Author Interview - David Melville Edwards
This week's interview is with author David Melville Edwards.
I hope you enjoy reading a little about David's writing habits and personal life.
Thank you, David, for being my guest this week.
About Writing/Books/Being an Author
1. Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you - in what way and what was the name of that book?
“Biggles Learns To Fly”, by Captain W.E. Johns. Aged 8 or 9, I had already read several exciting “Biggles” adventures, but this had a different feel. Seemingly drawn directly from the author’s life experience, it was more intense, more personal and ultimately more moving. For me, it was an early demonstration of the power of authenticity.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to write?
When I was about 14 years old.
3. Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
In English, Jane Austin. Her writing is so good. In translation, Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘The Master and Margarita’, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez ‘100 Years of Solitude’. They manage to make absurd fantasies authentic, and this is what I strive to do in my own work (not that I’m aiming high or anything).
4. What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?
My favourite thing is reading back the complete work, and finding that I’ve written something that I at least enjoy reading! My least favourite thing is the time it takes.
5. Where do your ideas come from?
Ultimately, from the paradoxes and absurdities inherent in human existence. Things I’ve seen, done or heard of. I imagine different characters faced with these situations, and when I play their interactions forward and backwards in time, I have a story arc. I write first and foremost to amuse myself, so I self-consciously play with the form. ‘The Spirit of the Age’ is a fantasy, so it ought to have a great battle, and I provide one. But my battle is actually a cricket match. Charles Dickens has his famous ‘London Fog’ metaphor for the Court of Chancery, so I have a description of ‘Multi-cultural Hounslow’. Most sex scenes I read are risible and/or contribute nothing to the narrative, so I aim to make mine authentic and relevant. If JRR Tolkien can inflict Tom Bombadil’s execrable verse on readers of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I feel perfectly entitled to embed some of mine. And so on.
6. I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?
I sing in a choir? I’m no Bryn Terfel, though.
7. If you could jump inside a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?
Some futuristic space fantasy? I never aspired to be an astronaut, but who wouldn’t love to whizz across the universe at the speed of light or look down on planets in our solar system.
8. When you create characters, are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know?
They are completely made up (hey, one of my characters is some kind of mermaid!). But of course, they share attributes with people I’ve known, and in some cases their physical descriptions might be recognisable.
9. Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?
10. How do you come up with titles for your books?
I wanted a title that I could develop into a series, and which would give scope for sequels. With ‘The Spirit Novels’ I have follow-up options like “That’s the Spirit” or “The Spirit is Willing”. But that is a rationalisation after the fact for my choice of “The Spirit of the Age”. Every year, it seems, a novel comes out of nowhere and transcends genre to become a mega-best-seller. Think EL James “50 Shades of Grey” or Paula Hawkins “Girl on a Train“. They may not be “The Best” books of their years, but they somehow capture the Zeitgeist, “The Spirit of the Age”. So there was my title ...
11. What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?
A sequel to ‘The Spirit of the Age’. Unfortunately, I have set it against the background of “Brexit”, so I have no idea how it is going to finish.
12. Have you won any awards for your writing/books and if so what?
A Little More Personal
13. What is one thing you haven’t done but would like to do?
Become a fêted and successful novelist!
14. Can you tell us about an embarrassing/funny moment?
I went to a University attended by eight times as many men as women. Shortly after I started, I received a ‘Dear John’ letter from my girl-friend, so craving female company I gate-crashed a Guy Fawkes bonfire and fireworks display at an all-female college. I boldly parked my bicycle in the college bike-shed, then circled through trees around the field where the display was to take place before quietly emerging to mingle.
It was a chilly November evening in the Northern Hemisphere, with clear skies, bright stars and glittering frost on the grass and the evergreen bushes, so we all pushed up on the safety barrier rope to maximise the warming effects of the bonfire.
Whilst the fireworks, mostly fountains of gold, were pretty rather than spectacular they were nevertheless worthy of remark, and I found myself striking up a conversation with the girl who happened to be next to me. And really enjoying her company. I think she may have felt the same, since she asked me who had invited me. And I was in a bind.
