Another Monday, another Man of many words. This week I’ve got a Q&A with Karl Drinkwater. After my recent step into the sci-fi genre, his books intrigue me!! Especially Lost Solace, you’ll find info about that one at the bottom of the post!
Who are you?
Karl Drinkwater. A serious author (and editor) with a ridiculous name.
How many books have you written?
I think I have seven published (depending on whether anthologies count), with a couple of others due out later this year.
What kind of things do you write?
All sorts! My most recent books have been sci-fi (Lost Solace), with elements of fast-paced thriller and horror. I’ve also written literary/contemporary novels (such as Cold Fusion 2000), and horror/thriller (Turner, Harvest Festival, They Move Below). I vary genres because it should be the story and characters that determine genre, rather than being forced into one. Regardless of genre, I always want to tell a good story with believable and varied characters.
What’s your favourite book out of those you’ve written?
That’s tricky! Often it’s the book I most recently touched. So probably Lost Solace. It’s been really successful, with praise in stacks of reviews (I list some of them on the book’s page), demands for a sequel, and an amazing audiobook from a supremely talented narrator. The sequel, Chasing Solace, is due out soon. That will placate my fans for a while (I hope!), but I have a lot of plans in this area. If the books continue to be so popular I’ll round them off as a trilogy with a third book (I already have the framework laid out); also some spin-off short stories exploring other tales and characters from the Lost Solace world; and an almanac of details about the world – politics, science, organisations etc.
Why’s the response to that book been so good?
The reviews suggest a few things – fast paced, tension, twists – that’s all plot-related stuff. But mainly I think it comes down to the characters. Which is all the more gratifying because I tried a few unconventional things with this book, and one of them was limiting the characters to two, for most of the book’s length. They mostly just talk to each other, yet their changing relationship really seems to grip readers. In fact, in the Jera’s Jamboree list of Best Fiction Books 2018, Lost Solace was awarded “Best Kick-ass Heroine Award”, which made me incredibly proud! See, characters are so important for making a good book.
Can you tell me more about the characters?
I don’t want to give away plot points, but the two characters are Opal and Clarissa. Opal is an ex-soldier, on the run from the military, and risking her life to find something on a creepy and deadly spaceship (I say “something” because one of the other unconventional elements was hiding the main character’s true goal until the end of the book – normally that is made clear at the start, but I like to try out new things and take risks). Clarissa is an amazing artificial intelligence embodied in a top-secret spaceship Opal stole, and at the start of the novel Opal can’t be sure that Clarissa is fully trustworthy and won’t kill her at the first opportunity, especially if Clarissa discovers how she was hacked by Opal. This is one of the underlying tensions of the book.
Were you trained to do writing or have you taught yourself?
Both, I suppose. Studying English and classical literature at university taught me appreciation. Reading books about writing gives advice. Going to courses and classes encourages experimentation and diversity. Conscious reading gives hints on how effects are achieved. Advice from professionals and editors guides you away from common faults. Editing fiction for other authors brings the elements of good writing and stories to the fore, as well as highlighting things to avoid. Being a professional librarian for over twenty-five years immersed me in books and publishing. The rest is practice and accepting that it is not something you’ll ever master, but over time you should improve.
What messages are there in your work?
Firstly, watch out for chainsaw murderers, aliens, and zombies.
Secondly, no man or woman is an island.
Thirdly, without love and affection we become susceptible to depression and hate.
Fourthly, we should all be excellent to each other, to all species, to nature.
They’re in reverse order of importance.
Last year I was working on a few books, but didn’t release anything – I was just so busy! Partly that was editing books for other authors (I’m a bit of a fiction book doctor for authors who I respect), but also I was chairing a jury for the huge international Bram Stoker Awards. It meant a lot of work, for the whole year (all in secret – while you are a judge you can’t let people know). I got a snapshot of a mass of contemporary work for twelve months, which really trained my eye on what the current market is. That’s useful for me and my fiction clients. I’ve judged a few competitions over the years, it is always hard work but rewarding, and is partly tied to my professional membership of groups and organisations such as the Horror Writers Association, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. I like to give something back.
Blurb for Lost Solace:
Sometimes spaceships disappear with everyone on board – the Lost Ships. But sometimes they come back, strangely altered, derelict, and rumoured to be full of horrors.
Opal is on a mission. She’s been seeking something her whole life. Something she is willing to die for. And she thinks it might be on a Lost Ship.
Opal has stolen Clarissa, an experimental AI-controlled spaceship, from the military. Together they have tracked down a Lost Ship, in a lonely nebula far from colonised space.
The Lost Ship is falling into the gravity well of a neutron star, and will soon be truly lost … forever. Legends say the ships harbour death, but there’s no time for indecision.
Opal gears up to board it. She’s just one woman, entering an alien and lethal environment. But perhaps with the aid of Clarissa’s intelligence – and an armoured spacesuit – Opal may stand a chance.