Author Spotlight with David Clegg
Find out the inspiration of his debut novel 'The Aule Stratagem: Part One- Slave ship'
David Clegg is an author of military science fiction, who grew up on a steady diet of sci-fi TV, books and films including Star Trek, Doctor Who, Babylon 5 and almost everything else he could get hold of. Besides writing he works in finance and has been a chef, a salesman and several other things. When not writing he's an avid wargamer, student of history, a home brewer and, of course, a reader. He lives in Northampton with his wife, their dog and cat.
Hi David! How are you? I know you were super excited to have an Author Spotlight on my blog, and so rightly deserved! I absolutely loved your book! Hi Aimee, I'm ok, thank you. I hope you're well. Thanks for having me on your blog and I'm really pleased you enjoyed my work. Can you tell my readers more about the book please, if they did not know about it already? The Aule Stratagem is my debut military sci-fi/space opera novel. It's being published in two parts because of its length. So, first of all- tell me, how did you find the inspiration for such a unique plot for your debut novel? I have a number of influences in terms of the plot, from actual historical events to classic literature and contemporary sci-fi. Without giving too much away, the plot is inspired by schemes in several other works as well as real events. One of my biggest influences is the Honor Harrington series by bestselling author David Weber. Fans of this phenomenal sci-fi series will recognise bits and pieces in my book. I'm a student of history, as I said, and if you look at military history going back to the Greeks and Romans, all the way to today, you can find examples of this kind of plot actually taking place. You created a whole other world that reminded me of Doctor Who, and a mix of Guardians Of The Galaxy, and transported me to a whole other place while I was reading, was this your intention? World building is a huge part of any sci-fi work, and it's among my favourite parts of the writing process. I've spent literally years putting this setting together in my head, looking at various ideas from other franchises, historical events and inspirations and adding them together, changing them around and mixing them into my own universe. So yes, it absolutely was my intention to transport the reader to another time and place, and I'm pleased that you felt it was real and believable. You mention Doctor Who, which was a big part of my childhood, being the son of a committed Whovian and nephew of another. Doctor Who was one of the biggest sci-fi settings when I was young, along with Star Trek and Star Wars. I couldn't help but be influenced by it, although the more fantastical elements of the show are not present in my work. How long did it take you to write from the first draft, and getting it published? I spent about five years actually writing the book, revising it and polishing it for submission. I went through five drafts of the novel before it was submitted, mainly with the kind assistance and feedback of my friend David Hughes, who helped me develop it from an amateurish and even cartoon-like first draft into the polished and clean version that was handed to my publisher for consideration. Once I'd got it ready, I started to research literary agents, and while I was doing that, someone on a Facebook group suggested contacting CAAB Publishing. As they didn't require an agent, I contacted them about a submission while I looked for an agent. As it turned out, I never actually queried any agents, because CAAB asked for the full manuscript just three weeks after I sent them my query. They made an offer to publish within another couple of months, which I accepted. They requested some revisions, the main one being cutting the book in half to publish and adding significant new content to the second half. That process took a few months, then there was editing, cover art and so on, which took us up to the publication date for the first half. Where did you find the knowledge in terms of all things space? Did you research most of your book for quite a while? I've been interested in space since childhood, although as a small boy, I was more interested in dinosaurs. My older brother was the wannabe astronomer, but I learned a lot during my childhood from his books, and from watching and reading as much sci-fi as I could get. This continued into adulthood, and I've learned more and more over the years. It also helps that I have a PhD astrophysicist for a friend, Dr. Stavros Dimitrakoudis, who has kindly assisted me with many questions and pointed out numerous scientific inaccuracies in the text. All errors in this area are my own. Did you have any setbacks in terms of your writing? I waited a while between drafts while my friend read over the latest version and sent my feedback, around his various commitments and family life and so on. I never had anything disastrous, like deleting the WiP file or having to revert to an earlier saved version. I was never rejected by agents or publishers, either, so in terms of setbacks, no, not really.
