Roy Baldwin was born in south Lancashire and has lived and worked around the UK in various mathematical and scientific guises as an educationalist, night club owner, civil servant, musician, house conservator and management consultant. Prism of Purpurine, a contemporary ghost story and sequel to Mauveine, is his sixth book and he is currently busy with researching and writing Rhapsody of Moon, the fifth sequel in the Rhapsody Series. He is a full time writer, book designer and women’s fiction publisher, and regularly commentates on the book and publishing industry through Twitter. Other books in the Rhapsody series are Rhapsody of Restraint, his debut novel and the first Rhapsody novel, followed by Rhapsody of Power, Rhapsody of Fate and Rhapsody of Succession. In between writing and digital publishing, he also tries to enjoy the fabulous beauty of the Norfolk countryside and seashore where he now lives. All novels can be bought in eBook and print versions from Amazon, Nook, Kobo and other good online bookstores worldwide as well as direct through the Creative Gateway Bookstore.
What I write – an author interview about creating Rhapsody of Power
What do you do to relax when you are not writing?
I’m fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, in the East near Norwich, with great countryside and coastal areas, so I head there to chill out with my wife, Corri, and get some story inspirations.
What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?
I used to love story writing at school, but eventually real life kicked in and I spent much of my educational management career creating and writing endless reports and policies instead. That early love of fiction had withered away until remarkably five years ago, when I discovered Stieg Larsson and the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. The series, with its off-beat, complex relationship plots and murky characters blew me away. From that point I regenerated and the fiction has since poured forth!
What or who inspired you to write the Rhapsody Series?
As a former science adviser and educationalist, I spent a lot of time leading initiatives to encourage women to take up science and engineering, and I have always been fascinated with nuclear technologies and energy generation. So it seemed a natural stepping off point to combine the two concepts and create exciting contemporary romance and adventure for the reader to enjoy, alongside easy engagement with interesting and topical science, in this case nuclear energy, at the same time. I call this new science themed women’s fiction sub-genre SciRom. I think fiction has great potential to present science and technology to women readers in more exciting and meaningful ways, with empathy creation, that could encourage more women and young female students to take up science, engineering and technology as a career or interest.
Tell us three interesting facts about your book Rhapsody of Power, not in the general description
1) Rhapsody of Power is the second book in the Rhapsody series, so although the book, like all the Rhapsody series, can be enjoyed standing alone, more subtleties of background of Lauren Hind, the French protagonist and a number of the other main characters can be digested and savoured from the first book, Rhapsody of Restraint, set in time around 2007-8.
2) Technically difficult nuclear science situations, embellished in a fictional context, thread themselves throughout the book, but I have tried hard to portray events in a fun and easy understandable language for the non-science reader to both enjoy, understand and also learn about. Lots of popular science books can take that taster of enjoyment further if desired. Being a former teacher helped with the writing!
3) The entire point of view of the Rhapsody series is seen through female scientist eyes, i.e. the protagonist and her friends and colleagues, so the complex relationship issues, interests, crises and preoccupations are all met and resolved by women. And some really interesting places are visited, especially taken up in Book 3, Rhapsody of Fate, just released.
What research did you need to do for the Rhapsody Series?
I had to get up to speed with the latest progress in nuclear physics and energy generation. That was hard, but one day nuclear fusion will release us from the constant worries over climate change and fossil fuel burning, when the energy generation processes in the sun are commercially replicated on Earth. I am also on a continual learning curve with women’s fashions – lots of fun but even more dangerous to write about than entering a nuclear fission core!
Are any elements/characters of the Rhapsody Series based on real life experiences or people you’ve met/known?
I have known a number of female scientists and engineers for many years and contrary to some popular caricatures they are not geeky and nerdy but fun, feisty and very fashionable as well as great, hard working role models for young, up and coming students. Science can be sexy, fun and very well paid and this aspect is a key feature of the Rhapsody series.
Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress
I’m working on a number of projects. As well as being in the middle of the next book, Rhapsody of Succession, I have recently been doing some intensive training on film script writing as I would like to adapt the Rhapsody series into a TV drama. A totally different creative experience to novels. I am also working on a fictional biography of a famous mathematician and definitely intend to do NaNoWriMo this year and am planning something in a different genre too!
What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?
I write by the seat of my pants rather than undertake detailed planning. I start with a rough framework of 2-3 sides of A4 that has a tangible beginning, middle and end and then go hell for leather to complete a whole first draft, editing each chapter roughly one by one. Then the real creative work begins; what I call forensic editing which I do within a publishing template, some rewriting, adding things, proofing etc. Actually I find this a very enjoyable process but it can take me a good six months before I am happy with the final product.
What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?
I mostly write in my business office,usually at night. I need long bursts of concentrated peace and quiet in familiar surroundings and move constantly from device to device using Dropbox, so I can also wander into my local Costa occasionally with my Kindle Fire for inspiration and maintain continuity of the story.
What prompted you to self-publish your current book?
