Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writer's Wednesday: Talking with Bev Allen

Hello! Today on Writing World we're chatting with Bev Allen, writer of YA science fiction and adventure. Bev certainly knows how to draw readers of all ages into her stories!

"I fell in love with my first soldier outside Buckingham Palace. He was a Coldstream on guard and I was four. Later I fell in love with reading and writing, and later still with sci-fi and tales of fantasy and high adventure, but that first admiration for the military has never faded. Now I am married to an amateur military historian who drags me around every military museum he can find. We are both members of The Victorian Military Society.

I've always told stories, but I am dyslexic and the process of writing them down was always hard, and the results unsatisfactory, until I discovered word processing, and for a few years I just wrote and wrote and wrote. Most of it wasn't good, but I was learning my craft and eventually I sent a short story to SFX for their Pulp Fiction competition and I was a winner! One of ten authors whose story was printed in an anthology. Soon after I was contacted by Big Finish, who published Dr Who stories under licence from the BBC. On the strength of my SFX story, they commissioned me to write for one of their anthologies. It was a real thrill.

I have always loved pulp sci-fi and adventure stories, the sort of book that is now called YA, but I still think of as FUN. My small success made me take a serious look at what I had written during my learning time and one story stood out as having potential and after some extensive rewriting 'Jabin' was the result."

Welcome, Bev!

  1. What sparked your interest in writing? Your proverbial light-bulb moment?
To be honest, I can’t remember a time when I wasn't telling stories or scribbling notes. When I was at school we had this big thick lined exercise book, it was called a ‘Rough Book’ and was designed for note taking and for us to write down our homework. It was like a gift from the gods, mine was stuffed full of story ideas and bits of improbable plots.

My problem was my dyslexia, I couldn't get everything I want to say and tell down in a readable and complete form.

For me the Light Bulb Moment was getting a word processor and finally overcoming my dyslexia with its help. Suddenly I could write the stories down properly.

  1. Which genre are you most comfortable writing in?
I am happiest in the older YA world, not kid’s stuff, but late teens onwards. This is probably because I am still mentally about 19, maybe 20 on a good day with enough coffee inside me.

  1. A great attitude to have! Would you say you draw most often from your own knowledge base when writing or do you research for fresh material?
I base much of it on my own knowledge or my husband’s, but if I need to research I like doing it, over the years I've done a great deal for the history research group I belong to. At the moment I am learning all about firing a flint lock musket, ball shot and black powder.

  1. Sounds intriguing! Tell us a bit about your work. How, for instance, do you choose your titles?
I write sci-fi adventure stories for older teenagers and those, like me, who are still teenagers inside. I am a grown up (sometimes), so I like to mix in the sort of real life problems kids face today, things like drugs and sexual exploitation, but I hope I never lose sight of the adventure or fail to entertain.

I’m not the best person to talk to about titles. It took me six months to come up with “Jabin” for the first book and I've been dithering for about a year over the title of the next one. At the moment it is called “the Tattooed Tribes”.

  1. An intriguing title indeed! We love to read excerpts. Share with us your favourite bit of writing from you latest book.
It’s a bit hard to pick a bit from “The Tattooed Tribes”, but I’m about half way through writing my third book. I've called it “The Lord of the Faran Hills” (the first time I have ever come up with a title without a struggle) and this is the opening couple of pages:

The throne room was packed and redolent with the odour of panic politics.

Yesterday’s battle had been decisive and now the court was re-orientating its position to accommodate the result; everyone was telling everyone else how they had supported the winning side right from the beginning, especially if they had not. One large, over fed baron was rapidly circumnavigating the assembly telling anyone prepared to listen just how loyal he had been. He was no doubt hoping his strategically timed change of sides yesterday would be enough to not only save his hide, but also to win some favour from a hopefully gullible Crown.

Lord Darach hid a cynical smile, he admired the speed, but he hated this inevitable post-fight hypocrisy. Cynicism grew stronger as he noticed the glances being thrown his way, some guilty, some anxious and just a few - calculating. He smiled inwardly, despite what they might be thinking; his only reason for attendance was to remind those in charge that it was now time to settle the bill.

Some courtiers looked warily from him to his soldiers gathered at one end of the room and some delicately raised scented handkerchiefs to their well-bred nostrils.

Darach shrugged, he and his captains were in their working armour and despite the best efforts of their squires, it was virtually impossible to remove the smell of sweat and rust.

None of the court approached them until one bold and elegant sprig of fashion detached himself from the company of a couple of giggling, blushing young ladies.

He sported an arm resting in a silk sling, evidence of his gallant participation in the fight. Waving his good hand in the general direction of the waiting soldiers he said,

“Your men fought well.”

There was a faint note of incredulity in his voice which did nothing to recommend him to Darach, but he inclined his head and replied.

“It’s their job.”

The young man glanced back at his giggling audience with a small knowing smile; turning back he lifted his lip in a slight sneer and said,

“You fight for money, sirrah. Some of us fight for honour.”

The girls giggled again and nudged each other in glee. One caught Darach’s eye and gave him a smouldering look full of promise. He sighed; he never understood the entertainment some people got from inciting others to violence, however, this young cub needed a slap, so he said,

“You fight for money, my lord.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’m Lord Darach of Donchall in the Faran Hills, sonny. It’s probably a good idea for you to remember it.”

