Author interview with Matthew Williams of ‘The Cronian Incident’

Author Interview with Matthew Williams

Disgraced investigator, Jeremiah Ward, once worked the Martian beat, now he’s serving out his sentence in a mining colony on Mercury. His golden opportunity arises when a member of a powerful faction on Titan vanishes and Ward is promised, in exchange for investigating this man’s disappearance, a clean slate and a second chance. Unwittingly, Ward becomes embroiled in a conspiracy, centuries in the making, and begins to realize his one shot at redemption may cost him his life.


Will Jeremiah be able to escape from the grasp of this centuries-old conspiracy with his life? To see if Jeremiah can realise redemption, I’ve been joined by the author behind Jeremiah’s tale, Matthew Williams. Matthew thanks for chatting with me today. As I’m eager to tease out this tale, let’s jump right into the genesis of this novel. How did it start?
It actually started from an article I wrote about the planet Mercury. After writing about its extremes in temperature, where water can be found, and how it rotates extremely slowly, I began to contemplate how people could live there. I began talking with a friend about how a colony could exist there someday, dedicated to mining and staffed by convict laborers. From this, the seed of the idea was planted in my mind and it grew rapidly!


What fuel did you add to the idea fire to get it to take off so rapidly? Did you find adequate fuel in snippets from your own life?
I certainly did. When coming up with the main character – Jeremiah Ward – I wanted to portray him as a haunted individual who struggles with drug addiction. This required that I draw on personal experience to make the kinds of pain and torment he felt seem real. I also drew on some experiences I had in the past with friends who have suffered from addiction. Thanks to them, I knew that drug and alcohol use was symptomatic of a larger problem and that people will often turn to mind-altering substances just to “feel normal”.


Addiction can lead to scenarios which may appear to the outside world to be ‘not normal’. How did your characters develop alongside your desire to write from this personal understanding of addiction, but ensuring that they lived in a normal or at least relatable range?
Well, the main character (Jeremiah Ward) had a few influences. For starters, I wanted a deeply-flawed character who seemed relatable and sympathetic. On the other hand, he also needed to be skilled and competent as an investigator. In the end, I believed that these two qualities would work well together and made him a former, disgraced investigator who is offered a shot at redemption. Janis Amaru, who is central to the story, was largely inspired by my wife – a strong, smart, dedicated woman. The other characters, such as Guernsey, Pinter, Adler and Emile, were all just the products of random experiences and my twisted imagination!


Do you think that the characters like Jeremiah, Janis, Guernsey and the rest of the merry gang were swayed by the events that you had planned to take place in the novel, or did you find the plot changed around the strength of these personalities?
I would say the characters were largely informed by the plot. At least, that was how they were originally conceived. But of course, their characters ended up influencing the plot and shaping it. So it was a bit of a trade-off.


What was the most important thing that you hope readers are still able to take away, despite these tradeoffs?
I guess the most important thing I wanted to say is that despite centuries of change and progress, basic human nature remains the same. I also wanted to address the greatest forces for change that exist today (i.e. climate change, technological change), and how they will determine our future.


Was addressing these forces on the future the most rewarding part of this book?
The most rewarding part has been the ability to share it with friends, family and colleagues. Throughout the creative process, I was very hard on myself and kept looking to the next goal – completion, editing, publishing, etc. It was only because of my friends and family that I was able to stop and appreciate the fact that I had created something, and the way they expressed pride in my accomplishment made me feel proud too.


Was this ability to stop and appreciate where you found the greatest grown from this project?
Well, aside from all the research that went into making it, the writing of this book taught me much about my own process and what it takes to be a serious writer. I’ve known from years of writing professionally that’s its no cakewalk. But seeing a major project through to completion, that’s a serious commitment and it will test your mettle!


It certainly will! And having your here today suggests that you survived the test of mettle and have moved forward in your writing career. In my experience that generally means that the author has moved on their next writing project. What can you tell us about yours?
I am currently working on the sequel to The Cronian Incident, which is the second novel in the Formist Series. It is titled “The Jovian Manifesto”, and I plan to have it ready before long.


