Today I welcome author Ian Pattinson:
I write in various genres. I concentrate on the story I want to tell rather than trying to force it to comply to a set of rules. Consequently I'm not sure which, if any, genre Sounds of Soldiers would fit into. It's a satire on technothrillers, with very few technothriller-y bits. Or maybe science fiction, though all of the technology described is currently available. I think it would end up on the General Fiction shelves of a bookshop.
I have written a couple of crime novellas, which are the beginnings of what I hope will be a long running series. And the story I'm working on at the moment is a horror comedy.
Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
It depends upon how I feel about the story. Sounds of Soldiers was fairly seat of the pants. I had a strong idea of what had happened before the story opened, some of which is related in flashbacks, but no real plan for the main body of the story. The narrator was exploring, and the early chapters mostly came from me imagining how something would work in the world I'd created and then having him encounter an example. As the details built up I expanded upon them until the point where it was fairly obvious where the story was going.
Other stories have been more tightly plotted before I started them. My current story has a plan for the first three chapters, and I will plan the rest of the book once I'm sure I've established everything I want to.
What drew you to the subject of Sounds of Soldiers?
I used to read lots of technothrillers- Tom Clancy, Dale Brown and the like. They were something of a guilty pleasure for me, I liked the background research and tight plotting, but found the dialogue was often wooden and the attitude to the rest of the world patronising. The books all seemed to assume that the USA, and, more specifically its Right wing and military, was always right and would always prevail.
For a long time I wanted to write a technothriller satire, taking the excesses of the genre- a blind worship of technology, the assumption that might is always right, etc.- and do a story about a war started for the most dubious of reasons. However, the technothriller writers kept placing themselves beyond satire- for example, in Rainbow Six Clancy painted environmentalists as genocidal extremists and defended the West's right to destroy the planet. There was the danger that, no matter how far over the top I went, some people would think I was serious.
In the end I approached the subject from a different angle. I began wondering what would happen if the US started a poorly judged war and lost, and how would a technothriller style big dumb conflict affect civilians. Apart from filling body bags, everyday citizens are generally ignored by the genre.
The final planning for the story was coming together in late 2008, and news from the US gave me another angle. What if a politician as dogmatic and uninformed as Sarah Palin was in charge of the States? What sort of bad policies would result?
The way I told the story was influenced by the book Stasiland, a great book about life in East Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. From this I got the idea to tell the story as a travelogue. With everything in place it all went together quite easily.
Did you encounter any obstacles in researching it?
I found researching the story quite easy. For a few years I wrote a blog on Green developments and technology, and lots of the details in the story were based upon things I'd already investigated for that. Scenes in Paris were based upon a few days I'd spent there. The trickiest part was a sequence on France's Mediterranean coast, as I'd never been there, but I managed to get the geographical information I needed from Google Maps.
What’s your writing schedule?
I don't have a schedule. I work part time, and the days can shift around the week. I also have other projects on the go. Because I'm a bit disorganised this all means that I'm not writing anywhere near as much as I ought to, though I am working to rectify that.
What’s your favorite quote?
"No plan survives first contact with the enemy."
What is your favorite word?
Most of my favourite words are rude. I do like "discombobulate" which means to confuse someone.
(Chris Redding note: That's one of my faves, too.)
What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go?
Probably Japan. But I'd also like to spend a month or two in New York City, or live in Paris for a year. And there's a lot- most, in fact- of Europe that I haven't visited. This year or next, when I've made enough money, I plan to Interrail around Europe. I'll have to be careful, though, that's what the narrator of Sounds of Soldiers was doing when the war broke out......
What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?
The Future. I know that's a bit of a facetious answer, but if you go back more than a few years you'll find yourself in a nastier, more brutal world. And then you'll realise that you don't have the skills needed to conjure up things the locals imagine are magic. I don't know how to make gunpowder, I've only once skinned and filleted a dead animal, despite my country upbringing I never learnt to fish and I've completely forgotten how to control a computer from the command line. I don't even have an encyclopedic knowledge of key sporting results so I could gamble my way to wealth.
No matter what people may say, things are better now than they've ever been. Life spans are lengthening- not just in the West but all across the globe- diseases are being eradicated and we're illuminating the areas previously darkened by superstition. We run the risk of reversing the positive trend, it's true, but I'm optimistic. I want to see what great things we can do as a planet in the years to come.
Where do you write?
Recently I've been writing in coffee shops, because it's good to get out of the house. Sometimes I write in bed. Because I have a netbook now I'm trying take it with me more often and get in a bit of writing wherever I end up.
You are welcome to make up your own questions if you like also. Anything you think will illuminate what you want your readers to know.
Ian Pattinson was born in Wales in 1970. Growing up, he lived in Brazil, Lancashire and Cumbria before going to university in Manchester and settling there. Ian blogs regularly at http://www.spinneyhead.co.uk and often draws inspiration from the links he posts. He wishes he could drag himself away from the computer more often so he could get more cycling done.
Sounds of Soldiers imagines a Green future after a cataclysmic war rips apart Europe and destroys the United States. Returning to Manchester after five years on the continent reporting on the war, Robert Jones sets out to reconnect with friends and family and find out how life changed away from the front line. Presented as a travelogue with flashbacks to the war, Robert finds recycling projects, a new sense of community and shadows and ghosts reaching across the Channel for him.
Sounds of Soldiers can be bought in paperback or as a pdf from http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/sounds-of-soldiers/13399260
Or for Amazon's Kindle- https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004A157PS (UK), http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004A157PS (US)
Information about other books, and formats as they become available, can be found at http://www.spinneyhead.co.uk/books/