This week I have another great Indie Author! My guest, Tim C. Taylor currently has 8 titles available to appease your very hungry kindle!
Let’s see what he had to say when he sat down and answered my 20 Questions!
1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I live with my wife and son in a little English village called Bromham that’s been around since Anglo-Saxon times. For twenty years I worked in the software industry until being made redundant in February. My co-workers gave me a Kindle as a leaving present. That gave me ideas, and six weeks later I set up Greyhart Press. Initially, I only planned to publish my own back catalog as eBooks, but I quickly turning to publishing other authors.
2.) How long have you been writing?
Since 2002. Actually, that’s how long I’ve been writing fiction. Before then, I wrote software professionally and music somewhat less so. Back in my schooldays I used to build worlds with role-playing games, such as Traveler and D&D. Looking back, it’s obvious to me that I’ve used the same creative muscles in all these endeavors.
3.) Do you have a preferred genre that you read? Is it the same as what you write?
I read more broadly than I write. I enjoy history and science non-fiction, alternate history, and classics (of which my recent favorite is Les Misérables). Mostly, though, I read science fiction. Now that I’m a publisher, I have a lot less time for discretionary reading as I have to work through a stack of submissions. While they are often a joy to read, there is a sense of obligation.
4.) What is the title of your book and where can it be found?
My most recent book is a science fiction novella called Last Man Through the Gate. It is available now at www.amazon.com | www.amazon.co.uk | www.smashwords.com and will be coming to other retailers shortly, priced $1.35 / 99p.
5.) Describe your novel in 15 words or less.
“It ramps up excitingly through time distortions, grief, conflict, and peril, to paradoxical revelation.”
(Actually, that’s cheating. The words come from award-winning author and movie-scriptwriter, Ian Watson; I can’t better them.)
6.) Where did the inspiration for your story come from?
It came from research notes I was making for another novel called Stain Blossoms. I found I was sketching out one aspect of the world-building ideas in ever greater detail, purely for my own pleasure. Then I thought: ‘Why don’t I dramatize them…?’
7.) How long did it take you to complete this novel from concept to published?
Seven months. I wrote Last Man Through the Gate as a novelette in January and workshopped it the following month. Then I worked with an editor to turn it into a novella. Together, that took five weeks. Before another round of copyediting in September, it sat on the shelf as I was concentrating on publishing other authors through my Greyhart Press imprint.
8.) When you sit down to write, how does that process go? Do you outline or just let it evolve?
I always outline. Immediately before writing a scene, I scribble some notes about key outcomes for the scene, the feelings of the characters, and any key phrases of dialogue. Also, I like to picture the lighting conditions in my head. I feel that if I can’t picture how the light works, the setting description won’t be vivid enough.
9.) Are there any aspects of writing you struggle with?
Finding some time free of distractions. Not easy with a five-year-old son!
10.) Are there any aspects that you simply glide through?
11.) What sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
Dimension-hopping, portals, gates, time-slips, and magic mirrors have been done before. What I wanted to do here was explore the effect on the characters of the journey between worlds, rather than simply use the portal as a convenient device to serve up exciting settings.
12.) What is the location of your story setting and why did you choose that place/time?
It starts in Jastrevech, a city in the Dual-Kingdom of Vengria-Alpheria, and then shifts through a portal to the colony city of New Landing. Jastrevech is part of a strife-torn continent that is loosely based on Europe in the years before 1914. If Jastrevech was in the real world, it would probably be in Serbia.
I find the causes of the First World War to be a fascinating topic, albeit pretty grim. It’s still deeply controversial and emotive. Every state in Central and Eastern Europe was deeply unstable, and taking that as an inspiration makes for a rich setting.
13.) Your main characters, tell me about them. What is their back story? How did they find themselves where they are now?
The main character’s name is Codrin. He’s a university professor, comfortably middle-class but not respectable due to his race. He’s a Shreb, which means he has something of the dubious social standing of a Jew or a Slav in Hungary or Germany in 1914.
