domenica 19 gennaio 2014

Indie science-fiction: "Amantarra", by Richard J. Galloway

For the second time, after Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, I’m hosting an independent author in my blog, Richard J. Galloway.

Richard is a science fiction author, an architect and an IT specialist.
His debut novel, “Amantarra”, enters at full title
in the purest of science fiction, the one which takes us so far from the world we are living so that it gives us a sense of bewilderment and apprehension.
Just have a look to the picture gallery with which he made his literary universe visible to understand what it is about and how much accuracy he has put on it to make our eyes open as well as our mind.

Hi Richard, welcome to my blog and thanks for accepting my invitation. We have partly seen what you can do, but, first of all, who is Richard J. Galloway?
As you mentioned I've worked in architecture in the past and I currently earn a living in I.T. designing the management infrastructures for large scale server systems. While I do enjoy the work, it isn’t who I really am. As a child, like most children, I loved to have stories read to me. As I got older I started doing the reading for myself and would lose myself for hours in the worlds crafted by the authors. I still do, and I can't remember a time when I didn't have at least one book on the go. Now I craft my own universes and I lose myself in those.

How do reconcile your private and working life with your activity as author?
I've always thought that when I write, I'm someone else. The normal everyday me, the practical me who works with computers and cuts the lawn, takes a back seat and acts as a sort of anchor to reality. The writer creates cities built on the inside of spheres and librarians who don't know what books are. Amantarra is a manifestation of this partnership, beings with almost God like powers whose continued existence is tethered to the realities of an industrial town in the north of England. When I first started to write, it would take me an hour to switch my mind into a creative state. This usually meant that I had about ten minutes left to write in. Progress was slow. Nowadays, after much practice, I can switch very quickly. Progress is faster, but I still don't get enough time. So the answer to your question is; with great deal of difficulty.

Where has the idea of “Amantarra” come from?
Amantarra started out as a story about a silver pocket watch I received as a child of six. It was given to me by my Grandmother's parsimonious brother in law and it was quite valuable. He had never given me anything before, nor did he give me anything again. I'm still puzzled by it. The original story was a fabrication and bore no resemblance to the actual events, which to me are stranger than fiction. I then added a fantasy element to the watch, giving it a powerful, but intermediate role, and the plot for the trilogy "The Ascension of Valheel" grew out of that. The name "Amantarra" is a result of me playing around with sounds and letters.

The first author that occurred to me while visiting your website is Jean-Giraud, better known as Moebius, who, among the (many) other things, reinterpreted Silver Surfer with his imagery and clean line. Is there a comics inspiration in your work or those landscapes, which are so abstract but also well defined, are completely yours?
The picture gallery on my website shows images of Valheel, the city build on the inside of a sphere. Valheel was child of the two disciplines mentioned above, architecture and information technology. As I wrote about the city I was having trouble picturing exactly what the characters could see from certain positions. To solve the problem I modelled the entire city in 3D on my computer. The images on my site and the cover of the book are taken from the model. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss. There isn’t a comic book inspiration for the model of the city, but as the model was being constructed it did influence the writing. By the way, I'm flattered that you would compare me with Jean Giraud. Thank you.

There’s a vast literature of female protagonists. Tough girls, denying the belonging to the “weaker sex” (Ripley of Alien occurs to me). Which character do you put as first one in your personal chart?
Yes, you seem to have spotted that I like strong female leads. Amantarra is the younger of two sisters, the second book in the series, Saranythia, is about the other sister. Sigourney Weaver is one of my favourite actresses, especially in the Alien films, but it's another film that Sigourney starred in that holds my favourite strong female role. Neytiri in the film Avatar, played by Zoe Saldana, is the one I would put at the top of my list. Neytiri is the daughter of the leader of the Omaticaya, the indigenous people central to the plot. She is a strong character, not because she has been thrust into a "sink or swim" situation like Ripley, but because that's the way she is. My favourite part is where Jake wins her love and they become an unstoppable team.

What’s the distinctive feature of “Amantarra”, what does make your work stand out among the others from the same genre?
People enquiring about Amantarra have often asked me what other fictional works it resembles. I've always struggled to give a definitive answer. The work is predominantly science fiction, but there are fantasy elements in there as well and deciding on a genre is difficult. The Ascension of Valheel series is based around a simple premise; that to primitive cultures, all sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic. In Amantarra I introduce you to a race of beings so advanced that they achieved a state of immortality more than half the age of the universe ago. Unbeknown to them they had been fighting a losing war with an unknown enemy. They were being secretly wiped out, but because of the nature and structure of their society this fact had gone unnoticed… almost. In a bid to save her people and buy some time Amantarra makes the first move in the fight back. She destroys Valheel. Now the key to success is grounded in the reality of an English industrial town where a weapon of unimaginable power is being forged. I would have to say that it's the bi-polar nature of the work, immortal beings and life in an industrial town, which makes it different. The contrasting worlds do merge beautifully, but you'd have to read the book to see how.

Beside the announced trilogy, and therefore the two episodes completing the series, do you have other projects in store or which you’d like to accomplice in the future?
I do have other ideas. I've been working on a short story off and on for years, but I keep pinching bits and putting them into the Valheel series. The Ja'liem, tree dwelling bear like creatures with a hidden sentiency, were born out of the short story. I may finish the story one day, or it may just become another book. I just prefer to focus on one thing at a time.

Do you think to be fully part of the British science fiction current or do you have` more international features?
In Amantarra there are scenes which take place in France as well as England, so there's a slight amount of internationalism. There are scenes on other planets and separate universes, but they probably don't count. What I suspect you really want to know is if there is any Italian influence. Last year I visited Pompeii. The scale and architecture of the place is impressive, but that was not the strongest impression I took away from the city. It was the sense of loss, not just the people but the technology and the social systems which fitted around it. In the next book I explore the loss of technology and the social structures that grow around its disappearance. The action does take place in another galaxy, but the influence is from Italy. As far as publishing is concerned I would like my work to be available in more languages, and I'm sure that will happen eventually, so watch this space.

What’s your experience as self-published author? How did you come to it, how have you overtaken the typical difficulties of this particular task, what would you say to a colleague who wanted to start and, above all, how do you feel to be indie?
I love the freedom of being an indie writer, what I find difficult is the marketing of the finished work. Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli has been a fantastic help and a real positive influence. Initially I did try to get a publisher on board, but it soon became obvious that my work was not even being read. In other words, I was wasting my time. What would I say to anyone contemplating independent publishing? Go for it! You've really nothing to lose. Even now Amantarra could be sitting unread in a publisher's slush pile awaiting rejection. Instead she's out in the wild, which, knowing her nature, is what she would want. 

(courtesy translation by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli) 

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