Hello once again, Readers!!! It is crazy windy here! I hope it dies off by tomorrow for the craft fair. But enough about that. Today I have a special guest, Andrew Toynbee. He just published his debut novel, A Construct of Angels, and I have the pleasure of sharing with you an awesome author interview. But before we dive into that, lets take a look at the beautiful cover created by Ravven and blurb.
After accidentally triggering the spontaneous resurrection of a dead student, an ordinarily routine day for York-based paramedic Sara Finn erupts into a series of events that propel her on a terrifying journey, promising to forever change her pragmatic opinions of life and death.Still haunted by her domineering and abusive stepfather and driven by a life-long search for her missing younger brother, Sara finds herself caught in the crossfire between warring forces, powerful beyond human comprehension, that threaten to plunge civilisation into hellish chaos and eternal darkness.
Welcome, Andy! Tell us about your book and what was your inspiration for writing it?
My book follows the adventures of a female paramedic who inadvertently becomes involved in the eternal battle between the Realms that we know as Heaven and Hell. Whilst she’s trying to identify a body that may or may not be her missing brother, using her peculiar ability to retrieve disembodied souls, she accidentally pulls down a lost Angel – one who had been trying to Fall to Earth in order to counter a particularly nasty plot against mankind, but had become lost. Together, they have to figure out who or what is behind the plot and how it will affect us all before they can organise themselves enough to try to prevent a world-wide catastrophe.
The whole idea originally stemmed from the market saturation of vampire and werewolf novels. After seeing Twilight, the Vampire Diaries, Blood Ties and True Blood on TV, I began to wonder if I couldn’t write a supernatural story – but one without any Vampires or Werewolves in it. I asked myself; ‘What’s more powerful than either of those creatures? What wouldthey fear?’ The answer, naturally, was Angels, beings that have been around forever. I remember reading a novel many years ago (the name of which evades my Swiss-cheese memory) where US Marines in flying gear were sent in to battle a group of rebellious Angels. They were torn to pieces. The scene in which the Angels simply ripped the marines apart was graphic and horrific and I have never forgotten it (unlike the name of the book).
So, when the time came to visualise the power of Angels, that scene was foremost in my mind. But as I began my research and delved into all the biblical accounts of angels and their dealings with mankind, I realised that I wanted to create a more modern approach to the whole Angel-Heaven concept – something that could be explained not only with faith, but with science too. I’m a confirmed scientist and a big follower of Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, so I envisaged a Heaven that could be linked to modern cosmological thinking, whilst retaining the consistencies that biblical references have documented.
Very interesting. How long did it take to write your book?
The original concept was formed in August 2009, when I began to discuss the idea by email with my long-time friend and fellow Trekker, Louise. We even began to write the story together, describing an Edinburgh over-run by marauding demons, battled by Angels that walked the Earth in defence of mankind. But it quickly became clear that we were both developing divergent ideas on how the story ought to run. I’d envisaged a contemporary tale, whilst she favoured a post-apocalyptic scenario. The project stalled. After a great deal of thought and several sleepless nights, I realised that both ideas could work – except mine could be a ‘reboot’ of hers. She could continue to document the consequences of a demon-invaded world, whilst I would describe how the whole disaster had originally come to pass. So, in early 2010, I set the story in York, recycled a pair of characters that hadn’t been used in Louise’s story and began from there. It took me until mid-2011 to complete the First Draft. Sadly, Louise never completed her work in progress.
What is your favorite part of writing and the most difficult part?
My favourite part is letting my Muse have her head and just watching where the story goes. I am a confirmed ‘Pantser’, but that’s now been tempered with a degree of initial plotting. As long as the story ends up where it’s supposed to, my Muse can have a field day.
I think the most difficult part stems from something that is relatively new to me – that of fitting my tale into a contemporary setting. I’ve always avoided writing real-world stories for the same reason that I rarely read real-world novels. I find everything too restrictive, too contained. In our world, there are definite limits to what you can and can’t do. If you set a novel in a city, you must adhere to that city’s layout. Our world has physics, which means that, unless you utilise magic, those physics must be strictly adhered to. I’d set myself a very difficult challenge by setting ‘A Construct of Angels’ in modern-day York, with a Main Character who was a Paramedic. But, if Stephenie Meyer could set Twilight in a real town, why couldn’t I?
What was your favorite scene or character to write?
My favourite scene, I guess, would be the final scene of the book. This was my Muse’s anchor. This was where the entire story had to lead up to. When I began to research the city for suitable venues, I’d envisaged a certain crucial event in which Hell attacks Heaven directly. I’d even thumped Louise’s wooden table (a little hard, I confess) to convey the single hammer-blow that Hell launches. So I needed a cannon – a historical venue from which to launch the attack. Actually, you can see the building in Ravven’s marvellous cover for the book. All through the story, I knew that I had this final scene ahead of me and I could hardly wait to get there. That probably helped to speed my writing.
My favourite character? Oh, that’d have to be the man with no name. Actually, he’s a Nephil, a demon’s offspring, not a man at all. He’s also the antagonist. And he does have a name…unfortunately no human can bear to hear it – as my Main Characters discover. I’m a good-natured person at heart, but I spent some time trying to get into the skin of an evil antagonist, trying to work on his motivations. What would it be like, I wondered, to be all-powerful AND evil? What would you do? What havoc would you wreak? It occurred to me that if you were a powerful enough villain, you would probably have no fear of consequences. So, the man with no name, who is only ever referred to by description in the story, became the sinister, shadowy and disdainful-of-authority figure that I most enjoyed writing.
Will there be a sequel to your book?
Currently, there are two sequels planned, both with a specific ending in mind (to keep my Muse in check). In these, I’d like to explore more of my cosmological Heaven-Hell ideas. The first book barely touched upon them. However, these two will only take us about half-way towards the previously-mentioned apocalypse, so there is room for a second trilogy, assuming the first is successful. And there might even be a post-apolcalypse trilogy. But that’s all a long way off at the moment.
Do you ever get writer’s block and if so how do you overcome it?
I’m fortunate enough not to suffer from writer’s block. No, really. I DO find myself standing at a fork in the road quite often, with my Muse panting like a terrier and pointing down an unknown route…when I had planned to take a ‘safer’ path. I usually give in and follow her down the dark and twisty path just to see what happens. More often than not I am surprised and delighted. If I ever find myself at the natural end that a Chapter break provides, wondering just what comes next, I will lie down, close my eyes and run the scene that I’ve just completed in my head as if I was watching it at a cinema. As I munch on virtual popcorn and squeak my folding seat, the scene will change and show me what happens next, hopefully in such a way that the virtual audience around me doesn’t cry ‘what the hell just happened there?’ If they do object, I have the film rewound and run it again until an acceptable scene-change occurs to me.
I read a lot. I usually have at least two, sometimes three books on the go at any one time. I also make short videos and post them on YouTube under the name Andybee64. Most of them are movie/music mash-ups where someone else has done all the hard work filming and composing, but occasionally I get time to head outside with my camcorder and shoot something for real. I’m hoping to use my experience in this area to create a trailer for my book. I’d love to include some live action scenes. Any volunteers?
‘Planet Word’ by J P Davidson and Stephen Fry. ‘The Jesus Mysteries’ byTimothy Freke and Peter Gandy and ‘The Cylinder’ – an eBook by Luke O’Boyle.
Any authors or books that inspired you and your writing?
Well, you could say that the books of Stephenie Meyer, PC Cast, Rachel Caine and Richelle Mead (amongst others) got me started by saturating the market with vampire stories, but it was the ‘Chronicles of Thomas Covenant’ (all ten of them) by Stephen Donaldson that inspired me to begin the ‘Elementals’ saga (all 234,000 words of which are still languishing on my back-burner), and before that it was E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s classic ‘Lensman’ series that inspired me to my first planned-ending novel ‘Homeworld’ (still unfinished, sadly).
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Start writing! Now! Whether it’s NaNoWriMo, a short story or a full-length novel, you have to write to be able to write. And nowadays, you are no longer required to stand in line before the Gatekeepers that are the Agencies and Publishing Houses. You can publish independently as an eBook author. But make sure you have your work read by as many independent, trustworthy people as possible. Even now, after twelve drafts, I’m still finding silly errors. So check, check and check again – then get other people to check. And then use the feedback to strengthen and improve your work as much as possible. Make it as good as you possibly can – and then make it even better. Jenna Burtenshaw told me that when I was five drafts in – and I groaned at the thought. But she was right.
And start a blog. Immediately. If I hadn’t, I would never have met any of the amazing bloggers who have been my daily inspiration. A blog can work as a private journal (if you want to keep to yourself, but document your daily writing progress) but it can also be a meeting-place and a venue where ideas and valuable information can be exchanged. I might never have ePublished without the help and support of my fellow bloggers.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
My ideal job would be…Bush Pilot in the Australian outback. Flying, freedom and daily challenges amongst larger-than-life characters. That appeals to me.
Tell us something random/share a guilty pleasure.
Something random? Oh, well, I used to be a cat person, but my wife taught me to be a dog person. Our two terriers are called Ron and Arthur Weasley after…well, you know. Their much-missed predecessor was a terrier called Harry. He used to potter around the garden all the time…so blame him for the names.
My guilty pleasure is chocolate. Isn’t it everybody’s? And I adore Honey Rum. I’ve only ever seen it for sale in Spain and the Canary Islands, but a bottle always accompanies me on the journey home. It’s lush.
If you have anything else you want said, let me know!
I love to listen to soundtrack and soundtrack-esque music as I write. My current favourite is Thomas Bergersen’s ‘Illusions’. It lifts me to incredible heights and plunges to stunning depths. I hope something of that feeling has transferred to my writing.
So what’d ya thing, Readers!! Pretty awesome right?? Here’s where you can pick up your copy:
What are you waiting for!!??
Echelon out ♥