Author interview with Simon Birks of ‘The Ballad of Broken Song Book One – Death and Resurrection’

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“It’s not going to be a war, it’s going to be an annihilation.”

 

 

Today marks the return of Simon Birks, who has been good enough to allocate a little bit of time to sit and chat about his newly released novel ‘The Ballad of Broken Song Book One – Death and Resurrection’. Simon, welcome back it’s great to see you back to discuss your newest literary work which we only touched on the in last interview. As we have more time today why don’t you kick off today’s interview by expounding a bit more on what is ‘Death and Resurrection’.
Set on three different, but neighboring worlds, ‘Death and Resurrection’ is the first book in ‘The Ballad of Broken Song’ series, which chronicles the epic lead-up and battle that takes place for the planet of Whate. It follows many people, as slowly their fates begin to entwine in the unfolding events.

 
How did the initial ideas for the events within this book unfold in your mind?
My wife was talking about some ideas for a book, and from that, I wrote a passage which became the germ of this book.

 
In the last interview you mentioned that you didn’t necessarily set out explicit themes in your work to build on the initial idea germinated but instead they pop-up while you were writing. Did this hold true for this book?
Yes, in the past few years themes have almost naturally started to present themselves in my writing.

 
Did you have one central idea that you really dominated this book?
One of the major themes in this book is the way technology affects societies.

 
That’s a really big question to answer and one that I think is becoming increasingly topical as we are living more and more aspects of our lives through technology? Did you try and put in your own direct experiences into the book?
Not really. Thankfully I’ve never had to have a sword fight (apart from when I’m acting), and have never had to experience coming face to face with weird creatures.

 
That’s a shame about the weird creatures. You never know how much those encounters may have advanced your book :). Maybe you need to go on a sword wielding quest to investigate the next instalment of this trilogy. Fantasy doesn’t really lend itself to book research does it?
Not really. This book is a fantasy story set on another world, so most of it is made up. I spent the most time on trying to envisage the world, to make sure it would look right.

 
What steps do you take to make sure the world and the players inside of this are envisaged and appear correctly?
A lot of the time they come straight from my brain, through my fingertips and onto the (digital) page there and then. I don’t do a lot of planning.

 
As you’re not doing alot of planning do you find your characters still stick around in your head? For example do they follow you into your dreams?
No. Thankfully.

 
Fair enough, I think you might loose some sleep if they start having sword fights in your sleep. Did you at least form some favouritism with a few of your characters?
Hoep and Orsa turned out to be two of my favourite characters, though in truth, I liked them all.

 
Any in particular you’d like to socialise with?
I think they’d all be cool to have a beer with, though you’d have to watch what you said.

 
*Laughs*. When you look back on the time that was this book, what do you feel was the most fulfilling point that you keep coming back to?
I enjoyed writing a book that I would pick up in a bookshop to look at. My first book, The Ostrich Race, was a mystery, and whilst I loved writing it, it wasn’t my usual genre. So, it was nice to complete a book that I’d read.

 
Are you working on something that you are more likely to read yourself?
I’m currently editing an unreliable narrator horror book called Songstrom, which I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year (2015).

 
I’m intrigued by the idea of an unreliable narrator, it sounds pretty cool. From what I’ve heard from many authors editing a NaNoWriMo project tends to be more work than the original writing. Do you do anything in particular in the editing process to improve your final output?
For this book (‘Death and Resurrection’), I used an editor, and that will be the norm going forward, now.

 
Was ‘Death and Resurrection’ also written at NaNoWriMo speed, or did you take a little more time to get in on paper?
I wrote the first two parts in a couple of months. Then I left it for a year before returning to it and writing the final third. Redrafting took a few months, too.

 
Are you doing the writing and redrafting by hand or digitally?
I write my books on a laptop into Word, and then back it up every day.

 
Now that is a tip that I don’t believe that I’ve heard before – back up your work! I like the good solid IT tip from the IT worker. Catastrophic crashes don’t seem to be as commonplace as they seemed to be in the past, but that’s no excuse not to backup. Other than backing up your work do you have any other tips?
Just publish it. Editing is very useful. Plus, make sure you’re happy with how it reads. No point rushing the last bit.

