In today’s post, I speak with sci-fi author Adam David Collings. Adam has stories published in Medieval Mars and Victorian Venus anthologies, as well as in Glimpses of Light and Superheroes: The Crossover Alliance Anthology V3. Last year Adam published the first episode of his Space Opera series, Jewel of the Stars (you can read my review here.)
I asked Adam a number of questions about his writing process and plans earlier this year.
Jeanette: Share three things that people may not already know about you.
1) My favourite thing to eat, in the world, is chicken schnitzel, served with chips and gravy.
2) I’m both an author and a computer programmer, and I’ve managed to make it 18 years into my career without becoming a coffee drinker. I just don’t like the taste.
3) In my late teens and early twenties, I was toying between being a writer and being an amateur film-maker, as my primary hobby. (It never occurred to me that either could be an actual career.) I settled on writing prose because it’s easier to achieve as a ‘one-man-band’. Either way, storytelling has always been in my blood. I ended up expressing the film-making desire through my Vlogging. What would I have done had YouTube not been invented?
Jeanette: That’s a good question. What were your favourite books, movies and TV shows as you were growing up, and how have they influenced your writing?
Adam: I loved the Cooper Kids Adventure Series by Frank Peretti growing up. Peretti taught me a lot about bringing plot threads together in an exciting climax.
I also devoured the novels of Stephen R. Lawhead. Sci-fi, Fantasy and historical fiction. One thing was common among all three. Epicness. Epicocity. Uh…they were epic.
I watched a lot of Star Trek, starting with the original series, then TNG, DS9 etc. Star Trek had a major impact on my writing, which is still very evident today in Jewel of The Stars. I learned about character development, incorporating theme into story, and how to manage an ensemble cast.
I loved a show called the Mysterious Cities of Gold when I was little. Its influence will be seen in a future season of Jewel of The Stars.
In my late teens, I was mesmerised by Babylon 5. From this, my eyes were opened to the wonders of long-form story arcs. I’m still learning to reproduce what J. Michael Straczynski did in that show.
Jeanette: I loved Babylon 5 though Star Trek and Lawhead are also favourites. Which (perhaps little-known) authors were your best reads in the last couple of years?
Adam: A little-known author I really enjoyed in the last few years was P A Baines. His Alpha series reads like classic science fiction. It’s clever, moving and entertaining. The books deserve to be much more widely known than they are.
For All Time by Meredith Resce was a fun time travel story, which explored the cultural differences between our present, and medieval times. It also had an interesting twist on romance.
Allan and Aaron Reini are a father and son team who wrote a military sci-fi thriller called Flight of The Angels. It’s something of a cross between Battlestar Galactica and The Terminator, exploring the theme of religious persecution. I’m eagerly waiting for them to release a second book in the series.
Jeanette: I enjoyed For All Time. I can see my TBR pile expanding. Flight of the Angels sounds intriguing.
You have several Sci-Fi stories published now. Is this your favourite genre to write? What do you like about it? And have you ever considered exploring another genre?
Adam: I think it’s fair to say that sci-fi is my favourite genre. I have a pretty broad definition of sci-fi, and I love it all, but my favourite sub-genre is space opera. I love the sense of wonder that sci-fi evokes. It opens our eyes, and our imaginations, to the wonders of creation. It’s also a great vehicle for exploring themes that really matter.
I’m going to paraphrase something Brandon Sanderson has been known to say.
“The reason I love fantasy is that you can do all the things that you can in every other genre. Plus, you can have dragons.”
This is how I feel about science fiction. You can have a murder mystery, a romance, a buddy-cop comedy, and you can add aliens and spaceships. Sci-fi can blend with pretty much anything, and make it even cooler.
I’m a lover of speculative fiction in general, which includes fantasy. I dabbled in fantasy (with a sci-fi setting) in my Medieval Mars story, Lynessa’s Curse. I can see myself writing more fantasy in the future (in fact, I have a project in mind).
I can’t see myself ever writing straight fiction without any speculative elements. I do have an interest in history, particularly Tasmanian History, which could lend itself to a story, but even then, it would be a time-travel story, not just straight historical fiction.
Outside of fiction, my Mum and I have discussed the idea of writing some creative non-fiction about our ancestor, John Herbert, who was a convict in the first fleet.
