Sunday, 1 June 2014

Interrogating Tim Arnot

Meet Tim Arnot.  You'll find him hanging out after the apocalypse.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I write what I want to read. I hope other people want to read the same kind of things. So far no one has complained because I killed off X, or Y didn’t get off with Z. I guess the only compromise I make is in terms of “maturity”. I pitch my writing at what might be termed a “15 Certificate” level, so that determines how much swearing there is (yes I have f-bombs, although not many), and what levels of violence, sex and nudity I allow myself.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

My stories are post-post-apocalyptic (is that a genre?). There was an apocalypse somewhere in the distant past, and presumably a post-apocalypse too, although it’s not important to the story. We’ve had lots of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction that deals with the immediate aftermath (Terry Nation’s Survivors on TV in the 70s was probably my introduction to the genre, and consequently a big influence), but I think it’s much more interesting to look at what has happened to society, say, 100 years down the road.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I have an A5 sized notebook for every project, that works kind of like the rough books we had in school. So I try to do all my planning etc. in that. It does capture many plot bunnies, but there are lots more that crop up while I’m driving, or in the bath, out shopping etc., and that relies on me remembering them until I can scrawl them down on the back of a napkin, or get my phone out an email myself. Those bunnies do have a habit of getting lost.

One of the nice things about Scrivener (the program I use for writing) is that it has a “Research” folder, and that can capture web sites. So if I’m browsing – for the sake of argument – the difference between a brig-rigged sailing ship and a ship-rigged one (it’s the number of masts, btw ;)) I can easily save the web site for later reference.

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed

They go in the book, along with the rest. I tend to plan fairly well in advance – you need to when you’re writing a trilogy, because things that are going to happen in book 2 might need to be set up in book 1, and stuff for book 3 needs to be kicked off in book 2 – so they don’t distract me too much.

I never get rid of stuff I’ve written – even if I’ve “deleted” a 30,000 word sub-plot, because one day it might come in useful.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?

Probably quite a lot, I dunno. I think it would take someone else to spot it, and it’s not something I really think about. Who would I like to be? Probably Socko. He started off as basically a simple cypher to deliver some evidence, but he really kicked off my imagination, and has now got his own spinoff series. In terms of who would I like to be with? That’d be telling, and anyway she wouldn’t be interested.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

There’s a spouse? Anyone who’s seen the state of my house and garden would know that boat sailed long ago!

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I love reading space opera. Big epic spaceship battles are definitely my thing. I did try to write one one year for NaNoWriMo, but it was awful. Truly awful. But I do read pretty widely – Post-Apoc and Dystopia of course, but also thrillers, fantasy, speculative fiction are my staples. I’ve recently discovered Urban Fantasy: Ben Aaronovitch – look him up if you haven’t read him. Utterly brilliant. I’m not so keen on out and out horror, and I run away screaming from historical romance.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

Not enough, obviously. Like every author, I struggle to find the pot of gold whose name is visibility. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your words are, how many freebies you have, knickknacks or whatever, if nobody knows about it. In the end I decided it was probably more important to get on with writing the next book, and not worry about it too much.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

I love it. Of course I strive for a perfect product from the get go, but we’re all human, and things do slip past  me, my editor and my beta readers. But because direct publishing through Kindle, Kobo etc. allows near-instant updates, we can fix issues pretty much as they arise (unlike traditional publishing, where any errors are fixed possibly forever).  I have a standing “thing” that anyone who emails me with an error that I subsequently fix, gets a part in the next book. There are several Characters in Hunted, for instance who are named after people that reported a typo in Wanted.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?

I’ve found a great bunch of people there, many of whom I now consider friends, and some of whom are now my beta readers. The GR UKAKF tends to have quite a low signal to noise ratio, but it’s a good place to let your hair down for a bit, and we’ve had a couple of meet ups, which was fun.

What is on your near horizon?

Hunted, my second novel is currently with beta readers, and is expected out in August. I’m starting to ramp up publicity for that. I’m currently writing the third Socko spinoff – “Socko’s First Fire” and the third part of the Flick Carter trilogy, tentatively titled “Defeated” plus another spinoff novella are in development.

Where can we find you for more information? is my Facebook page. @TimArnot is my twitter. My blog is but I admit to being rather lax at keeping it updated. I do have a mailing list for people interested in new releases, at and I’d love more people to sign up for that. You can also spot me around the KUF GR and KBoards forums.

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