The Orgo Runners series and the dissent RENEGADES saga take place during a future ice age- what was the most challenging part of creating this future world?
In short, I guess the answer is avoiding plot holes. Both the “dissent saga” and “Orgo Runners” are set in the same world. That world is our world, but after an ice age has wiped out much of the human species in the future. Yet, “dissent” and “Orgo Runners” have different timelines and characters—mostly. For example, the “Orgo Runners” adventures start four years before the first “dissent” book (RENEGADES). Likewise, “Orgo Runners” focuses on different main characters. That said, there are some characters that crossover throughout all these books. I’d even say that some of those characters are more obvious than others. And, as both these series are based in a place called Port Harmony to begin with, the plot crosses over too. Then, to make things even more complicated, I released a companion novella to the “dissent saga”. That book focusses on one of the characters from the first “dissent” book (RENEGADES). The character and the novella are called “Morrigan”, and the book takes us through her life events leading up to RENEGADES. As such, most of Morrigan’s story covers the “Orgo Runners” timeline. Phew—it makes me twitch a little now that I think about it.
Needless to say, I sometimes check that I have remembered things. It’s a bit like someone asking you what you were doing on 16th August last year. Unless that date is particularly significant (like a birthday or anniversary), it’s hard to remember. Most of us would need to check things like diaries, or photos etc. In fact, sometimes we have social media remind us of what we were doing. But, when I come to write a part of a story that crosses over with one of my others, I don’t have those easy reminders. So, although I usually remember what everyone was doing, and where they were, I do check—just in case I’ve forgotten something.
With these books, I’ve also discovered that I’ve created a world where there are so many stories to tell. So much has gone on, and there is so much history. Whilst I know that I have twelve ‘Orgo Runners’ stories to tell, the “dissent” saga will include many separate storylines. I could be writing these books for quite some time until it feels finished.
What inspired you to write such an imaginative world?
I’ve had an enormous love for imaginary worlds forever. Some of my favourites include Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Transformers, to name a few. I’ve always adored comic books too, and I still have graphic novels mixed into my reading pile. I always will.
With this world, I wanted to create something that people could believe in. But I also wanted to include an element of magic and fantasy. On top of that, I wanted to tell a story that was set in our world—in the future. Years ago, I watched a movie called The Day After Tomorrow. In short, that film is about a natural disaster, where global warming causes our climate to crash (for want of a better phrase). The result of this catastrophe is a superstorm that freezes our planet over. When that storm hits, it buries everywhere with ice and snow. So, with our world frozen over at the end of that movie, I started to wonder what would happen next. Few people would survive a storm like that. How would our species carry on?
From the start, I also wanted these stories to tackle problems that people can identify with. Things that are happening right now, that many of us care so deeply about. At the same time, I needed to place those issues in this new frozen version of our world. So, I considered things that break my heart, and that I wish I could change. Would these issues be any different in the future? Oppression and inequality were at the top of my list of considerations. I wanted to include a group that would be oppressed due to a lack of acceptance for them. Slavery too—how does that even still exist in our world today? Yet somehow—it does. This also made me think about the dangers of propaganda. In my opinion, the role of propaganda in creating and worsening our present-day challenges can never be underestimated. I needed to portray that in these stories.
There are quite a few strong female protagonists in dissent RENEGADES (yay!)- which one of these characters did you have the most fun writing about?
I laughed out loud when I read this question. My initial thoughts were…
You can’t ask me that! It’s like asking me to pick a favourite child.
And having given it some thought, I am still struggling to pick one. The reason for this, is that I love aspects of all the protagonists, and even some of the antagonists too. Although my reasons for loving some of the antagonists, are possibly not that clear in the stories yet.
When I wrote “dissent: RENEGADES”, I did develop a soft spot for Morrigan. There was something about Morrigan’s vulnerability, mixed with her determination to protect her friends. That was the reason I wrote her story so fast after releasing “RENEGADES”. Having said that, there will be more novellas that focus on the backstory of some of the “dissent” characters. One will be about Ditto, but there will also be a book devoted to Rada (the main antagonist). Likewise, I am very drawn to a character called Nolan, and I do want to tell parts of her story (that won’t be covered in the main “dissent” saga).
If I was to focus on the ‘fun’ part of this question, I would have to say Haylee and Ellie in equal measure. They are our two main protagonists. Both of those characters were so much fun to develop. That’s because they’re both great at getting themselves into precarious situations. Ellie and Haylee tend to dive in ‘over their heads’, so to speak. That was a lot of fun to write, even though they wouldn’t agree it was fun themselves.
If you could choose to live in one of the three human colonies you created (Scorr Tanta, Eklips, and Port Harmony), which one would you live in and why?
I would undoubtedly live in Port Harmony. When Rada became ruler of Scorr Tanta, and exiled a group known as the elrupe, I would have been one of the people wanting to play my part in helping them. Also, I love the ocean. Both Port Harmony and Eklips are situated on the coast. But if I lived in Eklips, I’d end up becoming a slave (knowing my luck).
Where did the idea of an orgo come from?
When I created this world, one huge thing for me was to evolve certain creatures to make new ones. I’ve always been a lover of imaginary beasts. However, one of my sons (Lewis) isn’t much of a fantasy enthusiast, and I wanted to create something that connected his excitement with my own. I wanted something in this world for him too—which seemed to be a challenge at first. Lewis is obsessed with cars, and stories about racing. So, how was I going to include that? It was at that point, that I realized I needed an animal that people could race around on. With this world being quite primitive, that seemed to be the obvious answer. But, I wasn’t convinced horses would have survived the ice-age, and so…
The orgo were born.
