Author interview with Richard Gregory.
Depths (Coalition Universe)
It is great to have a science-fiction writer here with us today on Terraverum. Richard Gregory, the author of ‘Depths’ has been so kind to agree to tell us a little more about his intriguing new book.
Where did your idea for Depths come?
I liked the idea of doing a story on a developing world, one that had just been settled. Some inspiration came from seeing a documentary on the American Transcontinental Railroad; historically its construction allowed the interior of the North American continent to be settled, and connected the east and west.
That was the setting for the book. As for the story; I wanted a main character that was morally ambiguous. Dealing drugs, what he does on the side of his work on the railroad, offered a good way to drive the story and to explore the choices people make, and how they justify it to themselves.
Are the characters based on people you know or purely from imagination?
Most of the characters are from my own imagination, built up by the reason why they are on this new colony world. There are a few in among the mix that I’ve based on people I know, or have traits that I’ve seen in people and found interesting. Even using just using the likeness of someone helped speed up the writing process.
Tell us a little more about your book.
Based two centuries from now on a fledgling colony world, Opin, the main character, Reef, is a worker on helping construct the New Prussia Transcontinental Railroad. He’s dealing the local drug (or ‘chem’), Nulla, to earn extra money for when his contract on the rails ends.
The story follows Reef as he tries (and fails) to stay out of trouble that the dealing brings. Unrest on the railroad over the poor living conditions that the workers must put up with is also a constant, giving him further strife.
Along the way there is a wide cast, some from similar backgrounds (like those he shares a tent with, and others he works with). Others are wildly different, not even the same type of human as him, and Reef has to learn how to deal with these people.
If your main character could ask you one question, what do you think it would be?
He’d probably ask me if I wanted a smoke.
Which authors and books inspire you?
Peter F. Hamilton. He books are incredible, with such a rich universe; that’s something I loved reading. His ability to weave exposition with the human side of events is always a great pleasure to read. Stylistically, that’s been a big influence.
As for themes, especially the drug culture side of the story, Howard Marks’ autobiography, Mr Nice, helped spark off a lot of ideas.
How much do your personal emotions and experiences affect your writing?
I’ve been able to draw from some personal experiences. In particular watching people rolling cigarettes over the years, and how carefully my friends do this.
Emotionally, I was able to utilise some of the anger and frustration I feel from time to time, using the main character as an outlet for some of my feelings. How he reacts to situations, how he feels as though he has been dragged into situations that are usually his own fault.
Other feelings, how other characters respond to events, are based off of what I have seen of others. One character is a father, and his reason for working on the railroad is to secure a better future for his children. For him I looked at the various people I know with children, and how they would all do anything to make a better life for their kids.
Is there somewhere specific you enjoy writing?
I like writing somewhere quite quiet, but not silent. I never feel at ease writing in public places, and prefer to be at home with my laptop tapping away, able to listen to music at the same time.
Do you need a certain area and atmosphere to write?
I need some place where I can get up and move around when I get stuck, even to try and walk through what I’m trying to describe, something that was helpful when trying to write action scenes. More than once my flatmate walked in on me grappling with some imaginary opponent.
What is the main message you are trying to convey with your story?
That there are no moral absolutes. Reef is the focus of this, how what he is widely viewed as bad, but how he isn’t a bad guy, and how the people around him tend to turn a blind eye to it because they like him or buy drugs from him.
Another of the characters, Katrina, is an example of this. She comes across as eloquent and educated, and shows compassion for many people. Yet she is still involved in the criminal underbelly that has sprung up on Opin. With both her and Reef it is difficult to decide if they are bad people or not, and that is what I’m trying to put across; that we all live in a grey area.
How was the publishing process?
It wasn’t too bad, all things considered. Writing the first draft took about five months, where I was averaging about a thousand words a day.
The hardest part was the editing that came next. I found it very difficult to see the mistakes in my own work. I was lucky, and had some help with this, but it was still an arduous process.
I published on Kindle, which was surprisingly easy to do, even for someone as technologically challenged as myself.
Where is your book available for purchase?
It’s available on amazon, here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D0FQRCW
Are you busy with another project at the moment?
I’m currently writing some short stories that are based in the same universe (Coalition Universe) as Depths. I’ve also hammered out a plan for a sequel to Depths, which I will begin writing any day now…
What jewel of advice would you offer to new up and coming authors?
Write as regularly as you can. That’s not new or original advice, but it’s still extremely important.
Write every day if you can, even if you can only manage a couple of hundred words. After doing this for even a short time you’ll find your creative process will become much smoother, words flowing easily from you.
When editing, try and get different people to read it. Again, not original advice, but other people will spot things you don’t, and being detached from your work will give them a less sentimental approach – just make sure they’re not too harsh in their critique.
Below is an excerpt from the book, so be sure to check it out – this just might be the exciting weekend read you were looking for!
‘The stink of the slums was always the same; sweat, the rotting decay of mould crusted wood slats, oozing waft of garbage long overdue to be taken away; ever present emanation of despair from the residents.
Colours here were brown and grey, fetid mud between the ranks of dilapidated buildings, their once vibrant composite now tarnished. Retreating sunlight left lengthening shadows, enhancing the aura of deterioration.
Reef walked hurriedly down the narrow streets, dodging between sickly inhabitants, never making eye contact. Ragged black coat was pulled close to his lanky frame, hands shoved deep into the voluminous pockets, fingering the items within.
Head down he reached the end of the street. Stalls were just packing up, awnings being taken down by weary owners, eager to get to their beds and away from their hopes’ ruin.
Cold, hungry, cravings running something wicked round his head; days like this he hated this world.
Opin had been approved for settlement just over six years ago now, the Coalition shoving the excess from Earth to its newest colony. A lot of poor, unmotivated and despondent individuals, all looking for a brighter tomorrow. So much for the New Frontier dream.
Reef had arrived on the planet four months ago, one of many in the second wave of settlers. He was to be a labourer helping construct the New Prussia Transcontinental Railroad, a network that would span the length of the continent.’