Author Interview: Patrick G Cox

I really enjoy time-travel books, the standard format being a present day person travels back in time. Harry Heron: Into the Unknown is a neat twist on the time travel genre. Characters from the Napoleonic era are transported hundreds of years into the future. 
"Harry Heron: into the unknown", author Patrick G Cox, book cover designed by Kura Carpenter

In 1804 the Napoleonic Wars rage. A freak accident during a sea battle catapults Midshipman Harry Heron and his shipmates four hundred years into the future.


Today I'm interviewing author Patrick G Cox to discuss his novel Harry Heron: Into the Unknown.  
It’s a cliché to ask an author where they got their idea from, but I love the Harry Heron: Into the Unknown premise so I must ask: where did you get the reverse time-travel idea? Taking characters from history and sending them into the future?

The idea originally came from the realisation that my grandfather’s generation had seen horse and cart/carriage replaced by steam engines, then internal combustion engines, flimsy flying machines, airliners and the space ships that took men to the moon. So I wondered what they might have learned, and what they might have known or been able to do which most people today would not be able to do. I was surprised by just how much we take for granted, but which they would have needed to have either special skills or knowledge to do. When I came across an article about how we, as a species, lose skills with each ‘convenient’ leap in our technology, the concept of Harry and his friends leaping forward was born.

Although there must be a lot of resources for researching sailing ships of the Napoleonic wars, how exactly did you go about researching (or creating) space ships?

As you say, there are loads of resources for researching sailing ships, not so many when you want to ‘create’ a ship capable of interstellar transport. Obviously there are loads of concepts in many science fiction stories, and, of course, there are a lot of concepts from the scientific world as well. I based my concept ships on the big nuclear submarines operated by several navies. These ships are self-contained to the extent that their only limitation is the capacity for carrying consumable stuff like food, and the endurance of the crew. Remove those limits by making the ship big enough and give it the means to produce food, perhaps by means of having a ‘green lung’ that doubles as a oxygen producing filter and food production, and couple that with recycling of water and water recovery and suddenly the only limitation becomes the crew endurance.

Patrick Cox's Harry Heron: Into the Unknown is a great sci-fi book, combining characters from the great age of sail with a future we can easily imagine.” - Amazon reviewer 


Researching such a ship involves not just the ship, but the possible controls, manoeuvring, power sources and the things that would limit it. So you have to look at a range of things including some that exist only in concept, and others that are already being developed. It gets quite challenging in a way because technology that was a ‘concept’ yesterday could be reality by tomorrow. A good example is my concept of ships run, under human command, by Artificial Intelligence systems that make them ‘self-aware’. When I started writing these stories AI was a ‘dream’ pursued by some to the amusement of others. Now it is slowly becoming a reality, and I suspect that we are not far from creating an AI that is truly independent and intelligent.
 




What are some of the historical references you used when researching this novel?

The obvious historical reference material is drawn from the naval histories of the Napoleonic war. France maintained a squadron in the Indian Ocean, based primarily on Mauritius (then called Ile d’France) which preyed on the British East India Company’s ships. The Dutch were also active, based on the Cape and Java, and this forced Britain to maintain their own squadrons in India and Ceylon, and the Honourable East India Company maintained its own ‘Navy’, the Bombay Marine, in the Indian Ocean, so I drew on a lot of that, plus a lot of the social history of Ireland and its relationship with Britain in providing Harry and Ferghal with their own ‘history’.

Since ‘history’ shapes and sometimes informs the future, I have tried to use current ‘history in the making’ to project a possible future world shaped by the politics, commerce and so on of the present. One aspect of that is to remember that history tends to repeat certain trends at fairly regular intervals, largely because we have a tendency to forget the failures and the reasons for them. Particularly in politics.

So the answer to your question is ‘many sources’, which include national history, military history, demographic studies, political trends and people.

Who is your favourite new character introduced in Harry Heron: Into the Unknown?

Hmmm. I think I’d have to say Harry’s twelve times great-nephew, the Commodore James Heron, but it’s a difficult choice, and there are several other candidates including the Surgeon-Commander Len Myers and ‘Aunt’ Niamh, Harry’s twelve times great-niece …

What would Harry, the main character, have to say about you?

