Today on the blog, I’d like to introduce you to Tim Lees. He is a fellow author published by Harper Voyager Impulse and Tartarus Press. I decided to interview him and review one of his novel of my own accord and my opinion here is unbiased and honest.
To share a bit about Tim, I can tell you that he was born in England but now lives in Chicago with his wife and two dogs he loves, even if they are horrible from time to time. When not writing he’s tried his hand at being a teacher, a conference organizer a film extra and more. His short fiction has appeared in Postscripts, Black Static and Interzone. He was nominated for a British Fantasy Award for his collection The Life to Come.
His novel THE GOD HUNTER was released this summer and after reading it, I can tell you that his writing is direct and his characters true to life. You can read my short review of his novel on Amazon or Goodreads.
Now, let’s learn a bit more about Tim and his novel:
How does a day in Tim’s writing life look?
Shambolic. I would like to say I keep office hours and write almost non-stop, relying on skill, technique and hard work rather than inspiration. And there are days I do do that. Other days I mess around and put in a lot of time at the computer or scribble in notebooks, but nothing much seems to get done. Only a percentage of it is ever any good. Mostly I feel like I’m stalking the good stuff, trying to sneak up on it. Often I will only know days or even weeks later whether it was any good. So I keep working anyway, and hope for the best.
I do certain things better in the morning – usually revision, editing. By afternoon I try to con myself by going out to a café or some other venue and working there for an hour. This might mean running through a print-out or writing a first draft. The change of venue is often helpful at recreating that fresh, just-woken-up mentality. There are other tricks, and even miseries such as jetlag or insomnia can be co-opted into the fight; non-normal mental states may help you see a different aspect of the story, or solve a problem in a new way. Alcohol works up to a point, but pretty soon you discover that you’re not drinking to help you write, you’re writing to provide an excuse for drinking. So that’s not really recommended.
I really like your idea of using non-normal states of mind to help see a different angle to the story. Very interesting! So tell me, where did the idea for THE GOD HUNTER come from?
I often have an idea in my head for a long time before I get to use it. The seeds of The God Hunter were planted in my first published story, way back. Then I noticed a book called Ghost Hunters on my wife’s bookshelf, and somehow the story just appeared in my head. I combined it with the first idea and, eventually, it became a novel.
Sometimes ideas never get used. Even in short stories, usually two or three different elements have to come together before I feel the piece will work. Sometimes I’ll write half a story and leave it, perhaps for years, then rediscover it and find the second part is ready to be written.
Amazing how the mind works. Do you ever base your characters on people you’ve met? (I loved your characters. They felt so very real!)
I base them on characteristics of people I’ve met, which is not quite the same thing. When I was younger I wrote a number of romans á clef, all unpublished, and discovered that a character only really came to life when I departed from the template and added a bit of imagination to the mix. The same is true of scenes; the stuff I just made up seemed far more real than things that actually happened and which I wrote down pretty much verbatim. I suppose that’s why they call it “fiction”, isn’t it?
The dialogue in THE GOD HUNTER was excellent. Any advice for authors on writing good dialogue?
I think it’s a combination of two seemingly opposed things. As I mentioned above, I used to write a lot about events I’d actually experienced, trying to get the dialogue as close as I could remember to the real thing. So there’s that aspect: how do people actually talk? And that kind of dialogue may well be suitable for certain books. The God Hunter is an adventure story, though, it’s meant to be entertaining, and genuinely realistic dialogue is seldom that. People are never as concise (or as funny) as they think they are. So I filtered that through the kind of verbal sparring you get in, say, Raymond Chandler’s books. Lots of one liners, and the hero actually gets to say those witty ripostes that most of us only come up with afterwards.
The other thing I would suggest is—remember where your characters are coming from, as people. They’re not there simply to put across whatever information you want them to convey. They’re probably thinking about something else entirely. Sometimes it can be good to ask yourself what’s going on for them, aside from the action of the book.
Rapid Fire Questions
You’ve had some interesting jobs, what was the worst ever?
I worked in academia, rising to the lowly position of Research Assistant. I co-authored papers, edited books, ran conferences, met various esteemed personages, etc, and the whole thing sounds wonderful—the work, indeed, could be fascinating—but it was a nightmare; an organisation that ran almost entirely on bullying and nepotism. Nor was I the worst treated. It was a great relief to escape into the world of mental healthcare in which, despite some genuine dangers, there was real teamwork, objective goals, and (regardless of the shortcomings of the system itself) a chance to actually provide some benefit to people.
What is your favorite book?
Just one? I don’t think I can answer that! But I always loved Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin; I love the way he takes a horrendous period in history (the rise of the Nazis) and focuses on a few individuals caught up in the mess – small, often comic stories that somehow never trivialize the greater horrors going on around. In fantasy, I think Brian Aldiss did a similar thing with The Malacia Tapestry, a book I also much admire. But a favourite? Depends what mood I’m in.
Favorite book YOU have written?
Whichever makes the most money… (says the dedicated artist)
Thing you miss most from Manchester?
The past. Although I missed that when I lived there, too.
Thanks so much for visiting, Tim!
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