TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Gaie: I’m not sure I have one! A tendency to write four or five hundred words in an hour then obsess about getting one word exactly right for twenty minutes? Is that a quirk? I also often wear fingerless gloves to work in, but that’s because my hands and feet turn to ice if I sit still for long. It’s not Reynaud’s or anything, I just have a really rubbish thermostat.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Gaie: Terry Pratchett, definitely, on both counts. Not that I think I could be like him – only Sir Pterry is Sir Pterry, and besides I’d rather be me than a pale imitation of someone else – but I admire him immensely. Angela Carter, Stephen King, J R R Tolkien, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Mike Carey, Neil Gaiman, Nora Lofts, Georgette Heyer…I should stop now. It’s difficult to say who has had the most influence. I think everything I’ve read and loved has probably influenced me to a different degree, non-fiction as well as fiction. Films and graphic novels have definitely also contributed to the way I write, the characters I develop and the subjects I want to write about.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a panster?
Gaie: Mainly a panster, certainly when I start on a book. I seem to work best by starting with a character and a fairly basic idea or two, and letting things develop from there. About a third of the way in I have to start working out where everything’s going, at which point I stop and plot in much more detail. And then it all changes again, and then it all changes again in the rewrite. I write an awful lot of words that don’t end up in the final draft. One of the most important things I’ve had to learn is that you have to be prepared to waste stuff. I have heaven knows how many scenes and characters stuffed into various ‘cut’ files because I loved them to bits but they had no place in the story as it ended up, and I couldn’t quite bear to throw them away completely. The great thing about electronic memory is that I can do that without filling up cupboard space I can’t spare. But now, with deadlines and so forth, and working on a collaboration on a different project with someone who is very much a plotter, I am having to do a little more plotting up front.
TQ: Describe Babylon Steel in 140 characters or less.
Gaie: Agh, a Twitter blurb! Here goes…
Brothel-owning ex-avatar of sex and war faces death, taxes and her lethal past in a city of many portals. Includes girl on lizard action.
(That last bit is nicked from the 'tart cards' Solaris did for me, which look like the cards that working girls used to leave in phoneboxes. The phrase 'girl on lizard action' seems to make people sit up and take notice more than anything else, funny that...)
TQ: What inspired you to write Babylon Steel?
Gaie: That would be very hard to say. The idea of a brothel in a city with links to other dimensions or planes has been hovering for many years, and I already thought of the madam as someone tough, but basically decent, who cared about her customers and particularly about the people who worked for her. It took a long time to coalesce, though, and my own ideas about sex and sexuality and confidence in writing about those things had to develop a lot. That’s not all the book is about, but those turned out to be things that, rather to my own surprise, I wanted to talk about.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the novel?
Gaie: I’m very fond of the scenes describing the city and the portals, because I just let my imagination off the leash and all sorts of weird stuff came out, some of which I hope to have great fun with later in the series; and I admit I’m rather proud of the sex scenes. I was desperate to get those right, and I’d never written anything graphic before. From the responses so far, they seem to have ended up working the way I wanted them to.
TQ: What sort of research did you do to create the world of Babylon Steel?
Gaie: Not a lot specifically for this book; I’ve always done a lot of reading on all sorts of subjects, so I had some knowledge of sex work and swordfighting from that. I did do a class in longsword for a couple of years; the people who taught it really knew their stuff and you got a free lesson in historical fighting styles and the realities of fighting with every class, so that was very useful indeed!
TQ: In Babylon Steel, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?
Gaie: I don’t think it was a single character that was particularly difficult; making all the secondary characters feel fully rounded was probably the hardest thing. It was pointed out to me during a critique that some of them were inconsistent, and some of them were simply rather flat. It’s not the first time I’ve had to realise that I had a clearer idea of my characters in my head than had turned up on the page.
The easiest was Babylon. She had a very strong voice as soon as I started writing, and she didn’t change much, even through a very thorough critique, rewrites, and several rounds of edits.
TQ: How many books are planned for the series?
Gaie: It’s not been planned out in that sort of detail at this stage. Somewhere between three and five, possibly, is the closest I’d like to get at this point.
TQ: What's next?
Gaie: Oh, I have several things in mind! I’m working on the sequel to Babylon Steel at the moment. Once that’s done I want to get back to a collaboration I’m working on with my partner, which is also fantasy but a very different style from Babylon, and I have at least one other project which is in more of a high-fantasy vein. A lot depends on time, to be honest. I have great admiration for writers who can produce several books a year; I’d like to get that fast, but at the moment I’m still coping with having deadlines for one book at a time. Also, of course, I do have a full time job!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Gaie: Thank you very much for inviting me.
Read Gaie's guest blog - Things I Didn’t Know - by clicking here.
About Babylon Steel
Babylon SteelBabylon Steel 1
Solaris, December 27, 2012 (US); January 5, 2012 (UK/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She's not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it's tax time, and there's not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night's takings are at risk when Babylon's hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.
She began writing shortly after learning to read, and has produced a large number of words, many of them different. She has worked as a cleaner, secretary, till-monkey, stage-tour-manager, editor, and now works for a charity and runs occasional writing workshops.
She is an obsessive reader, enthusiastically inefficient gardener and has been known to run around in woods hitting people with latex swords and declaim poetry in public, though not usually at the same time. She is currently working on a sequel to Babylon Steel, another novel in collaboration with her partner, writer Dave Gullen, and a romance, with orcs. She likes orcs.
Babylon Steel on Twitter
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