Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing James Lovegrove.
James Lovegrove published his first novel at the age of 24 and has since had more than 40 books out, including The Hope, Escardy Gap (co-written with Peter Crowther), Days, The Foreigners, How The Other Half Lives, Untied Kingdom, Imagined Slights, Worldstorm, Gig and Provender Gleed. His short fiction has appeared in magazines as diverse as Interzone and Nature and in numerous anthologies. He has written extensively for reluctant readers, with titles such as Wings, The House of Lazarus, Ant God, Cold Keep, Kill Swap and Dead Brigade. He has also produced a sequence of teen fantasy novels, the Clouded World series, under the pseudonym Jay Amory. He is a regular reviewer of fiction for the Financial Times and lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England with his wife Lou, sons Monty and Theo, and cat Ozzy.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES LOVEGROVE
Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I am a 48-year-old father-of-two and husband-of-one with a grand total of nearly 50 books under my belt. I’ve been a full-time writer since the age of 22, and as well as producing fiction by the bucketload I am a reviewer for the Financial Times and Comic Heroes. I don’t have many hobbies, mainly because I don’t have much spare time, but I can sometimes be found playing complicated board games with my sons or out walking our ridiculously small dog.
How did you become interested in writing and speculative fiction? Was it difficult to become an established author?
Writing was always the thing I did least badly at school, and once my dreams of becoming an international rock megastar had faded, as such dreams usually will, I realised that it might be fun to write stories to entertain others, not just amuse myself. Speculative fiction was simply the genre that I was, and still am, naturally drawn to. I can’t analyse why, it’s just how it is, in the same way that some people like jazz or football or dressing up in animal costumes when they have sex. When I was growing up in the 1970s, if there was ever something sci-fi on TV (which there wasn’t often) I would watch it. I devoured comics and SF paperbacks. It’s just in my DNA. That, then, was the genre which I instinctively wanted to write in, and from my first published novel onward, that’s more or less where I’ve stayed. There’s freedom in SF, and endless scope, more room to exercise the imagination than in any other genre. I was very lucky in that that first novel, The Hope, was accepted for publication by the first editor I showed it to. I won’t deny that I’ve had career struggles along the way, periods when work has been thin on the ground and contracts hard to come by, but at least I got in through the door pretty easily, without having to endure endless discouraging rejections and knockbacks. I’m in a pretty good place now, professionally, and I appreciate it all the more because there were lean years in the past and times of difficulty.
Could you tell us something about your Pantheon series? What can readers expect from it?
The Pantheon books are, at their essence, about gods and our relationship with them. Each one takes a different pantheon and uses the associated mythology as a springboard for a military-SF action-adventure tale. I try and insert the myths into a modern-day context and enquire into the relationship that exists between human worshippers and the powerful beings they worship. They’re not “heavy” books, though. They’re fast-paced and, I hope, fun. The one thing that readers can expect from each volume in the series is that it will be utterly unlike any of the others, apart from having the same basic theme. Age Of Ra, for instance, is about a world torn apart by war, while Age Of Voodoo is a Bond-esque spy novel set in the Caribbean and Age Of Aztec is apocalyptic alternate history. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over, and part of the fun for me with these books is coming up with new variations on the concept.
Are the novels in the Pantheon series standalone novels?
Each is completely independent of the others. There’s no right order to read them in. You can start with whichever takes your fancy. Characters don’t recur. There are no crossovers. The world of each is unique to that novel, and when the story is done, it’s done. No sequels. For my own part, I’m not very good with sequels (or prequels). I don’t like reading them and I don’t like writing them. I like a book that’s self-contained, leaving you to carry on the characters’ stories in your own head if you wish to. This probably tells you something about my attention span, or lack of one.
The latest novel in the Pantheon series is called Age of Shiva. It will be published in March 2014. What kind of a novel is it?
With Age Of Shiva I managed to do something I’ve been wanting to for some time, which is to write a superhero saga. Originally I envisaged Hindu deities as a team of superheroes, banding together to fight demons, vampires and other beasties from Hindu folklore. The idea mutated somewhat between conception and execution, but what I ended up with was both stranger and more satisfying than I anticipated. The novel has allowed me to indulge in my love of the comics industry and my nerdy obsession with certain comics artists and writers. You don’t need to have a working knowledge of the medium to enjoy the book, but there are plenty of little Easter eggs in there for comics fans. The protagonist is himself a comics artist, who gets drawn into helping create a team of super-powered, spandex-clad good guys based on the Dashavatara, the Ten Avatars of Vishnu, which in Hindu mythology are the physical forms the god took at various times when he came down to Earth to help out us mortals. As the Avatars emerge into the media spotlight, monsters come crawling out of the woodwork for them to fight, and then the world’s balance of military power begins to shift, and widespread war looms. The tone is light but with an undercurrent of apocalyptic darkness.
What are you currently working on?
I am almost halfway through the first volume in a brand-new series for my publisher Solaris. It’s still taking shape so I’m wary of saying too much about it, but it’s my first serious foray into space opera, featuring a recurring character, a kind of interstellar James Bond, a professional troubleshooter helping to maintain peace and stability in a galaxy that’s experiencing a Cold War between humankind and an alien race. The title is World Of Fire, and it’s going to be followed up with World Of Water. I’m hoping the series will run to at least six volumes. I’m having terrific fun with it so far, trying to re-create the fun and feel of the old pulp-fiction heroes while giving them a contemporary spin.
Do you have time to read novels and/or short stories? What are your favourite authors?
I read around 100-150 books a year, plus an unquantifiable number of comics and graphic novels. Partly the reason for this is that I am a prolific reviewer, so at least half of that annual total is work. I’m a long-time admirer of Stephen King, the late Ray Bradbury, and the even more late Michael Crichton. I also love the work of Alan Moore and Jack Kirby.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I think I’ve gone on quite long enough! People, buy my books! Be excellent to each other! Make love not war! Etc.