Being business oriented, I also wanted to learn all the processes of digital publishing, and used the novel writing as a test-bed to understand and learn editing, formatting, print on demand, eBooks, book cover-design, etc. I find independent publishing as much fun as writing and now I can publish and support other new writers of women’s fiction, on all aspects of getting their books out to readers. Every part of all the Rhapsody books, except the physical printing process, has been written, created and completed by me.
What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Time distractions: It’s surprising how often daily life necessities cut into those important periods of necessary writing quiet, so becoming a forced recluse occasionally and reluctantly not watching The Bridge was the answer.
2) Understanding the genre: Being a male writer of female issues has obvious challenges, so I have to continually research and do a lot of reading of good women’s fiction and listen to feedback. I have a small dedicated group of female beta readers who really help. I think it is essential for all fiction writers, whatever genre, to put time into continuous learning and refining of their writing craft and there is a lot of amazing online blog and newsletter advice and support digitally available; but be discriminate and stick to a few you value or it gets overwhelming.
3) Editing and knowing when to end: One thing I have learned the hard way is don’t publish too early. I edited Rhapsody of Power over and over again, until I finally felt truly happy with the quality of the product. If writing and independent publishing is a new skill you really do have to put in the 10,000 hours on editing and not be daunted by the thought. Sex scenes are the most challenging to get the nuance and language right for the type of novel and need a lot of refinement.
Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?
Funnily enough this isn’t something I seem to have a problem with, but it may be because once I start to write then the characters immediately take over, and the imagination charges ahead. My advice for paralysis by analysis is to get your butt in the chair and just write – there are in the end no rules.
What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?
Treat your writing as a small business start-up, requiring the same discipline – stay professionally determined, flexible and focussed, produce the best work you can, keep on learning and network physically and online with other writers. Isolation is not good for creativity. And most importantly, repeat – keep writing the next one.
What genre does your book fall into?
I love unusual cross-genre fiction and my books fall into contemporary science-romance-thriller, which is an uncommon mix, but broadly I am writing women’s fiction as all my books follow a woman’s journey and how she faces and overcomes the challenges along the way. This defines women’s fiction from say romance which must always have a predictable happy ending.
How did you get interested in this specific genre?
As I indicated earlier, partly because I have worked extensively with female scientists and mathematicians and wanted to create some fun and challenging fiction around those experiences, but quite likely there are other aspects in my own background. Like D H Lawrence and Albert Einstein, I had a strong maternal influence and little paternal involvement in my childhood and early aspirations. I also am really motivated to present science and technology as a great read for the majority of female readers of women’s fiction generally.
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) H G Wells – my first introduction as a child to science fiction with frightening predictions of the future. His writing style is now somewhat old-fashioned but for plot and character development he was a master.
2) Susan Lewis – accidental discovery in a Mediterranean holiday apartment of her novel, the French Affair, devoured by the pool, unexpectedly awakened a latent love of women’s fiction. The rest of Susan’s novels taught me a lot about balancing effective prose with supportive description and how to recognise and become comfortable with your own consistent style.
3) Stieg Larsson – His millennium series of three novels reopened my eyes to the real enjoyment of effective fictional conflict and tension set around serious contemporary and political issues and gave me an insight into how to write a series rather than a one off novel. Although not a great lover of crime fiction generally, I have since become a serious addict to Scandinavian noir and their UK TV adaptations.
What was your favourite book as a child?
War of the Worlds by H G Wells, read over and over until the cover fell off.
What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?
Vector a Modern Love Story by J J Brown. A wonderful short novel of superb writing, depicting the most intense interactions of joy, fears and connection between two people. Jennifer is also an awesome scientist.
What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?
Drowning Rose by Marika Cobbold. My friend wanted to know the difference between women’s fiction and romance so I gave her this book. Central to all Marika’s work are strong but quirky women with difficult pasts and unresolved guilt and remorse; amazing writing.
Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?
I’m a fervent eReader evangelist, mainly Kindle but also Kobo, Nook and Sony, both as dedicated e-ink devices and tablets for colour. They are great for reading fiction for long periods – I seem to finish an eBook quicker than print. I also use eReaders for final editing – really good. I have an iPad but don’t use it for books. But equally I do like creating print books, especially designing the covers.
You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?
I must admit I have been thinking a lot about this lately, but still waiting for the call! I am struggling to choose between Cameron Diaz and Rachel Weisz for my nuclear research protagonist, Professor Lauren Hind. Both play strong, feisty, individualistic and quirky women fantastically well. Javier Bardam is definitely the bad guy, to add a touch of unconventional No Country for Old Men malice. And the beguiling Slavic love interest and kick-ass female intelligence sleuth, Mila, has to be Vera Farmiga. Gosh, what a mix of characters.
The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?
I need a genius who can bring a fusion of classical and jazz to represent links to the past and pathways to the future – so it has to be Jamie Cullen.
Favourite Drink – Cold Pinot
Favourite Meal – Traditional Christmas Turkey Dinner
Favourite Holiday destination – Sicily
Favourite TV programme – The Bridge
Favourite Film – Melancholia
Favourite Method of travel – 4 X 4 vehicles
Favourite Sport – Tennis
How can people connect with you?
Website and blog: http://www.creativepubtalk.com
LinkedIn: Roy Baldwin