I am happy to say that I got to be part of the blog tour for Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe. Below I have a Q&A with the author Richard Dee, who was kind enough to answer my questions. Please keep an eye out for the upcoming review on Wednesday!
What is your favourite childhood book?
Once I learned to read, there was no stopping me. I devoured Enid Blyton, then I moved on to Narnia. I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels back in the day, it’s hard to pick a favourite, I think the Famous Five were the first to give me a love of adventure, particularly because the cast were ordinary people, thrust into unexpected things, having to use their wits to survive.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Lord of the Rings was a game changer for me, as was Dune. They showed that if you wanted to, you could create a whole world, or even a universe, complete in every detail. Everything worked and had a basis in logic; there was never a point when you couldn’t believe that it was all possible.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel? Tell us about it.
That’s tricky; I have to be careful in what I say here. I’m a huge fan of self-published authors, especially the ones that few people have heard of. I champion them whenever I can, people like Helen Hollick, Alison Morton, K.Y. Eden and James Mortain. They put in as much work as any big name author and deserve as much credit. There is so much good writing just under the mainstream
Which book was the first to make you cry?
Fluke, by James Herbert. I was expecting a horror story, what I got was…, well you should read it. I would be very surprised if you were not as moved by it as I was.
What would you think are the most common traps for aspiring writers?
With the rise in self-publishing, it’s easy to think you’ve finished a masterpiece and press publish before it’s really ready. Editing is so important, and you can’t self-edit! So is a proper cover and a good layout with a sensible font.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Perhaps you could say that it is, after all, you’re creating a world and you have the power to give life to it and your characters. You can just as easily destroy them as well but that doesn’t mean that I think I’m omnipotent. It’s an ability, like cooking or driving a lorry, you have to remember its limitations and the responsibility that comes with it.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I wrote a short story in 1979, and made it into a novel in 2013, so you could hardly say that it was a thing I rushed into. Life got in the way. When I retired, I kept having ideas and in the end, they got to the stage where I just had to start writing them down. One led to another.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I changed my surname; I thought that Richard Dee looked better on a book cover. My real name isn’t a secret, it’s just that you can hide behind the other one, to a certain extent.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
It would be very easy to jump on a bandwagon. I’d rather try to be a bit different, even if it means that it takes longer to get noticed. At the end of the day, I’d rather set the trend after next than hang on the coat-tails of the last big thing.
I have noticed that you write both standalone books and series. Which do you enjoy writing more and why?
I never meant to write series. That came about from reader’s comments, asking for more adventures or explanations. As I started to expand my stories, they almost took on a life of their own. The characters develop and you can see what they could have done, or will do. It’s great to think that people enjoyed a book enough to want to know more, that the characters engaged with them in some way. I do enjoy starting new projects, separate from my ongoing ones. But with all the sequels, prequels and spin-offs, it’s getting harder to find the time for new stuff.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your go to advice to overcome it.
I have several projects on the go at any one time. If ideas dry up for one, I switch to another. Illness seems to empty my mind of ideas, if I get a cold I can’t write.
If you could give younger self advice about writing, what would it be?
Don’t delay, I wish I’d done more writing when I had the time. I would be so much better at it by now.
Did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I enjoyed the challenge of completing the first book so much and it opened a dam in my head. I started getting more ideas and I realised that I had to get organised to make the most of them. So it changed my habits, I carry a notebook around for plot suggestions, I listen to conversations in coffee shops and I pay more attention to the things I see.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
To be honest, I don’t plot my novels in detail before I begin writing and I don’t research until I have to! I get an idea for a plot and just start writing, creating the best setting to amplify the plot as I go. I try to make the setting another character, with its own emotions and relevance to whatever else is going on.
Research happens as I need to justify the things in the story. Everything I create is based on a known fact; I just expand or modify it to fit into the narrative. In the case of my future universes, this means starting from a truth but blurring the point where reality and my imagination meet. In the case of my Steampunk novels; I tried to see how society could thrive without oil or electricity and where it all led.
In both cases, the results can be surprising. Once you get started on research, it’s a fascinating way to spend time. There is so much serendipity and unintended consequence in science; it’s amazing how we have got to this point. And who knows where we will end up?
Did you find it difficult to write from a female perspective in Andorra Prett and the Oort Cloud Cafe? Do you find it different from writing from a male’s perspective?
It seemed like a fun idea to try and write from a different point of view. It was a challenge and a way of stretching myself. To be honest, having a wife and three daughters helped me tremendously; parts of all of their personalities are in Andorra. They helped me see things from a female perspective.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I try and match the names up to the personalities, to give you clues as to what sort of people they might be. Having said that, you can also give good guys bad names, just to confuse matters. At the basic level, they have to be easy to remember.
Is there any part or scene you edited out of Andorra Prett and the Oort Cloud Cafe, that you wish you had included?
Andorra Pett was originally a short story, about a person who was running away from it all and went to the edge of civilisation. People suggested that I extend it into a novel. When I started expanding the short story, I had a whole load of ideas for things that Andorra could get up to. I soon realised that there were far too many adventures for one book, once again I seemed to have created a series. The sequel, Andorra Pett on Mars, is written and due to be published in April. The third book, Andorra Pett and her Sister is half written and will follow. I also have an idea for Andorra Pett takes a Break, goodness knows when I’ll get to it though.
What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
Action scenes are tricky, you need to pare the writing down to make it all happen at speed. At the same time, you need to keep the tension and realism. You have to make sure that you keep only the important things and ditch the waffle. It’s no good if the description of a thirty-second fight lasts for twenty pages.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
There are a lot of bits of information that allude to the second and subsequent books, they will make sense when you read them. I also scatter clues and red herrings in the background, in throwaway remarks or actions. Even though I think that I know where they all are, occasionally a reader will praise me for something that I didn’t realise I had said or got a character to do. Or they will ascribe a meaning to a section that I hadn’t considered. It’s rather strange to be complimented for one of those.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I love my readers, they may only be a small group (so far), but they are loyal and very complimentary. It’s thanks to them that I have series and their reviews that keep me going. They demand sequels and more information. One reader even has a crush on a particular character. It first I wondered if I wasn’t giving them enough, now I can see that I wasn’t giving them too much.
At the end I would very much thank you for taking the time to answer the questions and for the opportunity to review your book.
My website is www.richarddeescifi.co.uk, there are lots of freebies, extracts from all my work and a new post about writing, either mine or someone else’s, every week.
I’m on Facebook: RichardDeeAuthor
And Twitter: Richard Dee Sci-fi
Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café
Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!
She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.
But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.
Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?
Author Bio –
A native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.