Q&A with indie author Ian S. Bott
Give us the tl;dr of your life.
I hated creative writing at school. I studied mathematics at university — which coincidentally involved no writing whatsoever — and went into IT. Moved from Britain to Canada and out of the blue, in my mid-forties, decided to write a novel. Then another. And another.
Does your job in IT influence your writing?
It certainly does. My IT background influences a lot of the technology ideas — which is tricky because you don’t want the tech to end up feeling dated. And I introduce a lot of the stifling red tape and pitfalls of working in a large bureaucracy, especially into the Shayla Carver stories. I don’t think that will ever feel dated.
What’s the most difficult part of your writing process?
Story and plot ideas are far and away the most difficult part for me. I write action/adventure, so it’s vital to keep throwing new obstacles and twists into the mix. It takes me a long time to fathom how to get my characters into trouble and out again in creative ways. This is why I will never be able to pump books out every few months like many authors, even if I was able to work at it full time. It’s not a matter of getting words on the page fast enough (though that would be enough of a challenge). It’s that the ideas themselves take time to develop.
Which famous author’s work would you say your writing style resembles the most?
Frank Herbert. Yes, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it was a stretch question. I love his detailed worldbuilding and convoluted intrigues where you never really know who’s on whose side. I would actually like to say my writing style most resembles myself (that’s a mathematician’s answer if ever there was one), but then I’d have to be famous first. Maybe one day! 🙂
Is there a genre or style of writing that you can’t stand?
This is probably going to upset a lot of people, but I have an innate gag reflex to anything labeled “literary,” especially when it’s self-identified as such by the author.
Now, that’s opened up a can of worms, not least because there seems little consensus on what “literary” means. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed classic works like 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird, and these seem to have been labeled “literary”. However, I see them as great stories first and foremost, which have been conferred the status of literature by following generations, not by the author.
To me, the point of writing is to benefit the reader in some way. Where I get my gears in a grind over literary fiction is when it seems to be written more for the glorification of the author than for the benefit of any reader.
Tell us about your latest book.
The last book I published was The Ashes of Home, a sequel to my first novel. It’s sci-fi adventure with lots of intrigue, murder, and mayhem. My favorite kind of story.
What else have you written?
The Ashes of Home is a sequel to my first novel, Ghosts of Innocence. They are both far-future space operas. In between, I wrote Tiamat’s Nest as a standalone near-future dystopian story, and my current work in progress is another standalone. I love the Ghosts universe and Shayla Carver as a character, and there will probably be more stories from her in the future, but at the same time I don’t want people to associate me only with that universe.
Alongside the fiction, I tackle some nonfiction writing topics. I published The Critique Survival Guide as an aid to navigating the minefield of online critique groups, and am working on another booklet on dealing with writer’s block.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your stories? Ever written about a dream or a nightmare?
Bizarrely, yes. Some of Shayla’s nightmares in Ghosts of Innocence are drawn from nightmares I had following a traumatic event in my personal life. I used them to depict the effects of a mind under extreme stress.
What’s most important to you: strong characters, plot twists, or epic settings?
Hah! That’s a bit like asking what’s most important in a great lasagna — the pasta, the Bolognese, or the cheese sauce? In reality, you need all the ingredients together to make lasagna.
In writing, the starting point for me is usually the setting. That frames the story and gives me a visual anchor, which is a crucial part of my writing process. Then the characters start interacting on stage and I try to make them strong and interesting. The most difficult part for me is the plot. That takes a lot of mulling over and I always start writing with very little idea where the story is ultimately going. That kinda emerges over time as aspects of the setting and the characters drive what happens. But by the time I’m done, all three need to be there, otherwise I reckon I’m in big trouble.
Katherine Luck is the author of the novels The Cure for Summer Boredom and In Retrospect. Her latest book, False Memoir, combines the high stakes of a gritty psychological thriller with the guilty pleasure of a sensational true crime tell-all. You can read more of her work, including the “Dead Writers and Candy” series, at the-delve.com.