Monday, March 24, 2008

The Inside Scoop on Geoff Nelder

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming Geoff Nelder, an award-winning author of thriller, fantasy, and science fiction. Geoff is also co-editor of a new science fiction magazine titled, “Escape Velocity”. Geoff made three humorous contributions to Inside Scoop: Articles about Acting and Writing by Hollywood Insiders and Published Authors. We’ll talk to Geoff about his books, his magazine, and his contributions to Inside Scoop, but I warn you, Geoff might just crack you up.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Geoff. It’s great to have you with us.

Cheryl, the pleasure is all mine.

When you first contacted me about this interview you mentioned biscuits and tea. Sounds English. Is that where you hail from? Do you still live in England?

I hail from Earth, but I live in the bit called England.

How long have you been writing? Have you always viewed the world with a sense of humor?

I have been writing since schooldays, when I wrote skits for end of semester stage shows.

Who would you say is your biggest source of inspiration?

Tibor Fischer plays with words in a way that I appreciate, admire and make my chuckle muscles ache. Read his The Thought Gang and you’ll see what I mean. Less obviously, one of your countrymen living in Paris, Howard Waldman, has an inspiring flair for writing – try his Back There and his soon to be released Good Americans Go To Paris When They Die.

You’ve recently had a short story published in the literary magazine, Delivered. Would you like to tell us about it?

"Camera Shy" came to me while sipping lemon tea at a pavement café in the Place de Concorde, Paris. A thief dismounts from his bicycle to ‘help’ then steal a video camera from a tourist couple. They use his bicycle to give chase down in the Metro underground. The confrontation is where the twist and countertwist screws when the wife pieces together the real reason why her hubby is so keen to recover what is recorded in the camera. Writing a chunk of a story while on location always gives me a buzz. Hey I get a prize if readers vote for my Camera Shy in the March edition of Delivered – get it from Grimmy Productions.

Why don’t you tell us about some of the story collections you’ve contributed to.

My favorite crime story is "Fake Fake" that appeared in Shots Magazine. Two bungling burglars steal a famous Van Gogh painting and sell it to the wrong people. The story is based on a real Van Gogh stolen painting, yet to be recovered. I understand the police are taking their clues from my story…

Let’s talk about Escaping Reality. It’s listed on your website as a humor thriller, crime mystery with a dash of romance. Okay, how in the heck did you pull all that off?

It is the novel that grew inside me as a young man and finally burst out in 2005. The protagonist is thrown into prison and escapes to prove his innocence. He uses humor, like I do, to overcome adversity. If you are a kid trapped in an adult’s body then it isn’t difficult to find hilarity all around you, particularly when real adults are so po-faced.

How can writers add humor to lighten up their stories without making it seem out of place?

Good question. Next?

Oh, all right. Don’t deliberately use humor to lighten a story. It has to fall into the subtext naturally, or it will feel forced. Often an observation of real life is simple and simply funny. For example, from Escaping Reality is this:
'...a wheeled basket was pulling an old lady down towards the shops on the other side of the road.'

Even in a dangerous episode the way the endangered protagonist thinks helps him to survive trauma. Example:
‘Through half-closed puffy eyes I could see they were considering their next step. It wasn't so much their conversation because two of them hadn't said anything at all and the talkative one had only uttered two words. Actions speak louder than words. They seemed to operate with some sort of low-life telepathy. I've seen it before. Knowing looks, eyebrow elevation semaphore, short jerks of the head, shrugging shoulders and grunts. Why use complicated language, fraught with the dangers of using the wrong words and all the permutations of ambiguity?’

Tell us about “Escape Velocity”. How did it get started? Where can readers get a copy?

Robert Blevins runs Adventure Books of Seattle. He and I have edited his company’s novels and then we realized that between us we had a truckload of unpublished short stories we’d written. We threw some of them into an anthology, Dimensions, which is still available here Adventure Books of Seattle. Although we were satisfied with that publication it struck us that we could involve many other writers if we created a magazine. Now, only in its second issue yet the magazine sells better than the books. "Escape Velocity" has its own website for purchase here:

Do you accept outside submissions or is this magazine entirely staff written?

After the first issue, it would feel too much like vanity to use our own stories in the magazine – and so we defeat our own original purpose! We write articles and editorials but are open to science fiction stories from any good writer. Please read the submission guidelines in the above link first, even if you send a packet of biscuits stapled to your e-mail.

Let’s move on to Inside Scoop. How did you get involved in this project?

Marilyn Peake and I bumped into each other in a couple of writers’ forums and that latent spark of love and recognition burst into everlasting flame – or something like that.

Your article “Where the Spanish are German, the English are Scottish and the Sheep Wear Cowbells” is about what writers can learn by traveling to places they hope to write about. Is this something that you do frequently?

Absolutely. As a former teacher of Geography I used to get irritated by the use of theoretical models that were the vogue in the 80s. Kids would learn about NewTown and NewPort and know nothing about real places. Now I see that in stories and I see no point in making up places when there are so many colorful real and vibrant towns. But to grab a feel for those places I need to breathe in their air, smell their wild plants, and kiss their women, and so forth. It is a bit trickier in science fiction, but I have a ticket waiting for the next bus to Saturn’s rings.

You talk about Internet research in your next article, “Foraging the Forumiferii (or
using Internet forums for writing research)”. What can you tell us about this one?

I was commissioned by a cycling magazine to research and write a piece on why dogs chase and bark at cyclists. There are so many Yahoo and other forums inhabited by cyclists, dog owners, sound engineers and scientists that they presented an ideal opportunity to forage them for information. I had over 2,000 responses from ‘because they can’ to a book-length essay from an ethologist on canine psychiatry.

Your last article, “The Mob and Hotels: Elements of Research in the Writing of Escaping Reality” talks about the real-life background research you did for your novel. Sounds dangerous. Were you ever worried that what you uncovered could be harmful to you or your loved ones?

I am too ignorant and foolish to realize any danger I put myself and my family into at the time. When you have taught 5,000 people no matter how much I hoped they’d all become model citizens – at least whacky anarchistic but friendly citizens – some were statistically likely to become criminals. One such was a likeable rogue as a kid, and though he became a drug pusher and then gangland leader we kind of respected each other so I didn’t feel in any personal danger. The information he imparted to me was obviously not going to be relevant for a police operation by the time it came out in Escaping Reality. Having said that there were police raids in Maryport, UK after a local reporter noted the crime scene described in my fiction!

What’s up next for you? Are there future projects you would like to share with our readers?

My agent is hawking around my sci fi trilogy, Left Luggage. It has an original premise and will be bigger than Heroes, and more disturbing than Lost. My work in progress is Xaghra’s Revenge, a magic realism fantasy based on a real incident when in 1551 pirates abducted the entire population of a Mediterranean island. Their spirits seek revenge…

Is there anything you would like to add?

That cup of tea? My biscuit has sunk in it.

Just one last question, how are my interview skills? Before you answer, let me tell you that I have an over-protective husband who stands around six-feet tall and is dangerously close to two hundred pounds.

Your skills are outstanding, as is your hair.

Thanks for joining us today, Geoff. It’s been a wonderful and funny ride getting to know more about you and your work. Best of luck in all you do!

Thanks, Cheryl. Next time make it Earl Grey tea, and I’m partial to custard creams.

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