Something good, I would hope! I suspect that he would say I had set him some very difficult goals, and sent him and his friends on a very exciting adventure.

Anyone reading Shakespeare’s four hundred year-old scripts can see the way we communicate changes. How did you work around the issues of language? Did the historical characters and the future people understand each other?

That was a challenge. In similar books (though with the switch usually going the other way) it is one of those things that is ignored. It is very difficult to see how our language will develop in the next two hundred years, let alone four hundred. We can already see how texting and ‘street slang’ is changing the way we speak. What I attempted to do in the opening chapters was to indicate that the accents had changed sufficiently for it to be difficult to understand each other, but then eased up on it as the story developed and implied that Harry and Co had adapted to the new version of the language. In the beginning of the story Harry finds he recognises some words, but has difficulty understanding everything. He thinks the people in his new surroundings are speaking French …

Harry Heron: Into the Unknown is a neat twist on the time travel genre. Characters from the Napoleonic era are transported hundreds of years into the future.


And finally, what are you working on currently?

I have two projects on the go. I’m in the process of publishing a work of biographical fiction titled Magnus Patricius. It is based on the life of one Magnus Sucatus Patricius — better known as St Patrick. I started research this book almost eight years ago, and I quickly discovered that once you get past the legends and mythology, a very modest, but very tough and determined man emerges. He left us two documents written by himself, and a wealth of material undoubtedly based on other writings now lost to us, but I have used his ‘Declaration’ as the framework for this story.

The second project is to get the sequels to Harry Heron: Into the Unknown ready for publication. Watch this space, the next one will, I hope be published early next year.

That sounds very interesting, Pat. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today.

Patrick Gray Cox is a writer that combines his love of Historical Fiction with Science Fiction writing; a mix of CS Forester and Isaac Asimov. 


Cox is the author of A Baltic Affair, a popular historical romance Limehouse Boys, which takes readers to the grimy, gritty streets of the East End of London in the 1830s and follows the struggles of three orphans caught up in a web of crime, corruption in high places and poverty.

Harry Heron: Midshipman's Journey, the first book in the Harry Heron series. Harry Heron; Into the Unknown is the sequel.


And if you liked the Harry Heron: Into the Unknown book cover I designed for Patrick G Cox and are looking for a custom design for your novel Please click here: Kura CarpenterBook Cover Designer for Hire to find out more. 

"Harry Heron: into the unknown", author Patrick G Cox, book cover designed by Kura Carpenter


Author Interview: Mary Brock Jones

Mary Brock Jones' novel Torn, the first in her romantic science fiction Arcadian series, is being launched today.

"Torn" romantic sci-fi, author Mary Brock Jones, cover designer Kura Carpenter
Mary Brock Jones has written several historical and science fiction novels. Her novel Pay the Piper, the second book in Mary’s Hathe science fiction series was a finalist in the 2016 RUBY’s Romantic Book of the Year awarded by the Romance Writers of Australia. 

Mary, welcome, Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

1) What sent you down the path of writing romantic science fiction?

I've always loved science fiction, right from my early teens.  I started out with Asimov and Heinlein, but then gravitated towards writers such as Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Lois McMaster Bujold and Catherine Asaro. Writers of scifi where character was as important as technology. But I am also an avid reader of the romance genre, as well as historicals.  

I found that the stories of people, how they live in strange worlds and what matters to them, interest me more than just the science alone. I love gizmos, and creating new ones is part of the best fun of the world building side of scifi, but always it's the people in the story that fascinate me most, finding what is at the heart of my characters. And romance  is the most fundamental driver of stories we have. Humans are a social animal, family is important as are the bonds that unite them, and so it seems very natural to me that stories with a romantic element will capture our interest. I know they do me, and romantic science fiction just seems to unite all the strands of storytelling that I enjoy most - world building, adventure, intrigue and suspense, all spun together in a deeply satisfying romantic tale.    

"Requirement for anyone wanting to go down the self-publishing route:
First is a good, strong story - get it professionally edited, that's absolutely essential.

