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Guest Blog by John Park - Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place

Please welcome John Park to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Janus was published in September by ChiZine Publications.


Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place


Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place

Oddly, the history of my novel Janus almost exactly spans the age of the personal computer. My earliest attempts at the story had been short pieces, produced in my then-current mode: hand-written first draft; lots of readings and scribblings; a second draft typewritten on yellow paper (unlike William Gibson’s in those days, my typewriter was at least electrically powered); more readings and scribblings; and a final draft typed onto decent-quality white paper.

But by the time the idea was expanding into a novel, the new age had reached me, in the form of an Apple II+ computer upgraded to take 56 kilobytes of RAM. The hand-written first draft and yellow-paper second were compressed into one writing-revising process using the bright little letters on the green screen. The Apple II+ you probably don’t remember, used square black “floppy discs” a bit bigger than a CD jewel case. Allowing for backup- and work-space, each would hold about 7500 words. That became the length of a chapter, and the first version of Janus was stored on fourteen of these diskettes. But the big advantage was—no struggle at the keyboard to produce an acceptable final draft. A dot-matrix printer did all the work. And I was ready to go.

Not to a publisher, of course. This was the point to get some independent criticism. I was a member of a writing group and had other writing friends who were prepared to read and comment on my new printout. And they did a good, conscientious job. I stress this. One reader noticed I had used the same expression in connection with two different characters in two different chapters and wondered if I was implying a connection between them. (No—just early-draft sloppiness.)

So I collected all the comments, thought about them, and prepared for the next (perchance the final) draft.

But by now technology had forged further ahead. I had acquired a new computer: a second-hand Mac Plus. It had a glowing white screen with black letters and a mouse to move the cursor; and most impressive, it used smaller, rigid “floppy” discs, any one of which could hold my entire novel with room to spare. The only problem was that there was no means to transfer my text from the old Apple to the new Mac—except my traditional way of producing a new draft, by typing it in. Which is what I did.

It must have taken several months, revising as I went. And along the way, for the first time, I noticed something in my old version (which, remember, I had lived with for a couple of years, and maybe eight other people had carefully read and thought about): quietly, between chapters, the home of my male lead had moved from one side of the river to the other. Which might explain why some readers felt the novel lacked a sense of place.

I think there’s a moral here, if not a comfortable one. Rewriting, retyping, is an active process—at least if, like me, you don’t have a direct link from your eyes to your fingers. One of the old ways of teaching musical composition was to have the student copy out scores of the classics. Painful as it might seem, it apparently inculcated an understanding of how a good piece of music was constructed. I believe it. In my case, my clunky typing meant that each sentence fragment was held in my head for several seconds while my fingers fumbled with the keyboard. In even a careful reading, the same chunk of text would be dealt with in about one second. So it seems natural I would notice more implications when I typed in a new draft than if I simply edited on paper or on the screen.

Nowadays (human frailty in the face of labour-saving devices being what it is) I rarely retype. Does anyone? But sometimes, when I think of the number of words of fiction being turned out electronically every day, I do wonder what subtle changes, what softening of the edges, the word-processor is working upon us.




About Janus

Janus
ChiZine Publications, September 15, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place
In the near future, Jon Grebbel arrives on the colony world of Janus, and finds himself mysteriously without memory of his life on Earth. It seems that the journey has caused severe memory loss in many of Janus's colonists. While Grebbel wants to start his new life, he also wants his memory back, and starts treatments to restore his past. But they only leave him angry and disturbed and he begins to doubt the glimpses of the past the treatments reveal. Grebbel meets Elinda, an earlier arrival, whose lover, Barbara, vanished and then was found lying in the woods, apparently brain-damaged. Elinda has also lost her memories of Earth, but unlike him she has abandoned the effort to recover them. Now their meeting brings each of them a glimpse of an experience they shared back on Earth. Investigating Barbara's fate and their own, the two find their love and their search for justice turning toward bitter self-discovery and revenge, even as they begin to uncover the darkness at the heart of their world.




About John

Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of Place
John Park was born in England but moved to Vancouver in 1970 as a graduate student and has lived in Canada ever since. He has done research in chemical physics and been part of a scientific consulting firm. Along the way, he developed a liking for Beethoven, became a graduate of the Clarion writers workshop, and began selling short stories (not necessarily in that order). His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of Canadian, US and European publications. He lives in Ottawa, where he is a member of the Lyngarde writing group.



Follow John on Twitter:  @pocomaestoso

Interview with John Park, author of Janus - September 15, 2012

Please welcome John Park to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. John's debut novel, Janus, is out this month from ChiZine Publications.


Interview with John Park, author of Janus - September 15, 2012


TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.

