Monday, March 16, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alan Livingstone, author of ATOMS

Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing? 

As far as I can remember, writing has always been a part of my life since high school.  Strange ideas for stories would come to me and I would have write them down; I even remember when I was 15 and submitting a short story to my teacher called Murdering the Orient Express about a newspaper called The Orient Express and how a despicable villain was killing journalists who had stumbled across his nefarious ways.  My teacher enjoyed the story but wasn't convinced that the content truly reflected on the subject manner; which was about investigative journalism and what costs are involved with uncovering the truth. That said, given that I explore the very tiny would of atoms, no one has ever told me to curb my enthusiasm for a good story and to take it as far as possible.

Alan Livingstone
Some time ago, I self-published a collection of short stories called Heroes, Monsters and other Miscreants, and although not a best-seller, I enjoyed the experience of actually being in print.

How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or do you prefer writing freehand?  

I always write at home and begin plot and character development using freehand as it gives me a storyboard and far better flexibility to link plots, sub-plots and minor characters; and given that I am currently working on a sequel to my first novel, I need to do as much research as I possibly can and interweave science into a novel primarily aimed at students.  Once the ideas have borne fruit, I then use a laptop for the actual story.

What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?

Writing allows me to challenge myself and my imagination and this is truly the magical part for any writer; the way a simple idea can be transformed to your very own piece of art much like a sculptor can make a lump of clay into a masterpiece.  I don’t really have anything that could be classed as my least favorite aspect of writing; however, when I find my story with no logical path to explore, it can be frustrating.

How do you come up with your characters? Why would readers want to get to know them?  

I believe that the most important facet of writing is to create a whole spectrum of characters, whether the reader is empathetic to their plight or indeed angered by their shameful actions, I think that character development is the single most important tool a writer can possess.

What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?  

As atoms, my first novel, has only just been completed, this is a whole new experience for me; that said, I want to get my story out there to the widest audience I can and for the readers to see what the exciting world of atoms can be.

Purchase atoms here
How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?  

I write whenever I can, whether it be one short chapter or twenty or thirty pages, I write when I have new ideas or simply just have the urge to tap into my imagination and jot thoughts down, despite how odd these ideas may be.

What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

I am currently working on a new novel titled physika which is a sequel to my first full-length volume called atoms and I am about half-way through, with the story defined and the characters from the first novel that have been reintroduced but in a far more harsh atomic-world than they were when we met them in the first book.

Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it. 

I have a couple of ideas that I have begun to sketch out to develop further once physika has been completed.  One involves a reality competition of couples who renovate a block of old Georgian (c 1830) apartments set in central London and broadcast by the competitors themselves as they transform the old buildings and discover old secrets, but one apartment also has someone, or something who doesn't want to leave.  The idea came from and expression that I feel fitting for the title: 9/10ths.

What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?  

As my old English teacher once told me, and I still hold dear to this day: start small.  Start with a small idea and don’t try and turn it too intricate by introducing an army of characters or more twists and turns than a roller-coaster and the rest will come easy.  Start small, she reminds me in my head, everyday…every single day.

Thank you, Alan!

alan livingstone

an adventure on a completely different level…

atoms is a completed four part adventure story of 135,000 words that introduces readers to a whole new world with characters based on the elemental Periodic Table and with personalities and traits based on their elemental properties and chemical interactions. 

The characters in atoms are generally spherical in shape with facial features, arms and hands and orbiting electrons and they float just above the surfaces in their own little world. The names of the characters have been chosen based on the atomic abbreviation in the Periodic Table.  Cee-U is the main protagonist and is a play on Cu, the abbreviation for copper; Plum-bum is a massive grey lead atom and the abbreviation for lead is Pb given that Plumbum is Latin for lead.  Minor characters also follow this convention; Little Stevie G is the name given to Steve Seaborgium and the abbreviation for Seaborgium is Sg;  Ferrous, the loveable iron atom wants to be known as Iron Tyke given the weakness that Ferrous projects, although the abbreviation for iron is Fe.  Name dissections have been employed principally to introduce female characters with first names such as Rutherfordium has been dissected as Ruth E. R. Fordium and Molybdenum as Moly B. Denum.  Movement is an important part of the atoms and there has been a great deal of care taken to avoid verbs and adjectives to indicate standing, walking and running and instead words such as float, glide and hover have been used; and rapid movement is described as scampering, scooting and scurrying.  The obvious exception to these rules are words chosen to describe the movement of the heavy metal atoms who bounce their way along given their high atomic numbers and associated weight; and this peculiarity also inevitably leads to their downfall.  The shapes of the characters are also important and are based on the physical properties that they represent: for example; Cee-U is the hero of the story and is a brilliant copper coloured sphere who is resilient to most chemical effects except that he turns green when exposed to acetic acid which will prove pivotal in his success; Al, the aluminium atom and Cee-U’s best friend is a rough pyramid of soft metal and prone to dents and creases in his dull shell; Ferrous (a.k.a. Iron Tyke) the iron atom, is cuboid in shape with a rust coloured birth mark and Plum-bum, the lead atom is a heavy teardrop shape to represent his plumpness.  This also applies to the villains of the story, the Heavy Metals; who are generally disfigured and ugly ellipsoids with distorted gothic or sallow features and include Plutonium, the barrel-shaped cruel monster with talons for hands, froth coated tusks and a myriad of crude tattoos emblazoned on his shell.  Uranium, who is more cold and calculating than Plutonium, is a blemish free chrome coloured atom and resembles a thin, smooth upside down cone with tiny, inadequate electron whizzing around his shell.

atoms differs from all other stories in this genre by combining both loveable and detestable characters in an adventurous battle for self discovery; and at the same time, atoms is educational as the interactions between atoms are explored to deliver a unique learning experience for the reader.  For instance; we witness the wedding of O, a tiny oxygen atom who is getting married to the two giant hydrogen sisters and during the wedding (explained as covalent bonding) it becomes evident that the union produces a water molecule (H²O). Also, during the procession of atoms going to the wedding they collide with a giant door that is blocking the way and several unplanned molecules are created.  A small nitrogen atom collides with three rather large hydrogen ladies and the result is ammonia (NH3) which causes a burning in the eyes; there are also the three oxygen brothers on their way to meet up with the scandium sisters but they suddenly get pressed into on ozone molecule (O3) and vanish in the atmosphere.

As a reader we don’t just arrive in the atomic world we must be seen to be examining it and we are introduced to the tiny world in a prologue as a laboratory assistant who narrates the events surrounding a failed experiment which leaves only water and a few basic elements and wonders if we look deep enough surely there must be something else there.

atoms is divided into four parts based on experiences during sleep; dreams, nightmares, awakenings and dark corners

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