, I just wanted to write something that my daughters would enjoy reading. It thrills me to no end that they do and that others have shared in that enjoyment.
  1. Is there an underlying message in ‘A Measure of Disorder’?
There are several issues dealt with lightly in the book: pollution, stereotypes, and societal expectations. But, really the story is about growing up and all the adversity that our teenage years create. My main purpose in writing is to entertain, not educate or preach.
     
  1. You are a graphics designer. Has this skill helped in the development of this work, and if so, how?
Being a graphics designer helped me more after I typed "The End," than before. My decision to self publish, largely came from my professional background. The eBook revolution we are currently in, was in its first phases of the royalty debates. I queried a handful of agents, but in my further research I realised it could take years, if ever, for my book to see the light of day through traditional means, so, why not use that time to see what I could do with it on my own? I did all of the formatting for eBook and print, and even did the cover artwork (to mixed reviews I have to admit). It was all a great learning experience and I'm so glad that I went that route.
  1. Of the characters you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular character?
Oh gosh! I can't really pick a favourite. They are all different and, because I write the stories from different characters' perspectives, I get to explore many of them deeper than if the story was told from just one point of view.
  1. How is writing fantasy different from writing other genres?
Fantasy is nice because the canvas is completely blank to begin with and you can paint whatever you wish upon it. The trick is, once you've established the ground rules for your world, you have to remain consistent or the readers will pick up on it and quickly lose interest. Just because you have magic in your world doesn't mean anything goes. You still need to create laws that govern your world and remain true to them. 
  1. What did you find most rewarding in the writing process?
Typing, "The End!" Seriously, it was an amazing moment to realise I'd finished the whole thing, from beginning to end. Then, the harder part started: rewrites! 
  1. What did you find most challenging, and how did you overcome it?
Finding a balance between things that I wanted to explore as a writer, and keeping the story moving at an appropriate pace. It took several months of editing, and suggestions from other writers in critique groups, to figure out where that balance might be.
  1. What have you done to promote and market your books, and what advice would you give to other authors?
Even though I've been in the advertising industry for many years, I'm still a novice at selling books. I've gotten the book reviewed on a few blogs, done a handful of interviews, and a number of giveaways, with mixed success. At the moment, my advice for others is what I try to remind myself every day: write! Lots of folks write a book, throw it on the web and expect people to beat down their door to get it. It doesn't work that way. It really helps to have a catalogue of work in your arsenal, rather than just a "one off." I'm hard at work on the third book in the series now, called Mother's Heart. 
  1. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal reader?
Anyone who enjoys fun, fantasy and adventure. 

  1. What advice would you give to help others build the confidence required to write their first book?
Write about something you know and love. And don't worry about what you're going to do with it after it’s finished. Write simply for the enjoyment of it. 
  1. Would you like to see your book adapted for the screen? If so, do you have any aspirations, or reservations, regarding this?
I see scenes in my head like I would watch them in a movie or television show; so yes, I'd love to have that happen someday. Of course I'd hope it were done well; but honestly, it would just be amazing to see the stories on screen. 
  1. Tell us a little about a good science fiction or fantasy book you’ve read recently.
Oh, where to start? I read a great deal. I've really enjoyed Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books and he has a new one just coming out that I'm anxious to read. I just read Foster's Flinx Transcendent, the final story in the Pip and Flinx series and that really took me back to my boyhood days. I've also read Simon Green's Eddie Drood series recently and enjoyed those as well. 
  1. What are you doing now?
Besides answering interview questions?  I'm working on the third book in the Mother-Earth series, called Mother's Heart. My goal is to have it available some time by the end of the year. I'm also in the beginning stages of ghost writing an historical fiction for a client of mine, as well as making notes on another sci-fi fantasy project that's been running around in my head for a while. 
  1. Describe ‘A Measure of Disorder’ in one sentence.
A group of eighth grade students travel to another world, to find out who, and what, they really are. 
  1. Where can we find you and your book?
The best place to start is at my Official Site. There you can find maps of the world, read reviews, watch book trailers and read my blog, which I don't post to as often as I should! I also have author pages on Amazon, Smashwords and Goodreads.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Interview with Nykolai Aleksander


Painting since 2002, Nykolai Aleksander’s work has been published in various books, like Ballistic Publishing's "Expose" and "Exotique" series, Focal Press & 3DTotal's "Digital Art Masters" and "Digital Painting Techniques" series, as well as numerous magazines such as Advanced Photoshop, Fantasy Art China, INTEL Visual Adrenaline, and 2Dartist. She’s been awarded for her work at CGSociety, 3DTotal, IT'S ART, and GFX Artist, and was nominated for the CG Excellence Award 2009 at the CG Overdrive Expo in Singapore. All in all though, she’s really just a 6-year-old who was let loose with a box full of (virtual) crayons...