Codrin is thrown out of his job for political reasons. Suddenly he has no income. He spends everything he’s got to transport himself and his family across the Gate to the New World.
At the start of the novella, he’s the last in a line of Shrebian men crossing the Gate to find work and lodgings before being joined by their families.
14.) I’d like to know more about your book. Tell me all about it.
Well, I don’t want to tell all as there are a series of revelations! Most I explain, but even they pose further questions and I don’t explain all. I try to make the language I use as clear as possible, same with the character motivations and the plot. But with some of the revelations, I hope to provoke a little speculation and a sense of wonder from the reader.
15.) What do you want readers to take from your writings?
I have themes but I don’t like to use overt messages. I like to think my readers are both entertained and transported into a perspective on the universe that may be very different from their own. If there is a social value delivered by fiction writers, it is that letting readers experience the world through other eyes builds empathy; and empathy builds social cohesion.
16.) Are more books to follow or is this a stand alone?
Both! There is no sequel as such, but I use many of the same settings and concepts in other stories. I have a couple of novels coming out after Christmas that share one of the settings, and together make a sort of time-travel / alternate history rework of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress . In fact, buried very deeply in Last Man Through the Gate, are some surprising connections to John Bunyan and his works.
17.) Where can readers find you?
18.) What are 3 random things about yourself that readers might like to know.
I shifted from physical to eBooks (when eBook editions were available) about a decade ago. Unfortunately, my first books were all Microsoft .lit format, which seems to have died a death.
The last time my picture was in the newspapers, I was playing Willie Wonka in a school play.
When I was at university, the lecturers would write their presentations using special pens on a reel of overhead projector film. My father was a research chemist for ICI; he designed the coating for that OHP film.
19.) What do you do in your down time? For fun.
I love building Lego worlds with my young son, and flopping, exhausted in front of the telly with my wife.
My friends have persuaded me to brew beer again. I used to design my own recipes, doing full-grain mashes. Now, for a simpler life, I augment beer kits. I do a beer called Uplift Ale in honor of my favorite author, David Brin (after his Uplift War trilogy). David Brin himself ‘overheard’ me tweet about this and gave me the thumbs-up, which was a very lovely surprise.
The crossing by his physical body was straightforward; Codrin’s legs simply stepped over the lip of the Gate. His mind, though, experienced a far from simple passage through the membrane separating the world of his birth from the New World of his ambition.
Hidden perils snatched at his psyche from a blank spot that lurked inside the membrane. Perhaps monsters were reaching for his soul? Maybe other pathways tempted the unwary traveler to someplace else?
Doubt snapped at him. Would migrating to the New World prove to be the right course? Would Anita and the girls keep safe until their time came to follow him? Those thrice-damned Vengrians had forced him from his professorial chair. With little income and his life-savings evaporating, he saw no alternative to emigration.
Codrin brightened. He was a Shreb, and Shrebs always had hope.
He deflected his fears, concentrating instead on the instructions the official had read out to the migrants before they began their transits. Build momentum. Divert every mental faculty onto the movements of your body in the physical plane.
That had been easy for the official to say. He was a Vengrian mumbling guidance to a line of Shrebian emigrants he would be pleased to see the back of. The man had probably never made transit.
The instant Codrin had pierced the shimmering Gate membrane, Time flowed more lazily. Mental capability inflated. His perception encompassed much that had been hidden, and dimly perceived far more than anyone should be exposed to. From the outside, only the width of a grain of thought separated each side of the membrane. You could clearly see the destination chamber in First Landing from the underground hall in Jastrevech. To go through the journey, though; that was arduous, lengthy, and the most exciting experience of Codrin’s existence.
Protracted though the transit might be, it eventually proved finite.
Codrin’s brain slowed and his senses began to enclose him in a numbing embrace. Great revelations that had appeared shockingly obvious began to slip away, driving shards of anguish into his heart.
Then his mind popped free of the Gate’s pull.
