This week, Write On! interviews author Tony Ballantyne. Tony is the author of the Penrose, Recursion and Dream series of novels as well as many acclaimed short stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies around the world. He has been nominated for the BSFA and Philip K Dick awards.
WO: How would you describe your writing/work to someone new to it?
TB: A friend of mine said everything I’d written was completely different to what I’d written before. He wasn’t sure if that was a strength or a weakness. I know what he meant.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book?
TB: I’ve just finished The Descending Sun, a fantasy detective story, and Midway, a collection of stories I wrote during the last months of my father’s illness. Excerpts From Another Life is one of those stories. So is Midway, available here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/midway/
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
TB: I love to read. I loved to read as a child and that made me want to write. What inspires me now? Reading work by a writer that makes me say wow! It makes me want to be better.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of Head In The Clouds – exploring inspiration and creativity along with the need to stay grounded. Can you tell us a bit about how you manage to combine the two in your writing?
TB: I feel that inspiration and creativity aren’t anywhere near as important as people think. Most of any creative endeavour is hard work, in my opinion. Put the hours in at your craft and then when inspiration strikes you’ll be able to do something with it. The best story idea in the world is no use if you can’t convey character or describe a scene.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
TB: Submit. Some writers spend years working on one thing. Submitting your work is a frightening thing: it might be rejected. No one likes to be told they’re not good enough, but getting feedback and acting on it is how you grow as writer. Submit submit submit. It forces you to finish pieces and it makes you look at your work with a more critical eye.
WO: Question from Twitter user @madeleinefwhite: How closely do you draw from science fact to create your science fiction and do you have any particular resource/ research recommendations?
TB: Not very closely – the characters always come first, then the story. I think that research exists separately from a story. Research is interesting; I love to read around subjects, but it’s the soil in which the seed of a story grows, not the story itself.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
TB: No, I never discuss future projects!
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
TB: It would have to be a dog. A talking dog. Or a robot. Or maybe a talking robot dog.
You can find out more about Tony Ballantyne here: tonyballantyne.com and connect with him on Twitter: @TonyBallantyne. You can find out more about his books and short stories here: https://tonyballantyne.com/fiction/
Tony Ballantyne’s story Excerpts From Another Life was featured in our Thoughtful Tuesdays feature.
Submitting your work is a frightening thing: it might be rejected. No one likes to be told they're not good enough, but getting feedback and acting on it is how you grow as writer. Submit submit submit. It forces you to finish pieces and it makes you look at your work with a more critical eye.