Good luck! What have you loved about writing The Cronian Incident and its sequel so much that you’ve kept going?
Good question! I guess I’ve always felt the desire to create things. As a child, I would draw endlessly, as an adult I find myself writing endlessly. It’s all about capturing the kinds of things that inspire you in the hopes of inspiring others.


When you are writing endlessly capturing those sparks of inspiration, what do you see in your head?
It depends. Usually, I will have a specific scene or concept in mind. These normally come to me when I’m not working and my mind has time to wander. An idea will come to me and I will keep that idea in my head as I commit to words and try to flesh it out completely.


Even to the ending?
Generally, I will know how a story ends. I like to create an outline before I start writing a book, just so that I have a clear idea in my head where things are going and how it will all wrap up. However, there has always been a lot of adaptation and inspiration along the way, which can sometimes alter the details.


Has your ability to adapt and alter along the way come from your day job?
During the day, I’m a science writer for Universe Today. It influences my writing because even before I was writing about space, science, exploration missions and other planets, I was an aspiring science fiction writer. Basically, my day job began giving me hard science to base my story ideas on. Pretty convenient, really!


Very convenient! Because of your experience with hard science research on a daily basis, was focused research needed for this book, or were the facts pulled from previous research?
Oh yes, but most of it was incidental. For years, I have been researching astronomy, astrophysics, space exploration, and terraforming as part of my job as a science writer.


Writing professionally over so many subjects must be fun, and keep you with a constant stream of ideas. Do you ever note down the best of them?
I do tend to keep most of my notes in a single notebook, but I also tend to scrawl notes on any piece of paper I find. Whenever ideas strike, I don’t always have the book handy, so I improvise.


What does your writing space look like when you have your book in hand and the ideas striking?
I almost always write from home, in my living room. I find there’s just enough distraction to keep my thoughts focused, and just enough quiet that I can hear them. I do not have set writing hours or a set number of words though. I tend to strike while the iron is hot and write until I’ve spent my creative energy. This has worked well for me over the years, because I generally find that the iron will be hot at least once a day.


Once the iron has been heated and the story formed, how do you go about editing and softening any hard edges? Is this something you try to do yourself?
Ugh! Editing has always been the bane of my existence. But given its extreme importance, I have done my best to do it and keep up with it. I do some of the editing of my own books myself, just to make sure that the product I’m passing on to my publisher has had the benefit of at least a single clean-up. The majority, however, I leave to the professionals.


Fair enough, that’s why they are professionals! How has your author voice progressed as you have continued to write?
When I first started writing, finding my voice was the main challenge. Fiction writing is vastly different from professional or academic writing, and it took me many years to develop a degree of proficiency. As times have changed, I found my writing voice becoming more casual, less expository and less explanatory. I guess these are indications that I was becoming more comfortable.


Has this comfort with fictional writing translated into solid thoughts about how you want to tailor your author brand?
I honestly have, but that’s not something I am pursuing at the moment. Perhaps someday I will become a self-published author who handles all their own marketing, promotions and editing. But at the moment, I prefer to let the professionals handle that.


So what advice can you share with other authors about your experinces self-publishing?
Absolutely. The best advice I can give them is what my mentor in all things digital (Fraser Cain) taught me. Don’t wait to be discovered. You have all the necessary means at your disposal to get your work out there and share it with a receptive community. Start a website, get on social media, liaise with other authors and readers, and promote, promote, promote! Do what you love, but remember. It takes twenty years to become an overnight success.


But I always like to remember that you can speed those twenty years up by working hard at getting discovered! If you could turn back to and do this novel again knowing what you know now, what do you think would change?
I would have started sooner, or finished sooner. Not sure, I just wish I could turned it out faster :)


Practice makes perfect! Now that your brain has done one it knows what it’s doing and I’m sure it will be able to help you get the sequel out in much less time! But on futher consideration, perhaps your brain needs a little break from world of writing and I know just how to move those motors in your mind. The quick fire question quiz! Let’s get quizzing with: if all of the world is a stage, where does the audience sit?
Anywhere but the aisle, that’s a fire hazard.