I thought for a moment about naming an acquaintance, but I hate lying, and since it would have been a lie that might easily have been exposed as such, thus ending any hopes I might have entertained, I told the truth.
She was outraged. “Why?” she asked.
“Because”, I mumbled.
“WHY?”, she insisted.
I wretchedly trotted out the “Eight times as many men as women” statistic, and the shutters came down.
She morphed from friendly fellow soul to ‘US Marshall Escorting a Dangerous Prisoner’, and whilst she stayed by my side for the rest of the evening, even allowing me to accompany her with a group of fellow students to a room to listen to records, nothing I said or did after that made any impression on her. She declined my invitation to go on a date, and I never spoke to her again.
15. Have you ever experienced something weird you could not explain?
These are themes I address in my WIP. People are used to the idea that actions have consequences. However, at the atomic scale Quantum Mechanics suggests that this is not the case. Outcomes are governed by probabilities, it’s possible for particles to be in multiple states simultaneously (the basis for ‘Quantum Computing’) there is ‘Wave-Particle Duality’ and the same starting conditions can give rise to a multitude of outcomes. It has even been suggested that the universe splits at every possible outcome (this is called the ‘Multi-World’ theory).
At the other end of the scale, there is Chaos Theory and the ‘Butterfly Effect’, when a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system results in large differences in a later state.
Whilst the mathematics in both cases are sound, in my book I argue that these notions of causality are flawed. Most physical laws are symmetrical under time reversal; we infer the direction of time’s arrow from the way that entropy increases. Thus you know that a film showing toothpaste leaping off a brush back into the tube is being played in reverse.
Now it happens that the Quantum Theory of the Electron requires that to understand the current state you have to take account of electrons that travel back in time as well as those that travel forwards. So in my book I argue that rather than the universe spawning gazillions of times every picosecond (an unnecessarily profligate doling out of universes, it seems to me), or butterflies flapping their wings in Africa causing hurricanes in Florida, these are occasions when the actual future dominates the determination of the sequence of events rather than the sequence of events simply being determined by what has happened in the past. That being the case, if one could identify an event whose primary cause lies in the future, you might infer what that future might be, thus providing a mechanism for premonition.
And so, I finally reach my answer to the question, have I ever experienced something weird I couldn’t explain? Yes. I reversed my car into a bollard, and cracked the plastic bumper (fender for any Americans reading this). Whilst I would ordinarily have felt quite irked by such a turn of events, I found myself unnaturally calm. Then, a couple of days later, an idiot proceeding down my quiet one-way street hit the accelerator rather than the brake pedal, smashed into my parked car, and turned it into an insurance write-off.
So, did the accident that was about to destroy my vehicle cause my blasé reaction to my self-inflicted fender-bender?
16. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
Some kind of crunchy insect snack, maybe a locust, billed as a ‘Terrestrial Prawn’, or some such. I don’t think this is an idea whose time has yet come.
17. Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Where?
A village called Landéda on the coast of Brittany in Western France. The sea air is famous for its health-giving properties, and as soon as I arrive, I can feel all the cares of the world falling away.
18. Can you tell us about one of your favourite childhood memories?
My ‘Just William’ moment; crashing down a hillside in a go-cart a friend and I had made ourselves from pram wheels we had found dumped in the countryside together with wood and nails we looted from a building site and design advice from my favourite grandfather.
My friend Simon was steering, whilst I was sitting behind him operating a brake that consisted of a timber baulk nailed to the frame that could be pivoted against one of the back wheels. As the go-cart picked up speed on the steep slope, I tried to apply the brake. It came off in my hand, and I fell off the back. Simon continued down the hill picking up further speed until the go-cart hit the bank at the bottom of the hill before the road, and disintegrated. Simon emerged unscathed from the wreckage, and we just laughed and laughed.
19. What makes you happy?
Making merry with family and friends.
20. If you aren’t writing (or doing anything associated with writing), what are you doing?
I’m an IT Professional, so I’m doing something with computers, computer systems or computer networks.
21. Have you ever met anyone famous – who?
The first female UK Minister of Defence, Penny Mordaunt, is my first cousin. I’ve kno