Author Richard J. Galloway interviewed by author Viola Veloce

Today’s post is special, because it features two fellow authors as guests. The first one is Viola Veloce, the Italian bestselling author of “Omicidi in pausa pranzo” (not yet available in English). Viola recently interviewed in her blog Richard J. Galloway, author of the science fiction novel “Amantarra”, and she gave me permission to publish the original version of this interview on my blog. Richard talks about his trilogy, “The Ascension of Valheel”, and the publication of the Italian version of his first book, “Amantarra” (translated by me).

Dear Richard, welcome to my blog. Let’s start with a classic question: who is really Richard J. Galloway?
An extraverted showman with a flair for self-promotion and a need to be the centre of attention; I could not in any way be described as any of these things. What I possess in abundance is a quiet empathy, a phobia of unfinished stories thanks to the Hobbit, an obsession with the mysterious, implausible world of fantasy, and an urge to write it all down. I like to take an ordinary everyday event and provide an alternative and slightly stranger explanation to its apparent meaning. My own term for this is “exposing the illusion of the ordinary”; it’s a sort of literary paranoid psychosis. Incidentally, if you want to know how the Hobbit is involved in all this, I wrote a blog about it

Amantarra” is your first book and it’s also the first one from a trilogy, so there’s still a long commitment in front of you before getting to the end of the series. How do you write a series of novels? Are you already writing the second one? What’s the title? Do you already know the end of the series or you have a set of options among which you’ll choose one or you haven’t decided it yet?
The title of the second book is Saranythia and yes I’ve already started writing it. I only have a rough plot for the third book, but I know where and how the series will finish. The plot for the third book will be fleshed out as I write the second.  
How do you write a series? The short answer is that I will tell you when I’ve finished. The long answer is that Amantarra was originally never intended to be more than a single book, but at the end of it I couldn’t resist leaving a hook into another story. I thought at some point I may return to it, but at the time I had no ideas for a plot. I’d started work on something completely different when I realised that some of the plot threads were drawing parallels with Amantarra, and suddenly I had a plot. It quickly became apparent that there was a third book in there as well. So I adapted some of the characters in the new work and wove them into the fabric of Amantarra’s world.  

The main characters of “Amantarra” include both teenagers and adults; it’s a book suitable to all ages, but, as we know, science fiction is often considered a genre mostly appreciated by men. This is true in Italy, at least. Do you think women might like your novel? Why?
My proof readers are both woman and they liked it. “But,” I hear you cry. “Wouldn’t they say that anyway?” Perhaps, but knowing who they are, perhaps not. While I was writing this I asked them directly what it was that they liked about the book. They both replied that it was the humour and the romantic elements that appealed, but don’t take their word for it. I’ve had a couple of very positive reviews from woman on Amazon, one of whom did not consider science fiction as her usual genre. The book is written on the premise; that to primitive cultures, all sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic. So the science fiction is shrouded and presented to the reader as magic. I only hint at the technology behind the science. This gives the story a fantasy feel.
Let me tell you a little bit about the plot, it might help you understand who it may appeal to.
Amantarra is the younger of two sisters. She is one of a race of beings so evolved that they left their physical forms behind half the age of the universe ago. Immortal, they live in a city built on the inside of a sphere which occupies its own set of dimensions. They were being slowly and secretly wiped out by an unknown enemy. This is the story of how Amantarra fights for the survival of her race. Up to now the description is all very science fiction, but I bring it into the world of the plausible when Amantarra, despite her best efforts, unwittingly brings the fight to Earth.
At this point in the plot I move the action to a group of bawdy teenagers at a school in 1970’s England. With humour that is typical of the north of England, it’s here that the advanced technology of a race of immortal beings meets the residents of an industrial town. One of them finds out that death is not as final as he thought, in fact he hadn’t realised that he was dead until someone told him. There’s mystery, change and romance for some. More than one type of magic in the air.

One of the main characters is called John, and your middle name’s initial is J. I bet it isn’t a coincidence. Which characters of “Amantarra” bear with them a part of you?
Yes, you guessed right, my middle name is John, but there were other factors which led to me lending my name to the character. Amantarra started out as a story about a silver pocket watch I received as a child. The name “J. Godbert” is inscribed on the inside of the watch, which seemed an obvious choice for the character. I just needed something for the “J”. As you rightly suspect John Godbert was initially based around my personality. I say initially because when I was writing the third version it became obvious that I couldn’t manipulate the character in a way that was necessary when I thought of John as me. I’m very good at observing human nature, but that’s the problem, how do you observe yourself. All of my characters are based on the idiosyncrasies of people that I know or have known. Some are made up of traits from multiple people and others from a single person. I’m still a part of John, some of his thought processes are mine, but John is based more around the same person that Scott Briggs is based on than me. I find it easier to write as a puppet master than a puppet. That said; the romance between John and Elleria is based purely on the start of my relationship with my wife.
One of the things you will notice about my work is that I like strong female leads. Elleria in particular is based around someone I went to college with. She went on to manage the information technology department of a large financial institution in London. Amantarra herself is more complex and she is based on a number of people, all of whom have strong personalities.

