Welcome Andy! I loved your first trilogy - The Book that THEY Do Not Want You to Read - and I'm so glad you wrote Red Plus Zone. It's one of my new favorites! Or, should I say favourites?
Anyway, let's get to it!
Can you tell us a little about Red Plus Zone?
Red Plus Zone is set in the near future, some eight years after a global cataclysm that has become known as The Shattering. As a result of this event, time is no longer constant and uniform, and it moves more quickly and more slowly in different places. Sometimes the transition from where time goes fast to where times goes slow (or vice versa) is gradual, but in other places, it is sudden – these places are called fractures. It is at a fracture where the book starts, with a body that has been nailed out across a fracture so that one half of it has seen the passing of decades, and has been reduced to little more than a skeleton. It is the investigation of this murder that forms the basis of the book.
What was the inspiration for Red Plus Zone?
The first idea for Red Plus Zone came whilst I was thinking about ideas for short stories. I was trying to come up with something really original, something that I didn’t think anyone had written about before. I thought about time and wondered what it would be like if time moved at different rates in different places. From there, the idea just grew.
Red Plus Zone (RPZ) is sci-fi, right?
Yes. The key premise of the story is what would the world be like if time ceased to be uniform and constant. That, in my eyes, places the book firmly in the sci-fi arena.
Why did you add the crime element? Why did it need to be sci-fi and a detective book?
It was the original idea where a dead body could be found in two different states (just dead and dead for decades) that dictated the crime element. It was a natural progression to then have the body ending up in the situation it was found in due to foul-play, and therefore a further simple step to have the solving of the crime as the key storyline.
Where does your story take place and when?
The story takes place in and around the fictional town of Charwood, which is not-so-loosely based on Blackburn and the surrounding area in the north-west of England. It’s an area where I’ve lived all my life and I think it makes a good backdrop for the story because there is an ‘ordinariness’ about the place, and about the people who live in it, which (hopefully) those who read the book will be able to empathise with.
What makes you feel that Sam McCall is compelling enough to be in a series? I think he is, just want to know why you think so.
As the development of Red Plus Zone progressed, so Sam became more and more important. Originally, the main focus of the story was on the ‘shattered’ world and how difficult it would be to exist in a world where time is broken; there was also a lot of emphasis on how society might recover from such a monumental cataclysm, and what shape that society would start to take. But over time, it became apparent that it was important for readers to have an anchor in the narrative, something they could relate to and empathise with, and so the character of Sam McCall began to grow in importance. As it did, so it became necessary to give Sam’s character depth, not only to increase the interest in him, but also to use him as a vehicle to look back on events in the past, such as when the UK was under Martial Law immediately after The Shattering.
This isn’t your first book, right? Tell us about your trilogy.
The Book That THEY Do Not Want You To Read (Parts 1, 2 and 3) are quite different from Red Plus Zone in style, though they too would sit firmly on the sci-fi bookshelf. They recount, through the words of his diary, the adventures of Jethro Postlethwaite (also of the north-west of England) following his encounter with an alien Ambassador called Tukaal, whereupon Jethro has to go on the run, is injected with alien memory oil so he starts to remember things which happened to someone (or something) else, is captured and tortured, escapes, goes on the run again, discovers the true nature of man’s existence, learns about Emotional Energy and W.I.M.D.s and comes face to face with a powerful alien overlord known as The One...along with a load of other stuff!
Those who have read it have kindly likened it to Douglas Adams – and there is no greater honour than that!
Why did you choose independent publishing over main-stream?
Necessity really. I’d tried to get publishers and agents interested in both The Book That THEY... and Red Plus Zone, but with little joy. Red Plus Zone in particular was met with many favourable comments, but no-one seemed prepared to take a leap of faith with it. If you have real belief in a book, that’s frustrating. Independent publishing (I’ve used Autharium, who have been awesome in their support) means you can get your work out to an audience and (hopefully) get some real feedback from them. The challenge of going down the independent publishing route is getting your book noticed, which is certainly not easy.
When I worked with you to edit RPZ, what was your favorite part of the process and your least favorite?
To be honest, I enjoyed the whole process. When you’ve spent so long working on a project and you’ve become so intertwined with it, having someone take a cold, hard look at what you’ve done and not be afraid to tell you where it’s soft and where it’s flagging is really refreshing. Yet it’s hard as well, because sometimes there’s sections that you’ve written which you really like and you’re really pleased but you’re told that they slow the pace too much and either need to be shortened or even culled. That’s hard, but that’s what an editor needs to do, tighten the book up, making sure that it keeps the reader fully engaged.
How do you feel RPZ benefited from the editorial process?
RPZ definitely became a better book after the editorial process – it felt crisper, less flabby. And there was a confidence in it that I didn’t have before, the sort of confidence that comes from having someone independent read through your story and then confirm that it makes sense, that it’s enjoyable.
Have you started on Sam McCall novel number 2?
Yes and no – I have a solid idea for the second book that will probably be darker than Red Plus Zone, but I haven’t started writing it in earnest. I’ve always worked on the principle that I wouldn’t start a sequel until I was confident that there was sufficient interest in the first book and that it had been well received by those who had read it. I guess that’s why I’ve never got round to writing The Book That IT Doesn’t Want You To Read, because the first book (albeit a trilogy itself) didn’t take off. Also, I’m currently working on a novel called The Peculiar Case of God vs Pratt.
Thanks again for the interview, Andy! It's been a pleasure.
If you haven't gotten your copy of Red Plus Zone yet, do it today! You'll be glad you did.