Thursday, August 13, 2015

WRITER 2 WRITER: An interview with author Jilly Paddock

My introduction to Jilly Paddock's writing was through a self-published short story collection. The lead-off tale, 'The Dragon, Fly' was of such imaginative and ethereal prose that I devoured it in one sitting and was sorry when it ended. Jilly has a way with words that takes you out of the norm and into realms of imagination that you've never considered. Add to that the exquisite Morgan Fitzsimons Ruby Dragon cover, and I was hooked from the outset. That collection has more than one gem included, but that initial story has haunted me ever since.

Jilly Paddock's stories will do that to you, but don't just take my word for it. Check them out for yourself! Read the interview below, and follow the links to wherever her work is sold. Make sure you check out Jilly's blog too, where you'll find links to some of her earlier writing.

An interview with author

Jilly Paddock sketch by the incomparable Morgan Fitzsimons

  • Jilly, please tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m now retired after a career spent working in labs, first in medical research and then in several NHS microbiology labs. I live in a small messy house packed with books, CDs and other stuff, with a book reviewer who also edits for Pro Se Press. No kids or pets – we did have cats, but the last of them died a couple of years ago.

[NANCY'S NOTE] The following is Jilly's official author bio:

Gillian M. (Jilly) Paddock's earliest published works were in the field of medical research in the mid-70s. One of which, she presented at a conference in London in 1975.

She's been writing science fiction and fantasy stories for as long as she can remember. An early version of her first full-length novel did the rounds of publishers both sides of the Atlantic, courtesy of the Dorian Literary Agency. Sadly, while all the responses to the work itself were very positive, none of the publishers felt they had a place for it on their lists at that time. She sold three short stories to small press magazines in the early 90s, but two of them folded shortly after publication and the third before they even published her story.

Having taken early retirement from the National Health Service in 2011, she decided the time was right to resurrect her stalled writing career.

Since then, she has self-published several books on Amazon Kindle, which have received excellent reviews. The title story of her short story collection, 'The Dragon, Fly', was written on a creative writing course and received high praise from the tutor, the late, great Iain (M.) Banks.

Her story, 'The Third Worst Thing That Can Happen on Mars', was published in Pro Se Presents #19 (the penultimate issue) and 'Mountains of Ice' appeared in 'Blood Type: An Anthology of Vampire SF on the Cutting Edge'—a charity anthology in support of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust published by Nightscape Press.

Her first novel, 'To Die a Stranger' was published by Pro Se in 2013 and the sequel, 'With Amber Tears' will follow soon. The first 'Afton and Jerome' novella, 'The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone', will also be published in paperback and ebook editions by Pro Se in the near future. Her epic space opera, 'Warbird', is scheduled for publication in two volumes from 18thWall later this year. Nightscape Press will be collecting the rest of her shorter fiction sometime in 2016. After that, she's going to have to write something new!

She lives in a small, untidy house in the flat bits of East Anglia in the UK, which she shares with an editor/book reviewer, and an insanely large collection of books and music.

  • How did you got into writing?

I’d always made up stories in my head and I started writing them down when I was eleven, encouraged by a school friend. We read a lot of pony books back then, so that’s what we wrote. We gradually moved to science fiction and were joined by another friend—I think that writing kept us all sane through the boring lessons. All three of us are published writers now.

  • What kind of writing do you prefer? Is there any sort of genre or writing category you detest or avoid?

I read SF and fantasy. As I read for escape, why bother with anything set in the real world? I could just watch the news if I wanted that.
I adore beautiful, poetic writing that flows and carries you along. You shouldn’t notice the style or be jolted out of the narrative—the nuts and bolts of the writing should be invisible. It’s hard to do; Peter Beagle is a master of heart-breakingly lovely prose and Neil Gaiman is good. I’m fond of poetry, some early metaphysical stuff, Romantic poets like Keats and Shelley, Walter de la Mare and Yeats. You’ll find lots of poetry quotes and song lyrics in the titles and body of my works.
I was forced to read a lot of classic novels at school—Jane Austen, Fielding, Hardy and Golding’s awful ‘Lord of the Flies’—so I steer clear of that kind of thing now.
I can’t bear epistolary novels—novels written as a series of letters or journal entries. ‘Dracula’ is a classic example, as is ‘Frankenstein’. If I’m reading a book like that, I’ll skip over the letters in disgust.

  • Do you have any favorite mainstream authors? Any whose work you just can't stand? What makes their words sink or soar for you?

I don’t tend to read mainstream fiction. In my teens I read Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming’s Bond books, Dick Francis (detective fiction set in the horse racing world—he was an ex-jockey) and the blockbuster fiction of the time by Alistair MacLean, as well as SF and fantasy. I like the Flashman books by George MacDonald Fraser, and some Terry Pratchett, mainly the ones with the witches in. My favourite living SF/fantasy writers are Charles Stross, Ben Aaronovitch and Elizabeth Bear, and favourite dead ones are Iain Banks, James White, Louise Cooper and Tanith Lee. I know it’s unfashionable these days to like Heinlein, but I do. I like books with good characters and well-constructed plausible worlds.

  • Many writers have other hobbies, interests, and talents that they turn to when not at the keyboard. What do you do to exercise that creative mind when not writing?

I’ve dabbled in all manner of crafts. It’s strange that some drift out of fashion for years and then come back as if they’ve been reinvented, like crochet, which I did back in the 70s and is popular again. I did silversmithing for a while, but that’s awkward without a proper workshop, and I made candles in my kitchen, which was messy. I was into cross-stitch for a while and many of the finished products hang on my walls. I even designed a few—Dave’s quite fond of the Lovecraft Cthulhu sampler. These days I knit, mainly socks, using self-patterning yarn, and I make jewellery, simple strung necklaces and earrings. I did some patchwork and made pretty bags to keep some of my collection of tarot decks in.

  • I know you've just recently started attending conventions and the like. For me that was tough, because while I was excited to meet my peers, I'm basically an introvert—plus here in the US, many cons are plane fare away from me, so it gets costly. What were your experiences over there across the pond? What did you think of all the hoopla and fishbowl exposure?

Actually I’ve been going to conventions for a long time. I don’t recall which was my first, but I went to the Worldcon when it was held in Brighton in 1979, with GOHs Brian Aldiss and Fritz Leiber. I went to lots of cons in the 80s and 90s, then a lack of time and funds meant I lapsed for a while. We started going to Fantasycon again in 2011, did the World Fantasy convention in Brighton in 2013 and Loncon 3, the Worldcon last year. I didn’t much enjoy Loncon 3 as it was held in a huge exhibition centre – the big halls felt like being in a warehouse and yet some of the event rooms were too small, so that you’d queue to get into a panel and find that there wasn’t room. I like the smaller cons, where you can sit down with an author in the bar and just chat.
At my early cons I just went as a fan, but now I’m brave enough to admit that I’m a writer and talk to people about my books. I did my first reading at the World Fantasy con, sharing an hour with William F Nolan and Jason V Brock, which was an interesting experience.

  • Many of us—myself included—are nostalgic for the days when editors were mentors and publishing houses had adequate budgets to promote the authors in their stable. How do you feel about writing in this age of E-publishing and online marketing? Do you embrace the soapbox aspect of Social Media to get the word out about your work, or do you find it rather crass and repugnant?

I have self-published several books and I like the total control you have over the entire process. It’s also much faster than conventional publishing, but promoting your own titles is a lot of work. An unexpected bonus of e-publishing is the rebirth of the novella. It used to be impossible to find a home for a story in the 20-40000 word range, but it’s ideal as an e-book. My first offering was a first contact novella, and then I put out a collection of short fiction and the novel that Pro Se picked up, ‘To Die A Stranger’.
I’m not big on social media, but I do Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. I also have a blog, but post to it rarely. Constantly pushing your books can really annoy people, which doesn’t help sales, so I try to be a human first and add a few pertinent comments about the latest offerings now and then.

  • Jilly, if you have something new out, or something coming up that you'd really like to talk about, this is the place to expound on it.

‘Dead Men Rise Up Never’ is my latest title from Pro Se Press. It features Detective Inspector A Afton Lamont and her partner, Jerome, a pair of characters who appear in several novellas and short stories. They work in Prosperity City on a colony world called Siobhos, and they usually get saddled with the weird and wonderful cases that nobody else wants. ‘Dead Men’ is a tale of murder-by-unicorn, a bohemian group of artists and an AI whose main avatar is a teenage girl with fairy wings. It’s cross-genre, SF/detective with a touch of magical realism. The book also has a bonus short story, ‘Five of Melancholy; One of Humours; One of Honey’ about Afton, Jerome and the team drinking down their sorrows after a nasty case.
‘With Amber Tears’, the second volume of the Zenith-Alpha 4013 series which began with ‛To Die a Stranger’, is waiting for its cover and will come out later this year, we hope. I need these to come out a bit quicker! Three and four are ready to go, and the full series will be about ten books. The Zenith-Alpha 4013 series and the Afton and Jerome series are actually set in the same universe, as is made obvious in the first Afton and Jerome story, ‛The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone’, which is currently only available on Amazon Kindle, but will eventually appear in an expanded edition from Pro Se Productions

Jilly, thanks so much for sharing your writing insights with us!

Jilly Paddock's Amazon US author page can be accessed HERE and her Amazon UK author page is HERE

You can find links to some of her earlier writing on her blog HERE.

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