Interview with Peter M. Ball

by newuser09876 21. July 2014 10:37

1. The Flotsam series is based on previously published webseries. Has it been difficult to shift it from an episodic format to a novella format?

I’m going to be honest: I hated writing the first version of Flotsam.

Partially this is because my approach to writing isn’t particularly suited to writing serialized stories. I tend to start with a very light world and character sketch, then fill in the details as the story goes on. Often this means I’ll learn something important very late in the drafting process that either changes the story, or requires a lot of foreshadowing in order to make things work.

You can do that when you’re drafting a story or a novella – it’s a simple matter to go back and change the things that contradicts what you’ve just written, or drop hints that this revelation is coming. But in a serial, where you’re churning out a story a month? You have to commit to things early. You have to stay true to what’s already been printed. And if you come up with a better idea, well, you’re out of luck.

In addition to being ill-suited to the form, the year I spent writing the series version Flotsam was pretty trying in other ways. It started with my dad having a heart attack, involved me having three different jobs in a twelve-month period, and I spent a lot of the second half of the year in-transit as I travelled for work.

All of this was pretty big change for me. I’d never worked a job where I went to an office and I’d certainly never been required to travel. I didn’t cope well with the way it all impacted on my schedule and the Flostam series suffered for it. I was happy with what I achieved in the series, but it never really felt like I’d succeeded in telling the story I wanted to tell.

On the other hand, I love novellas; there’s something about the length that suits the way I write, and I’ve got a better feel for the pacing of the story. It also tells a story in a very different way, compared to the serial, so it’s less like rewriting the serial and more like telling a new story with the same source material. In my head, their basically two different continuities, similar to the approach Marvel takes with its comics and its films.

My only disappointment has been my inability to figure out how to fit Keith Murphy, Supernatural Pro-Wrestler, into the novella continuity.

 

2. Exile is set on the Gold Coast of Australia. Have you ever been there? Are parts of the story set in real world locations?

I grew up on the Gold Coast, and my parents still live there (despite my best efforts to convince them they should leave). It’s a deeply weird city, in a lot of respects, and it’s definitely one of those places where the differences between people’s experiences run very deep.

You’d probably find a lot of people who’d make the tongue-in-cheek argument that nothing on the Gold Coast is real. It’s a city built around tourism - beaches, theme-parks, bars, and shopping – and it’s very, very good at faking things and creating replicas of other places.

But everything in Flotsam is based on a real place. Keith’s safe-house is based on a place a friend of mine lived in high school, where we used to play D&D until about six in the morning then hike down the hill to the beach. Langford’s house is where another friend of mine grew up, or at least my hazy memory of the place some twenty years later. Jupiter’s Casino and the Hard Rock Surfers Paradise are open to visitors all year around, although I’m pretty sure I’ve taken some liberties with both their layout and insinuation that there are demons working there.

 

3. Will you explain what the Gloom is?

There will be some pretty broad hints in the next novella, Frost, but I’m not sure there will be a really detailed explanation in the series. Mostly this is Keith’s fault: the world gets filtered through his point of view, and he doesn’t really want to know what the Gloom is. He’s content knowing that it’s the place where demons and other creatures come from, and he should probably start shooting anything that calls the Gloom home.

 

4. Do you have any other stories set in the same fictional world?

Just the one: Tithes, which appears in the Coins of Chaos anthology, takes place in the same continuity as the Flotsam webseries (you can tell, ‘cause it only features Randal, as opposed to Randal and Wesna, as Sabbath’s representatives).

 

5. What are you working on now?

I’ve got a pretty ambitious run of projects on my plate this year – you can see the full list over on my website – but right now I’m doing some rewrites on the second Flotsam novella, Frost, and preparing to take a run a romance novella titled Hot For Teacher as a change of pace from Keith and his tendency to think about pragmatic solutions.


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