Q&A with Geoff Nelder

Hello fellow writers!

In the hopes of getting involved a bit more with the speculative fiction community – and the writing community in general – I’m starting a periodic Q&A series here on my blog. My goal is to interview both emerging and established writers and quiz them about their newest work, their writing practice, and their thoughts on writing in general. Similar to “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” each Q&A will begin with some pointed questions about each particular writer’s work, followed by a standard set of questions about the writer and their craft. In addition to promoting some of my excellent peers, I’m hoping that this series will spark some discussion about the many crazy facets of being a writer.

For the first entry in this series, I’m delighted to present my Q&A with accomplished UK writer Geoff Nelder. I first spoke with Geoff a few months ago when our stories were featured together in Encounters Magazine, and it’s an honor to help promote his newest novel, Abandoned Luggage. which completes his highly-regarded ARIA trilogy. First, a bit about Geoff:

Geoff Nelder has a wife, two grown-up kids, an increasing number of grandkids, and lives in rural England within an easy cycle ride of the Welsh mountains. He taught Geography and Information Technology for years until writing took over his life. Geoff is a competition short-fiction judge, and a freelance editor.

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The Q&A follows below:

I love the concept of the amnesia virus in ARIA. Did anything in particular inspire it?

Puffing up a Welsh hill on my bike I thought of my mum with her amnesia and I thought thank goodness it wasn’t infectious. Infectious amnesia? Wow. I struggled to keep my balance after that, and thinking of the ramifications if no one was immune and it affected sufferers so they forgot everything backwards. Later my astonishment leapt when I found no one had used the concept of infectious amnesia.

There are sometimes shifts in writing style, methods of character development, etc, between novels in a series. Did you find that with this trilogy?

Oh yes. There are five years between the drafts of book one and three and my style is still being modified. More so, the setting changes from being entirely on Earth – in book one ARIA: Left Luggage the reader sees no aliens. The narrative is more about surviving an apocalyptic medical mystery. By book three we are on the alien planet so not only would there be setting and narrative changes but I like aliens to be really different in their culture and style.

Having been heavily involved in fiction writing for over ten years (and published since the late 60’s) what do you think about the push by many writers to pursue self-publishing?

Many famous authors have self-published, especially in the 19th Century. Some well-known have done it recently too although more as a kind of statement or to cut out middlemen. Sadly, many have gone to self publishing because of frustration with the long-drawn-out process of finding an agent / publisher and if they’ve not been adequately edited, they become vilified. In some respects the work involved by self-publishing and being published as I have by small press, is the same. We have to be involved in a lot of marketing of our books. Fine if you enjoy promo but a chore if not.

With this trilogy complete, what’s next?

There’s already a short story written since the three ARIA books were finished and it’s a kind of prequel to the series. Based on the alien moon, it hints at their strangeness and yet familiarity. It is free in an antho of SF samplers at http://www.amazon.com/Science-Fiction-Writers-Sampler-2014-ebook/dp/B00KREH10G/

As for novels I am finishing an urban fantasy based on the true mass abduction of a Mediterranean island in 1551. Called Xaghra’s Revenge it is in the hands of an agent.

What do you consider to be particularly unique about your work?

  • Infectious amnesia is an original concept, in that it is an unknown medical condition and has not been used before in novels or films
  • Research help and support was emailed to Geoff from space! Astronaut Leroy Chiao answered Geoff’s questions about the nature of the struts on the International Space Station, and in 2012 wished him luck with the book.
  • All the places on Earth used in the book are real geographical locations, including the ‘hidden’ valley – Anafon – in North Wales.
  • The cover art is designed by award-winning artist, Andy Bigwood.
  • The idea of infectious amnesia came to Geoff while he was riding a bicycle up a steep Welsh hill

What piece of writing are you most proud of? Are there any published works you wish you could take back?

I’m proud of the final book in the ARIA Trilogy as it flows with my latest style but also of a short horror story, In Absentia, in which a man thinks he has amnesia but realizes he is the imaginary friend of a little girl – and needs to survive… Published in The Horror Zine and in Ether Books.

Some of my very early works are awful. I was an editor of a university rag mag and I’d penned many dreadful jokes that I still see republished in joke magazines.

Has anything you’ve written ever surprised or scared you? If so, what?

I’m often surprised by things my characters say or do once they’ve developed in a novel. I didn’t expect Manuel in ARIA to become my favourite character. I cried (as did the proof-reader) when two French characters died in ARIA when their memory finally fizzled to nothing.

You’re exiled to a faraway moon until the end of your days. What are the five books you bring (excluding the obvious survival guides)?

  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
  • The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer (funniest novel and it inspired my writing)
  • Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • The City and The City by China Mieville
  • Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller

What do you consider to be the mark of writing success?

If a story makes one reader think about a concept they’d not considered before, or take on a different angle then that is a writing success. Yes, we can quote numbers of books sold as one measure of success but more important to me is the way a book affects the reader.

***

The box set of Geoff’s ARIA trilogy is available to order on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/ARIA-Trilogy-Box-set-ebook/dp/B00LQACNZS/ (for UK readers) and http://www.amazon.com/ARIA-Trilogy-Box-set-ebook/dp/B00LQACNZS/ (for North American readers).

You can also find Geoff online in the following disparate corners:

 


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