Since we need that audience back, it’s probably best that they don’t become fire hazards. What is your favourite quote or statement from another author?
“The only people who think capitalists are rational are communists” -Gwynne Dyer


*Laughs* And the communists aren’t rational either! What is your favourite Jellybean flavour/ colour?
Green apple


Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Wherever or whenever one cannot speak meaningfully of a thing, one should remain silent about that thing.


If they made a movie from your book who would you choose to play the main characters?
Ooh, I had some ideas for this. I would want Jeremiah Ward to be played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Janis Amaru to be played by Aliyah O’Brien, and Franklin Houte to be played by Idris Elba.


Those are some fantastic options. Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Uh, because it’s soluble?


But I could have sworn I had some non soluable glue that still stuck to the inside! Who decides what morality is?
We all do, but good luck getting people to agree


But should they be agreeing….? Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?
It’s a paradox, that’s for sure. I imagine that’s a question that cannot be answered, or it would drive a person mad if they ever did find the answer.


If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
Probably not. That sounds like a good meal right there!


I agree! If you’re in a vehicle going the speed of light, what happens when you turn on the headlights?
I wouldn’t know. The windows would all be closed to keep out all the gamma-rays.


You’re probably right that those gamma rays are a bigger concern than the headlights. Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?
I imagine someone proposed that, but they couldn’t get the mouse flavor just right. And since no one was willing to conduct taste tests, they said “forget it! stick with the chicken and liver!”


I’m actaully surpised that they could get the taste testers for the other flavours! What is your zodiac sign?
Aquarius, but I’m apparently on the cusp with Capricon too.


If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
It would be big, scaly, and have massive horns coming out of its back. And I would call it… Murray!


It sounded pretty scarey until you hear the name Murray. Then he just sounds personable and awesome. What happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
Not much. He’d still do his crime fighting at night. And he could synthesize a blood substitute easy enough, since he’s rich. But I imagine turning into a bat would be costly, since it means he has to leave his suit behind.


Have you tangoed in the snow?
I’ve tangoed only a few times, and it was always indoors.


Me too, but I’ve been informed that we’re missing out by not taking the dancing into the snow. What other careers could you see yourself enjoying?
Astronaut, engineer, inventor, billionaire playboy philanthropist (basically Iron Man, except with a spacesuit).


I think that Iron Man might just have had a space suit kicking around somewhere in his labs so maybe the aspiration to be Iron Man is right on the money. What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Not sure, but you’re making me hungry


The interview is almost over, you can pick which of them to eat first then! Where is the line between insanity and creativity?
I’d say right up until you cut of your own ear, you’re in the creative zone. Beyond that, best to seek medical help


Are you left or right handed?
Right handed, but left footed. It’s complicated.


*Laughs* That just sounds like a recipe for trouble. On the topic of trouble, what happens when you get scared half to death twice?
You’d be three quarters closer to death. It’s simple math. Duh!


I think we might be using different calcuators! Obviously math eludes us, so let’s move to art and biology. If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A Gryphon, definitely. I have always wanted a half-lion, half-eagle as a pet. Expensive to feed and house, but nobody is messing with a man who owns a Gryphon!


Yep, I don’t think that you’d have to worry about people much after moving a Gryphon into your house! If nothing ever sticks to TEFLON, how do they make TEFLON stick to the pan?
I guess you need an undercoat of some kind. My money is on crazy glue.


I’m not sure crazy glue is crazy enough to overpower the strength of TEFLON? What is your favourite word?


Crazy to a tee. I think that your creativity is going a little stir crazy so let’s round out our interview with your favourite line from ‘The Cronian Incident’.
When Ward describes himself to someone who asks what he does: “Convict laborer, professional grade.”


*Laughs* See, that is how a convict sells their skills! Matthew thanks for sharing some laughs and insights into The Cronian Incident with myself and the readers today, and I wish you best of luck working on the sequel.


Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘The Cronian Incident ( ASIN: B074ZQMM9Y )‘.

Want to find out more about Matthew Williams? Connect here!