I normally like to read an author’s novel before contacting them about the Indie Author Spotlight; however, this time around I was asked if I’d be interested in setting up an interview with Nick M. Lloyd, before having even read the book’s back cover. I quickly searched for his novel, Emergence, on Amazon and was instantly intrigued by the synopsis. I purchased a copy of the book and began my voyage into a world I did not want to leave. Rife with richly layered characters, excellent world building, and challenging concepts, I was ready to reply to Nick within 48 hours — only halfway through the book!
Check out the synopsis for yourself and see why my interest was piqued:
The Gadium have been ruling the galaxy for millennia, manipulating probability to ensure their continued domination.
On Earth, Jack Bullage survives a horrendous car accident.
Reporter Louise Harding has a score to settle with Jack. Against her editor’s orders, she investigates all the options, even the most unbelievable ones.
How did he get to be so lucky?
The Gadium have the answers. They know why Jack is special. It’s just evolution; he’s developing the ability to ‘ride the parallels.’
This could herald Earth’s Emergence, a new era, an end to its isolation in the galaxy – but Gadium approval is not assured and Jack may be evolving too fast for their plans.
Wow, that sounds good — and it has a cool cover! Stick around after the jump to get to know Nick M. Lloyd a bit more and then give his novel a shot!
I am Nick M Lloyd. I write science fiction (well I try to).
I live in London (that, I definitely do).
Take a look at my Blog Pages (which I have vowed to keep up to date for 2015)
Max Pfeffer: Nick, thank you for taking the time to chat with me!
Nick M. Lloyd: Thank you, more like — where else would I get the chance to speak to the audience I wrote this book for?
MP: Well, to start off, could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
NML: Sure. I’m male, 42yrs old, married, with two kids. I live in London. I enjoy reading, writing, swimming in the sea, and drinking coffee. By day, I work as an independent project manager. By night, I write Science Fiction… and fight crime (not spending my time writing sci-fi is a crime, right?)
MP: It sure is! Get working on another book already! In all seriousness, when and how did you begin writing, and why science fiction?
NML: Second question first: because like everyone here, science fiction is a passion — and I love contemporary science too.
Although a keen SciFi reader for 40 years, I only actually started writing it about five years ago, initially as a form of stress relief. But within a few months of ‘picking up the pen’, there was never any doubt in my mind — I would work towards being a SciFi writer. I love writing.
MP: Which authors have been your greatest influences?
NML: I’m marginally obsessed with Neal Stephenson’s writing. I have a very particular (Fibonacci) method of reading his books, involving re-reading initial chapters a fair few times before continuing to the end. I aspire to writing a book that inspires people the way his books have inspired me.
Also of note, the world building and depth of characterization in Iain M Banks’ Culture Novels are amazing; in particular, the dialogue between the Minds.
And finally, John Gribbin, for his factual text books on science (in particular Science: A History, and The Universe).
Did I already say ‘finally’, of course there are more: Tolkien, Dan Simmons, and Robert Heinlein.
MP: You have quite a solid list there, and it certainly shows in your work. Why did you choose to go the self-publishing route with your first novel, Emergence?
NML: I did try the standard route in mid-2014, but I went too early. The manuscript that I sent ‘them’ is very different from the one that is now published. My self-published work is a result of a major rethink and major rewrite.
MP: Well, I’m not sure what the original draft looked like, but your final version is outstanding. Not only does Emergence have excellently crafted, fallible yet likable characters, but the novel is an intelligent, thought-provoking science fiction thriller encompassing a variety of philosophical and moral dilemmas. Where did the unique and complex story of Emergence come from?
NML: Where to start… without writing another 100,000 words?
Emergence as a story has always been rattling ’round my brain in various fragments. It started well over ten years ago when I noticed that as I walked to work in the morning, street lamps always seemed to go off when I walked under them. It didn’t take that long (perhaps a year) to realise that the whole street was on light-sensors and so the lights went off at the same time. If I was on the street then I would be under one of the lamps as it went off, and if I was not on the street then I wouldn’t notice anything… a sort of weak anthropic principle… and frankly, bordering on paranoia!
Anyway, the seed had been sown with regards some type of “mind over matter” effect, and that simmered.
Next was the well regarded Fermi Paradox (‘where is everyone?’). I liked the concept of dispassionate judgment dispensed by a superior race – that there were aliens out there that knew better than we did. This made a very nice conceit for Earth given that humanity has been top dog for a good 40,000 years (since we finished off the last of the Neanderthals)
And the final supporting piece was the ongoing difficulty that scientists are having in explaining — how Quantum Mechanics actually works on a sub atomic level? The experiments are incredibly accurate. It is clearly true to a very detailed level, but it is also uncomfortably mysterious.