Codrin Alteanu emerged and stumbled across a warm stone platform.
The ground hummed.
A crude wooden ramp ran down to the floor, detouring around a concrete pillar that was erected directly in front of the Gate. The man who had passed through the Gate before Codrin neared the end of the ramp, and was about to join the flood of men below.
He was burly and well-wrapped in a blue greatcoat, cloth cap, and woolen scarf. His belongings bulged out the canvas sack of indeterminate color slung over his shoulder.
“Hey!” Codrin called out to the man. “Hey! What’s your name?”
The man turned to stare. At first he looked suspicious. Then he saw Codrin’s honest excitement and nodded his head to show he understood. Talking had been forbidden at Jastrevech. Now they were free.
“Gabriel Dajkovich,” said the man. “And you?”
“Professor Codrin Alteanu.”
Dajkovich grunted approval and then laughed at some hidden joke before carrying on down.
Codrin gripped the handrail. Instantly he jerked his hand away. The wood was sticky with dirt and sweat. He tutted, mostly at himself for worrying about such a trivial matter as hygiene. Hand on rail, he shuffled down the ramp to join the queue.
Sounds of fatigued wonderment emanated from a line of about a hundred men, mostly Shrebs like him. They snaked in parallel lines through turnstiles and into tunnels lined wall to arched ceiling in green: the color of the Free States. This, the most powerful country in the New World, was Codrin’s new home. His daughters would grow up here.
The ramp reached to a column that faced the Gate. A soldier was stationed there at ground level and was watching Codrin now. He wore a grey uniform with twin yellow stripes down his trouser legs. A musket was slung over his shoulder.
At the Jastrevech end, the soldiers had bayonets fixed. They stood at the ready to persuade any Shrebs who had second thoughts about signing away every possession in exchange for banishment. The Free States soldier smiled at him indulgently.
That was a welcome change.
Codrin looked up at the clock mounted on the column above the soldier’s head. He had stared at this clock from the Jastrevech side as he waited his turn to cross. It read four am. The hour did not perturb him. The lack of hours did. The second hand ticked as it should, overtaking the minute hand through the normal sixty divisions. Except here in the New World, the clocks only showed twelve hours.
The soldier’s indulgent smile was becoming strained, but Codrin judged he had a few more moments. He was, after all, the last across the Gate and his fellows had to queue to pass through the processing turnstiles. So Codrin looked back through the Gate to his home world for the last time. The power hum under his feet seemed to grow as if berating him for this sentimental foolishness.
In Jastrevech, a clock on a marble pillar stared back at its New World rival. Jastrevech time was half past thirteen in the evening, but Codrin was interested only in the march of the second hand.
Hours, months, and years made no sense on this side of the Gate, but the seconds were set to tick and tock to the precise same beat that had marked out his life in the Old World. At home, Anita would be sleeping in their bed right now with those same seconds ticking away on the alarm clock beside her. That steady delineation of Time’s passage was a tenuous thread that crossed the gulf between worlds to connect Codrin to her.
Also, clocks gave promises of the moment that would come when ninety days had passed, and Anita and the girls would cross the Gate to join him.
Codrin squared his shoulders and whispered a goodbye to the Old World. Those ninety days were for the men to prepare money and lodgings. Better get started.
A sense that something was amiss rapidly gripped Codrin. The hum of the Gate throbbed through the sprung wooden ramp. He looked back again at the Jastrevech clock.
The seconds were not the same!
He looked from one clock to the other. There was no doubt; the Jastrevech clock ticked faster.
“Not many people notice,” said the soldier. “Our local time here at First Landing runs slightly faster.”
But he was wrong. Codrin pointed at the Jastrevech clock. The seconds were running faster there; not here.
“Come on, sir. Time to move on.”
The Jastrevech second hand quickened into a red-tinged blur. Codrin watched the soldiers there race away to their barracks in a strange jerking rush.
“You need to come with me, sir. Now.”
“No. Look! Something’s wrong with Jastrevech.”
