Could you tell us a little bit about your novel?
Breakdown is a novel about a man’s journey to find lost friendship and love in a post-pandemic, post-technological breakdown society. It’s a book about the people first, and only marginally about the world they live in. But the world has shaped them to some extent. Chris, the main character, has watched his wife and baby die in the pandemic, and travels home to Britain from New York to see if any of his family there is still alive. Also weighing on his mind is his former musical partner, Brian, with whom he’d had a falling out years before. Chris has put up a wall around his feelings. He has to learn to grieve and let go, to open his heart and learn to trust. Can he manage to let himself be happy again?
What drew you to this apocalyptic scenario?
Tough question. I suppose the thing that got me writing this story was an incredibly vivid dream I had many years ago. A man and his son were walking through the town of Bath, England (I recognized it, having visited four times!). I could tell their world had changed. The people were ragged, many buildings boarded up, cars rusting in the street. People were bartering in an open market area. I never got that dream out of my head, and the whole story evolved from it. I came up with a fairly plausible scenario that would change the world so drastically. I decided on a broken friendship because I had experience with that, and knew how much it can eat at a person inside. I liked the fact that this guy can’t just phone or email his friend or brother to find out if all is well. He has to travel long distances. It turns his life into a quest. He gets sidetracked along the way. It opened up plenty of plot possibilities.
Also, I’ve done a lot of reading about plagues and pandemics, and I’m of the opinion that it’s just a matter of time. I have a stash of surgical masks. If I could afford gas masks, I might have those, lol.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
See above. Dreams sometimes spur me on when I seem hopelessly stuck. I’ll have a short, intense, vivid dream with a key scene. I’ll write it down frantically, then start extrapolating from it, deciding where to take various aspects of the story based on the scene. Usually it works out well, but sometimes I end up ditching some of what comes out of the dreams. Sometimes a dream has totally changed the direction of the plotline. I’m not prolific. I can go weeks or months without writing anything. It does not flow out of me. I have to tear it out, bit by bit. It can get painful, because often I use things that have happened to me, things that have hurt me, and hurt my characters with them.
What makes mainstream fiction a great genre?
Hm, I guess because it has wider possibilities? Some people might say “I don’t like sci fi,” or “I don’t like fantasy,” etc, etc. But have you ever heard anyone say, “I don’t like mainstream”? I’ve always liked fiction that is character-based, character-driven. Oh, and I like my characters to be real, human people. Even as a kid I didn’t like animal stories, I wanted people. I generally don’t like high fantasy or vampires or zombies. Any of those genres I’d probably pass on. But I’ll try nearly anything mainstream.
What authors inspire you?
Lois McMaster Bujold is amazing. Recently I’ve been in awe of Orson Scott Card. Just discovered him. How did I miss him for so long? As a teen I read a lot of John Wyndham, and still love his stuff. Connie Willis. Amy Tan. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few important ones! Funny, mostly those are not mainstream authors, are they?
Thanks for taking part in the conversation here at Freelance and Fiction!
What a great point Katy made about having to struggle to get a story written. It’s good to write every day, but sometimes it can be just as good to let an idea percolate a while and wrestle with it before you put it on the page!
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