John:  Thank you. That chair under the spotlight?

TQ: Yes, please.


TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

John:  Hmm. Semi-chronic writer's block? I can't write with any background music? My first drafts contain more editorial comments and notes to myself than actual text?


TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

John:  Current favourites would be Terry Pratchett, John le Carré, Guy Gavriel Kay, and a lot of sf writers; if I have to pick a sample of them: Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Peter Watts, Brian Aldiss, China Miéville, J. G. Ballard.

The biggest single influence is almost certainly William Golding, whose first five novels hit me in my late teens and early twenties. The effect of Pincher Martin and The Inheritors in particular was immense. I spent two or three years trying to imitate him and then five or ten trying not to. He may still be my model stylist.


TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

John:  Somewhere in between: a groper maybe. It goes best if I have a good starting point and a sense of where the piece is heading and how it will end--but the middle is often vague, and things almost always change on the way, if only in the next draft. The middle of Janus changed a lot.


TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

John:  Getting invention to flourish. Getting what feels like a promising idea to grow into a story. Writing is important to me, but usually difficult.


TQ: Describe Janus in 140 characters or less.

John:  People on another planet dealing with identity problems, tortured romances, suspicious accidents and a possible conspiracy.


TQ: What inspired you to write Janus?

John:  The most honest answer is, I don't know. It was triggered somehow by my reading Lester del Rey's story "Evensong" in Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions, a long time ago. The result was a short story that almost wrote itself. It was very clumsy and overwrought, but it ultimately developed into the novel. Quite recently I re-read "Evensong" on the web, and it had no particular resonance for me, and little connection to anything I'd written; so the process that led to my first attempt at the Janus plot is a mystery. Motifs in Janus, such as lost memories, keep cropping up in my short stories, so the book clearly grew from something important, but so far I haven't figured out exactly what that is.


TQ: What sort of research did you do for Janus?

John:  As little as possible! I read up a bit about dam construction. I found that a piece of dirigible technology I'd cited had evidently died and I dropped it from the book. I checked some facts about about firearms--confirmed my impression about revolvers, and changed Ruger to Ingram. Most of the rest was stuff I felt I knew or could safely invent. The book is primarily a personal drama--it happens to need an extra-terrestrial setting, but I didn't want myself or the reader to get sidetracked by a mass of technological or exobiological detail.


TQ: Tell us something about Janus that is not in the book description.

John:  It contains the only dirigible-hijacking using automatic weapons I've written.


TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

John:  I don't have a good answer for that. Some scenes were notably easy or hard, but I don't think I had similar feelings about particular characters. It probably helped that my nastiest character, a spear-carrier, is seen only from the outside. The writing process is fundamentally mysterious, though. I remember writing one intense scene and congratulating myself on being very professional and analytical about it--visualising details, focusing on getting the words right, keeping the right balance between intensity and distance and so on--and then at the end, when I sat back, I found my hands were shaking.


TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Janus?

John:  Depending on the mood I'm in: a first meeting by a moonlit stream, a light-hearted sex scene in the mountains, a confrontation between the two principals when he reveals what he's learned about himself, or the very last scene with the female lead alone at night.


TQ: What's next?

John:  Not a sequel to Janus. I don't like open-ended series and much prefer self-contained works. I have bunch of short stories I'd like to work on and one or two things that might grow into books--possibly in more remote settings than Janus. And after several decades writing sf, I find I'm acquiring a slight tilt towards fantasy--though modern or urban rather than S&S.


TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

John:  Thank you for your interest.



About Janus

Janus
ChiZine Publications, September 15, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Interview with John Park, author of Janus - September 15, 2012
In the near future, Jon Grebbel arrives on the colony world of Janus, and finds himself mysteriously without memory of his life on Earth. It seems that the journey has caused severe memory loss in many of Janus's colonists. While Grebbel wants to start his new life, he also wants his memory back, and starts treatments to restore his past. But they only leave him angry and disturbed and he begins to doubt the glimpses of the past the treatments reveal. Grebbel meets Elinda, an earlier arrival, whose lover, Barbara, vanished and then was found lying in the woods, apparently brain-damaged. Elinda has also lost her memories of Earth, but unlike him she has abandoned the effort to recover them. Now their meeting brings each of them a glimpse of an experience they shared back on Earth. Investigating Barbara's fate and their own, the two find their love and their search for justice turning toward bitter self-discovery and revenge, even as they begin to uncover the darkness at the heart of their world.



