Welcome to another Saturday Interview with a renowned Historical Novelist. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Steve Harrison.
Steve Harrison was born in England, migrated to New Zealand and eventually settled in Sydney, Australia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. As he juggled careers in shipping, insurance, online gardening and the postal service, Steve wrote short stories, sports articles and a long running newspaper humour column. In recent years he has written a number of unproduced feature screenplays (although being unproduced was not the intention) and developed projects with film producers in the US and UK.
His script, Sox, was nominated for an Australian Writers’ Guild ‘Awgie’ Award and he has written and produced three short films under his Pronunciation Fillums partnership. Prior to publication, his novel TimeStorm was Highly Commended in the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) National Literary Awards.
Here is the blurb for TimeStorm:
n 1795 a convict ship leaves England for New South Wales in Australia. Nearing its destination, it encounters a savage storm but, miraculously, their battered ship stays afloat and limps into Sydney Harbour. Here, the convicts rebel, overpower the crew and make their escape, destroying the ship in the process. Fleeing the sinking vessel with only the clothes on their backs, the survivors struggle ashore.
Among the escaped convicts, seething resentments fuel an appetite for brutal revenge against their former captors while, for their part, the crew attempts to track down and kill or recapture the escapees. However, it soon becomes apparent that both convicts and crew have more to concern them than shipwreck and a ruthless fight for survival; they have arrived in Sydney in 2017.
TimeStorm is a thrilling epic adventure story of revenge, survival and honour set in a strange new world of unfamiliar technology and equally unfathomable social norms. In the literary footsteps of Hornblower, comes Lieutenant Christopher ‘Kit’ Blaney, an old-fashioned hero, a man of honour, duty and principle, dragged into the 21st century… literally.
A great fan of the grand seafaring adventure fiction of CS Forester, Patrick O’Brien and Alexander Kent, and modern action thriller writers such as Lee Child, Steve Harrison combines several genres in his debut novel.
The book was inspired by a replica 18th century sailing ship on Sydney Harbour and a question from Steve’s brother, Tony: “What if that was a real convict ship?” TimeStorm explores that question in a fast-paced story as a group of desperate men from the 1700s clash in modern-day Sydney.
TimeStorm was Highly Commended in the 2013 Jim Hamilton Award fantasy/science fiction category of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) National Literary Awards
Here is my interview with Steve:
Please tell us,why did you choose to write historical fiction?
Historical fiction chose me through necessity in order to write my novel, TimeStorm. I have written stories and scripts in other genres, but this particular tale allowed me to write about my favorite period.
What in particular fascinates you about the era(s) you write about?
I have always been fascinated by the epic nature of the Napoleonic period and I have devoured all of Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe novels, many of them several times. But my greatest love is for the classic seafaring adventurer heroes. My father introduced me to Hornblower, Aubrey, Ramage and Bolitho, among others, and I became absorbed in their worlds of honour, duty, violence and romance. I’m sure actually living in those times would destroy my romantic notions, but from the safe distance of the 21st century it looks like a very lively time.
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
TimeStorm developed from a simple ‘what if’ question by my brother as we watched a tall ship on Sydney harbour more than 25 years ago. He said, “what if that was a real convict ship?” It was like a sledgehammer to my imagination and in a very short time I had the story; a 1795 British navy ship – with a Hornblower-esque hero – is transported through time to present day Sydney, where the convicts rebel and escape. I was able to indulge my love of that historic period together with time travel and modern action thrillers. I had my cake and ate it!
What song would you pick to go with your book?
Given the disasters that befall my characters, I would have to choose Ship of Fools by World Party.
Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?
About 30 years ago I had a boring job and decided to write a short story. Until that point I never had any interest in writing, so I don’t know what prompted it. The story was well received, so I started writing, well, anything and everything; sports articles, a newspaper humour column, film scripts, greeting card sayings and T shirt slogans. I made some money from writing, but nothing regular and every few years I would rewrite and submit TimeStorm to publishers. The work paid off and it only took just over 25 years to find a publisher…
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
Writing came spontaneously (see above), but I did get a lot of encouragement. I was fortunate to start writing before the internet, at a time when many editors would write back with long critiques of rejected stories. They helped me tremendously, eventually (see above!). I also had a former friend who told me I would never write a book, which was great motivation.
Which character is your favourite?
Rufus Redmond, the ‘villain’ of TimeStorm. I don’t see him as a villain, as he has a good reason for being the way he is, but he was both frustrating and rewarding to write. I couldn’t control him and try as I might to direct his actions, he always had the last say.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
All my characters are me, or aspects of me. They allow me to act out those horrible, mean thoughts I daren’t reveal to anyone in the real world, and also be the classic gallant and fearless hero I would like to be.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
The story and subplots of TimeStorm came to me pretty much whole, right at the start. In fact, I read my original manuscript recently (a horrible experience) and there are very few changes, and certainly nothing significant, in the published version. I can safely say my writing improved over the years, though. I think the books was a one off, though, as my writing is much more organic these days.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
My small publisher provided an editor and proof reader and it was a very sobering experience. I had gone through the manuscript countless times, but they found so many typos and other errors it was embarrassing. They made me feel better by saying a writer should never (opinion, remember!) edit their own work, because they see what they meant and not what they wrote. If I ever self-publish, I will spend whatever it takes for good professional editing.
What is your advice to new writers?
I have a bee in my bonnet about this subject. I consider all writing advice to be opinion, and in my opinion new writers should challenge or ignore it and find their own unique voice and way of writing. I particularly dislike advice that begins with ‘you should’ or ‘you must’ or ‘you shouldn’t.’ There are no short cuts in writing and, again in my opinion, the best writers are those who made the most mistakes along the way. I do not see the point in avoiding a potentially valuable writing experience just because someone says you should. Discover why you should do or not do something by doing it!
All TimeStorm buying links at Elsewhen Press: http://elsewhen.alnpetepress.co.uk/index.php/catalogue/title/timestorm/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MXP9AOC
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00MXP9AOC