Jeanette: I love that Sanderson quote.
How did you come up with the idea of Jewel of the Stars? What have been the joys and challenges in writing the series?
Adam: As a child, and a teenager, I consumed a lot of Star Trek. Since the Trek world is modelled after naval traditions, and in particular, the US Navy, I found that a lot of real-world naval terms were familiar to me. Bridge, First officer etc. Ever since, whenever I encounter anything remotely nautical, my mind goes straight to space. A naval warship? What about a warship in space. A fishing boat? What about fishing for space-dwelling animals. When my parents went on their first cruise, my mind immediately said, “What about a cruise ship in space?” That idea wouldn’t let me go.
The story of a cruise ship in space would clearly be a large ensemble story. At least, that’s how I pictured it. Originally, I envisaged it as a giant epic novel. I was convinced I didn’t yet have the skill to write something like that, so I put it on the shelf for later. When I first discovered the episodic storytelling of Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant, I realised there was another option.
I’m a child of the TV generation. I’ve always thought of stories in terms of episodes and seasons. I wrote a lot of serial web fiction when I was at university, but didn’t think there was a serious market for that type of thing. The eBook and self-publishing revolutions changed that. Episodic fiction was perfectly suited to this new medium. Platt and Truant had proven with their series, The Beam, that there was a market for it. Once I re-framed my cruise ship story as an ongoing series, structured like a modern TV show, I knew I was ready to launch into it.
The joys of writing it come from the creative process. I’m a big-picture storyteller. I delight in dreaming up long-term story arcs, with all the twists and turns that will take place over the years. Jewel of The Stars gave me great scope for this. I’m already thinking about ideas for spin-off series.
The biggest challenge comes out of the same place. If I wanted to tell these grand stories, I had to get my head out of the clouds and focus on the details. Editing is something I must really push myself through. After all, who wants to be inserting commas and tweaking sentence structure when you could be dreaming up the plot arc for next season?
Jeanette: You went on a family cruise last year. Some of those ships are enormous (we recently saw one that seemed to compete with the Sydney skyscrapers). In what ways did experiencing an ocean-going cruise affect your ideas about a space-going cruise ship?
Adam: The main thing was that it gave me some real-world experience of what it’s like to be on a cruise. Until then, my idea of a cruise was shaped by the movie Titanic, and travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania (both of which are technically classed as a ferries, not a cruises).
Now I have a good sense of what a modern cruise is like. I learned some of the lingo, which I was able to insert into the story. It also helped me to picture what my ship would be like inside. My shore visits to New Caledonia gave me a tiny taste of what it’s like to step into a new place, and interact with a culture that is not your own. For the first time in my life, I was the outsider. I was the foreigner. It was a strange feeling.
I documented the entire cruise on my youTube channel. If you’re interested, you can watch the adventure at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOlU7c71yrfTBqrVJNzhirdp42kPll4Kx
Of course, in space, you have to think about the different practicalities.
First of all, you can’t go up on deck. How do you deal with the swimming pool. I chose to have “magic” artificial gravity, like on Star Trek, but you have to make these decisions.
Jeanette: My family twice travelled from Melbourne to Durban by ship. The swimming pool could have done with some artificial gravity or at least inertial dampening.
So, what else are you working on at the moment?
Adam: I have a completed draft for a superhero novella, set in Australia. There’s a small press which I think might be a good fit for the story, so after I finish revising, I’m considering submitting it. It could be a good way to get another work out in the world, without having to finance the editing and publication costs myself.
I also have a co-writing project simmering in the back of my mind – the fantasy story I mentioned above. My plan is to write the first instalment, and then invite others to join me.
Right now, though, my primary focus is on Jewel of The Stars. I’m making good progress revising episode 2 (which has been the most challenging to beat into shape). I have episodes 3 and 4 already drafted. I’ll have all 6 episodes of season one drafted by the end of the year.
Jeanette: Yay, I’m looking forward to reading Episode 2, especially after a sneak peak of the first couple of chapters. The first episode, Jewel of The Stars: Earth’s Remnant was an exciting read. I know you made some great progress in NaNoWriMo this month. Your other projects sound intriguing too.
Thanks Adam for taking the time to talk with us.