TC: Today I’m welcoming Scifi author, Ian Bott who recently published his
debut novel: “Ghosts of Innocence”. Welcome, Ian. Thanks for sharing some time
IB: Thanks, Teresa, it's great to be here.
TC: First, I want to share this with you. As you know, I write
scifi/romance and some fantasy. My daughter remarked to me a while back while I
was considering using a pen name rather than my real name, Cypher, that “Cypher” is a really cool name for a
scifi author. I mulled it over and decided that she’s right. No pen name was
needed; it was the best scifi author name possible. That was… until our paths
crossed. “Ian Bott” might be the all-time, best-ever, scifi author’s name, even
if it is a pen name.
IB: Well, I've always wondered about the
"Cypher". Believe me, you are streets ahead in the cool names
business - and even cooler that it's your real name!
TC: Thank you. I’ll be sure to send my daughter the link to this post!
I’ve read Ghosts of Innocence—and it’s a great story. It has a tough and
smart main character, Shayla Carver. It has other worlds, space travel,
political agendas, and a brewing revolt. All the things that add page-turning
conflict and tension. Where did the story came from?
IB: Thanks! And glad to hear about the conflict. I
was getting critiques on a different story - my first attempt at a novel - and
it was clear that I didn't have enough (read "any") action or
conflict early on. I struggled with how to achieve this, and got frustrated.
"Action?" I thought, "I'll give you
action!" and I dashed off an opening scene with a crashing starship. There
- enough action for you?
The first two chapters came easily, then I
realized I had to actually turn it into a story. What was Shayla doing there?
Why was she toasting a starship? What did she plan to do? What happened next?
You get the picture.
TC: “Action? I’ll give you action!” Yes indeed, and you did. You put your
characters in a situation and they took off. Then, for the first two chapters,
you had to keep up with them and write down what was going on—you were a
pantser. After that, you were a plotter?
Are you usually a plotter or pantser?
IB: Both. Or neither. I like to have a high level
plot, and then flesh out bits here and there. The story emerges like a ship in
the fog, a shadow, then details coming clear as you get closer. Sometimes I'll
write scenes with only a vague idea how they fit into the overall picture.
One thing I can say with certainty is that I don't
start at the beginning and write to the end like a true pantser. I write until
I get stuck, then leap ahead to a section that interests me. Eventually I'll
come back and fill in the gaps.
TC: It’s always interesting to learn the way writers approach each
project. You must be very organized to be able to jump to other parts of your
story. Now that the book is finished, looking back, what do you think was the
best moment while writing this book?
IB: The whole thing was fun, but the best moment was
writing "The End." Knowing that I could say "I've written a
novel." That was the goal I'd set myself at the outset. Thoughts of
publication didn't come until later.
Next best moment I think was unwrapping the
package from the printers and holding my first paperback in my hands - and
seeing my own artwork on the cover. That was another long-standing goal of
TC: Your artwork is simply beautiful!
I posted it in a x-large format so it could better appreciated. Your attention to detail is outstanding, yet the details don’t take away from
the visual grandeur of the scenes. Stunning…
“The End” Such a proud moment! And the other side of the spectrum—what was the
most difficult part of writing this book?
IB: Coming up with the plot, and with plot twists.
I envy writers who have endless ideas for "what happens" bubbling out
of their heads. I can see setting, characters, dialogue, but struggle with
"what happens." I find it especially difficult to get my characters
into enough trouble to liven things up - and then out again. Some writers excel
at getting their characters into trouble, and then deeper and deeper.
TC: What was your solution?
IB: Hmmm...I'm not convinced I've really solved
it. I brainstorm a lot. This is where the "plotting" side of me comes
out. I map things out in diagrams - timelines, swimlanes, cause and effect
networks. I work out where I need to be and thrash out creative ways to get
there. It's hard work.
One thing I've learned to pay attention to, which
helps sometimes, is what happens to the characters off stage? They're not
sitting in a dressing room waiting for their next turn in the spotlight. They
have their own lives to lead and their own motivations for aiding or
interfering with the protagonist's plans. What are they up to? That can lead to
some interesting twists.
TC: A good thing to remember—what’s happening when the characters aren’t
front and center. If you could offer one
piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?
IB: Treat all advice with a mixture of caution and
There's a lot of advice out there, some
consistent, some conflicting. It's worth paying attention to - there's a reason
why people say to limit adverbs, get rid of needless words, show don't tell -
but slavishly following even the best advice can kill your voice and suck the
soul out of your writing.
There is a place for adverbs. Sometimes showing
can slow the pace and a quick tell is what's required. Don't be intimidated by
critiquers waging war on every tiny violation of "the rules". Choose
carefully when to follow advice and when to set it aside.
TC: I think that’s sage advice. Well said! Now, one silly question before we’re done. If
you could have a bulldozer or a helicopter to play with for one day, which
would it be?
IB: Helicopter. No hesitation. I've always wanted
to fly in one. But while we're in fantasy mode let's go the whole hog and make
it a Bell Huey with a 1000W sound system hanging off each side belting out Ride of the Valkyries...
TC: A true writer you are! I got the visual—along with the sound.
Nicely done! I want to thank you again
for sharing not only your time but your experience and knowledge with me and my
IB: It's been great
visiting, Teresa, thanks for having me.
Ian is celebrating his book release by giving away three ecopies to three lucky (randomly chosen) commentors on this interview post. All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment here.
And to better your chances of winning a copy, head on over to goodreads where Ian is running a giveaway. You could win one of three paperback copies!