If science fiction was a country, the Forbidden Planet Megastore on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue would be one of its embassies, and Danie Ware one of its favourite ambassadors.
Already well known to the science fiction community as a regular panellist at SF conventions and a regular blogger and early adopter of all things social media, Danie is responsible for luring some of the biggest names of SF&F into the store then making them sign stacks of books for fans until the small hours.
Now with the release of her first novel, Ecko Rising, the tables are turning and its Vector’s turn to ask a few questions (and to stand patiently in line to get our copy inscribed).
Vector: Ecko Rising is described as a mix of science fiction and fantasy - did you set out to deliberately blur up the genres or is this more a case of the story finding its own voice as you wrote?
Danie Ware: A little of both! When I started writing, I wrote for love and curiosity, to see where it would lead and because I was fascinated by the concept – what a cynical, hard-bitten SF character would make of a fantasy world.
When I came back to the project, that concept was so much a part of the narrative that I made a conscious choice to leave it as it was. At the risk of wandering into the ‘it’s speculative fiction why can’t we speculate?’ question, sometimes genre, by its very definition, won’t break its own boundaries – and as Ecko grew from ‘what-if’ to ‘mash-up’, so breaking those boundaries became one of the central themes of the book.
V: Can you tell us a bit about the plot, and especially the main character, without straying too far into spoiler territory?
DW: Ecko’s a misfit – he’s damaged and difficult and dissonant. He’s that part of all of us that rebels when given an order, that refuses to do what we’re told. Thrown from one reality into another, he believes he’s plugged into a program, a fiction, and that nothing around him is real. In turn, this means that nothing really matters, and he has no reason to pick up the sword of prophecy and champion the good guys.
Ecko’s given me the opportunity to look at fantasy through darker eyes, gleeful and sarcastic eyes, to give it a savage new point of view - and it’s been a lot of fun!
V: Although this is your first novel, you're already well known on the science fiction circuit through your work for Forbidden Planet. Did you find this was an advantage to you, or conversely was there more pressure in some areas as a known face as it were?
DW: A little of both, I think. Almost all of the top genre authors in the UK have been guests at FP at some point; I’m known to them, and that’s a difficult thing to try and live up to.
More than anything, though, being immersed in the community is a creative encouragement in its own right. I had stopped writing for eight years – just gave up – and it was returning to the support and friendship of the environment that catalysed me finding my confidence – just that little bit I needed to start again. And really, everything’s snowballed from there.
V: Was there ever a moment when you thought about writing outside the SF&F genres, or has it always been Sci-Fi first for you?
DW: I have an urban fantasy (ish) novel written and sitting with my agent, but as to writing outside the larger inclusive circle of ‘genre’… well, I enjoy making stuff up, it’s fun. Research is essential, but like crossing the genre-streams, it’s about taking those building blocks and making something new, something distinct and a little unexpected. Making my own something.
V: What have you learned about being an author from all of the writers you've met and organised events for?
DW: Simply? That it’s hard work, and comes with precious little glamour!
It’s given me a more realistic expectation – certainly I hope so. The bad reviews will happen, the empty signings will happen; I’ve honestly seen it happen to the best. And while your book may be a piece of your soul, fought forth from darkness and lovingly crafted and all of that malarkey… at the end of the day, both you and beloved masterpiece are just product.
And yet, the funny thing? Sell-by date or no, the authors I’ve met still do it for love. And though always unvoiced, that’s the greatest encouragement of all.
V: Do you have any specific strategies for fitting writing into your day, or is it more a case of fitting the rest of the day around the writing?
DW: I’m a working single parent, with a daily commute. I get up at six in the morning to be out of the house by seven, and don’t usually stop until eight at night. Trying to shoehorn time to write is less a strategy, more a question of just grabbing moments when I can. If I’m really disciplined, I get up very early and write in the morning, and I can use the time when my son is visiting family.
Because of this maniacal juggling, research and structural planning are essential, though occasionally a character will wander off and do their own thing. I just don’t have time to be constantly redrafting stuff!
V: In between all of the writing, promoting and the phenomenal amount of time we believe you spend on social media, what do you do to relax? We hear a rumour about sword fighting...
DW: What is this ‘relax’ of which you speak? I spent a dozen or so years in Dark Age and Medieval re-enactment, a hobby I gave up (more be necessity than desire) when I moved to London. I’ve missed it very much for any number of reasons – and one day, I really want to go back to bashing people with swords…
In the meantime, any spare moments are usually given to my bicycle or to the local gym. If I’m going to pick up weapons again, then I should probably keep in training!
V: You're a well known presence / pundit on social media - is this something that has directly helped with the writing, and are there any particular sites, online tools etc you've found indispensable?
DW: Evernote is a thing of wonder – you can record those Muse-like flashes, whenever and wherever you are. One day, I’ll even master the art of understanding my own shorthand when I come back to the damned things three months later!
I also use Pinterest, the picture-sharing site that’s recently become hugely popular – it’s like an Evernote for imagery. I can hoard pictures of characters, of locations, illustrative plots of story arc or narrative inspirations – all of them easy to file and remember.
Just be wary – there are times I’ve seen a particular picture show up repeatedly on my friends’ pinboards, and I do wonder if we’re all writing the same thing after all…
Social Media is a wonderfully nebulous thing. Twitter can be invaluable for research, for networking, for selling (just don’t overdo it); both Twitter and Facebook important for belonging to a community, and for knitting that community closer. Both can throw up random wonders that startle and inspire, and both can equally be Dread Thieves of Time.
In my experience, Social Media its own karma - you’ll get from it exactly what you put into it. And when you’re writing, turn it off!
V: And finally, the title Ecko Rising suggests we might well be seeing more in the series...?
DW: I’ve just finished the first draft of the sequel, out next September from Titan Books. After that, we will have to wait and see!
Ecko Rising by Danie Ware is out now from Titan Books
Follow Danie on Twitter at Twitter.com/Danacea
Make Danie happy and buy stuff from ForbiddenPlanet.com