Diamonds in the Sky
Book One – Parousia
Hello and thank you for reading! My good friend Liza O’Connor has kindly offered to let me do a blog about the first book in my new Science Fiction drama series but I am terrible with writing about my own work and have a tendency to ramble on so I asked a friend of mine if she would conduct an interview with me instead! Hopefully, that gives this blog more of a cohesive structure and stop it from looking like my hair in the morning (A total mess) – So here it is, my blog interview!
Mae – Hi Lance, so Diamonds in the Sky is the first in a series of books and I know it’s your first, tell us more about it and how you came up with that title.
Lance – Right, well it’s a multi-perspective book about seven people, each from a different culture with their storylines set in America, France, Chad, London and Aberdeen in Scotland and how their lives are impacted by the arrival of 200 diamond shaped ships, each twenty miles wide that land all over the earth. Diamonds in the Sky is actually the name of the book series, Parousia which is the title of the first book is the ancient word for Arrival and in fact my first book in the series was originally going to be called Arrival and then that damn movie came out with the same name and it’s also about spaceships arriving on earth – So I changed the name. Fortunately, my book series and that film have nothing in common with each other beyond the fact at the beginning they both have spaceships arriving on the earth in.
Mae – So it’s a series. How many books do you envisage there being to tell the entire story?
Lance – I think probably six. The first book only covers the first four days or so, the second book covers the next couple of months and each a longer period of time thereafter. The timeline for the book is five years.
Mae – So is Science Fiction a genre that has always interested you and what made you choose this topic for your first book?
Lance – Actually I’ve only read a handful of Science Fiction novels before so that choice wasn’t deliberate at all. It came about because I wanted all of my main characters to be very different from each other as I am very interested in the clash of cultures in our society but I also wanted to write a story where all these very different people would be connected by a singular event, that would impact on all their lives and gradually bring them together as the story unfolded. I’m also very interested in the social and economic challenges the world is facing today so there’s two main themes throughout the story. The first is immigration, the second is the growing divide between rich and poor and how that is ultimately unsustainable. These themes are only hinted at in the first book but they will become very relevant later on.
Mae – So the Sci-Fi backdrop enables you to explore these issues?
Lance – Exactly. It’s not a heavy Sci-Fi book at all and it’s set a year or so from now, so it should feel very relatable and relevant to any reader. At least I hope so.
Mae – Tell us about the seven characters.
Lance – The book starts with Diana, a single mother of two breaking down on Highway 50 in Nevada, she is coming out of an abusive relationship and travelling to her brothers when she observes one of the ships coming into land. Then there is Blessing, a black Nigerian immigrant who has recently been relocated to Aberdeen by Social Services. She is on a bus on the sea front when one of the ships arrives over the North Sea. Then we have Ryan, well Ryan is a total wanker. A self-entitled conservative politician and member of the cabinet who is minister for health. He has a massive cocaine addiction and is actually in love with his transsexual dealer who is Candice, another of the main characters, she is from Brazil and someone whom Ryan has begun a sexual relationship. Both love the other but neither wants to say it. In France is Tariq, part of a terror cell which is about to pull off the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 – His character is the most complex of all them. Lastly there is Omari, a camel trader from the remote town of Fada in Chad Africa, a man who knows his way of life is coming to an end and is travelling back to see his daughter Joy. Joy is the seventh character in the book but she doesn’t come into it until the second half of the first novel.
Mae – That’s quite an eclectic mix.
Lance – Yes, well I live in London which is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world and I love it for that so the choices are very much a reflection of the different people I have met in my own life. Also my partner is from Uganda so I have a really strong interest in African cultures and that continent in general. I’ve never actually been to Chad though so I had to do a ton of research to get Omari culturally correct, which was actually fascinating.
Mae – On that note let’s talk about your writing process a bit. Can you tell us something of how you went about planning the story? What kind of preparation did you do?
Lance – Ah hmmmmmmm, this is a difficult one. This is the first book I’d ever written so I was very much winging it to a degree however I am a script writer in my day job, so the process of creative writing was something already in my skillset and many of the lessons you apply are basically the same. In terms of planning I had I think four of the seven main characters well defined before I started which were Diana, Ryan, Omari and Blessing. Joy, Candice and Tariq came in fairly quickly after that. I had some scenes or chapters fairly clear in my head but I kept the actual writing process as organic as possible. I obviously did research and used google earth a lot, which was very helpful with the Aberdeen storyline, as I have never been there myself. Some of the best ideas and supporting characters just came to me as I went along including the big twist at the end of the first book where you realise not everything is as it seems with one characters storyline. And (Spoiler alert!) I knew I was going to kill one character off before the end of the first novel because I didn’t want the reader to feel too safe and would set in a precedent that anyone could go at any time.
Mae – You said its six books. How much of the entire story arc do you have planned out? Do you know how it all eventually ends?
Lance – I do actually have what will be the final chapter of my series, involving two of the lead characters very clearly in my head. It’s very dramatic and the perfect ending but how I get there is still a very organic process. You always have to be willing to change things that don’t work - I had a whole storyline set in Atlanta with the Governor challenging the authority of the American President and the country being on the brink of Civil War but I dropped it as a main character arc (Including the planned character perspective) because I realised that would be taking the focus of the story too far into the realms of the political. Most of us often feel quite removed from the political process in our daily lives and I wanted to keep my story grounded in that respect. So you have to always be prepared to completely chuck something out if it’s not working. There’s always going to be at least one new character perspective in every book as well. In fact, I have just finished writing the story arc for new character in book two. He is an Ufologist from New Zealand called Rafferty James.
Mae – I read on your website that many of the characters are based on real people.
Lance – Everyone has either been based on someone I have actually met or an amalgamation of two or three people I know. I’ve also based the physical likeness of many characters on my favourite actors and in some cases their acting styles have seeped into the personas of those characters. In book two there’s two characters based on two of my favourite actors – The great Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and the incredibly funny Rhys Darby (Flight of the Concords) who is just an incredibly gifted man. I also happen to know Rhys is interested in anything to do with UFOS, so I sent him a copy of my book and let him know that there’s a character coming based on him. He thanked me via his twitter account! Actor Mark Strong is a firm inspiration for one of the supporting characters in the first book, as is the late Alan Rickman, an actor I miss from our film and television screens most dearly.
Mae – I know you’re also a film maker. Do you see this as a movie one day?
Lance – I actually wrote it with the format of a television series firmly in my mind. One season per book. If that ever happened, it would of course be amazing. In fact, the whole reason I had the window to write the book in the first place was because the film I was working on got delayed for the third time. My partner said to me ‘Maybe now is the time to write that book you keep talking about.’ – They say everyone has one good book in them, well this is mine, except its six books!
Mae – Can you try and sum up your story for the new readers out there?
Lance – Erm okay. It’s a character driven story Science Fiction drama (Light on the Sci-Fi) seen through the eyes of seven very dysfunctional people that explores several social contemporary issues. I like to think there is something in it for everyone!
Mae – Brilliant.
Lance – Not sure about that. The best I could do on the spot! I still need to master my pitch, it’s all a learning curve. I know you just finished the first book, so let me ask you something. Who’s your favourite character and why?
Mae – Ah now you’ve put me on that spot!
Lance – AH well it’s only fair.
Mae – Well I have to admit they’re all very interesting and different but I should probably pick one of the women, so I’d say Blessing, because she starts out this fairly dedicated Christian woman who is constantly on the lookout for a potential husband and then her story goes somewhere you don’t really expect.
Lance – Ah yes, just as is often the case in real life. Things rarely turn out as we expect, isn’t that the same for all of us?