1.   Tell us about your artwork.

Well, let’s see… I work both traditionally and digitally, and while my oil paintings are usually monochrome portraits or realism with a surrealistic twist, my digital paintings - other than being portraits - tend towards heightened realism, and are usually in colour.

2.   Why did you choose fine art and illustration, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

      I didn’t really choose it; it chose me. It just feels right for me. I’m not a full on fine artist, and neither an illustrator in the true sense of the word. A bit of both, sometimes more, sometimes less. And I don’t know what I want to achieve with it other than be happy with what I do, and perhaps make some other people happy with it, too.

3.   Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?

      There is, but it varies from piece to piece. I think the one red line that can be traced through most of my work is “the story behind”. I don’t enjoy painting something just for the sake of painting it. I need to know what’s behind it all. What’s the background story, what does the person (real or fictional makes no difference) I am painting have to say. Where have they been, where are they going, and what are they thinking. And it’s those stories I try to capture, and it’s up to the viewer to read them.

4.   I was very impressed to learn that you are completely self-taught. Tell us about your learning process, and particularly how your work evolved as a result of it.

      Mhh… there’s not much to say other than that I was (and still am) painting every day of the year. Studying anatomy, lighting, colour theory, you name it. And if you do that and keep at it, eventually you will get better. Which is exactly what happened, I got better over time. And the learning never stops. Far from it.


The Lost Dream - Digital Painting

5.   Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite?

      I really can’t answer that.

6.   How is creating fantasy art different from creating other genres?

I don’t know, to be honest, because I don’t see my work as fantasy art per se. I paint realism with a touch of surreal, or “fantasy” - but not the typical full on double-rainbow of fairytale fantasy.

7.   What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?

      Finishing a piece and being happy with it.

8.   What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how did you overcome it?

      It’s always challenging in one aspect or another, and you never overcome it. You just learn to adapt, play and make the best of what’s on your plate, or canvas in this case.

9.   What have you done to promote and market your artwork, and what advice would you give to other artists?

      Nothing, actually. I was in the lucky position to have it promoted for me, in a manner of speaking. Various book and magazine publishers approached me over the years wanting to feature my work or asking me to write tutorials. It got my work out there, and just snowballed from there. However, I am on a number of networking and art sites, and that always helps to get your work out there, especially if you are active.

Monarch - Oil on Canvas (Metamorphosis)

10. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal client?

      Anyone who has at least a marginal understanding of the creative process.

11. What advice would you give to help others build the skill and confidence required to produce fantasy art?

      I don’t see how fantasy art would be any different from any other art, but the answer would be practice, and patience. That’s pretty much it, as boring and tedious as it sounds. Learn about anatomy, learn about lighting, colours, perspective, composition, etc. even if you don’t want to go into realism. Knowing how things should look, and knowing how to make them look right is a solid basis for all kinds of styles. There’s no easy way, and no way around that. You have to. Confidence comes with time and afore mentioned practice.

12. Tell us a little about any good art you’ve seen recently.

      Oooh… at the moment I really rather enjoy the work of Loic Zimmermann, who also goes by the online nickname of “e338”. His very unique style, use of colours and a fine eye for subject matter and composition are just fantastic. Another artist I was recently stunned by is Joe Fenton. His pencil and ink pieces are out of this world.

13. What are you doing now?

      At the moment, I’m working on two projects that are both taking quite some time to complete. One is a picture story book by the title of “Of Light and Dust”, and the other is a series of ten large scale black and white oil paintings entitled, “Metamorphosis”.

14. Describe your art in one sentence.

      It’s the colours I feel that let me paint the things I cannot see.

15. Where can we find you and your art?

      My most comprehensive profile online is probably my Facebook page, as it has everything from paintings to sketches and painting videos, as well as other things I’ve done over the years, and it’s updated regularly, too.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Interview with Peter Coleborn


Peter Coleborn is a biomedical scientist, photographer, writer, and the editor of Dark Horizons, the journal of the British Fantasy Society. Peter has published several books; and with his wife Jan, he has set up Renegade Writers, a group dedicated to honing the skills of writers that dare to be different.

