Our featured author today is Gary Bonn and we’re showcasing his novel Expect Civilian Casualties.
Synopsis Jason has spent the last six years living wild on beaches. Now he’s seventeen and a feral girl walks into his life.
A girl with no name.
He calls her Anna. She’s fun, she’s kind—and she’s the most dangerous person in the world.
The most unusual love story, and a truly strange war story… Expect Civilian Casualties turns how we see the world upside down.
What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had? Hey… I could be a writer!
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play the lead role and why? I’d be happy to play the lead role in my life. This time I’d like some warning of what was going to happen next, a decent script and I’d ask for a more professional director and a bigger budget.
Can you see yourself in any of your characters? Lol. A writer has to be their characters. You must be an old woman struggling upstairs, a child sitting beside his mother’s dead body, a suicidal teenage girl, a soldier knowing he’s going to die, a…
If you can’t live it – how are your readers going to?
There’s a huge picture here. A writer has to get into character as much as an actor. You write romance or tragedy – you have to live through the emotions. Write Sci-fi and you must wear the buttons and levers down until you are as familiar with them as the veteran astronaut (or whatever) you’re writing about.
I wrote a book (that I’d dearly like published) some years ago. In it, a number of people struggled to earn a living in the most unusual circumstances. I spent weeks, just being each of them, going through their daily routines until I felt the blisters and sunburn – and their excitement, hopes and fears. This sort of immersion pervades your waking life and it can be hard to concentrate on reality. Asleep, I dreamt of the morning-bell being struck. I shivered and clambered into my coarse overalls, stumbled though ill-lit sleeping quarters, tested my weapons and prepared to clear the working area of the most horrific monsters.
I still go there in my imagination, not that I like the place, but I love the people.
This level of immersion is so obvious when I read another writer’s book. I love it and I’m inspired when a real person leaps at me from the page.
How did you celebrate the sale of your first book? I hardly noticed – Firedance keeps me busy – but I don’t mind, because I like the intoxicating whirl of it all.
How do you react to a bad review? Anyone who gives me a bad review falls into one of four categories:
1) I think they are the most wonderful people on earth and will help me strengthen my writing. This amounts to 99.99% of the people who give me negative criticism.
2) I think they are stupid and don’t fit into the first category – but I’m wrong.
3) They are 13 year old internet trolls who haven’t read my work, but still spout negativity – but may actually read my books one day and like them. It’s best to treat them with kindness and respect – or they may grow into adult trolls.
4) It’s my mother.
Which authors have influenced you most, and how? I’d like to say Morris West (Clowns of God), Neville Shute (Round the Bend), |Laurens Van Der Post (A Story like the Wind), William Blake, etc, have most defined me as a person – as if they were surrogate fathers. However, Tove Jansson got to me first (when I was 8 years old). I grew up to be her character Snufkin. I like to be alone in mountains; I like few, but intense relationships. Jansson taught me to be considerate and kind. If Tove Jansson were alive today, I’d give her a big hug and say thank you.
As far as writing is concerned, the writers at WriterLot have been my greatest influence – constantly challenging and encouraging. My work would not be half so good without them. What you see on the site does not indicate the huge amount of support and development that goes on behind the scenes.
The editors at Firedance Books Ltd have been wonderful too. They know so much, and they’re only too happy to give me advice and encouragement.
Most recently, my son, Christy, has been an inspiration. Not only is he a great writer – but he’s the engine behind the UFOAI stories, (See WriterLot).
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? Ooh, now we’re getting serious. Learning how to write takes longer than you could possibly believe – there are 3 and 4 year degree courses in creative writing. Learning to take negative criticism takes as long as you try to resist the fact that it’s the soil in which your writing grows. Learning to work with editors takes as long as your ego is big. Think 3 years to get the writing skills (and thick skin for editorial). If you are a beginner and have a good story, don’t let this put you off, write it – we all need good stories.
The most earnest piece of advice goes to those people who self publish. Often this is without understanding the need for rigorous developmental/structural editing, copy editing and proof reading. I’ve been asked to review books that haven’t been through these processes – and it’s been heart breaking. I can’t stress the need for editorial support enough. For every hour a reader spends reading – you spend 200-300 hours writing, revising, revising, revising and revising again. Revision can only happen with the help of editors who are experts in fiction – or even better, in the genre of that book – you are blind to your own errors. However, working in this environment makes you a seriously good editor for other writers who will bless you for being objectively hard on them. It’s teamwork.
Whew, rant over – and, hopefully, a few tears saved.
What movie and/or book are you looking forward to this year? Ah, lucky you… I’ve know of some books that should go into print soon…I’m looking forward to:
The Devil’s Poetry by Louise Cole. The ending of which had me holding my breath for what felt like 6 hours…
Stillness Dancing, by Jae Erwin, which had me gasping over a single line of mind-bending dialogue which gave me a new way to understand people.
Coil, by Ren Warom (writer of Umwelt). This book sears images into your brain that will never leave you. You’ll beg for her next book.
Serpent, by Alison Gardiner – if only that had been written earlier. I could have read it to my children when they were younger. Think “Kick-ass hamster meets wizards and goblins…”. Vivid, hilarious and very clever.
The Kinless Sword (working title), by Stephen Godden, (author of Tales of the Shonri, City of Lights). No one builds worlds and whole cosmologies that suck me in so hard as his. You finish his stories and have to remember you live in this world.
There are others, wonderful books, but I think these will be published soonest – keep an eye out for them.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. Lol, last week, one of my editors said, ‛See your therapist before you write another book.’
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”? I never managed growing up – and with good reason. I decided all adults are mad. My first assessment of them was rather traumatic. Think of a six year old boy and lots of snow. I had weeks of fun and asked passing adults what they thought of snow. Almost all said they didn’t like it, or they did – but.
I learned that ‛but’ often meant ‛no’. Snow turned to slush, driving was tricky, snow makes your feet wet…
Adults were clearly stupid and I decided never be one. Since then I’ve worked out that adults don’t drag their children out to make snowmen.
You’ve found a time machine on your driveway this morning – where are you going to go in it? I would use it to enter the Dr Who story, ‛Blink’ – or meet the author. The author needs a hug/pint of beer for the incredible amount of effort that went into the timeline. I’m sure there are flaws in it – but I can’t find them (I forget to look after a few minutes). I’m impressed – really impressed. Well done.
If you could choose only one time period and place to live, when and where would you live and why? I would choose here and now. Writing takes a lot of time and the rest you spend in fantasy land. I miss out on reality and would like to catch up a bit.
Seriously, this has led to problems. People have asked me things like, ‛What do you think of Libya?’ To which I may reply, ‛It’s a hot place in the north of Africa.’ Somehow I missed the fact that we’d invaded it (or something) three weeks before.
I swear that, if I were to undergo a test for dementia, I’d be hospitalised. ‛Who is the current Prime Minister?’ (Er… dunno, do we have one?). ‛What day is it?’ (Today!).
What are you working on at the moment – do you have any other books in the works? Another Y/A-crossover – but guess what? – I’m to do total revision of it. There are two humorous fantasy books ready for rejection… lol, (I love witches). Two speculative fiction books await inspection as well – although I need to cut 20% out of one and that’s going to be a lot of work. The UFOAI stories have added chapters now; Christy and I are pulling them together into a coherent book.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? ‛Gary, shut up.’