The young man’s eyes flashed in anger and his good hand moved to his sword.

Darach folded his arms across his chest, making sure the heavy duty piece of cutlery hanging at his side was fully visible. Their eyes met and there was a moment of tension while the young gentleman wondered why his bladder had suddenly filled to capacity and was threatening to let him down in ways it had not since childhood. His pride, his hose and Darach’s temper were saved by a trumpeter entering the room and deafening everyone with a fanfare. Under cover of the musical blast, the young noble made a swift escape.

The noisy herald was followed swiftly by an equally noisy chamberlain bellowing the news The King and The Regent were approaching.

“Just in case we hadn't guessed,” Darach remarked softly, putting an even wider grin on his squire’s face, he had watched the interplay between his lord and the noble sprig with some amusement.

The tall double doors were flung back by a couple of men at arms and the royal pair swept into the room. At least, the Regent swept while her small son trotted along beside her.

King Gellis III was a sturdy little boy of about six or seven. An unremarkable child in every way; he was neither fair nor dark, tall or short and he looked neither angelic nor mischievous, but there was a certain look in his eyes which spoke of intelligence and once the softness of childhood had passed, you would be able to crack walnuts on his jaw.

His mother Queen Marregante was equally unremarkable, but she had a great deal of regal dignity and she was angrier than any woman Darach had ever seen; every part of her spoke of a terrible burning rage kept firmly under control. Someone had threatened her child and it had frightened her to the depth of her being; now someone was going to pay for that terror.

  1. There are already little twists visible in that excerpt; can't wait to see what happens in the full tale! Tell us who do you identify with most in your work? And why?
My soldiers. I’m married to a military historian and I sometimes say I married The British Army when I married him. I've known and spoken to and researched so many soldiers over the years, I have come to feel for them and, as far as I can, to understand them and understand why the do what they do. I am moved by words like “duty”, “honour” and “tradition”.

Having said that, I've no illusions - none what so ever. I know they are sometimes not the best little boys in the world.

If you mean a single character, it would be “Jabin”. Why … because I know that feeling of being totally lost and unable to understand why.

  1. If you could choose who would play Jabin in the movie or series made from your work, who would it be?
Not a clue J

  1. Which four words would you use to describe yourself?
Creative. Wary. Humorous. Interested.

  1. Which four words would you use to describe your work?
Exciting. Entertaining. Adventurous.Compassionate.

  1. I have to throw this in! That list of favourites we’re all interested in!
Favourite book: “The Towers of Trebizond “
Favourite movie: “Zulu”
Favourite TV series: “Star Trek :Voyager”
Favourite colour: Yellow
Favourite food: Crusty bread and butter
Favourite drink: Coffee
Favourite pet: Cat ( currently a Birman named Fitzwilliam Darcy Big Chief Paddy Paws Our Cat Allen, but you can call him Fitz)
Favourite season: Autumn
Favourite place: Devon

  1. Often personal fame and prominence for your work go together, but frequently authors prefer remaining in the background while hoping their work will assume the limelight. Is this true for you, or don’t you mind a bit of fame?
I would much, much rather the work has the lime light.

  1. We identify with that! Tell us about your next book (we love to know what to look forward to!).
“The Tattooed Tribes” will be published by Thorstuck Press early in 2015. It is a YA adventure story set on a forest world. There’s a strong ecological theme, lots of action, and plenty of tattooed warriors and  tribal maidens together with a Guild of woodsmen who try to keep the peace and protect the natives and the flora and fauna.

‘The Lord of the Faran Hills’ is WIP and the reason for the musket research.

  1. What comes next, besides a new book project? A holiday, an event?
I've got one of those significant birthdays coming up, but I am avoiding thinking about it  J

  1. And finally, if you could choose one person, living or dead, you would like to meet, who would it be and what would you ask of that person?
I've been reading up on Ancient Egypt recently and more than anything I would like to ask Akhenaten where his wife went. Nefertiti disappears from the archaeological records without explanation. Not a trace of her tomb or mummy had ever been found. Where is she, what happened to her and all her daughters?

I love the idea she might still be undiscovered, lying surrounded by the objects only a pharaoh could give a beloved wife. What a find that would be.

The trouble is…I don’t think he’d tell me J

Hmm, have pondered this mystery too - perhaps if we call in the troops, we can make him reveal his secrets! Bev, it's been a pleasure having you here. Thank you for talking with us!

The space colony is rife with religious and political rivalry, and prey to the vicious maraudings of pirates whose cruelty is savage. In New Wales the pirate attacks are relentless and merciless. Having lost both his parents Jabin is adopted by malicious relatives. 

Jabin altruistically surrenders to a raiding gang, he does so believing nothing can be worse than his current suffering. He discovers circumstance does worsen when megalomaniacs rule. When the King of New Wales is assassinated the colony threatens to collapse into total anarchy, leaving the pirates free rein to mutilate, kill, and profit. Earth's law enforcement are ready for retaliation. Jabin has a vital role in the ensuing war, if he can survive the current mayhem.

Interstellar espionage is visceral in this masterpiece of cosmic suspense.

Writing World has read and reviewed Jabin and loved it!
See the review here

More about Bev on her website

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