These three pillars provided the overall scenario for the story; after that it was all about layering. I started with a scenario, and I added characters, then I played the story through in my head trying to determine what happens (when and how). None of the philosophical and moral dilemmas in the book are far-fetched. These are mostly everyday situations we face on Earth: intervention versus non-intervention, existential angst (am I unique?), The Sons of Feanor (we’ve always done it this way), monotheistic imperatives (is the universe perfect and/or perfectly deterministic?).
So where did the bulk of the story come from? Well… I pumped up Copenhagen versus Many Worlds to a macro level and just day-dreamed what it could mean.
MP: Impressive creative process! What were some of the toughest decisions you had to make as a storyteller while writing Emergence?
NML: In early 2014, I thought I had finished the book. Unfortunately, early reviews forced me to rethink that opinion, which led to an utter rewrite of the whole thing. Time well spent but I was left very angry with myself for not having done it better the first time.
From a storyteller perspective – difficult question – I am not sure that I had to make any tough decisions (e.g., killing off a character, stopping a subplot, etc.) I am very pleased with the story end-to-end. My 3rd draft had a whole subplot about a shadowy government agency that was investigating James Chambers (of G60) — fundamentally it didn’t work and 10,000 words were stripped out and deleted; that was painful but not actually a tough decision — I knew in my heart they had to go.
MP: What was the writing process like and have you found any success thus far?
NML: I love writing. Conceiving the story and writing down the first draft is incredibly rewarding, and fun, and beautiful, and artistic, and empowering. Then the editing starts: beta readers, editorial reviews, rewrites, etc. This is still rewarding but less so, the ego takes a battering but you come back stronger. Next comes the copy-editing, formatting, creating the various files for distribution. It’s fiddly and difficult and feels like hard work, but the output is the shiny files that constitute the product – still good but now we are in the world of diminishing returns.
Then the independent author (i.e., me!) enters the eighth circle of hell – marketing and publicity. Don’t get me wrong, connecting with fans is great — but to do that you have to get fans in the first place; and to do that you have to convince people to read your book. This is emotionally very hard after you have poured your heart and soul into writing the book. I suspect that many writers are shy, introverted story-tellers who just want to connect with people through a more passive sharing of ideas. So the world of direct ‘tweet’/‘pin’/’like’/’share’ does not come easily — let alone trying to convince people to spend money.
Success… oh yeah!
1.) – For about an hour in December I was on the same page in the Amazon SciFi Top 100 as Neal Stephenson’s Anathem for my Kindle eBook (I was 79th in the SciFi Top 100; he was 65th)
2.) – The lovely manager of independent book shop Lutyens and Rubinstein (Notting Hill Gate, London) took a copy of my book and sold it to a complete stranger. My first ever ‘bricks and mortar’ sale.
3.) – I have had a very strong response in terms of reviews on Amazon and GoodReads – people who have read my book have really enjoyed it.
MP: What have you learned as a first time indie author and do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
NML: My Zeroth Law — nosce te ipsum — really challenge yourself to “why” you want to write a book in the first place.
There are hundreds of very valid reasons (fun, money, sharing a vision etc.). For each reason there is a different approach that will help you succeed (one slightly flippant example is that if your number one reason is to “get rich” then write a popular genre – have you considered Romance or Self-Help?)
My reason for writing started way back as a way to relax at the end of the day, but quickly evolved into using stories to “share wonder” and “make sense of my place in the universe” — to promote a little philosophical introspection, and entertain… you see how difficult it is to really synthesize down to a fundamental reason.
Apart from that — and apologies for the slightly lecturing tone of that last piece — the basics to becoming a writer are: read around your genre, read everything, and start thinking about what makes each book you enjoy reading good — and which bits you don’t like… it’s not copying… it’s learning.
Added to that, connect with other writers, there are many web-forums on Science Fiction writing, join them and take part, learn, and practice.
MP: Great advice! What projects are you currently working on?
NML: Another full-length novel, it’s a sci-fi thriller, in a contemporary Earth setting. I don’t want to say too much at this early stage, but it will focus on “humans as social animals,” touching on group euphoria and theory of mind. I have not yet started on a sequel to Emergence (2016).
MP: How can the SF Signal community help support you?
NML: I would love feedback on my book Emergence. You can provide feedback though Amazon/Goodreads or directly through the contact form on my web-site www.nickmlloyd.com. And if you’d like to read my book but you’re on a budget, then join my mail list (again on the website), I will be running an Amazon “free weekend” (or maybe a 99c offer) and I will email out a warning to people when it is coming.
And if you’d like to read my book, and you’re on a budget, and you can’t wait — just send me a message through my web-site… I will judge each request on its merits and you may get a free copy.
MP: It’s been a pleasure, Nick. Any final words?
NML: Keep reading… preferably Emergence.