Interview _ David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson
David Wilkinson lives in Ashby de la Zouch and works as the Midlands Regional Officer for the Institute of Physics.

His debut novel, We Bleed the Same (Inspired Quill, 2014) was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015.

In this interview, David Wilkinson talks about his concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

I have been making up stories set in my fictional “universe” since I was about five. These have been refined over the years until I had novel plots set in my mind. I would talk extensively to my wife about them and she kept saying I should try writing them out. Then a confluence of events occurred. First I got paid to write an article in a science magazine. Then I heard a successful playwright interviewed on BBC Radio 4 who used to be a girl in my English GCSE class, giving feelings of “well, if she can do it...” But mostly it was my wife just telling me to shut up and get on with it, buying me a course at the Leicester Writing School for my birthday in the process. 14th September 2011, the day after the first workshop, at around about lunchtime, was when I started writing!

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

It would firmly sit on the science fiction shelf, some would say space opera. However, the books are totally plot and character driven. It is about interesting people interacting with each other in a dysfunctional society that just happens to span half the galaxy.

The work is certainly adult and has plenty in it for the science fiction fan. However, several non-sci-fi fans who have read it, or parts of it, find themselves enjoying it too. It has a political thrust and also an undercurrent of feminism, so it would be nice to get into broader markets. As for why – I am just writing what I know and love.

Which authors influenced you most?

The very first science fiction books I read as a child were Spaceship Medic by Harry Harrison and Wheelie in the Stars by Nicholas Fisk.

There's a tiny homage to Medic in my first novel; I wonder if anyone can spot it.

As I got older I ploughed into most of Asimov and, like so many others, I owe future city building to the Caves of Steel.

Dystopias had a strong impact – From Huxley’s Brave New World to Orwell’s 1984.

The one standout novel that had the most influence on me was The Mote in God’s Eye by Niven and Pournelle. It really brought home to me the truth that good Science Fiction is about our contemporary world. I was also impressed by their amalgam of current and future tech. It really brought characters to the fore and had the power of story where characters were neither entirely good nor entirely bad.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I’m not a fan of large swathes of description. I don’t enjoy reading it and I am not good at writing it (as evidenced by my cold readers, editors and anyone else who has ever got near an unedited version of my work). As a result I have learned about writing detail.

If you write about one of your characters tracing greasy outlines on the outside of their mug, you don’t have to write a long description of the squalor of the canteen they are sitting in. It also keeps the reader close to the action.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

The biggest challenges are my everyday life. I have two children under eight and a full time job. I am also learning to play a concerto. Writing just fills in the odd free moment. I also write on trains – that’s where I am doing this interview now.

Do you write every day?

Taking into account the previous question, the writing experience is usually the same. I sit down and spend about 10 minutes reading over what has come before, ostensibly to get into the flow but really just to put off the moment of beginning.

Once I start, the first 15-20 minutes are a real struggle and on about a quarter of attempts, I stop in this time. Then, twenty minutes in, something magical happens and I hit the zone. Without apparent effort I will reel out about 750-800 words of good material. Then I feel tired and notice that an hour has passed since I sat down.

This varies sometimes.

In particularly compelling chapters I’ll be able to keep going and get down 2,000-2,500 words in a two-hour sitting.

As I approached the end of my last novel, I went into something of a frenzy, writing whole chapters in about an hour or so. In this way I wrote the last ten chapters (20,000 words) in less than a week. That bit needed a lot of editing!

How long did it take you to write We Bleed the Same?

I started writing We Bleed the Same in the novel workshop series my wife bought me. At that time it was the only fiction I had ever written. The publisher Inspired Quill gave me a contract and We Bleed the Same came out in July 2014.

It took almost exactly a year to complete the first draft. Afterwards there was about three months of personal editing. My cold readers then had it for a month before I spent another two months editing again. This is when I started sending it to agents.

David Wilkinson's debut novel, We Bleed the Same (Inspired Quill, 2014) was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015.

How did you chose a publisher for the book?

Well, primarily Inspired Quill was the one that offered me a contract. They are a small, new publisher and they are operating as a social enterprise, putting income back into social programmes. They were very up front about the realities of signing with a young, small publisher – even presenting me with a list of pros and cons of their own. The main con is that they don’t have a large advertising budget. The pros include a more collegiate approach to editing, a personal relationship with the boss and a good deal on royalties.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult? Why do you think this was so? And, how did you deal with these challenges?

Just keeping going. Getting the words down has always been my biggest irritation – I am much happier developing plot. I just have to hold my nose and get on with it.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Plotting. I do it entirely in my head and write almost no notes. This lets me do it in the shower, driving the car or walking the dogs. It is always there, ticking away in the back of my mind and the wonderful thing is when revelatory story lines spring into my mind. At those moments I stop, smile and sometimes do a fist pump.

What sets We Bleed the Same apart from other things you've written?

Everything else I have written has been factual and in the field of forensic physics.

Are there any similarities?

I don’t like breaking the laws of physics – there is no artificial gravity or inertial dampening. Where I have had to extend science, I have tried to provide adequate explanations.

What will your next book be about?

It is a detective story set in the same “universe”.

In my first novel a character is reading a detective story set in a city they visit. It is this book, Pilakin: Falling Rubble, that I am writing. It is essentially SciFi Noir.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Getting a publisher on my first piece of fiction.


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