Welcome, Tim Lees, author of The God Hunter (Harper Voyager Impulse) (https://timlees.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-god-hunter/) to It's All About Story.
1) Describe The God Hunter in one paragraph.
This is my elevator pitch is it?
Fossil fuel is running out. But imagine you could mine the psychic energy deposited in churches and other sacred spots, converting it to electricity? That's what Chris Copeland and the Registry Field Ops do. Unfortunately, that energy tends to have a mind of its own, and when one of Chris's operations goes horribly wrong, the consequences will haunt him for years--all the way from Hungary, through London and New York, to the American Midwest.
2)What inspired The God Hunter? What was your inspiration for the gods?
The whole thing came to me very quickly. I noticed a book in my (now) wife's bookcase called Ghost Hunters. It's hardly an unusual title, but for some reason a story just jumped into my head. Still, ghosts have been done to death (ho ho), so I upped the ante a bit by combining it with a concept from my first ever published story, one I've been meaning to return to for years. I wrote the first few chapters in a great rush, sitting under a statue of Joe Dimaggio. (The weather was a bit better then than it is today. As I write this, snow is piled in great grey slag-heaps everywhere you look, and the Chicago winter is doing its best to freeze my knee-caps off. But I digress...)
3)Is this your first work of fiction?
Not by a long way! I've published a fair amount of short fiction--anyone who's interested can track down the e-book collection News from Unknown Countries on Amazon--and the novel Frankenstein's Prescription (Tartarus Press). It's mostly pretty weird.
4)What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for The God Hunter?
I've never thought about that! But I think Miles Davis in his Bitches Brew phase might have been pretty good--mysterious, occasionally creepy, and with that kind of abstract, half-glimpsed quality I tried to suggest for some of the gods in the book.
5)Which character was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?
I loved writing Anna Ganz, the foul-mouthed Hungarian detective. She was great fun--feisty, driven, and under-appreciated by her bosses, but with a great sense of justice. I have some interest in the ways people cope with difficult and dangerous jobs--which is one of the things the Field Ops books are about, I suppose--and it was fascinating to watch her gradually reveal her inner self. She seemed to have come from somewhere else, rather than been made up for the purposes of the story.
Conversely, I find the hardest characters to write are the minor ones--someone glimpsed in one paragraph, who needs to be fleshed out with a single line but mustn't intrude too much on the general narrative. My editor pointed out some of my lazier attempts to do this and made me rewrite. It was like being back in school.
6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?
When I'm alone in the apartment I just sit in the main room, and am very, very easily distracted. Now, distraction is a necessary thing for writers--often the mind will provide an answer to a problem while the writer's looking elsewhere--but there are times you just have to knuckle down and do your job.
If I'm doing first drafts, or revising from a print-out, I'll often go and sit in a cafe. If it's a first draft, I often have no real notion what I've written until I read it back later. Sometimes, I've been surprised, and I like that.
7)Any odd writing habits?
Writing is a pretty odd habit in itself, isn't it?
8)Do you outline?
Ideally, I outline in my head. The God Hunter and my previous novel, Frankenstein's Prescription, both came to me pretty much whole, at least in terms of general structure. The new novel, Devil in the Wires, wasn't like that. I had some vague notions, but they changed part way through--a minor character took on more significance, and it became clear that, rather than the three interlinked stories I had planned, there was a single narrative struggling to get written. Which, eventually, it did, and the book is much stronger as a result.
I have this weird idea that these books already exist, and I am simply trying to unearth them, like some sort of literary archaeologist. If I do it well, I'll have a good book. If I don't...well. Let's not think about that.
9)What is your favorite fairy tale, myth, or folk tale?
As a kid I was fascinated by the Trojan War. I still find the story of Odysseus intriguing--he's supposedly the first character in literature to have a completely random physical characteristic (short legs), and is therefore a precursor of more modern "realistic" narrative, perhaps. Interestingly, when I read the Odyssey, I found it was mostly a naturalistic piece, and the fantasy elements that everyone knows--the Cyclops, etc--are embedded in it as a kind of boast or tall tale, so there's a suggestion old Odysseus may have just been making it all up.
The character of Odin or Woden is also intriguing, in his aspect as a magic-maker and seeker after wisdom. He hung on the tree for three days and three nights, Odin sacrificed to Odin. That sounds a little like another figure many people still believe in today. It's fascinating how these themes repeat themselves in all cultures, at all times.
10)What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?
The last clause rules out most of the ones I've read about. However, Ballard's Vermillion Sands has always seemed appealing: decadent, run-down, surreal, a place where you can be lovesick and unhappy in enormous comfort. I could go for that.
11)What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
I didn't listen.
12)In The God Hunter, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers, etc;
I think a lot of things just crept in accidentally. I was pretty much improvising most of the way through, with an overall story mapped out in my head. The result was that, when I needed a name, or a character trait, I just reached out and grabbed whatever came to mind. I apologize to anyone who may have been horribly misused thereby.
Len Deighton's early spy thrillers were an influence. That's where the humor came from, and the collision between fantastic adventure and the utterly mundane. I like the idea that my hero is, essentially, an employee. He's not Superman or Indiana Jones, he's just doing his job. Of course, by the end of the book he's had to do a lot more, too, but that's not where he starts out.
13)Can you tell us what we have to look forward to after The God Hunter?
The second Field Ops novel, Devil in the Wires, is due out in May. It follows on chronologically from The God Hunter but I've made sure new readers will be told all they need to know to enjoy it, so it's really a stand-alone sequel. The itinerary for this one is Iraq, Paris, London, and Chicago.
And I should give a plug to C2E2, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Event. Friday, April 24th, I'm on a panel with the excellent Lexie Dunne discussing "gallows humor". Anyone know any good jokes?
Monday, March 9, 2015
Two years ago, Pooka, a little black thing hiding under the nearest car in my apartment complex, found me. I began feeding him, but he stayed wary. After he ended up on my doorstep bleeding and ragged from a cat attack, I took him to the nearest vet and adopted him.
He was the perfect little gentleman when he wasn't being a wild thing. Even when he was sick, he'd totter to the litter box. He was stubborn, affectionate, and only had to be told once not to jump up on something. He liked to go outside, still, and roam, and I didn't have the heart to refuse him. At night, he'd strut around the apartment with his tail in the air.
He was more like a little fairy thing than a cat. I remember looking out the window during a full moon one night and seeing him sitting in the parking lot as three rabbits hopped toward him. Two went past, but the first touched noses with him before moving on. And he sometimes reminded me of a black fox.
He wasn't only my little buddy, he was also my good luck charm.
A week after I officially adopted Pooka, 7 days exactly, I was contacted by Harper Voyager. I had entered an open submissions call and two days later, I had an agent and a three-book deal. Coincidence? I think not.
I'll miss my little buddy, who was only with me for two years before lung cancer took him in three days. He had to be euthanized, because there was no hope of treatment and he couldn't breathe or eat, even though, that morning, he determinedly trotted after me. He fell asleep in my arms, knowing that I loved him.
Monday, March 2, 2015
The winner of my prize has been contacted. Thank you to everyone who entered our contest and met our characters!
Forsan, you are the winner! Please contact me with your mailing information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please do so within the next 2 weeks!