  1. Tell us about your work for ‘Dark Horizons’, The British Fantasy Society, and other creative exploits with regards to the fantasy genre.
In case your readers aren’t aware, the British Fantasy Society began in 1971, a place where fans of fantasy and horror could share their passion. Over the years, the BFS grew to become an organisation that includes many professional writers, artists and editors in its ranks.  Check out www.britishfantasysociety.org for further information on its history and publications.

The first publication I produced for the Society, in 1984, was Masters of Fantasy 2: August Derleth – written by John Howard with illustrations by Allen Koszowski. Over the long years I also edited/produced the Newsletter (now Prism), Fantasy Bookshelf and Long Memories (a biography of Frank Belknap Long by Peter Cannon).

In 1987 I started a new chapbook for the BFS, Winter Chills (later just Chills), mostly because the Society’s journal, Dark Horizons, was going through a dry patch. It lasted ten years and ten issues. With issue 5 Simon MacCulloch became co-editor. The first issue included stories by Ramsey Campbell, R Chetwynd-Hayes and Brian Lumley. Over the next nine, contributors included Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Gallagher, Lisa Tuttle, Tia Travis, Michael Marshall Smith and Ian Watson and many others.

In 1997/8 the BFS needed new editors for Dark Horizons and so Mike Chinn, Phil Williams and I took over with issue 37. Unfortunately, real life finally got in the way of all the fun-filled activities and I had to step down after just two issues. And yet – miraculously – I still found time to take up various BFS committee posts, including Chair and FantasyCon organiser. I must have had a lot of energy in those days! Even so, I finally did stand down from the BFS and looked forward to a lazy ‘retirement’.

Then in 2007 I was asked to edit Dark Horizons again. So, Jan Edwards and I took up the reins with issue 50. But after issue 52 I was appointed to produce the FantasyCon Souvenir Book, which meant, once more, my leaving DH. After FantasyCon 2010 Jan and I were reappointed editors of Dark Horizons (which now had been combined with New Horizons and Prism into the BFS Journal). And that’s where I am today.

  1. Could you tell us how your interest in fantasy developed?
When I was a young kid I spent much of my free time outside in the fresh air, going for long walks and cycle rides, playing around on river banks, etc. And not an adult in sight – unlike the tethered childhood of today. At school, I became a pupil librarian and discovered adventure stories and tales of the Norse gods, HG Wells, John Wyndham, Edgar Allen Poe, Conan Doyle, the Pan Book of Horror and the Fontana Book of Ghost Stories. All great fun. But academic life interfered and mostly I read Oz and International Times

Later on, a friend gave me Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man. I was hooked and read everything by that man – so blame Moorcock for reigniting my passion! From there I worked my way backwards: Robert E Howard, L Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, Jack Vance, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, Clark Aston Smith, CL Moore, HP Lovecraft, Mervyn Peake, and, of course, J. R. R. Tolkien – many discovered via Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series edited by Lin Carter. And, naturally, I read vast amounts of fantasy and horror as it was newly published: Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Holdstock, Tanith Lee, Lisa Tuttle…


  1. You are a biomedical scientist. Has this influenced your interest in fantasy, and if so, how?
Short answer: No. Slightly longer answer: I doubt it.

  1. What are the hallmarks of good British fantasy?
You mean modern fantasy? I’m not sure I know. I enjoy the work of Jonathan Carroll (an American living in Austria), Peter Atkins (a Brit living in the USA), Terence Green (a Canadian), Lisa Tuttle (an American living in Scotland), Dennis Etchison (an American living in the USA) and Robert Shearman (a Brit living in Britain). There are others! Is there a pattern?

  1. How is editing fantasy publications different from editing other genres?
I’ve no idea, since I’ve only edited fantasy and horror. Oh wait. I have attended writing workshops where we were supposed to comment, editorially, on colleagues’ work. This was difficult because I wasn’t interested in some of the genres they wrote in (and, probably more significantly, they were poorly written).


  1. What do you find most rewarding as an editor, and how do you overcome that which you find challenging?
Challenging? Maybe it’s not having enough time. And the number of poorly presented and poorly written submissions I see. Rewarding: three things. Firstly, discovering a gem amongst the submissions. Secondly, it’s helping a writer improve his/her work – especially enjoyable when they are receptive (you can always tell the serious writer by their willingness to accept advice). Thirdly, it’s seeing the finished publication, smartly designed, cleanly printed.

