Welcome to Steph Bennion
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and bred in the Black Country (to the uninitiated, that’s in the English Midlands, which with Birmingham was the industrial revolution’s ‘workshop of the world’). After spending too many years living in the big bad city that is London I moved last year to Hastings, a very nice town on the south coast.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.
The books in my Hollow Moon series are tales of space-opera mystery and adventure for young adults and adults young-at-heart. To date I have published three novels plus a selection of short stories, all of which share the same fictional universe where humanity has learned to cross the cosmos and reach the nearby stars. City Of Deceit, the latest novel in the series, wraps up the story of the civil war on the moon of Yuanshi, Epsilon Eridani, a war that formed the backdrop to events in the first book Hollow Moon. This is my first science-fiction novel set mainly on Earth; the story takes place in London, which in the twenty-third century is ravaged by rising sea levels, social inequalities and terrible politics. It’s all fiction, honest.
Where do you find inspiration?
I tend to get bits of ideas from all over the place; some might spark a train of thought that develops into a story, others may end up as background detail to fill out whatever world I’m creating. I try to credit influences where appropriate; for example, the asteroid colony ship Dandridge Cole, the ‘hollow moon’ of the novels, is named after Dandridge M Cole, the aerospace engineer and futurist who developed the concept in books like Beyond Tomorrow. A fantastic resource is the TV Tropes website, which is great for getting a feel for the nuts and bolts of different genres. I think it’s important to understand the reasons why people like stories and what they expect to get from one. On a very basic level, I try to write books I would want to read myself.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why?
I had a lot of fun writing the character of Zotz Wak, the young boy and inventor who in Hollow Moon reveals his superhero persona in an attempt to express his secret crush on heroine Ravana O’Brien. Zotz sat somewhat on the sidelines in Paw-Prints Of The Gods, so in City Of Deceit I gave him a leading role fighting the injustices of dystopian London. He gets to be the hero, fight the bad guys and even finds a girlfriend.
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why?
Not a character as such, but I really don’t like the weavers, the multi-legged alien horrors that reappear in City Of Deceit. Like many I have an irrational fear of spiders, so making giant alien arachnids the number one monsters in the books seemed the obvious thing to do! On a more human note, I would have to choose Governor Jaggarneth, the slimy corporation bureaucrat who also returns in the latest book. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources?
I like to think properly about the science and technology in the books and its fun to extrapolate current thinking and imagine what this world and others might be like 250 years from now. For example, the holoverse in City Of Deceit, the corporate visual trickery behind which the real city hides, comes from current ideas on augmented reality. Then there’s things like working out which constellation Earth’s sun would appear in if viewed from a moon in Epsilon Eridani (Serpens, by the way). Research for City Of Deceit was different in that it features locations in London that many readers will know for real. I spent some time walking around central London, trying to imagine which buildings would survive the test of time and how the city might change. Victor Habbick, who created the book cover, captured this really well.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book?
Stories always carry messages; in a way, our stories define what it is to be human. The theme that emerged whilst I was writing City Of Deceit was that real change comes from within, whether it is by a virus nibbling away at cells or by human angst simmering within a city, corporation or colony. More broadly, my novels tend to revolve around working-class folk who find themselves battling the consequences of upheavals caused by those in power. The books are ultimately about friendships and how people come together in times of need.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
City Of Deceit is available as an ebook from most online retailers. A paperback edition will follow at some point. Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods are available as ebooks from all the usual websites and in paperback from Amazon. Audiobooks are a possibility sometime in the future.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
Yes, I edit my own work. One thing about spending years in a Civil Service policy team is that it taught me to be quite dispassionate about revising my own work. After I’ve finished the first draft of a novel, I put it to one side for a few months and immerse myself in something else, so that by the time I return to start the editing process it’s like looking at it with fresh eyes. I also have a friend who proof-reads the final manuscript, which helps. I think if an author approaches editing in the right way, you can successfully self-edit: Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods are both Awesome Indies approved books and passed the ‘professionally edited’ test.
Can you name your favourite traditionally-published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author?
This changes with the seasons. At the moment my favourite ‘traditional’ author is Alastair Reynolds and I’m currently reading his space opera epic Pushing Ice. My new favourite indie author is Emily Devenport; I’ve read two of her science-fiction novels to date – Belarus and Broken Time – which I thought had some really distinctive and original ideas. I’d also like to mention Anna Erishkigal, indie author of the very entertaining Sword of the Gods Saga, who does a sterling job looking after the Space Opera Fans group on Goodreads.
Do you have a favourite movie?
I’m going to say Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), on the grounds that it’s wonderfully weird, features really great performances and tickles my sense of humour. It shares a lot of themes with George Orwell’s 1984 but is a far better film than the version of Orwell’s book released around the same time. As a civil servant I love the hilarious dystopian bureaucracy, in the same way that This Is Spinal Tap is the funniest thing ever to anyone who has been in a band…
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hollowmoonbooks
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5438403.Steph_Bennion
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Steph-Bennion/e/B009JRP6RC/