About John

Interview with John Park, author of Janus - September 15, 2012
John Park was born in England but moved to Vancouver in 1970 as a graduate student and has lived in Canada ever since. He has done research in chemical physics and been part of a scientific consulting firm. Along the way, he developed a liking for Beethoven, became a graduate of the Clarion writers workshop, and began selling short stories (not necessarily in that order). His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of Canadian, US and European publications. He lives in Ottawa, where he is a member of the Lyngarde writing group.

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012


Announcing the four newest authors who will be featured in the Challenge - A. J. Colucci, Rob DeBorde, D.J. McIntosh, and John Park.



A.J. Colucci

The Colony
Thomas Dunne Books, November 13, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012
A series of gruesome attacks have been sweeping New York City. A teacher in Harlem and two sanitation workers on Wall Street are found dead, their swollen bodies nearly dissolved from the inside out. The predator is a deadly supercolony of ants--an army of one trillion soldiers with razor-sharp claws that pierce skin like paper and stinging venom that liquefies its prey.

The desperate mayor turns to the greatest ant expert in the world, Paul O’Keefe, a Pulitzer Prize–winning scientist in an Armani suit. But Paul is baffled by the ants. They are twice the size of any normal ant and have no recognizable DNA. They’re vicious in the field yet docile in the hand. Paul calls on the one person he knows can help destroy the colony, his ex-wife Kendra Hart, a spirited entomologist studying fire ants in the New Mexico desert. Kendra is taken to a secret underground bunker in New York City, where she finds herself working side by side with her brilliant but arrogant ex-husband and a high-ranking military officer hell-bent on stopping the insects with a nuclear bomb.

When the ants launch an all-out attack, Paul and Kendra hit the dangerous, panic-stricken streets of New York, searching for a coveted queen. It’s a race to unlock the secrets of an indestructible new species, before the president nukes Manhattan.

A.J. Colucci's debut novel is a terrifying mix of classic Michael Crichton and Stephen King. A thriller with the highest stakes and the most fascinating science, The Colony does for ants what Jaws did for sharks.




Rob DeBorde

Portlandtown
A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes 1
St. Martin's Griffin, October 16, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
(fiction debut)

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012
Welcome to Portlandtown, where no secret is safe---not even those buried beneath six feet of Oregon mud.

Joseph Wylde isn’t afraid of the past, but he knows some truths are better left unspoken. When his father-in-law’s grave-digging awakens more than just ghosts, Joseph invites him into their home hoping that a booming metropolis and two curious grandtwins will be enough to keep the former marshal out of trouble. Unfortunately, the old man’s past soon follows, unleashing a terrible storm on a city already knee deep in floodwaters. As the dead mysteriously begin to rise, the Wyldes must find the truth before an unspeakable evil can spread across the West and beyond.




D.J. McIntosh

The Witch of Babylon
Forge Books, October 16, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
(US debut)

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012
Out of the searing heat and sandstorms of the infamous summer of 2003 in Baghdad comes The Witch of Babylon, a gripping story rooted in ancient Assyrian lore and its little-known but profound significance for the world.

John Madison is a Turkish-American art dealer raised by his much older brother, Samuel, a mover and shaker in New York's art world. Caught between his brother's obsession with saving a priceless relic looted from Iraq's National Museum and a deadly game of revenge staged by his childhood friend, John must solve a puzzle to find the link between a modern-day witch and an ancient one.

Aided by Tomas, an archaeologist, and Ari, an Iraqi photojournalist—two men with their own secrets to hide—John races against time to decipher a biblical prophecy that leads to the dark history behind the science of alchemy. Kidnapped by villainous fortune hunters, John is returned to Iraq, where a fabulous treasure trove awaits discovery—if he can stay alive long enough to find it.




John Park

Janus
ChiZine Publications, September 15, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012
In the near future, Jon Grebbel arrives on the colony world of Janus, and finds himself mysteriously without memory of his life on Earth. It seems that the journey has caused severe memory loss in many of Janus's colonists. While Grebbel wants to start his new life, he also wants his memory back, and starts treatments to restore his past. But they only leave him angry and disturbed and he begins to doubt the glimpses of the past the treatments reveal. Grebbel meets Elinda, an earlier arrival, whose lover, Barbara, vanished and then was found lying in the woods, apparently brain-damaged. Elinda has also lost her memories of Earth, but unlike him she has abandoned the effort to recover them. Now their meeting brings each of them a glimpse of an experience they shared back on Earth. Investigating Barbara's fate and their own, the two find their love and their search for justice turning toward bitter self-discovery and revenge, even as they begin to uncover the darkness at the heart of their world.




Guest Blog by John Park -   Of Drafts, Keyboards and a Sense of PlaceInterview with John Park, author of Janus - September 15, 20122012 Debut Author Challenge Update - September 8, 2012

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