  1. What have you done to promote your work within the fantasy genre, and what advice would you give to those interested in a career in fantasy?
I like to think that my abilities speak for themselves – but that’s probably not quite enough and I ought to blow more trumpets. As for a new writer: keep on writing and submitting. Submit to the small presses and build up a CV. Have a website or blog (not just Facebook) to publicise your work. Agents and editors (I’m talking about professionals, here) do look at these things, to see if you have the ability and the commitment to be a writer. It is very difficult for the new writer to obtain an agent or secure a publishing deal, so every little, as they say, helps.

  1. How do you feel about the Internet, social networking, and the rise of independent publishing?
Facebook is a tremendous … time waster. It certainly has merits, and is a useful tool for keeping in contact and spreading information. But I hesitate to open accounts with other social networking sites: not enough hours in the day. And having watched the movie The Social Network, I almost left Facebook!

  1. Tell us a little about a good fantasy book you’ve read recently.
Cheating a bit here: it’s Rumours of the Marvellous by Peter Atkins. This collection of Pete’s stories highlights his fast-paced, hard-edged, yet surreal and weird fantasies. It will be launched at FantasyCon 2011 – and that’s why I’m cheating: RofM is co-published by The Alchemy Press and Airgedlámh Publications. And I am The Alchemy Press (you see, a toot on a trumpet here!). Details can be found here: http://alchemypress.blogspot.com

  1. Do you have a favourite author? Please explain why you like their work.
Nowadays my reading veers towards supernatural horror, surreal/suggestive fantasies, weird or quirky fiction – and mainly in the short form. I can no longer read fantasy epics spread over several volumes, horror that simply goes for the gross out and/or agonising angst. I enjoy many writers; I don’t have ‘favourites’, as such.

  1. The British Fantasy Awards are very prestigious. What advice would you give to new or independent authors hoping to have their work considered for the awards?
See my answer to question 7. Writers have to write well and, nowadays, self-promote. Or get their mates to do it on their behalf.

  1. What are you doing now?
Back in 1998, I started a small/independent press: The Alchemy Press. It’s been in hibernation for a while, but now I aim to revive it – I mentioned Rumours of the Marvellous earlier. Then I hope to start other projects – no details yet. Previous AP titles are The Paladin Mandates by Mike Chinn, Shadows of Light and Dark by Jo Fletcher and Where the Bodies are Buried by Kim Newman (both these two co-published by Airgedlámh), Swords Against the Millennium edited by Mike Chinn (co-published by Saladoth Productions) and Beneath the Ground edited by Joel Lane.

I don’t write a lot of fiction – I spend most of the time editing other people’s work for Dark Horizons and the like. I also take a lot of photos at FantasyCon and other conventions – some have appeared in Locus and other publications. Other activities? Yes, there are other things I get involved with…

  1. Where can we find you and your work?
I’m somewhat tardy at keeping my blogs up to date (not following my own advice), but these are a good place to start: http://petercoleborn.blogspot.com and http://piperatthegatesoffantasy.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Interview with Jeremy Robinson


Jeremy Robinson is the author of eleven novels including Pulse, Instinct, and Threshold the first three books in his exciting Jack Sigler series. His novels have been translated into nine languages. He is also the director of New Hampshire AuthorFest, a non-profit organization promoting literacy in New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife and three children.

1.     Tell us about ‘The Antarktos Saga’.

The Antarktos Saga takes place in the universe I created for my novel, Antarktos Rising, but begins twenty years earlier. While the books feature characters from Antarktos, the main character is new. Solomon Ull Vincent is the first and only child born on Antarctica, a land secretly imbued with supernatural power by an ancient enemy of mankind that lives beneath the surface. As a result, young Solomon is born with a strange connection to the land, and immunity to its ferocity - he can’t feel the cold. When he returns to Antarctica as a young teen, he’s kidnapped and dragged underground, where he’s subjected to awful tortures and forced to fight, and kill, to survive. His spirit is broken and he becomes a hunter, the last hunter, for mankind’s greatest enemy - the half human, half demon, Nephilim.

2.     Why did you write this series, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Antarktos Rising has always been one of my favourite books, and is perhaps my bestselling book to date. I’ve always wanted to expand the story and get into the Nephilim world in a deeper way. The Last Hunter is my way of really firming up the mythology I’ve created, making it even more horrible than before, which is always fun for me.

3.     Is there an underlying message in ‘The Antarktos Saga’?

I think the underlying message is one of redemption and forgiveness. We see this in the first book and again in future books. Redemption and forgiveness are considered weak by the Nephilim society; but in truth, they’re far more powerful than anyone realises.


