This week’s blog has been gatecrashed by a new, crazy, must-be-read author, Craig Meighan aided and abetted (what does that mean?) by his debut novel FAR FAR BEYOND BERLIN.
I will be interrogating this usurper but meanwhile here’s the blurb and bio.
Even geniuses need practice
Not everything goes to plan at the first attempt… In Da Vinci’s downstairs loo hung his first, borderline insulting, versions of the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo’s back garden was chock-a-block full of ugly lumps of misshapen marble. Even Einstein committed a great ‘blunder’ in his first go at General Relativity. God is no different, this universe may be his masterpiece, but there were many failed versions before it – and they’re still out there.
Far Far Beyond Berlin is a fantasy novel, which tells the story of a lonely, disillusioned government worker’s adventures after being stranded in a faraway universe – Joy World: God’s first, disastrous attempt at creation.
God’s previous universes, a chain of 6 now-abandoned worlds, are linked by a series of portals. Our jaded hero must travel back through them, past the remaining dangers and bizarre stragglers. He’ll join forces with a jolly, eccentric and visually arresting, crew of sailors on a mysteriously flooded world. He’ll battle killer robots and play parlour games against a clingy supercomputer, with his life hanging in the balance. He’ll become a teleportation connoisseur; he will argue with a virtual goose – it sure beats photocopying.
Meanwhile, high above in the heavens, an increasingly flustered God tries to manage the situation with His best friend Satan; His less famous son, Jeff; and His ludicrously angry angel of death, a creature named Fate. They know that a human loose in the portal network is a calamity that could have apocalyptic consequences in seven different universes. Fate is dispatched to find and kill the poor man before the whole place goes up in a puff of smoke; if he can just control his temper…
The bio of Craig Meighan
Craig Meighan was born in Lanarkshire, in central Scotland. Both a keen drummer and a fan of science fiction, he grew up wanting to be either Animal from The Muppets or Douglas Adams. This has led to an unfortunate habit of smashing up his computer at the end of each writing session.
With the ambition of becoming a screenwriter, he attended film college in Glasgow. He spent a short time making corporate videos and then after attending one chance meeting, he accidentally joined the civil service. Intending to stay for one summer, he ended up staying for 12 years (so think carefully before inviting him round for tea).
He is too polite to say which of the killer robots, demons and other assorted antagonists that appear in his book, are based on his interactions with actual government ministers.
His first novel, Far Far Beyond Berlin, was written in the evenings, after work, every day for a year, at the end of which time his wife Jen convinced him it was time to finally leave the safety of the office job and pursue writing full-time. She cunningly incentivised him by promising that if he managed to get his book published, he could get a big dog.
Craig lives with Jen, just outside Glasgow, where they like to play softball, enter pub quizzes and do escape rooms. He is delighted to announce that they are expecting a greyhound.
Book page on Elsewhen Press website: https://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin
Books to Read: https://books2read.com/FarFarBeyondBerlin
Apple iTunes: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-iTunes
Google Play: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-Google
Kindle UK: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-KindleUK
Kindle US: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-KindleUS
Kindle AU: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-KindleAU
Twitter – @craigmeighan – https://twitter.com/CraigMeighan
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CraigMeighanAuthor @craigmeighanauthor
Instagram – @craig_meighan https://www.instagram.com/craig_meighan/
Sneaky questions from Geoff Nelder followed by sneakier answers followed by an excerpt.
- How did you know that I was born close to Berlin and now you’re taking me back there with your novel? ie why Berlin?
It’s a very ambitious project, but we’ve thoroughly researched every potential reader and each person will get a different copy with the town that is closest to their birthplace. My friend Pete will be reading Far Far Beyond Sutton-on-Sea at this very moment.
In all seriousness, I love Berlin. You may be disappointed, as I’ve only set one short scene in a pub there just because I like the city. The words “Far, far beyond Berlin” are the start of the following chapter and I just thought it was a strong title. Most of the story takes place off-world, but I threw a German city in there for the simple reason that I really love to visit Germany. The food, the people, the architecture, the sport are all attractions, but a number of the cities just have really, unusually good atmospheres. Berlin is a fun place to be, although that being said, my characters don’t enjoy their time there at all.
- The premise of Far Far looks like a kind of Pratchet meets Douglas Adams. Is that fair? Were there other science fantasy writers influential?
I would say that Douglas Adams is my absolute all-time hero, but I’m not sure that covers it really. For me he’s the best writer in the genre. There are more good sci-fi ideas in thirty pages of Hitch Hiker’s Guide than in most people’s careers. Terry Pratchett is a huge influence too, as is Neil Gaiman. I’m a big fan of a writer named Tom Holt also. He’s like a clockmaker, so many intricate moving parts. When I started to write prose, I wanted to write like Tom Holt, but I just couldn’t. It’s not my natural writing style and I was just doing a poor imitation. I eventually found my own voice, but I was certainly heavily influenced by those four writers particularly.
3) There’s a white duck on your cover art. I have a butterfly on my Suppose We cover and it becomes a character. Does your duck feature in the story? 3b) My butterfly is alien and not really a butterfly – is that kind of surreal characterisation happen in Far Far Beyond Berlin?
