Timothy Ellis constantly battles with his cat for possession of his desk chair, Daleks do guard duty, and he keeps his sonic screwdriver next to his Lightsaber and wand. When he set out to write Hero at Large, he made the decision to incorporate the three main loves of his life into the book: Space Opera, spirituality without religion and cats. As our author of the day, Ellis tells us exactly what went into the creation of this epic book and reveals his secret skills.
Please give us a short introduction to what Hero at Large is about.
This is the story of a teen becoming a man in a hostile galaxy. The transition from spiritual stay at home game player, to a combat pilot wearing a target on his back. It's about surviving the consequences of surviving. This is life in space, aboard ship and space station, with space fighter and ground combat, with the mainly female mercenary team he saves on day 1. The loner with a prophecy attached, who gains an AI sidekick, twin sexy bodyguards, and quickly builds a reputation as a mercenary pilot, and bounty hunter.
Hero at Large is book 1 in The Hunter Legacy series, of 12 novels, 1 novella, and a Christmas story. The AI sidekick follows on in a spin off series called AI Destiny, set in another galaxy.
One of the decisions I made before I began writing was to incorporate the 3 main loves of my life into my story. These being Space Opera, spirituality without religion, and cats. The 3 aspects come from completely different paths, and merging them makes my work different to other Space Opera. The spiritual underlines the entire story, and cats join the story in book 2.
Who is Jonathon Hunter and what makes him tick?
It's difficult to answer this without giving away the long plot. Answers to who and what he is come slowly through the whole series, with the big revelations coming in books 10 and 11, which lead into the prophecy being fulfilled. At heart though, Jon is a spiritual person forced to live in a violent world. He was born to be a hero, but accepts the role reluctantly, mainly because those around him see it more than he does. He's not a typical hero who assembles a team. The team choose him, as do those who see his potential, when he can't.
Why did you pick the 27th century as the setting?
I wanted it to be well into the future, so none of what I call 'now physics' would form any restrictions on the technology I came up with. I wanted high ship speeds without worrying about relativity, flipping over to slow down and stop, or any of the other physics based problems in space. I consider the 27th century to be far enough into the future that what we call physics now, will be taught as basic physics in primary schools then.
In which way is Hero at Large a coming of age story?
On his home planet, Jon Hunter is 16. Out in human space, he's considered 18 by standard tests. He's on his first apprentice level space flight, when he is almost killed, and left stranded and unable to go home. He's used to studying, and playing computer games, watching old flat screen vids, and reading old books.
Suddenly he's forced to be a combat pilot, mercenary and bounty hunter, just to survive. Becoming a warrior from a spiritual background is difficult, but he has no choice if he wants to stay alive.
Hero at Large follows him for a few weeks, as he changes from a boy into a young man.
The Hunter Legacy is a 2 year story of a boy who becomes a warrior, of the loner around whom a team forms, and a zero who becomes a hero. It's also the story of how a boy is groomed by higher beings to be the hero who saves the human race from a Darkness which threatens the universe.
When everything the higher beings have done has failed, you need a Hero at Large, and teach him how to be the Hero to the End.
Did you plan from the start to make this a series? Can the books be read as standalones?
This was always going to be a series. But I thought it would be 6 books at most. Book 3 became 3 books on its own, as the story took on a life of its own.
I didn't intend it to be a serial, but I found writing life in space meant writing it contiguously. Each time I considered a break in time, I found it difficult to start the next book, and eventually gave up trying to.
So yes, it really needs to be read in order. It should also be read with the Christmas story between books 7 and 8, as this story has some important nuggets in it for later on.
There is a plan for some stand alones in the universe in the future, most likely with co-authors.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I found I'm a pretty fair editor, and I do my own editing and proofreading.
I do a lot of spiritual healing and helping. I can do an extended form of reiki, but specialize in removing dark entities off people. This is an extension of my spiritual books. I enjoy helping people with spiritual aha moments.
I've been called the Cat Whisperer. Most animals love me, especially cats. Hence cats making their way into my books.
Readers report that this was a fun read. How did you pull this off?
I had an enormous amount of fun writing it. I think this essential, as when the author really enjoys the writing, it can be felt by the reader.
I found I enjoyed writing the combat scenes as much as I used to enjoy flying space combat in PC computer games. Games such as Wing Commander back on the pre-Windows PC's, through to the X3 series of the last decade, provided me with so much time flying space fighters, writing it seemed to come naturally.
The other side of it is in the humour. When an author rolls about laughing when reading their own funny stuff, the laughter imbues into the words, and passes along to the readers. 2 years later, and some of my early writing still causes me to laugh hilariously.
Another aspect is what I set out to do. I didn't sit down to write literature. I set out to write a rollicking good yarn. And such a yarn, has to be fun to both write and read.
What draws you to Sci-Fi?
I have absolutely no idea!
But I remember hiding behind the couch watching Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor Who, and I saw the original Star Wars in the theatre. I first watched Star Trek in black and white, and now have it all on DVD.
Some might say I'm off the planet so often, being sci-fi oriented is to be expected.
I can't quantify the draw, but I've read, watched, and played sci-fi all my life.
And I can say sci-fi got me through the dark times, and kept me sane. Let's just be woolly about what sane is.
What are some things you do to give depth to your characters?
I let them go where they want, do what they want to do, and say what they think needs to be said.
Across the series, some of my characters have said some very surprising stuff, and done things which shocked me as soon as I’d typed them.
I let them though. I'm just the story teller, but the story is theirs, and I tell it the way they want it told.