4.     What is your strongest memory of your childhood, and how has it helped to define your work?

My strongest memory is of doing what I do now, being creative in solitude. I would spend Saturday mornings sketching and watching Godzilla. And that’s exactly what I have Solomon doing at the beginning of book 1. In fact, most of those first few chapters are straight out of my childhood, so it was great fun to write.

5.     Before becoming a novelist, you illustrated comic books and wrote screenplays. How influential has this expertise been in your development as a novelist?

What I discovered over the years, is that all of these things I love doing are exactly the same thing - telling stories, creating worlds, using my imagination. Even the art form I chose - comic books, is telling stories through images. Starting in comics and moving to screenwriting was an easy thing. Both are visual mediums. But shifting to novel writing was hard and took years of practice. There are no images to back up the words, so I had to adjust to conjuring images in readers’ minds through description, which is frowned upon in screenwriting.

6.     Of the characters you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular character?

My favourite is actually Solomon from The Antarktos Saga. He’s based, in part, on me as a kid. He grew up in the same time period, watches the same shows and even has the same best friend. He’s a lot like me. But he’s also based on my son, whose real name is Solomon. The Solomon in the book looks like my son and has the same wonderful innocence as my son. So this character is really a combination of me as a child, and my son, who is still a child. It makes him very easy to write and that personal connection seeps into the writing and most readers love the character as much as I do.

7.     How is writing fantasy different from writing other genres?

It’s freeing and fun. In my science thriller novels, I have to explain EVERYTHING! There can be no mystery about how something exists. If I come up with some kind of horrible man-eating creature, I have to explain how it exists using real science. This is sometimes a challenge, and I couldn’t do it without professional help. But in a fantasy story, I can just say, “there are egg-shaped man-eating monsters with jaw-like jaws” and readers don’t need to know how such a thing is scientifically possible, they just say, “Great!” and enjoy the story.

8.     What do you find most rewarding in the writing process?

The most rewarding thing about writing isn’t the writing itself, it’s hearing from someone that they enjoyed the book. Or even better, the book moved them. The Antarktos Saga has definitely received the highest praise of all my books and I think that’s because readers get emotionally involved. It’s strange, but I like to hear my writing affected someone so much that they wept. Means it was powerful.

9.     What do you find most challenging, and how do you overcome it?

Burnout is my biggest problem. It’s nothing like writer’s block, which is never a problem. But I write 4 – 5 books a year right now, publish several of them myself, market them all, design covers, the website, social media, etc. All on my own. So I occasionally get to a point where doing anything feels like I’ve been sucked dry. The way to combat it, is to put creative energy back in. Read a good book, see a good movie, go someplace inspiring, or on an adventure. 


10.  I own a copy of ‘POD People’, which helped me with my own publishing. What advice would you give to new authors with regards to publishing and marketing?

Things have changed A LOT since POD People came out. There are still some good nuggets of marketing advice in there, but marketing has become all about social media, which drives me nuts, but works. Authors need to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. People support authors they “know” and social media is the best, and quickest, way to give people access to you. Of course, you also have to be likable, so if you’re kind of a jerk, maybe skip it. J

11.  Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal reader?

This is a hard question because I get fan mail from eleven year olds and sixty year olds, men and women. So there isn’t a specific demographic for me. A better way to describe my ideal reader is someone who doesn’t take everything seriously. Someone looking to have some fun, who understands that what they’re reading is fiction and not my attempt to convince someone to believe in God, or evolution, or that Nephilim walk the Earth, or that I’m a left-wing nut job, or a Neo-Con. I write about everything imaginable from often opposing perspectives, but there always seems to be someone who thinks I’ve got an agenda beyond entertainment, which I don’t. “Fun people,” is the short answer.

12.  Would you like to see your fantasy series adapted for the screen? If so, do you have any aspirations, or reservations, regarding this?

Absolutely. I’ve done the movie side of things so I have no problems with stories being adapted for the screen. I know things have to be cut, sometimes changed for a different audience. The process excites me. I suppose my only concern is one of quality. If I ended up with something like The Last Airbender I would be sad. But I’ve heard a LOT of authors complain about how their story was changed; and I’m not like that, at all.

13.  What are you doing now?

Too much; I’m currently finishing a horror novel under a pen name, which isn’t publicly known, so I can’t give the title. Then I’m writing the next book in The Antarktos Saga, The Last Hunter – Ascent. In October, I have a humorous book coming out entitled, The Ninja’s Path – Inspirational Sayings For The Silent Assassin. And then I’ll start work on the next hardcover novel, Island 731. Oh, I also have four Chess Team novellas coming out in the next few months. So, just a little busy!