Some of the orgo’s features grew from things that spark my imagination too. Firstly, in some ways they’re similar dinosaurs in appearance. Yet, I also wanted the orgo to be a large ice-age type mammal. On top of that, I’ve always been enchanted by eggs. Bird eggs, reptile eggs, and of course, dinosaur eggs. The velociraptor that hatched in Jurassic Park was magical for me. So, the orgo had to be egg-laying mammals too.
Since publishing these stories, the orgo have taken on a life of their own. Both children and adult readers embrace them, and love them, the way they would with their own pets.
As for Lewis…
Whilst the orgo aren’t machines, they have now inspired him to learn horse-riding. It’s the closest he can get to riding orgo for the next few thousand years.
Do you plot your stories, or do you allow the characters to drive them?
The short answer is BOTH! I’ve read loads of interviews with authors, and approaches to writing can vary in many ways. Whilst my approach is structured and plotted in detail, characters do tend to come alive. They drive their stories in different ways. To be fair, if they didn’t, I’d be worried.
So, when I’m developing story ideas, I first begin by creating outlines of characters, places and things I want to include in the story. This generally includes every detail I can think of. You’d be surprised how much I consider—like eye and hair colour for people, and who is related to who etc. At this stage, I also consider how people get around, what animals they keep, and anything else that creates their lifestyle.
From there, I create a one sentence summary of my story. Then, I add more detail and increase the summary to about a paragraph. It is somewhere around this stage that I decide I have enough to play around with, and I begin plotting. I tend to dissect my stories into ‘acts’ first and add detail as I go. Finally, I break it down into chapters. This is where those naughty and unpredictable characters tend to speak out.
Once I have my chapters all worked out, I begin to write them, and that’s where the fun begins. As each character travels through their own story, things often change. Whilst the fundamental basics of the story remain intact, people will decide for themselves how they are going to react to certain things. So, there are many occasions where I add, remove or change the chapters, as the story progresses.
Do you have any favorite / go-to authors when you sit down to read?
Again, I find this tough to answer. I do have authors that I love to read and re-read, but there are a fair few. C.S. Lewis is one, and I don’t want to sound like everyone else, but J.K. Rowling is another. I love J.K. Rowling’s writing style. To be honest, I much prefer the Harry Potter books to the movies for that very reason. Sorry not sorry. And then, there is A.A. Milne. I adore the Winnie The Pooh stories. Being a parent has given me many new opportunities to explore A.A. Milne’s writing, again and again.
Recently, I’ve also started reading P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins books. I’m a huge fan of the Mary Poppins movie, and have been my whole life. Yet, for some reason, I’ve never read the books. I have to say, I absolutely love the books too. As you can see, I tend to re-read my childhood favourites—a lot!
Over time, I have gone through phases of falling in love with different genres too. I often find myself re-living these phases from time to time. There was a time that I couldn’t get enough of Stephen King, James Herbert and other authors in their genre. I must admit, I do fancy re-reading some of their books again soon.
However, the authors who tend to dominate my bookshelves now, are either Indie Authors (like me), or authors of young adult books. Examples include; Sarah J. Maas, Bella Forrest, Jane Washington, Jaymin Eve, Leigh Bardugo and L.L. McNeil.
In the last couple of weeks, I have also become an enormous fan of ‘The 100’ T.V. Show, which I’m catching up on with Amazon’s help. You won’t be surprised to discover that ‘The !00’ books are my current read! The show and the books are incredible, even though the plot can vary a lot between them.
What are two random and interesting facts about you?
Here are the first two things that popped in my head…
First, I’m not sure whether many people know that I’m a stay-at-home parent. We have three children at home, who have a collection of mild disabilities between them. In many ways, this has made it difficult to find employment that I can sustain. With so many hospital/clinic appointments to attend, not to mention meetings at school (and similar), it means that a parent needs to be available throughout the week for our children. That includes whilst they’re in school. Whilst my wife (Emma) is the person who brings a wage into our household, I’m the one who often attends those appointments and meetings. On top of that, there’s the regular parenting stuff to do too, of course. But I have to say, I love spending most of my time doing this. Our family is amazing (yes, I am biased).
The other thing that came to mind, is that I have become a massive ‘pop vinyl’ enthusiast. These collectibles never inspired me much to begin with. But now, I can’t stop looking for them! I collect the Star Wars range, but there’s always a threat that my interests will explode into other themes.
What’s coming up next for you?
That would be telling! Only kidding. Right now, I’m in the middle of releasing the fourth “Orgo Runners” book. I also have a few “dissent” and “Orgo Runners” surprises planned for over summer. Overall, I won’t get much writing done over the summer holidays (break). As such, I will be busy talking about the current books. BUT THEN…
After summer, I will continue working on a completely new project. Whilst “dissent” and “Orgo Runners” are nowhere near finished, I think its time for something fresh. At this stage, all I can say, is that this new story is a serialized, young adult novel. I plan to release the first part of the story in December, and there will be six parts in total, released monthly. Prepare yourselves for my take on an urban fantasy story. A story that includes dragons, mermaids and fairies—but probably not like the ones you’ve ever seen before.
Great!! Thank you for sharing your imaginative world with us!