Next you must have a professionally designed cover.
An effective cover is the first and best chance to capture your reader,  so it has to be enticing, look good in thumbnail and immediately tell the reader the genre of the book." - Mary Brock Jones


2) What appeals to you about bringing romance to a genre that has atypically been lacking in romantic elements?

I think romance has always been a part of the science fiction world, but too often it is assumed that women don't like science, have no interest in mathematics, and are solely concerned with the humanities. Whereas 'proper' science fiction only deals with hard scifi stories. This is not true. Women have been writing science fiction and  telling stories about science and people for a long time - after all, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is recognised as the first science fiction novel. 
But too often publishers, reviewers and the general literary world assume that science fiction is written for and by men only. Well, I love scifi and so do a large number of women out there. I think it's more that scifi with a romantic element is not talked about much, but as a genre, romantic scifi is gaining increasing popularity.  

"I think romance has always been a part of the science fiction world, but too often it is assumed that women don't like science, have no interest in mathematics, and are solely concerned with the humanities." - Mary Brock Jones

 

3) What sort/age-of readers would most enjoy Torn?

I would have to say that Torn is best suited to an adult audience, those who enjoy both adventures and stories that challenge their ideas.

 

4) Torn involves ecological themes that reflect problems currently faced in the real world. Was there a particular real world crisis/discovery that sparked ideas for your novel?

I've thought for some time that climate change is the most critical issue facing our world at present, but I've also long had a fascination with ecology. I can still remember as a young child being taken for a visit to a local creek, and being totally fascinated by the various bugs and critters our teacher showed us that day. My first degree was in Zoology and I was raised on a farm, so I guess ecology has been a part of my life for a very long time.

An event that did galvanise me though was the GFC, and the worldwide pattern of governments sacrificing the public sector to keep big business happy, culminating in the US congress stopping the pay of ordinary officials for some weeks for pure political gamesmanship. Officials that included the US park rangers we had met a year previously. Men and women deeply committed to preserving the history and environment of the US and always ready to share their knowledge but treated as of no consequence on that occasion by the so-called establishment.

One of the most serious, and I think least recognised, of the effects of that whole financial crisis was the huge brake it put on getting the world to focus its efforts on dealing with climate and other environmental issues. Luckily there is a huge groundswell of people who know that as a planet we cannot put this off. People power will win the day!

5)What was your favourite part in researching for the novel?

I'm not sure if it was my favourite part, but working out the meteorological aspects of the story were certainly the most challenging!

6) What has been the hardest part with promoting your work?

Just getting it out there. Like most writers, I tend to be somewhat introverted, so having to push yourself forward and praise your own work is hugely challenging. Plus I am a decided technical clutz when it comes to IT stuff, and to self-publish you have to learn a whole pile of new computer skills. My poor laptop has been subjected to some truly awful verbal abuse at times. 

There are so many books being published at present; finding ways to push your own book above the parapet to be noticed is a definite challenge, and something that you have to keep reminding yourself can only be done one step at a time. You have to somehow keep believing in yourself while you inch those books slowly, so slowly up the pile. 

7) Can you please offer any tips to others considering self-publishing especially ones you wished you knew when you started?

Oh my, when I started out I think I made every mistake possible! Beginning with trying to  publish two full-sized books simultaneously, one of which had a cliffhanger ending (readers hate that, I have since discovered). 

So the very first requirement for anyone wanting to go down the self-publishing is a very good sense of humour (and a big wad of cold hard money to fund it helps too.)
So first you have to have a good, strong story. Then get it professionally edited - that's where the cold hard cash comes in. Proper editing is expensive, but absolutely essential. 

Next you must have a professionally designed cover - thank you for my lovely cover, Kura. An effective cover is the first and best chance to capture your reader, so it has to be enticing, look good in thumbnail and immediately tell the reader the genre of the book. That's why the cover of Torn has a spaceship and horses on it. This is science fiction adventure with a big dollop of the romantic - and I hasten to add that, yes, there really is horse-riding in the story, much to my heroine's horror.  


