Andrew Hall is an indie author with a passion for science fiction and fantasy. His influences include Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, Tetsuya Nomura, Susanna Clarke and George R R Martin, as well as the artist Yoji Shinkawa and the films of Ridley Scott.
Andrew Hall Author Interview
S&S: You described Tabitha, your first book, as “28 Days Later meets Alien”. Was that the general idea you had in mind when you started writing it, or did the story decide that was where it wanted to go?
AH: The story definitely took on a life of its own. Tabitha began as a short story, which I had intended to be as ordinary and real-life as possible. Turns out that my brain just couldn’t handle the normality of it all, and promptly added in a killer plant from outer space just to shake things up. Tabitha the novel really just grew out of my own curiosity to find out what happened next to this character, and the book grew organically to include my love of all things fantasy and sci-fi horror. Tabitha’s tale is a bit of a hybrid.
S&S: How hard was it to make the decision to quit your day job to pursue writing full-time, especially as an indie author?
AH: It would have been a difficult decision a few years ago, but a career in writing and self-publishing ebooks on the side has given me the confidence I needed to just jump in. It’s always been my ambition to be a full-time author since my student days, but I couldn’t have made the decision without the support of everyone reading and enjoying Tabitha. I want to repay the favour by writing more books for Tabitha’s fans, but to do that I needed more time in the day to write them. I’ve always loved stories and I feel like I’ve been working towards this decision all my life, so it wasn’t a tough choice to make.
S&S: What does your favorite coffee mug/drinking glass say about you? (Mine says I don’t like morning people. Or mornings. Or people.)
AH: My go-to tea vessel is a black Game of Thrones mug, with a gold kraken and the Greyjoy words We Do Not Sow. Partly because I’m a House Greyjoy man, but mostly because it reminds me to get writing and make something of my own ambitions, not someone else’s. And because it’s black. Batman’s “Does it come in black?” pretty much informs any purchase I’ve ever made. (Disclaimer: I have never paid the iron price for any purchase.)
S&S: Tabitha was published in mid-2014. How long have you been working on the sequel Skyqueen?
AH: Too long! Work and life permitting, I’ve been working on it for about eighteen months. Tabitha’s second book is a real departure from the first, and I’m a perfectionist, so it’s taken longer than I’d hoped when I started it after publishing the first book. Going full-time as an author though, I’ll be able to finish up Skyqueen much faster and get straight on to Tabitha’s third instalment, Ghost, this summer. Followed by another trilogy that I’ve been wanting to write for years.
S&S: How many editors/proofreaders/beta-readers did Tabitha go through before you felt it was ready for publishing? Did you do the less/same/more for it’s sequel?
AH: None – I’m too impatient to wait for feedback and too stubborn to act on it! Once I’d written Tabitha I gave it two passes myself to chop and change things and polish it up, but I was too eager to get it out there, so it never went to an editor or beta readers before going live in the Kindle store. So I guess it’s just the concentrated contents of my brain, which is maybe why some people love it and some people hate it. But I like the fact that people feel strongly about it one way or the other. As for the sequel Skyqueen, it’ll be the same again I think! I’ll be too eager to move on to the third novel, Ghost, to wait for edits on the second.
S&S: Ahh… dangerous waters, those!
S&S: Who is the ideal audience for your books?
AH: Tabitha’s for any fan of science fiction, fantasy or superheroes who’s looking for something completely different. I’ve never had one favourite genre I like to read, so I think that’s why this novel throws real-life drama headlong into sci-fi, horror and fantasy. I wanted to write a novel that mixed up aliens, superpowers, horror, post-apocalyptic themes and elements of fantasy, just to find out what would happen. Despite the fact that it’s post-apocalyptic, alien-invasion science fiction, I think because of the creatures Tabitha encounters the book also really appeals to fantasy fans, and gamers too. At least from the feedback and reviews I’ve seen.
S&S: Was there any part in your books that you had particular problems writing?
AH: Getting to grips with the organic alien machines that Tabitha finds herself up against were some of the most challenging parts to write, as well as figuring out how their ecosystem fitted together and what they wanted with Earth. There was also a definite challenge in marrying up all the different elements that the book seems to go through to develop Tabitha’s character – real life, post-apocalypse, action-adventure, vampire, sci-fi, superpowers – but the toughest parts by far were her little moments of transcendence, as her abilities grow. There were a few brief moments where I wanted to absolutely distil the new way that Tabitha sees the world. The changes she goes through don’t just affect her physically, but mentally. They open up a new part of her mind, so I needed to get the wildest language I could into those moments. Oh, and Seven, Tabitha’s animal machine. Seven was a bugger to write convincingly. I just hope I pulled it off.
S&S: Are there any ‘triggering’ events in your book(s) that potential readers should know about? (child death, rape, etc.)