Your characters are so well developed, I loved how you made each character relatable in so many different ways, which character would you say you related to the most? That's hard to say. None of them are really based on myself. I'm far less heroic and courageous than the characters in the book. The protagonist, Michael Patterson, doesn't have any of the issues I deal with in real life. The female characters in your novel, especially Cara were strong, independent and driven, you rarely see this in writing nowadays, was this your intention to create a character like this? Absolutely. I was advised from the first days of drafting the plot that I needed to have strong female characters to draw in female readers, and I made certain to do that. As a conscious choice, I swapped the captain and executive officer around. The captain was originally supposed to be Stefan Calder, and Elizabeth Lewis was meant to be the XO. Looking at the outline, I swapped them over so arguably the strongest character, at least on the Aurora, was female. As I went along, I was determined to have female characters make crucial contributions and show their mettle, without needing to be caricatures or Mary Sues to do it. Cara Tayley was always intended to be strong, but her role expanded between drafts, along with the pirate characters, to make her more important to the story and show her journey, rather than just talk about it. I'm getting into spoiler territory, here, though, so I'll just say that I always intended to have strong female characters. In terms of your debut novel, what are you most proud of? I'm actually most proud of the impression I've made on female readers. I always set out to include female characters and show a future where men and women really are equal and serve together without their gender being an issue. Differences and varying strengths are celebrated and used to their fullest to achieve the mission. That a number of female readers picked up the book expecting something different, and being pleasantly surprised, is a source of great pride. I grew up with great female characters in sci-fi, from the legends like Ellen Ripley of the Alien franchise to the female officers in Star Trek, Princess Leia in Star Wars and the indomitable Commander Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5, and I always intended to include these kinds of great characters. Likewise, my late mother was the biggest sci-fi fan I've ever known and she showed me that sci-fi is not just for men, it's for everyone. The themes and issues dealt with in sci-fi affect everyone. I always wanted, and will always want, women and girls to read my work and enjoy it, and know that it's for them as well as for the men and boys. Who has been your biggest support in terms of your writing? My late mother was a great supporter and I was heartbroken that she didn't see my work in print. I dedicated the book to her for this reason. She was the first person to read my work, chapter by chapter, as I first wrote it and her encouragement made it much easier to continue. Besides her, my friend David Hughes was a huge help with his feedback and editing assistance, as well as my website. Chrissy Brown at CAAB Publishing has been a big cheerleader for me. Her support and understanding has been invaluable. Brodie, my editor, has also been a huge help. Of course, my wife Dee has been the biggest support of all, putting up with my disappearances to work on the laptop, endless chatter about characters and weapons and ships and so on, without being in the least bit interested in sci-fi herself. Tell us something that your readers may not know about you? I've been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. I've been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Basilica of the Nativity, the Church of St Peter's Primacy and a host of other places in Israel and Palestine.
If you had the opportunity to travel to space, would you do it? Where would you go first?
Real space? Probably, but who'd pass up a chance like that? If I could go to my setting, I'd visit every world in the Confederacy and see all the sights, from Bellona City to the bizarre yellow plants on Wen Chang. Would you like your book to become a film, if this happens, who would you have to play your characters? That's the dream, isn't it? I'd love a film adaptation, because I could reach such a wider audience than a novel can. You only have to look at the massive hit that A Game of Thrones became, decades after the novels were bestsellers. So many people watched it without having read the books. Funnily enough, I think a series would suit my work better than a film, because it's make-or-break with a film. Ender's Game illustrates this perfectly. Based on a sci-fi series of several books, but the rest didn't get made because the film wasn't a hit. Whereas The Expanse really showed how to adapt a sci-fi series to television and do it well. What a hit, and totally unexpected. I'd love a similar series made from my book, and the future books yet to come. It gives you the time to explore settings, events and characters, which you just don't have with a two-hour film. I couldn't even begin to pick actors for the various roles. Relatively new or low-profile actors could be a great choice, there's so much talent out there and so many actors deserving of a chance. What do you do to concentrate when you sit down to write? Do you have something that helps you to relax? I don't have any rituals, actually. I usually have music, but if I take the laptop to my wife's shop to work in the office, there's either no music because there's customers around, or whatever she's listening to. Either way, I usually have coffee on hand, although I've been known to have something stronger if it's not too early in the day. Concentration is sometimes difficult with so many distractions around, and diving into research is usually the biggest one, along with various social media platforms. What are your plans in terms of the future, we know you have Part 2 coming, I am so excited to be an ARC reader for this, do you think you will branch out into another genre or stick to Sci-Fi? Part 2 is, indeed, coming out later this year. Thank you so much for agreeing to help with ARC reading, it means a lot to me. The second book is in the planning stages now, with the current task being outlining each chapter, scene by scene. It's crucial for me to know what I'm meant to be writing when I sit down to actually draft the book, so I do a rough outline of the story with a description of each scene, who's there, what they're doing, etc. When I draft the chapter, I can look at that and know what I'm meant to be doing. If I have a better idea, I'll go with that, but the plan gives me a strong foundation to build on. The second book continues the story of the Confederacy's struggle for independence, and the looming war. There's a much bigger cast of characters and a lot more diversity in terms of background and ethnicities, showing the breadth of the Confederacy and the groups of people who live on its worlds. There's also more information about the League and the Terran Empire. I think you'll love it. Besides that, I have plans for an epic fantasy series. Two, actually. One a medieval fantasy with relatively low magic, and one a more ancient-world setting with more magic, non-human races and monsters. I also have ideas for other sci-fi settings, some alternative history and historical fiction. With pirates. Maybe I'll find the time to do them all... Thanks so much for taking part in this interview David, you managed to create a world of wonder in your book, and I absolutely adored it. Thank you for interviewing me. I'm overjoyed that you loved my book. It really makes it worthwhile to put so much work and time and energy into my work when someone enjoys it so much.
To Connect with David on social media: @DavidC_author - Twitter @david_clegg_author - Instagram
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