Happy weekend everyone and welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series! Today’s episode (31) starts a string of SPSFC feature interviews that O.R. Lea is kicking off for us!
The competition is currently in the final round, so while we wait for those scores to start coming in I thought it would be cool to interview some of the authors who participated!
O.R. Lea caught my eye with stories of travel, CATS, and a hard scifi novel in which first contact takes a slightly different approach. I love the section below on theme and cultural divides! Read on to see these things plus his thoughts on the SPSFC and so much more.
🥞 Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?
🎤 Aside from writing, my younger self’s dream was to be a rock star. I’ve played in numerous bands before finally admitting I’m not that great a guitarist, but I’ve recently started getting back into it, partly for fun, and partly because my teenage daughter is proving to be a very promising bassist and I want to be able to encourage and mentor her (as much as she’s willing to let me!)
🥞What’s your brunch order today?
🎤One English muffin with poached egg and a thick slice of black pudding
🥞 So I enjoyed the preview of your book, Riebeckite! It didn’t make the SPSFC semifinalist round but I hope you still had a positive experience? How do you feel about the competition overall?
🎤 Everyone involved is so supportive of each other, ‘competition’ almost doesn’t feel like the right word for it! I was read and wonderfully reviewed by some fellow contestants, and it was exciting to put in the same group as one of my favourite indie authors, Zamil Akhtar: when he made top 3 in the group, I was so stoked. And I was even more stoked that one of my indie author buddies, N. C. Scrimgeour, made the finals! She and I published around about the same time and accumulated reviews so closely in tandem with each other that it was almost a running joke. It’s awesome to see the wind is still in her sails and her trilogy is well worth checking out.
🥞 I know you said you were born in Wales, lived in Canada, and then settled in England – what other cool places have you lived or been?
🎤I’ve not done half as much travelling as I’d like, but I’d had holidays in Bulgaria, Romania, France, Germany, Czech Republic. My only visit to the USA was for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas, which was a blast!. I’m a huge fan of American whiskey so I definitely want to do the Kentucky bourbon trail one day.
🥞 Cool, I asked because it seems like bridging cultural and language divides is a big theme in Riebeckite, which uniquely enough takes place in the Persian Gulf!
🎤I’ve always enjoyed making friends all around the world and I grew up at a time when the internet was really starting to make that possible. You’re absolutely right, bridging divides is a major theme for me, but even more specifically than that is the truth that the divide between one country’s perceived culture and government and yours is much greater than the actual divide between you and an ordinary person from that country. Most of my books are set in non-western countries, and I always try to make contact with some people from that country and learn some of their language(s). This has become especially true in the past year, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I have friends in both countries, and none of them wanted to go to war – as always, it’s the people at the top who make those decisions. In fact, one of my fondest moments in making and marketing Riebeckite was commissioning a wonderful husband and wife photography team from Voronezh to produce a photoset of scenes from the book. Darya, who portrayed Tahira, speaks almost no English, so we communicated with a combination of my limited Russian and Google translate, even managing to share the occasional joke. I was blown away by how well they recreated my vision despite the language barrier.
Like I said, I love exploring unconventional locations in my books. I’ve written a mercenary adventure in Zimbabwe and an urban fantasy about vampires in Jordan. The earliest version of Riebeckite was quite different from the final version, in that it was going to be an alternative history scifi set in Soviet Azerbaijan in which the asteroid actually struck the earth, not the moon. I needed a big inland body of water for the asteroid to land in, hence the choice of the Caspian sea. While researching Azerbaijan I learned about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and hit upon the idea of childhood friends from opposite sides of the Azeri-Armenian divide having to work together. Whilst developing the idea, that conflict actually escalated, and I decided it might be a bit tasteless to use a real-world conflict for my story. When I came up with the idea of the bruised moon and the skyscrubbers, it made sense to have them being trialled on an island, and I absolutely fell in love with Qeshm as a setting. And inventing a fictional conflict between Azerbaijan and Iran allowed me to keep the idea about childhood friends working together across a divide.
🥞So Riebeckite is a hard scifi novel that focuses more on biology & technology? My question had to do with choosing this storyline and setting say, vs, writing a space opera. What draws people to various branches of sci-fi?
🎤I’ve actually never been married to a particular genre. It just so happens that I like stories about ordinary-ish people thrust into highly extraordinary circumstances, and when those circumstances involve magic or fantastical elements, it gets called Fantasy, and when it involves hypothetical natural or technological elements, it gets called Science Fiction. I’ve come to realise, in fact, that my favourite book trope is simply the Quest, but where the characters are all unprepared underdogs! Riebeckite is very much a near-future, earth-bound story, but it still contains ‘Quest’ elements, such as items which are acquired early on that turn out to have a surprising use later.
🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?
🎤 I like when SciFi explores the idea of just how alien and divergence life from other worlds might be. Unsurprisingly, the Alien franchise is one of my all time favourites. I’m also a huge John Wyndham fan: I love the way he write a very engaging human story with imaginative alien elements encroaching from the fringe.
🥞What other generally nerdy things are you into?
🎤 As a guitarist, I’m a geek for music gear to a degree thoroughly unjustified by my actual musical ability. I’m also a whiskey nerd: I keep a book of my tasting notes for every new whiskey or bourbon I try, and if I come across one I haven’t tried yet I absolutely have to buy a measure of it, not matter how much it costs or how early in the day it is. Finally, like many writers, I indulge in a little tabletop roleplay. Although, for me, this is less about the dice-rolling rules-exploiting min-maxing geekery, and more about the opportunity to enjoy a different format of storytelling.
🥞Is there a scifi book that you always recommend to everyone?
🎤 The scifi book(s) I recommend most often are Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay series. They are just so fabulously written, and I love everything about them. Recently I’ve been championing a fellow indie author, Steven William-Hannah, whose Interloper Series (beginning with Icebreaker) is just magnificent and I’m hoping he enters it into the SPSFC next year. But the one book I will never stop recommending to anyone who will listen is actually a fantasy series: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and its sequels. Lynch is the writer I wish I could be.
🥞What can we look for next from you?
🎤Torpor’s End – the sequel to Riebeckite, and the second and final book in the duology I’m calling the Bruised Moon Sequence – is landing on the 15th July. After that, I’ll just have to spin the tombola that is my brain and see what idea is ready to come out next. There is a “ghost ship in space” story idea I’m particularly excited about – so much so that I already commissioned the cover art as a promise to myself that it will be written eventually!
Thank you so much to O.R. Lea for taking the time to interview! You can find him online at:
Author photo credit at the top, to himself!
Stay tuned for SPSFC2 updates and good luck to everyone! As always, if you are reading this we love it when you leave comments and let us know you’re here!