Steve Turnbull is an excellent housekeeper - he can cook, wash and iron clothes... but he is an even better writer, creating dystopian worlds where humans are turned into monsters. His latest book, Kymiera is that coming of age story of a teenage girl who is turning into a genetic freak. As our Author of the Day, Turnbull tells us all about it.
Please give us a short introduction to what Kymiera is about.
It's the coming of age story of a teenage girl who's turning into a monster - literally :-)
It's a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, female-led, superhero biopunk tale with elements of cyberpunk as well.
What inspired you to create a world decimated by a pandemic that turned humans into genetic freaks as the backdrop for your book?
My starting point was the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Back then I was writing scripts and I wanted to create something with a kick-ass female lead - but British and without any supernatural stuff. Pure SF. And it was Mary Shelley that taught us that if you want monsters in science fiction, you have to make them.
Plus it's a good way of asking the sorts of questions we need to be asking about all the advances we're making.
Tell us more about Chloe Dark. What makes her tick?
She wants to do the right thing. Unfortunately, she doesn't always know what the right thing actually is.
She's used to be being the one in charge - never the popular girl but she has a reputation - and that means she's not always good at listening. Plus finally, she's in denial, after all, would you want to admit you were becoming the thing you most hated?
Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you
I'm an old white dude who writes diversity (because it's important). (That's three, right?)
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?
Not exactly. I'm not one of these people who "always wanted to write", but I was always telling myself stories. It was reading poet Laurie Lee's autobiography "Cider with Rosie" (as far as from SF and Fantasy as you could possibly get) that actually made me write my first book.
I was captivated by the beauty of the words and it had a transformational effect.
Readers report that the book is a real pageturner, leaving them wanting more. How did you pull this off?
Well, I'm not entirely sure but functionally I suppose, mechanically, it's down to relatively short chapters, constant resolving and adding of mysteries, and lots of action. But as my go-to mentor on the subject of writing action, Bill Martell, says "there is no action without character". Ultimately it's characters that people want to know more about, and I have a wide range for people to love and hate.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm an excellent housekeeper. I can cook, wash and iron clothes.
The book contains some twists - did you plan them out before you started writing?
Normally I do not plan twists, I am very much a discovery writer, but KYMIERA had to be different. There are six main POV characters and at least three major plotlines which had to come together at the end. This book was plotted within an inch of its life. It couldn't be done any other way.
What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?
Because I spent 20 years as a magazine editor and journalist (and wrote two 50K novels at age 15 [they were terrible]) there was nothing about the process of novel writing that either surprised or bothered me. The only thing that has surprised me is how painful some scenes can be emotionally, and even physically. I wasn't prepared for that.
But if the writer isn't feeling it, the reader won't.
You write about some heavy themes—things that many of your readers have probably never experienced—yet it's very easy to identify with your characters. How do you make them so relatable?
Yeah, I do, don't I? :-) I suppose it's because I don't try to be clever. I just write it straight from the heart. Plain and matter-of-fact: "This is the way it is."
I'm not "trying to make a point", I'm just writing personal experience.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?
What's one of those? On an ideal day, since I still have a day job, I'll do that and then write for 2-3 hours in the evening. But it varies and there may be periods of a couple of weeks when I don't write because i have to do other stuff. I can write anywhere as long as I have my laptop with me.
What are you working on right now?
I'm writing the new pilot script for KYMIERA, because the TV company that's optioned it have asked me to :-)
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I am reasonably active on social media: