So, guess who I have on my blog today? Yep, it’s that adorable Brit and debut author, Tom Pollock! For those of you lucky to meet him in New York at BEA, I’m a bit jealous (British accent? Check. Intense stare? Check). Though he’s a man of few words on his blog, he was kind enough to open up a bit here.
Tom Pollock: “Inventor of monsters. Hugger of bears. Represented by Amy Boggs at the Donald Maass agency. I write fantasy, and I write about fantasy. Come say hey on twitter: @tomhpollock”
Well, that’s the bio on the contact page of his website, anyway. Goodreads has a bit more: “Tom is a long-time fan of science fiction and fantasy, and has failed spectacularly to grow out of his obsession with things that don’t, in the strictest sense of the word, exist. He studied Philosophy and Economics at Edinburgh University. He now lives and works in London helping to build very big ships. The City’s Son is his first novel.”
I reviewed THE CITY’S SON here on Friday and, I have to say, wow. Incredibly creative, gritty, and intriguing YA urban fantasy novel. Check it out! Anyway, on with the interview:
How did you create and develop the amazing world and world-changing power struggle that exists right under the noses of “normal” Londoners? (You’re probably asked this all the time but the people want to know!)
First up, I’m really glad you liked the world. The London of the Skyscraper Throne evolved as a kind of ‘just-so’ story for the modern city. It came from me walking around London with a speculative eye, wondering what darker and more magical histories could explain the things we see everyday. So for example, in Beth and Fil’s London, when your train stops on the track for a while for no apparent reason, it’s because the train’s spirit, its Railwraith, has broken loose and is rampaging around causing havoc. Likewise, the cranes on the horizon look a bit like skeletal fingers, so I wound up with Reach – the Crane King, who literally has them as part of his anatomy.
Beth, Pen and Fil had it rough in The City’s Son. Could you give us a hint about what might happen in The Glass Republic, the second in The Skyscraper Throne series?
What can I tell you that won’t be too spoilery? Well, The Glass Republic delves into the city inside London’s reflections, ruled by the proud and ruthless Mirrostocracy. The main character is Pen (who’s kind of in the Best Supporting Actress slot from book one). Like you say, she kind of went to hell and back in the first book, but she’s on a long arc for the trilogy, and I think this is the book where she comes into her own. I’m excited. 🙂
What’s your writing process — how do you go from the idea to writing that final draft?
I’m deplorably inconstant, but it’s kinda cyclical. I start out planning, just to reassure myself that it’s going somewhere, then I get all over excited by the ideas in the plan, so I start writing before its done. Then I go completely off the rails, my cats eat the plan. I pants it for a bit. I get stuck, I shout at my computer screen. I yell, I cry like Dawson. I eat pizza and I go back to planning. I try and write a thousand words a day, and I fail at that modest ambition a great deal.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d share with an aspiring writer?
I was reading Nick Harkaway’s (excellent non fic) THE BLIND GIANT and he mentions the fascinating phenomenon of Neuroplasticity. Our brains reshape themselves, so we can do the things we do more efficiently and easily. Even at the biological level, we’re creatures of habit. This is a slightly rambling lead-in to me giving the old cliched advice: ‘If you want to be a writer, then write. Right?’ But it really is the best counsel, because you do literally, make yourself a writer by writing. You mould your brain.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered since stepping on the writing path?
How staggeringly, grin-inducingly awesome it is being edited. Smart, passionate people start engaging with this idea that only previously existed in your own head. It’s the moment when it goes from a solo effort into a team-sport, and despite being hard work, it’s just the biggest thrill.
Who or what inspires you?
Oh wow, everything really, people, the city, other books, TV shows, Parkour. The city, especially the city. It’s a laminate of compressed stories, concentrated lives. Simultaneously an artifact of human endeavor and a thing of sufficient scale to inspire the same kind of awe as mountains. I love it.
Where do you do the majority of your writing?
Out of the house. It’s the only way I can keep my relentless inner procrastinator in check, plus keep my cats from introducing their own dadaist prose to the books by walking on the keyboard. I go to cafes and public spaces, put a film soundtrack (Inception is especially ace) and go.
What’s your biggest distraction when writing?
The merciless availability of chocolate
What are your favorite books of the year so far?
Published this year? It’s close run thing but probably China Mieville’s bonkers train novel Railsea For books I read this year, but that were published earlier – David Almond’s Clay is just superb. Creepy, uplifting and terrifying.
Favorite TV shows?
The West Wing, The Wire, DeadWood. I’ve got a weakness for ‘W’s evidently.
Travel Time! What countryies would you love to visit?
I’ve traveled around a fair bit, but I’ve never made it to Russia, or mainland China. I’d love to go to both.
Dog person or cat person?
I am plaything for my cruel feline overlords.
Chocolate or caffeine (or both)?
Chocolate. Top tip: whenever I start on a new book it’s a good time to buy shares in Cadbury’s.
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