There is an interesting contradiction in a lot of Space Opera. People like a lot of action, especially space battles. But the more action the book has, the less room for depth of characters. So people complain of no depth, or not enough action. In writing day by day living, including bathroom scenes, vomiting, and moments of intimacy on many levels, characters gain depth as more about them comes out. Interlaced with action, you have a story with real characters doing thrilling things.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I'm a pantser. I dive into an action sequence to start a book, and let the characters take me to the end of the story.
I usually know the beginning, where it's supposed to end, and a few things along the way.
It seems I'm unable to do just a trilogy though. The first series was supposed to be 6 books, in 2 trilogies, but ended up being 13 books and a short story. In my second trilogy, I've just released book 4, 5 is well into writing, and 6 has a beginning already written, and a set of objectives.
I have had to do some plotting, but most of it was in the form of ensuring timing in separate places all happened correctly. When you have ships and people moving in different parts of the galaxy, at different speeds, ensuring they meet up at the correct time is difficult, and requires careful plotting.
I also tend to map as I go, releasing maps into books when appropriate. So while Hero at Large doesn’t have a map, there is a large one by the time book 5 ends. By book 12, I had to break the map up into sections in order for it to fit in the books.
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle?
Yes. I suffer from migraines every day, and there are days when finding enough hours to write in is difficult. After the pain time, comes fatigue time. But both are variable. Periodically I go through weeks to months of not being able to write at all.
But between the slow times, I also get times when I'm writing non-stop. Sometimes I'm in the zone, and I don’t stop until whatever wants out of my head is typed.
I find I write best in the middle of the night, and going to bed at 3am is quite common for me.
At the moment I've been in one of my difficult periods for several months, but was lucky enough to find a co-author, and between us the stories have continued. Elspeth Anders has been writing the basic stories from joint ideas, and I've been filling them in with combat scenes, and scenes with some of my characters which augment the basic story, and continue the long range one. I do the editing when the writing is done, and together we're getting out novels when I otherwise would not be.
The struggle is not in having ideas to write about. It's getting the writing part of the brain to interface with the ideas part, for long enough to get words typed. Unfortunately, some of the meds I take interfere with the writing brain.
I have had what they call writer's block, but usually when I'm trying to start the book in the wrong place. Once I adjust, I'm fine.
Are there any books or writers that have influenced your work?
I think everything I've ever read, watched, or played has to some extent moulded who I am, and what I write.
I've been compared in reviews to E.E. Smith, but I never read any of his books. It was a buzz to be compared to the man who is widely credited as the one who began Space Opera, but I had to go look him up as I didn’t know the name. I've also been compared to Heinlein and Asimov, but have read few of either's work. But their influence is there in the works of authors who followed their way of writing, whose books I did read, which shows just how influential they were, to pass things on to me 3rd hand through others. Heinlein's 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress', is one of my all-time favourites, and showed me what an AI could really do.
The Nights Dawn trilogy, by Peter F Hamilton, was a revelation in terms of advanced technology, and what you could do with it.
The Tales of the Solar Clipper series, beginning with Quarter Share, by Nathan Lowell, showed me day to day life in space could be compelling reading without space battles or a save humanity theme, and gave me the confidence to try writing it.
The Star Wars novels showed me how to string a long range plot through individual book plots.
I have a wall full of books and DVD's, mostly sci-fi. All of it influenced me to some degree. Even the not sci-fi played its role.
What are you working on right now?
Book 5 of the A.I. Destiny series. The first 2 books in this series took the AI side kick from the first series, put her in a different galaxy, and pushed her to be top dog. In the 2nd book, I introduced a cat alien character, who has been driving the story for books 3, 4, & 5. This was done to fill in the real time between 2 and 6, and show how the introduction of humans into a different galaxy is felt by the species which already lived there, especially since humans, and the AI's in particular, are much more technologically advanced. The middle books show how far apart the tech gap is, but it also shows those with the tech, not understanding how to use it.
Book 6 is also underway.
I'm currently plotting a true sequel to the first series, which is tentatively planned as a trilogy.
Discussions are in progress with a new co-author on a backstory to book 2 of the first series.
And I've started work on something completely different, a Space Opera merging with aspects of Fantasy.
So I actually have 4 books on the go at the moment, and planning 2 more.
The long term aim is to build a universe in 2 galaxies, bound by shared history, space mechanics, and tech. I'm encouraging other authors to join me in my universe, by co-authoring books with me. The Gaia galaxy has 2 more books to complete its initial building phase. The Earth galaxy has the next Hero based trilogy to complete its building phase. After that, anything is possible.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have both a Group and Page for the Hunter Legacy universe on Facebook. This is the easiest way to interact with me. I check them daily, and respond as fast as I can.
The Page is mainly for announcements. The Group is for discussion of anything in the universe, or related. I try to answer questions as fast as I can, but remember I'm down-under, so I may be asleep when you post.
I do FB events for each release, and you can be invited directly to them by friending the event co-ordinator's link at the top of the FB Page. This is the fastest way of finding out a new book is about to be released. So friending my event co-ordinator is welcome. (Don't friend an author directly if you write reviews, as Amazon removes any review found to have a connection in Facebook.)
My Amazon author page is the fastest way to see my whole catalogue, and you can follow me there.
You can also follow me on Books2Read.
My mailing list link is in the back of each book, and for non-Amazon retailers, there is a follow link at the back of each book. I send out an email the moment I know the Amazon link for a new book, Amazon being the fastest to publish. Books2Read send out a notification of a new book quickly, Amazon after about a week.
I'm on Goodreads, and I'll answer questions there as fast as I can. I welcome reader activity there.
I'm on Bookbub, and can be followed there.
A new website is currently under development by a fan.