Thursday, 12 April 2012
GIVING QUESTIONS, DEMANDING ANSWERS: The Al Ewing interview
He is the wizard of weird, the imam of imagination, and the kaiser of cosmic plot - he is Al Ewing.
Pax Omega is his third and latest tome for our Pax Britannia series - the world's longest-running series of Steampunk novels.
This epic novel, which spans all of time, features Ewing's anti-hero El Sombra and is a rollicking mega-bite of meaty goodness...
We caught up with Al to discuss the universe of Pax Omega, the vast enemy of writing that is the internet, and the mating rituals of dust mites...
* What were the particular challenges you faced in writing for an established universe?
It's an established universe, which means it's somebody else's universe, which means I have to find spaces in it that haven't been colonised and use them. Fortunately, Jon Green left me plenty to work with - I've been allowed to pretty much run amok in the Americas - and when I had the realisation that the past and future of his world was open to me to play with as well - within reason - it meant that I could address a question that's been bothering me from the start: what is Steampunk? And how far can you push it before it becomes something else?
* Tell us a bit about Pax Omega and why people should buy it.
It's the big finish of the story I've been telling since I started writing novels. It's got El Sombra's final battle with Hitler in it, for a start, and it's not going to be what you expect. It ranges from prehistoric Earth to the year One Million AD, and tells a coherent story despite that. I can honestly say that in my personal opinion this is the best book I've ever written, so if you already enjoy my stuff I think you'll be in for a good time.
* Tell us a bit about your writing routine.
I wish there was a routine! If I had a routine I could stick to it'd solve all my problems. I think 'having a routine' is number one on the lists of Things To Do To Be A Real Writer that people put up on the internet all the time. Basically, I load up on coffee or sugar-water and sit down and bang at the keys until life gets in the way. Life's been getting in the way a lot lately, to the extent that I feel I need to reevaluate my whole way of working in order to cope with it. It's like time's sped up while I wasn't looking, which probably means that I need to pay a lot more attention to those lists.
It doesn't help that I'm easily distracted by fascinating/appalling cultural things happening, but without that mindset, my work wouldn't be what it is. It's a matter of controlling that urge to absorb information, making it work for me rather than vice versa. I make up for it as much as possible by writing deep into the night, although as I get older it gets harder on me to do that. Night's still my favourite time for serious writing, though.
* What are your five favourite novels?
Off the top of my head and subject to change:
The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K Dick
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Breakfast Of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
Breakout, by Richard Stark
The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, Douglas Adams
Although I could fill the whole list with Dick (fnarr) or Vonnegut or Stark, quite frankly.
* What advice would you give to new writers hoping to break into the field?
There is no one way to break into the field. Do what you do best, and hopefully over time people will notice. Be yourself. Try not to be a bad person. If you are a bad person, try to improve. Start small, and finish what you start. Synchonicities are your friend. Don't depend on them, but don't ignore them either. I'm making a list, so I'll stop.
* Pax Omega spans the length of the life of the universe – what could possibly be more epic?
At this level, the market demands non-linear value. We take it down to a novel about a single exchange of pheromones between two dust mites living in a carpet in Spokane. That one will probably take me several years to write.
Pax Omega is out this week in the UK and Ireland, and next week in North America.