 
How it reads is what is it all about :). What the cover looks like is also a nice to have, but the readability does win out. But speaking of covers yours has been done really well. Who did it?
My good friend and artist Lyndon White (@lyndondraws) created the cover. I gave him a couple of details that he included on the design.

 
You will have to get him back to do the next instalment in the trilogy as he has done well. Now last time we chatted we did go through most of my quick fire question block, and since the new block of questions hasn’t been released I don’t have anything too different from what I had last time. So I though that we could give them another whirl and see if we can get better responses from last time. Let’s start with:

What are you reading at the moment?
Listening to Necronomicon by Lovecraft. I listen to audiobooks nowadays, so have been able to catch up on some of the classics.

 
Audiobooks are amazing. You can read and do the washing the same time. Efficiencies abound :). What was your favourite book as a child?
As a teen, I enjoyed reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

 
Who is your favourite literary character?
Cat in the Hat

 
If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A cat with another cat – I’d call it a Megacat.

 
The big question I think now is does the Megacat wear hats? What is your favourite quote?
‘Let go, Luke.’

 
Is there a question that you haven’t been asked that you’d like to be, or anything that didn’t come up?
This question actually, so I’m thankful you asked it.

 
*Laughs*. The most powerful question in my interviewing arsenal, as you liked it so much I will make sure it survives the upcoming interview question set change. Simon, thanks for joining me today and I wish you the best of luck with ‘Death and Resurrection’ and your progress on ‘Songstrom’.

 

Want to find out more about Simon? Connect here!

Author interview with Simon Birks of ‘The Ostrich Race’

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The Ostrich Race tells the year in the life of Gordon Paige, a retired author. He has lost his wife and is quite lonely. His only respite is running the Ostrich Race, a game devised by his late wife’s family to keep them all in touch. This year, however, the race receives an anonymous entrant, and Gordon suddenly finds a new purpose, uncovering secrets both unknown and deeply buried.

 

 

Simon Birks has joined me today discuss the anonymous players and mysteries in his book ‘The Ostrich Race’. Simon, thanks for joining me today. Let’s start today’s interview with the start of your book, what was the initial inspiration for this book?
I initially thought of the title and went from there. I’m sure other people must do the same…!

 
Funnily enough I don’t believe that I’ve interviewed any other authors who started their book with title, but surely someone else must have run across this method at some period in time.  Once you had your title down did you start researching the direction that you wanted to take the book in? Is research important for you as a storyteller?
I’m not the world’s greatest researcher and a lot of the book is drawn from either direct experience, or indirect. I drew on many different experiences when I wrote The Ostrich Race, but I also took on board situations I’d been told about, as well as making some of it up!

 
*Laughs*. I like that honesty. Is that honesty an approach that you bring when you are considering the themes that you want to centre the storyline around?
As I’ve gained more and more experience in writing, themes have begun appearing, almost automatically. I think it’s important to let the themes bubble to the surface, and then work on them once known.

 
That’s a good strategy. So what is the basic premise of what your story is about?
It’s a story about family and relationships most of us will be familiar with.

 
They are really strong aspects of everyone’s lives. And since you are focusing on relationships the character development must play a significant role in the progress of the plot. How did the characters themselves progress?
Developing characters is always an interesting experience. There are many characters in this book, and they all have an important part to play, so I had to make sure they were all distinct enough so I could help the reader understand what was going on.

 
Did you have one or more characters that really left a distinct mark on you? And have any of them left a distinct enough mark on you to follow you to your dreams?
Aunt Vee is one of my favourite characters. She tells things as they are, and is a lovely person to boot. I have never dreamed about them at all, which is great considering all the conscious time I spent with them.

 

 

Dreaming is just a tad too far then. How much conscious time did you spend with your characters writing this book?
It probably took me a year to write, and it was done in stages. I wrote the first draft, left it a year or so, then came back to it to finish it off.

 
A year of solid interaction and then a bit more when you came back, that’s a decent amount of time of character/ writer interaction. With this amount of history between yourself and the characters would you go out on the town with Aunt Vee, or perhaps another one of your characters if you had the chance?
I’d take Tony out for a beer, as well as Gordon, as these two don’t have it easy at all, and I can empathise with them well.

 
Has that empathy extended into another novel with these characters, or are you building up relationships with new characters?
I’ve just published my latest novel, The Ballad of Broken Song Book One – Death and Resurrection, which is the first part of a fantasy trilogy.