He’s a goose technically (it’s hard to judge the size when they’re in space) and yes, he’s a hologram, so not a real goose – a digital goose. He’s named Graham the Gravity Goose and he’s a side character who gives somewhat odd safety information aboard a giant space station. He has a twin brother named Pete who also appears as a hologram.
- b) I think that sort of characterisation is useful in the genre we write in. If you make every character’s appearance something completely wild, it’s not actually super helpful. Twenty pages later, a reader will be wondering to themselves whether the character who is speaking is the six-legged, amorphous blob of logic dust or the inverted, translucent spider-cow. These things are hard to describe clearly, hard to picture and hard to remember, so I don’t often go too fantastical with the character design. I think, especially in a comedy, you have to dole out clear images. If you make fun of a character or have it involved in an argument with others, then the reader has to be able to have a clear, full picture of it to understand the joke. So, having a butterfly or a goose, an image everyone can instantly make is great. Then you can subvert the traits of the creature and that (in my opinion) is a better way to go.
I have added Suppose We to my reading list as it sounds great (I’m a fan of that very nice cover).
4) I’m fascinated by cover art and the artists. How did you find Gordon Miller and what kind of dialogue did you and Elsewhen have with him for the cover?
I didn’t originally have a plan for the cover, I was simply going to take my lead from the publisher. Before we got to that stage of the publishing process though, my brother-in-law Gordon Miller started an Instagram page, where he revealed a hitherto unknown talent for digital illustration. He was doing sci-fi style images and space scenes that were very cool. I messaged him and asked if he’d help me prepare some sketches to show Elsewhen the kind of thing I liked. I like stark, bold images, a minimalist approach, but as it was a humorous book, I wanted it to evoke things like Hitch Hiker’s Guide. The original Hitch Hiker’s Guide had a classic sci-fi cover, but with a little quirky element that set the tone of the book quite nicely. He had a number of different designs, all of which were really cool (I’ve sent some across so your readers can see what options we were working from.) We went back and forth on these for a few weeks and then I sent a selection to Elsewhen. They made a few suggestions and Gordon used these suggestions to produce the final image. I can’t draw to save my life, so I was in awe of the entire procedure.
5) Long may the writing mojo stay with you. When that mojo threatens to leave town is there an author you dip into for inspiration?
Not really, I find that when I am struggling, it’s terrifying to look at better writing than your own! So, writer’s block becomes reader’s block for me too, which is unacceptable! I love reading too much to allow it to continue.
When I’m stuck on writing my current project, I move to something else and try to keep going. I always have a few future projects that have five or six pages of opening written already because of days where I was stuck. I wrote a poem for the first time the other day, when I was stuck on a scene. I need to keep going, it needs to be habit/addiction or I’ll stop. I wasted a good few years being a man who talked about things he was going to write, now I’m extremely motivated to get them done.
I think the key to it is to not be a perfectionist on the first draft. If you write the wrong words today, they can be fixed tomorrow, but for now push the story forward and keep getting words down on the page. Blank pages can’t be edited, honed or improved. The time to become a perfectionist is once you’ve typed “THE END”.
There’s a quote by the writer C. Robert Cargill that I have on my desk, it’s in view every day while I’m writing. It goes:
“The most important thing in writing is to finish. A finished thing can be fixed. A finished thing can be published. A finished thing can be made into a movie. An unfinished thing is just a dream. And dreams fade if you don’t hold on tight enough.
So, finish the thing.”
So, every day I sit down and I try to finish the thing.
The previous excerpt can be read here.
Far Far Beyond Berlin Excerpt
In the beginning, there was darkness. God said “Let there be light” and there was light.
And it helped Him find that thing He’d been feeling about for in the darkness.
Now He could see what He was doing, God set about creating the small blue planet, He moulded the core, shaped the crust, laid down the rocks and the soil. He created the grass and the hills; He made the lakes, the plants, the trees, the oceans and the seas.
Standing back and looking upon His creation, He frowned with His massive face. He saw that it was good, but ‘good’ is not ‘perfect’. He made the oceans and lakes a more brilliant blue. He made the grass greener, then, wanting to increase the greenness even further, He realised that as God he could just make ‘Green’ more green. After all, it was He who defined what ‘green’ was in the first place, having invented it earlier that morning.
He positioned two suns in such a way that the warm light would hit the surface evenly at all times.
Like all creative projects, there was a period of pointless tweaking. Leaves were reshaped, the grass blades thickened then thinned again, the consistency of sand went through about nineteen iterations and because He couldn’t decide which was best, He deployed all of them to different parts of the planet. Eventually, He felt comfortable to declare it finished.
When all was right with the new world He carefully, lovingly fashioned the tiny creatures and granted them life.
It was to be a faultless world without sadness, violence or disease. It was perfection. Eternal sunshine would light his idyll forever.
He called it Joy World.
Needless to say, it was a fucking disaster.
#End of excerpt
To read the next excerpt follow this link to the blog of Sarah Udoh-Furthner here
Thanks Craig, I can’t wait to read the whole thing. Can I have my blog back now?