The New Ghostwriters of Science Fiction: my first six-month retrospectiveJune 27, 2015
Independence Day in SpaceJuly 4, 2015
I love writing the Human Legion books. Even though I have the story mapped out through to book six (and beyond for possible successor series), I often can’t vividly feel what is happening in the minds and hearts of my characters until I’m writing a scene for real. Sometimes my characters surprise me. They aren’t shy about telling me if my story isn’t right, or if they have a more interesting tale to tell than the one I had planned. Consequently I often update my ‘masterplan’. To give a timely Waterloo quote, the Duke of Wellington once said of Napoleon’s marshals:
“The French plans are like a splendid leather harness which is perfect when it works, but if it breaks it cannot be mended. I make my harness of ropes: it is never as good-looking as the French, but if it breaks I can tie a knot and carry on.” — Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
And that’s how I write…
I think it’s been going pretty well, but even so I sometimes feel frustration that I can’t proceed faster and, maybe (if I’m honest), with a little more discipline.
The Iron Duke would be proud. I’ve unknotted my harness temporarily to tie together a much larger one, one large enough to accommodate another horse so the story writing will progress at a more thunderous rate.
In other words, I have recruited a co-author to help me finish the rest of the series. His name is Ian Whates.
And here’s his bio:
Ian Whates lives in a quiet Cambridgeshire village with his partner, Helen, and Honey, a manic cocker spaniel. Ian is the author of six novels to date, most recently Pelquin’s Comet, released in April 2015. Also, the City of 100 Rows trilogy (Angry Robot), and the Noise duology (Solaris). Sixty-odd of his short stories have appeared in various venues, two of which were shortlisted for BSFA Awards, and his second collection Growing Pains (PS Publishing) appeared in 2013. Ian has edited some two dozen anthologies and in 2014 one of these Solaris Rising 2, was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award. He has served a term as Overseas Director of SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) and spent five years as chairman the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association), stepping down in 2013. In his spare time Ian runs multiple award-winning independent publisher NewCon Press, which he founded by accident in 2006.
I’ve plenty of experience with working in small teams in the software industry. My role for most of this decade has been to set them up, and to monitor and mentor them so they tie together as a team without drowning in bureaucracy.
But no matter how many fancy-sounding charts and tools you use, at its heart the individuals in a small team have to fit together with the right chemistry. And to co-author, we need a consistent vision of where the books are headed, and to be similar enough in style and voice, which I’m now convinced we have. That’s why we’ve been working together writing the fourth book, Human Empire, for three weeks (using a system I call SCRUM for Authors). We’re well over a third of the way to completing the novel already, and I have no hesitation in saying this experiment is working very well indeed.
Ian is only a forty minute drive away from my house, which is vital for getting together to thrash out ideas face-to-face, but the main reason why Ian was the only candidate I was prepared to ask to join me was because for years I’ve told Ian how bemused I am when I read his work because I often think: ‘I could have written that.’ That doesn’t apply to all his writing, which is a good thing. If Ian was simply a clone of myself, he wouldn’t be bringing so much to the party.
Ian’s a highly respected author with a love of space opera and an impressive publication history, but that wouldn’t have been enough if our writing styles didn’t overlap so readily.
So you can get to know Ian a little better, I’m going to interview him in a few days, but to give a flavor, here’s a few words Ian gave for the press release.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Tim in writing the Human Legion series, particularly coming in at this crucial time as the civil war within the White Knights’ Empire gathers pace and the action hots up. The first three books constitute some of the best Military SF I’ve read in a long while, and we intend to really kick on from here.” — Ian Whates
I hope you will join me in welcoming Ian to the team. I’ll leave you with a description of Ian’s writing from someone other than myself: the reviewers in some UK newspapers with their view of Ian’s latest space opera novel, Pelquin’s Comet.
“A good, unashamed, rip-roaring piece of space opera that hits the spot – a roguish but good-hearted starship captain presiding over a crew of misfits and outcasts, a psychic alien with a droll sense of humour, a bunch of corporate bad guys up to no good, exotic planets, witty banter and plenty of gunplay and action in deepest space.” – The Financial Times
“Whates… is a natural story-teller and works his material with verve, obvious enjoyment, and an effortlessly breezy prose style.” – The Guardian