 
Good luck working through your new trilogy. Now that you’ve gotten some experience and worked through the process of writing a novel I am hoping that you can share how you approach writing and publishing as I find it amazing how writers differ on how they write. Do you have any specific techniques for the actual writing process that you use?
When I’m writing a novel, I try and write every day, and try and hit 1000 words, more if possible. I write on my train journey to and from work, and sometimes in my lunch hours.

 
So you’re really trying to make efficient use of your time by picking up and using little bits of ‘dead time’, I like that technique. Do you use a similar approach for editing?
For The Ostrich Race, I edited the book myself. Now, however, I use an editor to go through and point out all of my writing faux-pas!

 
Editors are great for picking those up! Did you also make your own cover for The Ostrich Race?
I searched online for the type of artist I wanted and found Peter Spells who did a great job. I knew what I wanted the cover to look like, and I was very happy with the result.

 
I agree, he’s done a good job. Do you have any tips for authors that you think might guide them through the self-publishing process with greater ease?
My tip would be to go for it. I’ve recently used a site to print my book, and they’ve been fantastic. I work in IT, so I have a reasonably good understanding of getting my book ready for printing, but there are services out there to help you with that, too.

 
It’s great that we live in a time when it’s so simple to get things like your own book printed. For you, what was the most fulfilling part of getting this book to completion?
I’m sure a lot of people say ‘finishing it’, and because it was the first novel, I’d have to agree. I write in many genres, and each has their own challenges, but novel writing takes a long time.

 
Getting it complete does seem to be repeated often, but as you mentioned it takes a long time and getting it done is really a great achievement. Now, I haven’t done a round of quick fire questions for a few interviews so I’m hoping that you’ll indulge me a little today Simon. After all the question bank is going be changed after the rapidly approaching 100th interview, and I’d like to take a few of these questions out for a spin while they are still around. So hold onto your hat and let me know what you think about the following as fast as possible:

What are you currently reading?
Necronomicon by H. P. Lovecraft

 
What was your favourite book as a child?
Can’t remember. I do like Dr Seuss.

 
Who doesn’t :)! Who is your favourite literary character?
‘Cut-Me-Own-Throat’ Dibbler.

 
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Be nice.

 

Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
Something Wicked This Way Comes

 
What is your favourite quote?
‘I have shaken, never bitten, Every hand that ever hit me.’ Del Amitri – Last Cheap Shot at the Dream

 
What is your zodiac sign?
Aquarius

 
Fellow water bearer! If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
Not a unicorn. I really don’t like unicorns. I guess I’d create something fluffy, which could make tea.

 
A fuzzy friend who makes a good brew, I’d be done for that! Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
I can place my hands under my feet, but I’m guessing that’s not what you mean…

 
Not precisely, no, but I think you get extra points for trying to use that method. If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
Lots of money.

 
Can you curl your tongue?
Only with assistance.

 
Duly noted. Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
Dragonsaurs, clearly.

 
Now that is awesome and a clear winner. What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
Benedict Cumberbatch. He wins every time.

 
What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
“In all that we are, we are most, in love.”

 
What is your day job, and how does it influence your writing?
The day job is IT. It doesn’t influence my writing, thankfully!

 
IT isn’t that bad. Most of the time, unless you’re on Helpdesk and the IT severs are melting down, cause that is not pleasant. What is your best tip for authors?
Keep going, but don’t force it.

 
Who are your favourite authors, and do you believe that they have influenced your writing style?
My favourite authors are Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury and Terry Pratchett. I’m not sure how they’ve influenced my novels, but I know I’m a better person for reading their books.

 
How did you feel when you got your first book review?
The reviews have been great about the book, and it’s a pleasure to receive every one of them. To have strangers read and like your work is extraordinarily rewarding.

 
What is your favourite quote from another author?
Kill your darlings.

 
What is your favourite word?
Splatsch. Just made it up.

 

 

I like it, put it into wider use in your next book.  Simon, thanks for joining me today, I really appreciate the time that you set aside a little time to talk with me today and I wish you the best of luck both with your promotion of The Ostrich Race and your work on the first volume of your upcoming trilogy.

 

 

Want to find out more about Simon? Connect here!