Indie authors like us must have a day job, actually it often applies to many traditionally published ones, and this fact tends to delay our writing. It is even more difficult with the first book, because you aren’t experienced yet, so it might take even more time to complete it.
How long has it taken between the day you wrote the first scene of “Amantarra” and the one you published it? What has this commitment taught you?
Longer than you imagine it would be. Amantarra has been written three times. It was originally titled “The Architect”. It was, like most attempts at a first novel, sort of school essay in structure, and quite frankly it wasn’t very good. The second version was written as a satire and was based mainly on Earth. This was the one I tried to publish using traditional methods and it became obvious that my work was simply not being read by agents or publishers alike. There was another factor that figured in decision to write a third version and that was my father. The previous work had been written with him in mind. When he read it, he liked the parts set on Earth, but stopped reading it when he came to the science fiction / fantasy parts. Surprisingly, this was more liberating than disappointing. We all like the approval of our parents, but when I knew that he was never going to read it I felt free to do as I please. So the third version was written as science fiction and I removed a lot, but not all of the humour.
So, how long you ask. Well, from the first story about the watch to the publication of Amantarra took an eye watering ten years. Granted, I wasn’t writing all the time. Months would go by without anything happening. When it came to the third version, which is 124,000 words, I’d started to write every day and from start to finish it took around fourteen months, a vast improvement. I’m not sure commitment is the right word; writing is more of an addiction with me. I get restless when I’m not writing, but when I am I often wonder where the time goes.

Part of the story of “Amantarra” is narrated in different periods of human history: prehistory, Nineteenth Century, the World Wars, the 70’s. What kind of researches have you performed to write those scenes?
The scenes set in the 1970’s were easy, I was there, and nearly all of them are based on real events. For example the game involving marked cards to extract money from the school bullies actually happened, although it didn’t go as well for us as the one in the book. The world wars are based on stories my father and grandfather told me. I fleshed these out with descriptions from photographs, television imagery and historical fact. The entire sub plot about the German helmet from World War One was created from a single photograph. Similarly the nineteenth century setting came from a single photograph. Prehistory was probably the easiest. The only fact that I had to incorporate was the cave painting. I then just assumed that human behaviour hasn’t really changed and constructed a scene around that.

I’ve seen the pictures of Valheel in the gallery on your Italian website. How has such a structure occurred to you?
Valheel was fun to do. I’d had the idea that Amantarra’s race would exist in another set of dimensions and that they could exist in our universe only as phantoms. What I needed was a focal point so that I could place some action. Valheel started out as just a just a city, flat in other words, but it was just floating in a void, so how could I set its boundaries? I placed a bubble around it to separate it from the void. This evolved into placing the city, now separated into four zones, on the inside of the bubble. As the city was constructed of pure energy and existed in its own set of dimensions, it could have its own rules to do with gravity, atmosphere and other stuff. This brief description of the evolution of the city of Valheel makes it sound as though it was created overnight. This was not the case. Valheel evolved slowly. Once I had the city in my head it started to drive the plot, but that created problems of its own. So as a means to solve the plot problems I modelled the whole place in 3D. The images on my web site are taken from the model.

When will the second book be published? Will it be translated into Italian?
I’ve learnt a valuable lesson from Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli about the publication of large works. Split it up into parts. This is what I intend to do with Saranythia. I’m hoping to complete part one during a break between contracts.  
And yes, it will definitely be translated into Italian.

It’s a bit early to evaluate the experience to have your book on the Italian market. Let’s talk about how you, as an independent author, came to have “Amantarra” translated into Italian. How have you get acquainted with the translator? How do you feel to see your book in another language?
Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli contacted me through Twitter and asked me if I’d considered having my work translated into Italian. I must admit that it hadn’t occurred to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a good idea. One of my initial concerns was that a large part of the book is very English. The characters, the humour and a lot of the settings are all based on the people and places of the North East of England. The North East is not the same as the bowler hatted, umbrella carrying, international image that the English seem to have. Far from it, and I was worried that Amantarra might be too strange an English image for the Italian market. People in the North East are down to Earth, we don’t put on “airs and graces”, which is an English phrase meaning to behave in false ways intended to make other people feel that you are important and belong to a higher social class. So we holidayed in Sorrento last year to get a feel for the Italian psyche, and get a sun tan as well. I found that Italian’s, or at least the ones we met, are very much like the people of my region; down to Earth. I felt very much at home there. Carla assures me that English science fiction is very popular in Italy. Doctor Who, for instance. So I’m fairly confident that my work will sit nicely in the Italian market. I do like telling people that my work has been translated into Italian, it gives me quite a thrill, and it does impress. Looks like I’ll have to watch those airs and graces.

What are your resolutions as an author for 2014?
I’m determined to complete Saranythia, not sure if I will, but I’m going to give a good go. I’m also collaborating with Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli on publishing her Red Desert works in English. I’ve been looking forward to reading her work for a year, and now it’s finally happening.

Thanks for your kindness. It was great to talk to you!
It was an absolute pleasure, thank you for the opportunity.

Raised amid the heavy industry of the north east of England on a diet of Star Trek, Doctor Who and fantasy novels, RICHARD J. GALLOWAY rebelled against his schools assumption that heavy industrial work would be his vocation. Having exhausted the only apparent option, the careers master would despair. "If you don't want to work in the steelworks, where do you want to work?" His reply was always, "I don't know." The industry he finished up in would not materialise for another ten years. No wonder the master struggled. From school, via drawing office and architecture, eventually he found himself working with large computer systems. 
Career aside, the thread that bound it all together has been fantasy. He has never lost his fascination with the imagery that a good story invokes. After all it had shown him worlds beyond this one, and possibilities beyond the steelworks. It continues to do so.
Richard still lives in the north east of England with his wife, family, and a large cat called Beano. The heavy industry has shrunk, but Richard's world of fantasy has grown. He often wonders what advice he would have been given if the careers master had read the occasional bit of science fiction.

Amantarra is Richard's first novel.

Visit Richard online at: