Friday, July 17, 2015
"The voices and concepts authors bring from their own personal experiences makes fiction so compelling": Lucas Bale talks about writing, traveling, and his successful series, Beyond the Wall
My guest today is the author the dystopian series titled Beyond the Wall and several other short stories. In fact, it's through one of those short stories, published in the anthology No Way Home, that I came to know his work. Lucas Bale writes beautifully, he doesn't shy away from details and indulges in careful descriptions of the worlds he builds.
Welcome to CHIMERAS, Lucas!
EEG: Tell us a bit about your background: I know you live in Denmark. Is that where you are from? If not what brought you there?
LB: No, I’m from the UK. London, in fact. My partner is Danish and there inevitably came a point where we talked about her wanting to move back home. We have two children and both of us wanted a quieter life, a bigger house and to live by the sea. I had spent fifteen years in my previous career, and had been working harder than I wanted to, so I was actually happy to consider it. We worked through the options and eventually decided it was the best thing for us. I lived in London for 38 years – it was time for a change.
EEG: You were a criminal lawyer, correct? How does your profession influence your writing?
LB: To begin with, my writing was heavily influenced by years of legal drafting. The language was overly formal – it read as though I was trying too hard whereas, in fact, I think my previous life was asserting itself a little too much. It meant, and probably still means, that I have to make the first edit I do a sort of ‘toning down’ edit, getting rid of overly convoluted language. I also think the law influences the stories I write and the themes that run through them – justice seems to be an important feature of Beyond the Wall, in particular different perceptions of what constitutes justice. I think it means different things to different people and the method of achieving what might be said to be “justice” differs on the situation a society finds itself in. I suspect Beyond the Wall had that theme underpinning it because of what I once did for a living. Additionally, I started writing to publish around two years before I left my career in the law – I was able to do so because I shoe-horned writing into whatever tiny gaps in my time I could find. I am an outdoor and adventure travel writer and editor, and this was where I began at first, back in 2012. I wrote for magazines mostly, but eventually, I decided to learn to write fiction. I think that outdoor writing certainly had an impact on my sense of place, and descriptive writing of setting. I think all authors are influenced, subconsciously at the very least, by what direction their lives have taken. It’s what makes fiction so compelling – the voices and concepts authors bring from their own personal experiences.
EEG: Sorry, I have to ask: how come you write sci-fi and not mysteries?? this is because when I wrote my Track Presius mysteries I wished I was a criminal lawyer! :-)
LB: In fact, the first story I ever wrote, back in 2013, was an espionage thriller and mystery. It still remains unfinished and I’m half-toying with the idea of re-writing it for the speculative fiction genre – there are issues and themes in it I’d like to expand on and explore by giving it a speculative flavour. I can’t say why I chose science-fiction in the first place – whether Beyond the Wall was already bubbling away in my mind, a story that I wanted to tell, or whether I just saw the mystery/thriller market as overcrowded and overflowing with derivative stuff that had already been done in almost every way it could have been. Science Fiction just seemed right to me. I have been a fan of classic science-fiction, and fantasy, since I was a boy. I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, Frank Herbert and the like, Robin Hobb and George R.R. Martin too, of course, but I also loved Stephen King and James Herbert. It wasn’t the ‘horror’ genre particularly that drew me in, but the stories themselves – King places ordinary people in terrible situations and his books’ dramatis personae are frequently a study in the creation of memorable, compelling and believable characters. Write what you love, they say, and I see the logic in that. It’s far easier to write in the style of someone who has inspired you, as you build your own style over time. Maybe I was trying to put law behind me for a little while too.
EEG: What inspired your series Beyond the Wall series?
LB: It’s hard to say. There’s no doubt, when considering fiction influences, that Firefly influenced me at first, but I think anyone who has read Defiance and A Shroud of Night and Tears knows that influence was short-lived and quickly turned into something very different as I planned the series and sketched out where it was going to end up. I wrote The Heretic with certain (I thought) subtle references to Firefly – a quiet homage to a series I genuinely thought could have been something very special – but reviews have been mixed as to whether those references were enjoyed (as I thought they would have been) or whether The Heretic was simply Firefly fan-fic. Either way, I won’t make that mistake again. There were other, historical and socio-political, influences too – I think those have been far more significant influencers than any of the fiction I have loved. For example, the Roman Empire plays a significant role in the structure of the Consulate Magistratus because I felt that, in a society where recent history has no more importance than ancient history, and humanity’s record of its history is necessarily incomplete, the Roman Empire would have much worthy of emulation. Any fledgling civilisation looking to advance, to grow, and to control its population, would draw considerable benefit from structuring itself in a way that contained elements of the Roman design. There are others of course – the Ottomans, the Monguls, for example – but Beyond the Wall is as much about how any civilisation, facing extinction and having just survived a civil war, might govern itself, as it is about the story events that take place within its pages. Additionally, in my former career, espionage, terrorism and organised crime were all part and parcel of the work I was doing. All have roles within the story I have been telling. I like the fact that the answers are not clear, that truth is more about perception than concrete notions that can be pinned down and identified.
EEG: What are you currently working on?
LB: The final book in the Beyond the Wall series is called Into A Silent Darkness – I have been working on that for a while now, and am well under way with writing it. I have been invited to contribute to a number of anthologies, including several times to Sam Peralta’s Future Chronicles series. I’m also curating a second speculative fiction anthology to follow on from No Way Home called Crime and Punishment, with the same authors. Finally, I am working on my next series, the setting I intend to write in for some considerable time to come – A Maquisard’s Song. I am particularly excited about this one – even the planning stages are exciting. It gives me far more flexibility than anything I have written before and allows me to examine themes I’ve been wanting to look at for some time. It will be epic space opera again, but with a different tone to Beyond the Wall. There will be some fantastic cover art – at the moment, it looks like I’ll be working with a hugely talented artist called Florent Llamas for that. Also, I intend to commission interior art for the series. It will be a complex, sinuous setting, with majestic characters, and it deserves to be a luxurious product. There are other projects, but those are the main ones for now.
EEG: Do you see yourself exploring a different genre in the future and if so, which one?
LB: I did consider having a mystery or thriller pen-name, but I have so many projects on the go right now, so much work that I want to do, that I simply don’t have time to scratch that itch. Instead, I have at least two years of writing before I can turn to new projects, particularly those in a different genre. The problem with self-publishing – in fact, I think it applies to all publishing – once you have a good-sized fan-base clamouring for your work, you can experiment a little. But you need to build that fan-base first and, we’ve seen that writing to market is the best way to do that. I wouldn’t say Beyond the Wall is bang on what the Space Opera genre appears to be demanding right now – there’s no space-ship on the cover, no tough and embittered leading man, and it isn’t heavily slanted towards the military. When you look at the work doing well at the moment – AC Hadfield, MR Forbes, Joshua Dalzelle, BV Larson, Vaughan Heppner, SH Jucha, even Nick Webb’s new book Constitution – they all get picked up and promoted heavily by Amazon because either they are what fans want, or because that’s what Amazon lays in front of them. Either way, that’s where the Space Opera market is (and many other sub-categories). So I’m half-considering writing something for that market, just to increase my visibility.
EEG: Nick was also a guest here on Chimeras, and his work is incredibly successful. Best of luck with all your endeavors, Lucas!
The first three books in the Beyond the Wall series are all on Amazon:
A Shroud of Night and Tears
To find out more about Lucas Bale's work, visit his website, his Amazon Author Page, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.