Author Spotlight – Gavin G. Smith
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Gavin G. Smith!
Gavin G. Smith is the Dundee-born author of the hard edged, action-packed SF novels Veteran, War in Heaven, Age of Scorpio, A Quantum Mythology, Special Purposes First Strike Weapon and The Bastard Legion.
Thanks for joining us today, Gavin. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I reread Iain Banks’ Espedair Street a few weeks ago. It was the second of his books I read and one of my favourites. Despite being set in the 80s it hadn’t aged, it was still a wonderful book. I’m currently reading Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, which is superb.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I am a grumpy wizard. I’d be all about spells so unpleasantly malicious the people would want to leave me in peace and quiet. Beyond that I think my weapon of choice would be sarcasm and friends who are larger and more dangerous than I.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I’d prefer to imprint my words on a medium telepathically. My handwriting is awful, if I want to read it I have to print it. Whereas if I have everything in an electronic format I can cut and paste wherever I want. I’ve written prose on my phone before and added to a document at a later date. I am a 2-finger typist though (I try and write at least 3k a day as well! I think I just like making life difficult for myself.)
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I prefer the silence of the shrimps, Clarice. I am always listening to music. I try and listen to music that fits the mood of whatever I’m writing. As I get older, however, more and more of it’s instrumental. I certainly can’t listen to music with lyrics in it if I’m editing or proofing. Projects don’t feel right until they’ve got their own ad-hoc soundtrack, however, and MCs should have a theme tune.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I think it’s kind of important to set yourself times to sit down and work, and also to ensure that you do things like shower and get dressed every day. I plan but don’t mind if I stray from it. I tend to do 4 hours straight on the current WIP with the rest of the time doing contract work, admin, self-promotion or side projects. I’m not sure there’s anything particularly unusual about the way I work. I have a motivational picture of Sláine from 2000AD glowering down at me as I do so?
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Fantasy specifically? Influence is a tricky question as writers tend to pay a lot of attention to everything that’s going on around them to use in a book. Film and games, particularly TTRPG are huge influences, but landscape and history are also very influential, music creates films in my head, people I’ve met or know become characters. In terms of inspiration I’d struggle to pick between films, landscape/travel, games and music.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Gah! I just watched Sleeping With the Far Right. I watched it because I’m extremely worried about the threat the far right poses at the moment. It wasn’t fun or terribly pleasant viewing.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Exploring Fjordland in the South Island of New Zealand with my girlfriend, making friends with the penguins, doing some diving there and then retiring to a place with an open fire, good food and a decent single malt.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
I think everyone’s expected to say semi-colons. I have no strong opinions on this but then my written English ain’t great. I prefer ” to ‘ but that’s it. If anything I wish we could ease up a bit and use !? together because people do exclaim questions sometimes. I’m tempted to start putting the words “s/he/they exclaimed” after question marks just to see what happens.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
I’m having a love/hate relationship with it. One of the characters is a selfish snow leopard. It’s all about a family seen through the eyes of their only daughter.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I’m tempted to say the Ian M. Banks’ Culture but I think I’d have a lot to learn before I’m capable of that. Sláine is another one but it’s so much Pat Mills’ thing it’s very difficult to imagine anyone else doing it. I’d love to write some Wild Cards. I would’ve loved to have written an episode of Buffy or Sons of Anarchy, and there’s a host of Marvel characters I’d love to write for, particularly a little known Marvel UK character called Black Axe. I’d also quite like to write a Rogue Trooper/Aliens crossover and I’d love the opportunity to write Red Sonja. I don’t know there are loads.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I listen to the Best Seller Experience a lot and that is full of good advice. I’ve had a lot of more experienced authors try and steer me round the pitfalls when I first started. In terms of a single piece, the one that comes to mind is Sarah Pinborough (again on the BXP) saying that you don’t have to write every day, but at the same time you’re always sort of working on the novel. (Chris Wooding has suggested that my characters should be nicer.) The worst is anyone who tells you how to write. All anyone can tell you is what works for them, adapt what’s useful to you, jettison the rest and be careful about giving anyone money for such advice.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Funnily enough I’d just posted something on Facebook about this. I have a significant aspirational failure as far as this is concerned. I’m fascinated by history, and although I’m very interested to know what Iron Age Britain was really like the past sounds dangerous and unpleasant by my rarefied modern standards. So I’d go back to New York in the summer of 1973 (just a few months before I was born) and watch Led Zeppelin play Madison Square Garden.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
In more recent years I’ve started to struggle with this, I just used to push through. Keeping your eye on the ball, asking yourself what you’re trying to achieve and remembering that by the time I come back to look at the bit that’s giving me trouble it won’t be nearly as bad as I think it is. These stumbling blocks are frequently to do with how we’re feeling rather than what’s actually going on on the page.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Michael Scott Rohan’s Chase the Morning. It’s a wonderful story about a fantasy sub-culture of 18thC-style magical pirates that lives alongside the real world. It really engages your sense of wonder, which is what I want for a certain kind of fantasy.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
A black ops soldier steals a prison spaceship full of 6000 of the most dangerous criminals known to humanity, and turns them into her own penal mercenary legion. And Mr Shark if the idea of Aliens meeting the Dirty Dozen doesn’t thrill you then I’ve got a harpoon to sell you.
Brilliant! Thanks again for joining us, Gavin!
Gavin Smith is the author of Science-Fiction including Veteran, War in Heaven, Age of Scorpio, A Quantum Mythology, Special Purposes First Strike Weapon and The Bastard Legion.