Finally the soldier did look. By now the second hand at Jastrevech was a ruddy smear. The minute hand jerked into movement.
“Horden’s bones!” The soldier drew out a whistle and blew.
The hubbub in the hall immediately fell silent. For an instant, Codrin thought he heard an alarm bell ring somewhere in the distance, but the sound was instantly drowned out by the thrumming of the Gate. The ramp shook so violently with the vibration that he had to grab the handrail with both hands.
The hall filled with the clamor of frightened men surging into the processing tunnels. Even though Codrin feared his fellow Shrebs would be crushed to death against the turnstiles, he too staggered down the ramp to escape the Gate and join the melee below.
A side door opened. An officer shot out, leading a handful of soldiers and technicians in short, pale blue jackets. They dashed towards the Gate.
The soldier who had blown his whistle ran to the officer to make his report but the officer had all the information he needed.
“Turn it off!” he ordered.
The technicians threw themselves at the stone mound that supported the Gate. Codrin had assumed the metal hoop of the Gate had been set into solid stone. Now he saw recessed latches undone and panels removed to access the innards of the Gate platform.
A blur of motion prompted Codrin to look back at Jastrevech. The cavern had disappeared, replaced by a rude brick wall stained by an angry red light like a freakish sunset. A large sign read in Commonwealther: Your time is running very slowly. Please advise!
Amidst all the noise and confusion, Codrin was struck by how he had tilted his head to read the sign. The wall it hung on was slanted as if one side of the Jastrevech cavern had slumped. Perhaps an earthquake had damaged the machinery?
Then the brick wall disappeared. When Codrin looked through the dull metal hoop that housed the Gate, he saw only the far wall of the same chamber he stood in.
“Thank God,” said one of the technicians. “Whatever just happened drained the power cells almost to empty, and we’ve no spares.
Codrin’s breathing was coming in staccato gasps.
“I dread to think what could have happened,” said the technician. “If we hadn’t switched off when we did, the explosion would have obliterated half the city.”
Why weren’t these people talking about repair? Surely they could restart the Gate? They had to.
The officer took off his peaked leather cap and scratched his head through cropped black hair, mulling over what had just happened. The man looked thoughtful and intelligent. In fact, Codrin realized, he looked like a younger version of himself. Perhaps the officer would understand?
The officer looked up at Codrin, who was still on the ramp. The fellow was going to say something, to explain how Anita would still be able to join them within the ninety days.
“It seems you are the last man through the Gate,” the officer said in halting Shrebian. “I am sorry. Perhaps that is a good thing for this world but I offer my sympathies for what must be a personal tragedy for you.”
Codrin staggered, flinging his arms to keep his balance.
An awful picture came into his head of his little girls sitting on the rug by the drawing room rocking chair. Their knees were hugged to their chests and they were looking up at their weeping mother, imploring her to explain: “Why can’t we join Daddy?”
Codrin called out to the officer in Commonwealther. “Please. How do we restart the Gate? What do we have to do?”
“For you?” Disgust crumpled the officer’s face. “You do whatever the Platburgs tell you.”
Several moments passed before the officer realized Codrin did not understand. “Oscar Platburg bought your passage,” he explained. “He didn’t pay those bribes out of a deep-felt need to help his fellow human beings. One of his thugs will be out in the exit foyer waiting to herd you to their workers’ hostel.”
That wasn’t what Codrin was asking. His mind began to form words to express that urgent tightness inside, the ache that would never relent until he had been reunited with his stranded family. As he did so, he saw in the officer’s eyes that he already understood the meaning behind Codrin’s question. There was no hope there.
“Welcome to the New World,” said the officer. He walked away, leaving Codrin alone.
Alone but not entirely hopeless. If the authorities were in no hurry to repair the link, then Codrin and his fellow Shrebs would have to fix it themselves.
Thanks for giving me the time to talk about my new book.
Tim, I loved having you here! You’re welcome to come back anytime you want!