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Interview: Science Fiction Author Gareth L. Powell
The author gives us a glimpse at the writing life.
Gareth L. Powell is no stranger to prolific publishing. According to Gareth’s Newsletter on Substack, the author has been writing for nearly twenty years, with more than twenty books going to print in eleven languages. He has twice won the coveted British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel, and his short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld and Interzone, and been featured in numerous anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois.
We’re honored that Gareth is joining us today and hope you’ll find inspiration and wisdom from his insights.
Along with the difficult act of publishing traditionally, you've been nominated and honored with awards, and have been a full-time writer for nearly 20 years. Looking forward to the next 20 years, what does success look like for you?
Awards are great, because they tend to pull in new readers, so I'd like a few more of those. And of course, I'd love to hit a few bestseller lists. But to be honest, I'll be happy as long as I can continue to make a living doing what I love.
Can you share what's on the immediate horizon? Any new novels in the works, TV shows or film adaptations?
My tenth novel Descendant Machine came out in April, and since then I've written and delivered my eleventh, which is called Future's Edge and is a standalone set in brand new universe. Titan Books will publish it, and a short story collection, in 2025. There is an adaptation of my Embers of War trilogy in the works, but there are no streaming details as yet.
What can readers expect when they pick up a Gareth L. Powell novel?
Hopefully, when you dive into one of my books, you will have a good time. There are complex, relatable characters; twisty, fast-paced plots; the occasional flash of humour; and some mind-blowing science fictional and philosophical ideas handled in an accessible way.
Science fiction novels, just like fantasy novels, often come in a series of volumes. How did you decide that would be the case for Ack-Ack Macaque and Embers of War?
I wrote the original Ack-Ack book as a standalone, but it caused such a stir that the publisher asked me to turn it into a trilogy. With Embers, it was conceived and sold to Titan Books as a trilogy. I knew it was going to be an epic tale, and three books seemed like the right length to tell it.
You mentioned attending Fantasycon recently and feeling inspired. What else inspires you to write? As a follow-up, how do you get motivated when you're not inspired?
I find my wife, Jendia Gammon, hugely inspirational. She has a fantastic work ethic and her background in science journalism means she's used to getting words on the page as quickly as possible, and that's a great example for me, as I tend to write fairly slowly.
What do you believe is at the core of any science fiction story, no matter the sub-genre?
Science fiction holds a mirror up to our world. It reflects our hopes and anxieties for the future. So, I think the core of any science fiction story should be a comment on how our lives will change if X and Y happen. But at the same time, it should also show us wonders and blow our socks off with new and strange concepts and ideas.
You mentioned back in May of 2023 that you were setting up a production company. Can you give us a high-level overview of what your production company will do?
The idea is that we will eventually produce film and TV projects, but that's a way in the future. Our immediate goal is that we will set up a publishing imprint, but again, that will take a while to get everything in place. We want to make sure we do it properly, and that involves a lot of time.
What does your publication process look like, start to finish, for your books? Can you provide a brief summary of the various steps in the process?
Once I deliver a book to my editor, she will read it and come back to me with initial comments, which will mostly be based around the plot, making sure everything makes sense and the story's satisfying. Usually, I'll follow all her suggestions, because she's very insightful and experienced. We may go back and forward a couple of times, then the manuscript goes to a copy editor, who checks for spellings, consistency and continuity. Then when we're all happy, the book goes to print, and we send some advance copies out to reviewers and other authors.
Working as a full-time author is the dream for many writers. As a full-time author yourself, what's something you've learned that might surprise other aspiring writers?
I have seen some authors struggle when their passion suddenly becomes their job. It can kill your creativity when the thing you've been doing as your creative outlet turns into an obligation. But if you can keep the joy and excitement alive, you'll be fine.
Many thanks to Gareth for spending his time with our Lunar Awards community. You can find the author encouraging fledgling writers on his Substack: