We are thrilled to welcome award-winning author, Simon Morden, to the blog for a special Q&A blog post. Simon Morden’s stunning Down Station is out in bookshops in paperback tomorrow. We caught up with Simon to ask him some of burning questions about life, reading, writing and mythological creatures.
Who is your favourite author?
I thought these were supposed to be easy questions? If you were going to tie me to a chair in a burning room in a Nazi castle with only a secret door in a fireplace to escape through… I’d say Ray Bradbury. Continually evolving throughout his career, working on short stories and novels, science fiction and fantasy and horror and weird fiction, but always with compassion and a lyricism that’s often poetic. I can’t honestly say I write like him, but I admire his work enormously.
What book do you most often recommend to friends?
I’m going to cheat here. The single book I recommend most is William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. The series I recommend the most is Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles/Galactic Milieu. The Exorcist, because it’s really not what you expect – it’s a brilliantly written, complex, layered, and above all humane story of good people wanting the best for each other. May’s series is simply fantastic from start to finish: all the things I admire – world building, characterisation, plot, pacing – are done superbly. Neither writer pulls their punches, either, or looks away at the difficult moments. These are exemplars of proper, intelligent, emotional fiction.
What is your favourite SF or fantasy world?
The problem with this question is that SF and fantasy worlds are often, if not usually, genuinely terrible places where the wildlife is even more lethal than Australia’s and the people are downtrodden serfs herded to their deaths by psychopathic leaders, and that by saying “Sure, I’d love to live in Westeros, or Arrakis, or Pern”, I’d clearly be lying. By that metric, I’m going to be looking for the most benign, egalitarian civilisation possible – either Star Trek’s Federation or Iain Banks’ Culture will fit the bill nicely. Shout-out to early Second Age Middle Earth, though. Much of it would be lovely.
What is your favourite SF or fantasy creature or character?
My favourite – as in most compelling, best drawn – are the Moties from Niven and Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye. The shear variation in them, the different forms, their motivations and their biology mark them as absolutely stand-out creations.
Do you have any writing rituals?
No, except do it every day. Because the damn thing isn’t going to write itself.
If you weren’t a writer what job would you liked to have gone into?
Well, it’s a choice between research scientist (which I was, and would do again) and High King of the Britons. I keep hoping Arthur turns up, but while we’re waiting, there’s a vacancy begging to be filled. I can promise everyone a land free of Mordred’s evil, and questing beasts for all.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
This is the part where you expect me to say “sitting around in my dressing gown all day”, isn’t it? Apart from that, then. And not having to talk to anyone. But honestly? To be an actual writer requires a high degree of work ethic: the temptation is not to write, and to place obstacles in the way of writing. I don’t have any problems with ideas – it’s a question of batting them away until only the most persistent ones remain. The writing itself can be anywhere between easy and almost impossible. Beginning a new story is like wading into an ocean of unknown width and temperature. Finishing is like dragging yourself exhausted onto the shore on the other side. Sure, be a writer if you enjoy living your life secretly believing that you’re rubbish at what you do and you’re going to be found out any minute. Then you’ve got the one star reviews to cope with. Becoming a writer is a terrible career choice. Don’t do it, kids! Hanging out with your fellow authors at the bar can be fun, though: the level of conversation after a few beers is utterly unparalleled.
Whisky? Cats? Hotel mushrooms? All of those, but really, it’s my own space. I’m not saying I’m a total misanthrope (not a total one, anyway) but what I’d really miss is time away from everyone. Cats excepted.
Tell us something that will surprise your readers.
That question’s a bit of a hostage to fortune, especially when you have a diverse, highly intelligent and discerning readership, like what I do. I’ll admit to knowing the all the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s Red album. That may or may not be surprising.
What makes you happy?
Crushing my enemies, driving them before me and hearing the lamentations of their women. Or standing on top of a tall mountain. Probably should go with the latter, really, as I understand the former is somewhat frowned upon in this day and age.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Make sure the ladder’s secure before you climb up it. Which, along with you can’t cut yourself if your hands are behind the blade, are almost universally applicable in every situation, even if they don’t involve actual ladders or blades.
If you could have a drink with one of the characters from your book which character would it be and what would you drink?
This is difficult: these are people that I know really very well, including the terrible parts they’d normally hide. But while I can’t imagine necking WKD with Mary – I’m way too old for that – or plum brandy with Stanislav – he’s just a little bit intense, I’d sit down for a cup of tea with either Dalip or Mama. Dalip would probably be too timid to talk to me, but I’d not get a word in edgewise with Mama. Which would suit me just fine.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m about a third of the way through The Complete Chronicles of Conan, by Robert E Howard. They’re gloriously uncomplicated and savage.
Down Station is available in paperback, ebook and audio download.