Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Interview: Richard Ellis Preston, Jr

You can find Richard on twitter @RichardEPreston, on facebook at Richard Ellis Preston, Jr and on his site which you can find here.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself. 
Richard: Difficult question to start with.  Writers tend to be boring, which is why we love to live in imaginary worlds, right?  I have lived half of my live in the United States and half in Canada.  I moved back to Los Angeles in 1991 to pursue my writing career and spent quite a long time writing for television and made-for-cable movies.  Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders is my first novel to be published.

Me: In the past, you've written for cable-based films. Did you find it easy when you made the leap over to novel writing?
Richard: It was easy because I was very ready to do it.  I think that I am more suited for the art form of the novel than the screenplay, though I loved writing movies.  My first literary agent said that my writing was very cinematic, which isn't surprising considering where my experience comes from.  Screenwriting is a co-operative effort in many ways, and even if you are the sole writer on a project there is still considerable input and change coming from producers and directors.  Novels are different, because the whole thing really belongs to the writer - you can create your story world as you see it in your head - though you still get feedback and suggestions from your editors.  My editor at 47North is Alex Carr and my development editor is Jeff VanderMeer - an extremely accomplished sci-fi novelist in his own right - and they both have been fantastic.  It is addicting to be able to create worlds.  I love Terry Bisson's quote "What's a novelist anyway but a little god in pajamas?"  Exactly.

Me: What gave you inspiration for your novel, Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders (The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, Book One)?  
Richard: I wanted to do a rip-roaring adventure novel like Indiana Jones, Casablanca or Captain Blood, but I could not find my story.  I also wanted to do a submarine story.  A friend of mine, Kevin Turner, introduced me to the steampunk genre and I instantly identified it as a unique (to me) and perfect storytelling landscape because I am a huge fan of sci-fi, British history and the Victorian era of empire.  So the novel is about a war zeppelin crew in a dangerous, frozen, steam-powered world with a Victorian/Edwardian ethos.

Me: What does your writing space look like? Is there music, coffee, food?  
Richard: No food, but a lot of music (on headphones to seal out the real world) and a lot of coffee (in the morning).  My walls are covered with big bulletin boards so I can post notes to myself everywhere.  City of the Founders was written while listening mostly to The Resistance by Muse, among other albums.  The Resistance is an exception for me, actually, because I tend to write to music without lyrics (classical, primarily) because I find the song words tend to drag my brain off the flow of my own words.  But it worked out for Buckle.

Me: Why do you write?
Richard: I guess I just have to.  I get miserable and grumpy when I am not writing on a decent schedule.  I feel like I am missing opportunities.  But beyond the sheer work and drudgery of it at times, there is this absolute joy of creation in the process, the cracking open of King Tut's tomb rush of finding your story - and an ongoing journey of discovery both of your self and of your characters that is intoxicating.  I mean, who would want any other job than that?

Me: Have you enjoyed the writing process so far?
Richard: Yes.  Sure, it can be miserable,depressing, insufferable and just plain torture.  But it is also all of the things I mentioned above.  It has been my savior at times.

Me: Any advice for fellow writers? 
Richard: I prefer to avoid the "write what you know' philosophy.  There is nothing wrong with it, of course.  But I like the "write what you want to know (discover)" method, where I research and learn about my subject in order to write about it, and attack it with the fresh enthusiasm (and expected mistakes, which can be corrected) of the fascinated amateur.

Quick-fire questions:

Me: Dinner or Dessert? 
Richard: Dessert.  Always.  Dessert.
Me: Summer or winter? 
Richard: I lived in Canada for twenty years.  Summer.
Me: Fork or Spoon?  
Richard: Fork.  Impossible to fend off squirrels with a spoon.
Me: Computer or Cell?  
Richard: Use the cell more, but prefer the computer.

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