I’m fascinated by life transitions. How did you, as an active oceanographer, come to take on writing fiction, too?
The desire to write fiction has always been there since I was a teenager but I had to suppress this creative force while establishing a career in science. A few years ago, life circumstances propelled me to finally mull over ideas I’d had for novels and put the proverbial pen to paper. When I started to write, I had no idea if I could actually develop characters, story arcs and authentic places and events, never mind finishing a book. My wife insists I have a very strong will and this drive allowed me to complete the books. I’ve had to transcend the difficulties of disability since childhood and this inner resolve helped. When I was thirteen, I remember overhearing a physician say that I would not likely survive beyond sixteen years of age or so. Expletives asides, here I am now, despite someone else’s negative view.
How do you balance your working life in science with your writing life?
Frankly…it is a difficult balance! With family commitments and working fulltime in scientific research, finding time to think and write fiction is a complex tradeoff in life. I have an incredibly supportive wife who really encouraged me to start writing and continue to the present. Without her love and backing, I would not have written my books. We mull over living in the future in some small, modest villa in Andalucia where I could work on my craft and write fiction fulltime, look after our animals and tend to a small garden. Sounds idyllic!
As a librarian, I’m always interested in the research that authors do for their books. What research was required for At the Sharp End of Lightning and what were your best resources?
Much of the research for the ocean ecology aspects of the book I already knew from my own research. I had to remind myself of a few details and I used a few oceanographic references in my own library or went to scientific papers using library resources and Google Scholar. In the glossary of the book, I added a few citations to ocean ecology and also to a book on the Antarctic voyage of Nicholas Shackleton and his crew. I also used an encyclopaedia of Welsh history and the Arthurian Welsh tales that were written in the Mabinogion. I spent six months researching the novels before starting to write. Online resources were very helpful for me to check a fact, place or event when I need to.
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