Big thanks to Scott Gilmore for interviewing with us! Scott is an author of young adult fiction and teacher from Northern Ireland. Check out his recent release Inside Iris and see why readers are calling it a "fantastic read!"
How have things been going since the release of Inside Iris in September?
Since the book was released, I have had many positive reviews and responses from adults and children alike. Being a teacher, I have what you could call a captive audience and the children I have had read the book for me have given me amazing feedback. Considering Iris and the narrator, Jade, are both female, I was reassured to find that the boys a had read the book were equally as gripped and intrigued by the story as the girls were.
Most of my time has been spent working, as I am still a full-time teacher, but also making content for a digital media campaign. This has included taking photographs, compiling iMovie teaser trailers and, best of all, recording audio with an ex-pupil of mine who is now a teenager herself.
Hearing this very talented and capable young lady take Iris’ voice and personality and portray it in the audio and video content I created, really excited me and was able to bring an extra dimension to Iris as a character.
I hear you're in the works of the sequel to Inside Iris. Care to share any details?
I have long been intrigued by the dystopian genre in general, from one of my favourite TV shows, ‘The Walking Dead’, to one of my favourite books, ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy. There is something in this genre that allows me to explore elements of reality with the right mix of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
The Iris Trilogy will explore how Iris transitions from being a ‘lab rat’, whose captivity ensures freedom and survival for many around the globe, into being a mature, independent young lady with her own personality and drive. Through the three books the reader will join Iris in her desire to piece together an identity out of the fragments left over when Jade and The Resistance freed her from The Institute.
As a writer working in plays, films, music, and drama—has it helped you as a fiction writer? How so? Vice versa?
I have experienced many forms of art and creativity in my thirty-four years. Music has always been a huge part of my life and I performed, wrote and recorded my own music since I was a teenager. When Writing Inside Iris, I used music to help create a mood and an atmosphere as I wrote certain scenes to ensure I had a continuity when getting into Iris’ mind and emotions.
Being a very visual person, movies and drama help me to see the world rather than just describe it through words. I would try to visualize the scenes playing out before me as though they were being acted out on a stage or a screen in my mind. Through this process, I find that I am able to pick up on subtleties, like looks and gestures, and I can add those through the description I add in the prose itself.
When I was in my early twenties, I completed a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at Queen’s University in Belfast. Through this course, we were encouraged to explore many creative outlets and styles of writing, like prose, poetry and drama. I found that this outlook on the creative process was very enlightening and I believe that, no matter what medium you express yourself creatively, as artists we can all learn something from one another.
There is no guarantee one person’s method will transfer seamlessly into your craft, but being open to change and evolution as an artist is paramount if you are to develop and grow.
At what point did you know Inside Iris would have a sequel?
I knew that the story arch I had for Iris was too wide to be explored fully in one book. The characters, interactions and relationships between them are too complex for one book. Secondly, the world that I have created, with the disease and viral outbreaks, questionable moral codes of medical research and hidden actions of a new government in The Authorities has too much in it to be explored fully even in the trilogy I had originally planned.
The Iris trilogy will explore her journey fully. Iris’ story will be told in the three books I have planned and am writing over the coming months.
On the other hand, I have prequels and other novels for young adults as well as adults that will illuminate the other sides of The Authorities, Hexingham and the world we explore in the Inside Iris trilogy.
One of your novel's reviewers commented, “Description of people and surroundings so detailed from page one to the end. You could virtually be there. Gripping story and well worth the read.” What kind of research did you do for Inside Iris and what helps you balance showing us your world with keeping us in suspense?
When researching Inside Iris, I generally stuck to researching viruses and diseases. I know I don’t work for the World Health Organisation so, when researching diseases and viruses, I wanted to have a real life virus but evolve it in such a way that current treatments were ineffective.
The idea for this came from the current worries doctors around the world have that antibiotics are becoming less effective and, as a society, we need to be limiting the usage of them unless the patient is in serious need of them to recover from their illness.
The suspense issue was one I mainly used characters to tease out bit by bit. The main tension is that of Iris’ detox from the drugs that The Institute have her on in order to carry out the more intrusive testing that caused Dr Rosen to leave.
Throughout this detox, we get glimpses of Iris’ past that tease the reader by giving intendedly vague snapshots of what went on behind the walls of The Institute. These glimpses and snapshots are revealed later in the series, along with more shocking and morally dubious actions by the medical research team at The Institute.
I believe that suspense and jeopardy are key in keeping an audience or reader on the end of their seat. The author should reveal just the right amount of detail to keep the reader wanting more and to read on. This technique of ‘tease and reveal’ is something I try to ensure I sculpt into my writing and polish up during the drafting process.
Some questions are answered in Inside Iris, but many more are raised to engage the reader’s attention ahead of the second installment in the trilogy.
Do you start writing with your characters fully formed, or do they emerge as you go?
I believe that characters are as important as the story itself. When I have an idea or a concept for a piece of writing, it is a basic platform to explore the world and characters that inhabit it.
Most of the time, when I plan the character, I let them lead me in a series of monologues where I explore their back story, family, hopes and dreams as well as successes and traumatic events that may have shaped them as people.
We are all shaped by the events that punctuate our childhood, though adolescence and adulthood. These events can mould and shape us for the better, but they can also twist and distort us to the detriment of our growth and development as people.
Yes, I plan the characters, but they also lead me, filling in the blanks and showing me how they want their story to be told.
Who designed your cover?
The cover was designed by the publisher through the Kindle Direct Publishing process. I paid a fee to have the work critiqued and edited. Once this was done, the publisher had an artist design the cover based on some ideas I had shared with them.
In the Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K LeGuin says, “Sci-fi is not predictive; it is descriptive.” Do you agree?
I believe that Science Fiction is fiction that takes in the full scope of modern-day life as well as the lives of our children who will undoubtedly live in a world even more reliant on Science and Technology than we are today.
Ursula LeGuin also writes that ‘truth is a matter of the imagination’. I take this as meaning that we, as authors and artists as a whole, need to take the world (the truth) as we see it around us and interpret it in our own way (the imagination).
This interpretation and desire to make sense of the chaos and nonsensical events or actions around us. This is what makes art and artists so important in our eyes today but, more importantly, the eyes of those who look back on our time and deduce their own meaning and interpretation with hindsight on their side.
As Science Fiction authors, we need to use our creative licence to explore the Science and Technology that is rapidly infiltrating every thread of our life and society. We need to question its use, its apparent necessity and also what could happen if Science, Technology and the morals surrounding them are abused or manipulated by the hands of those charged with protecting us.
What nuggets of advice would you pass on to other writers working in YA fiction?
My main advice is to have strong, young characters who will captivate the imagination of the reader who has invested their time and money in the book or eBook they hold in their hands.
The good and bad thing about young people is that they are honest, and brutally so. This can be a blessing at times, but their words can also be a dagger in your heart if they so wish them to be.
This young readership is honest, intelligent and switched on to what they like and dislike. Being condescending and talking down to young people is one of the biggest mistakes we can make as YA and Teen authors. The best writers, playwrights and poets always say to imagine that your audience are more intelligent than you are. That way, you give them the respect and trust that they are an equal in the transaction that is about to take place between writer and reader.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I would like the readers to follow me on the following channels to ensure they are up to date with the latest content, giveaways, promotions and SG Fiction news:
on Twitter @SGFiction;
on Instagram SGFiction;
on FaceBook SG Fiction;
on YouTube SG Fiction
Website also here.
Photo credit: Scott Gilmore