AH: To become who she is by the end of the book, Tabitha goes through some real horror, and there’s frequent gore throughout – including a dog attack, which may be a triggering event for some readers. Part of Tabitha’s developing abilities is that she can heal rapidly, and at one point she’s a test subject because of it, because of this biological potential to help in Earth’s war against the alien threat. Other potentially triggering events in Tabitha aren’t explicit but there is a brief instance of attempted sexual harassment, and there are brief references to infant death. In trying to write a convincing invasion by a hostile, genocidal race, I thought that this was a tragic truth Tabitha would necessarily encounter as she wanders Earth post-apocalypse.
S&S: Tell us about the primary location in Tabitha. What made you choose it?
AH: Tabitha ventures further afield towards the end of the story, but the majority of the tale takes place in northern England and the coastal town in Wales where she grew up. They’re fictional towns and cities, loosely based on places where I’ve spent time myself, which I think was crucial in being able to write them in detail. With all the craziness of an alien apocalypse going on, there was definitely a need to ground as much of the story as I could in reality to balance that – and I’ve got plenty of personal experience of grey rainy places with castles and piers to (hopefully) smudge the fantastical in a little more closely with gritty reality.
S&S: If you could partner with a famous author in your genre for a collaborative work, who would you pick and why?
AH: Good question! Famous author in history, in the sci-fi genre; Isaac Asimov. Purely in the hopes that I could learn to be anywhere near as prolific as the man himself. Famous author of our times, Neil Gaiman. I’d be over the moon to have my name with Gaiman’s on the strangest sci-fantasy anyone had ever read.
S&S: How do you handle negative reviews?
AH: I’m not sure there’s anything an author can do to handle a negative review, other than change their own way of thinking about it. I think it was the marketing guru Seth Godin who said that all you can do is to be too busy with the next project to have any time for your negative reviews. There’ll always be people who dislike an author’s work, but also plenty of people who love it too. All I can really do is tell myself that a negative review is that person’s truth, and I don’t have the right to make them wrong about it. And just carry on writing for the people who love my stories.
S&S: That’s as good a way for dealing with them as I’ve ever heard.
S&S: Going back to the “28 Days Later meets Alien” thing… Is this a favorite horror/favorite scifi thing? If not, what is your favorite horror AND your favorite sci-fi movie? Briefly tell us why.
AH: 28 Days Later and Alien are among the most tense, tight, perfect stories I’ve ever seen on the screen. 28 Days Later was the loneliest, grittiest thing I’d ever seen when I was young… and the zombies(/infected) ran! That’s terrifying! As for Alien, it’s pure sci-fi horror perfection. The claustrophobia, and Giger’s designs, and the way the creature wears the pitch black dark when it appears… and the great Ash twist… but most of all the pure humanity of the story itself. Every good sci-fi is ultimately a very human story. Nothing else I’ve seen comes close.
But my favourite horror and sci-fi movie, combined, will probably get hate. It’s Prometheus. Not because it’s a good film with a good story and believable characters, because it isn’t, but because it’s a total freakshow of genetic possibilities. That’s what I love about it, and absolutely it inspired Tabitha. It’s my favourite sci-fi horror because it really opened up the floodgates for me in terms of the monsters genetics could create if things start getting messed around with. That potential and monstrosity is the scariest thing for me, and the most fascinating. The idea that there are no rules to what can be created, that deeply inspired Tabitha. That’s why Prometheus has to be my favourite of the lot.
S&S: I actually kind of agree with you. I don’t regard Prometheus as a great film by any means, but it definitely is a very interesting film to watch, and one that I’ve seen a few times now. 28 Days Later and Alien are both great films, too.
S&S: What makes a gripping story?
AH: In a word, suffering. Not the happiest of subjects, but suffering is easier for readers to relate to than happiness. (I’ll cite The Matrix there.) I’m not saying that stories should be devoid of happiness, but it’s misfortune and tragedy that really sharpens a character into something more engaging. When you’ve shared in the woes of a protagonist and you see how that experience makes them stronger next time and the time after that, that’s when reading words on a page really starts to become something more spellbinding.
Nothing could prepare Tabitha Jones for the dead infested world she woke up to. Robbed of her loved ones and altered by the venom of an alien species, she’s forced to leave her old life behind and survive the ruins of Earth.
Haunted with grief and pursued relentlessly by monstrous swarms and desperate survivors, Tabitha must face her own changing nature and ever-evolving abilities as she searches for the remnants of civilization. But when humanity turns on her, and the alien threat hunts their hybrid creation ever more obsessively, Tabitha quickly realizes that there’s only one side left to fight for – her own.
Tabitha sound intriguing? You can support an Indie Author and buy it now on Amazon.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Andrew Hall.