A Life Of Fiction CXI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.


Questions and Answers: Sometimes I am at a loss as to the best way to discuss my writing, and my approach to things such as gas-lamp fantasy, horror, and so on. So, to make a change, I asked one of my friends to ask me six questions about my work. This is a result of those questions:


Question: Where do you find your inspirations?


Answer: Mainly from the media which I consume, whether as a book, film, TV series or a comic book. Radio is not an influence, but most other things can be, even if only a small way.

I can find inspirations even in some news reports in a paper, if they talk about some new discovery, or if they have some feature on some aspect of the Victorian world of which I was not aware. it gets me thinking what if? The point of inspiration is not to repeat what has gone before – that is only theft – but to tell stories in new and interesting ways, even if, sometimes, you are using characters or archetypes which are familiar to other people.


Question: Which authors are your inspiration?


Answer: Some of the classic Victorian authors: H G Wells (although he was at the end of that era); the great Jules Verne; H Rider Haggard; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Those are, I think, the main influences on my work. But I think that I am influenced, in a smaller way, by a host of other authors: Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Clark Ashton Smith, William Hope Hodgson, Edgar Rice Burroughs (mustn’t forget him), Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore (when writing comics), Grant Morrison (ditto), and Stephen Donaldson.

I’m not sure if it is possible (or desirable) to read your favourite author and not have something rub off on you. As a writer I think that you should read as widely as possible. You might just learn something – and influences need not be stylistic, they can be structural, as well.


Question: If you could have lunch with anybody living or dead, who would you pick?


Answer: A good question, and I could think of hundreds of people who I might want to have dinner with: Buddha, Francis Bacon (the philosopher, not the painter), Oscar Wilde, William Blake, Stephen King, Robert Rankin, David Bowie, and others.

In the end it came down to Oscar Wilde versus William Blake. Oscar Wilde was, without doubt, the wittier of the two, and a bon vivant. He would have been great company at the table (at least prior to Reading Gaol). But William Blake wins out in the end, just because he was such a strange character.

There is one tale of a person going to visit William Blake and finding him, and his wife, Catherine, naked in the garden. Blake told his shocked friend that they were as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall. This was long before even the first beginnings of the naturism movement.

Blake was a big believer in humanity. He believed in racial and sexual equality at a time when slavery was legal in Britain, and when women had few rights. He was anti-authority, and he verged on Gnosticism, in his religious views. I can’t think of anybody more interesting with whom to have lunch.


Question: Which historical event would you change the result of, and why?


Answer: I must admit that this question had me stumped, at least initially. My knee-jerk response was to say the outcome of the Battle of Watling Street, as that was the end of the rebellion of Boudicca and her rebellion against the Romans. But, after much thought, I think that I would change the Treaty of Versailles, which came at the end of the First World War.

I would not change the end of that terrible conflict, but just the way that Germany was treated. The effects of the treaty, in crippling Germany, led to such discontent that it was the perfect climate, by the 1930s, for the rise of Adolf Hitler. Change the Treaty of Versailles to something more equitable and then, maybe, you would have no Adolf Hitler, no Second World War, no Holocaust, no Iron Curtain and the other evils of the Cold War which followed on after 1945.

That’s the best that I can come up with.


Question: Who do you think is the most influential politician worldwide of the 20th or 21st century?


Answer: I found this a hard question, as there have been some very influential politicians: Mohandas Gandhi in India, and Mao Zedong in China, to name but two very obvious ones. They each influenced nations of a billion people. Had Karl Marx lived into the twentieth century then I think that I would have named him.

There is Churchill, without whom the Second World War might have been very different; and JFK, who almost took the world into a nuclear war over missiles in Cuba.

I think, though, that for the most influential politician I will name Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the greatest of American Presidents. With his New Deal he helped the USA endure the end of the Great Depression. He helped America through a war which it never wanted.

But what made me select FDR was that, with Churchill and Stalin, he helped set up what would become the United Nations. This was not the old, inept, League of Nations, but something truly global. Even if you view it as nothing more than a glorified talking shop, then FDR still gets my vote: nation shall talk unto nation, after all.


Question: If you were given full creative control over a comic book character who would you pick, and what direction would you go in?


Answer: My friend guessed the answer t the question. Even though, in general, I prefer Marvel to DC, if it was a single character then I would pick Batman.

I have been a fan of Batman ever since I was a little kid. I used to watch the TV serial, with Adam West and Burt Ward, and his strange array of foes. I was always into Batman; I was never really a big fan of Superman. Superman is too powerful, and too bright and colourful. But Batman has no superpowers. All he has is his training, his intelligence, and all those wonderful gadgets. I like the idea of superheroes who are mortal, and have to rely on their training, rather than any special powers. Maybe it suggests that you, two, could become a superhero, if you were willing to devote yourself to the martial arts – and you had a few million stashed away in the bank to fund your equipment.

If I was in control of Batman it would be the Batman of Neal Adams or Frank Miller, rather than that of the television series. I would have Batman in the darkness, where he belongs. he does not work in the light.

I wouldn’t feature any of the silly villains, if you know what I mean. Some of the members of his rogues’ gallery don’t really work in the modern era. The sort of villains whom I would have in my batman would be the likes of Bane, Ra’s al Ghul, KGBeast, and the like. The Joker, yes, even though he gets overused; but no Killer Croc or Clayface or the Riddler. But I would introduce new villains for Batman to fight. Things like the rogues’ galleries need to be constantly refreshed with new characters; otherwise all that happens is that you end up regurgitating stories of the past.

I would point up the difference between the personas of Bruce Wayne (at least the one which he presents to the media) and the Batman. Batman would become increasingly silent, saying fewer and fewer words in each fight, while, in company, Bruce Wayne becomes more and more verbose, with their being a distinct fracture between Wayne as playboy and Wayne as vigilante.

Bruce Wayne, of course, is only an assumed identity. It is a disguise, and is not real. Bruce Wayne has been Batman ever since a little kid saw his parents gunned down in an alleyway by Joe Chill after watching a Zorro movie.

Perhaps I would explore Batman’s psyche further, with maintaining the playboy image causing a reaction by making his true self even more of an opposite. I would certainly not have Robin. My Batman would be a solo character. Robin brings too much light, and I would want to examine the darkness within.

Well, those are just some very basic ideas for the direction in which I’d take Batman.


That’s it. I hope that you have enjoyed these questions and answers, and that it has told you a little bit more about me and my work.


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