14.  Tell us a little about a good fantasy book you’ve read recently.

You know, I don’t read a ton of fantasy. I watch every fantasy movie and TV show there is, but my reading time is so limited I mostly read the books that are sent to me by authors and publishers. The last fantasy novel I read, and really enjoyed was Hinterland by James Clemens.

15.  Describe ‘The Antarktos Saga’ in one sentence.

Solomon Ull Vincent, the first and only child born on Antarctica, battles the evil within himself while using his strange powers to defend mankind from an ancient, corrupting enemy - the Nephilim.

16.  Where can we find you and your books?

Best place to start is my website: www.jeremyrobinsononline.com. Sign up for the newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest releases. But the books are all available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. If a retailer doesn’t have the book in stock, they can order them.

Related links:

Amazon

Interview with Kevin Baldeosingh


Kevin Baldeosingh is a newspaper columnist who deals with issues ranging from philosophy, literature, science, social psychology, religion, pedagogy, economics, and policy matters. In 20 years as a professional writer, has written over 2,000 newspaper articles, over 30 periodical articles and papers, 20-plus short stories, 3 novels, and a history textbook. His novels are: The Autobiography of Paras P (Heinemann Caribbean Writers Series, 1996); Virgin's Triangle (Heinemann Caribbean Writers Series, 1997); and The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 2005). This last is the only work of fiction by an Anglophone Caribbean writer that covers five centuries of Caribbean history. His most recent fiction has been included in the short story collection Trinidad Noir (Akashic Press, 2009). In May 2011, CSEC History, a textbook he has co-authored with Dr Radica Mahase, will be published by Oxford University Press.

In 2007, his one-act play, The Comedian, was one of the 4 winning plays in the National Drama Association’s playwriting contest. Kevin was also one of 15 prize-winning finalists in a 2007 international essay competition, organized by the US-based TRACE Institute, on official corruption and how to prevent it. He is a co-founder and chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association, the only organization of its kind in the Anglophone Caribbean. He is also vice-chair for ASPIRE (Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity), a lobby group seeking clarification and updating of Trinidad and Tobago’s laws on abortion in order to reduce health risks and maternal mortality associated with unsafe abortions. He was regional Chairperson for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Canada/Caribbean) for 2000 and 2001. At present, he works for the Trinidad Express as a freelance writer and columnist.



  1. Tell us about ‘The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar’.

It’s about a human being who dies every half-century and is reborn in a new body, initially with no memory of his/her past lives. 


  1. Why did you write this book, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

I wanted to explore the question of how our identity is affected by our situation – whether we’re male, female, rich, poor, black, white etc.




  1. Is there an underlying message in ‘The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar’? 
If any, that being human encompasses many conditional conditions.



  1. I believe you are a humanist, with a deep sense of social responsibility. Has this helped you to create this work, and if so, how?

Yes, because I’m not tied to any ideology, religious or otherwise, and I feel impelled to use whatever gifts I have to improve people’s lives.



  1. Of the characters you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular character? 
Avatar himself and, within the novel, the servant girl character, because she most embodied the traits of a Caribbean individual who overcomes adversity.



  1. How is writing science fiction or fantasy different from writing other genres?

The science fiction and fantasy author has to be very well grounded in reality, logic and empiricism, or else it’s impossible to break reality’s rules and still maintain the reader’s suspension of disbelief.



  1. What did you find most rewarding in the writing process? 
The sense of creating a world.



  1. What did you find most challenging in the writing process, and how did you overcome it?

Just the discipline of sitting down every day to write. I set a schedule.


  

  1. What have you done to promote and market your book, and what advice would you give to other authors? 
I’ve gone to book fairs, spoken to publishers and editors, while also spreading the word on my personal network through the Internet.



  1. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal reader?

Someone who is seeking both information and entertainment.



  1. What advice would you give to help others build the confidence required to write their first book? 
Learn the craft.



  1. Would you like to see your book adapted for the screen? If so, do you have any aspirations or reservations regarding this?

Yes. Only that a filmmaker stays true to the story.



  1. Tell us a little about a good science fiction or fantasy book you’ve read recently. 
The last books I read weren’t recent – Harry Potter and Phillip Pullman.



  1. What are you doing now?

I am working on my fourth novel.



  1. Describe ‘The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar’ in one sentence. 
A novel covering five centuries of history.



  1. Where can we find you and your book?