"Torn" romantic sci-fi, author Mary Brock Jones, cover designer Kura Carpenter


Formatting for e-book is not hard, but I would recommend getting it done for you the first time round. Far less stressful. I just about had a nervous break down when I tried it, until V.L.Dreyer came to my rescue and did it for me. I have since learned how to format for e-book, mostly by following the instructions in Mark Coker's "Smashwords Style Guide", but needed to refer back to the original formatting as a template to make sense of it all - not being technically literate at the best of times. It's not hard once you get the hang of it, as long as you set aside a time when you will be free from distractions and can take it methodically step by step. 

"There are so many books being published at present; finding ways to push your own book above the parapet to be noticed is a definite challenge, and something that you have to keep reminding yourself can only be done one step at a time." - Mary Brock Jones

The hardest part for me comes next - Marketing! Discoverability is the name of the game in Indie publishing - and for that you need REVIEWS - and yes, the capitals are deliberate. Reviews are that important - most particularly, reviews on Amazon. Further, they  must be legitimate ones - Amazon has very strict rules aimed at protecting their customers from fake reviews, so read the guidelines and make sure to follow them. This time, Torn is on netgalley, courtesy of a netgalley coop group ( found through http://www.kboards.com/ ), plus I have sent ARCs [Advance Reader Copies] to a number of review sites and put out a newsletter (another of those new tech things I had to learn about).

Most importantly, before trying to self-publish, learn as much as possible through reading, websites, podcasts etc. The self-publishing community is widespread and very generous. My best source of advice is Joanna Pennat The Creative Penn, who also includes a large number of references in her podcast, website and various books, but join writers organisations, facebook groups, and some of the Indie support groups. Indie publishers are a very supportive community of writers and always willing to pass on what they have learned.  There is also a huge amount of advice on the KDP (Amazon), Smashwords and Draft2Digital websites. 

8) Torn is the first in your romantic science fiction Arcadian series, are you working on a sequel and what’s it about?

I'm still working on the third in my Hathe series, but after that I will be writing the story of Caleb's brother, Ethan. He is a man who loves the business that his family has created. It's all he has ever wanted, but Caleb's actions in Torn have both put that in jeopardy and forced Ethan to question everything he thought he knew. 

And then he is brought up short by a woman on the other side of the business divide. A union organiser who has never known what it is to be rich and comfortable, but one who will not back down to anyone when it comes to protecting those she serves. This book continues the climate change theme, but also brings in the economic divide. Can we judge people only by the size of their bank balance - big or small? 

Thank you so much for sharing your advice and experiences with us today, Mary, I wish you every success. Here's where to learn more about Mary and her novels:
Mary Brock Jones New Zealand Author of science fiction novel 'Torn'
Mary Brock Jones




And if you liked the Torn book cover I designed for Mary Brock Jones and are looking for a custom design for your novel Please click here: Kura CarpenterBook Cover Designer for Hire to find out more.






Self Publishing Resource: SPA Girls Podcast

Today I'm sharing a new (to me) helpful Podcast about self-publishing: the Self Publishing Authors Podcast, aka the SPA Girls Podcast.

The Self-publishing Authors Podcast is a New Zealand based group of Romance and Urban Fantasy writers who have, or are about to, venture down the self-publishing route, and each Monday they share their tips and experiences.

 

Join the SPA Girls at the Self Publishing Authors Podcast each week for a new episode full of helpful tips and insighful tales.


To get you started here's a couple of episodes that I recommend:
  • Firstly, there's no avoiding the giant that pretty much rules self-publishing: Amazon. Learn about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and much more in SPA Girls Podcast episode #24 All about Amazon
  •  As an author (self-publishing or traditional) looking to promote yourself on Facebook you need to know the difference between Facebook's standard profile and an author page. Didn't know there was a difference? Check out SPA Girls Podcast episode #4 Facebook for Beginners
  •  If you're considering trying out self-publishing it's often helpful (and inspirational) to hear other's experiences, I really enjoyed when they interviewed SPA Girls member: Trudi Jaye, to discuss her journey into self-publishing in podcast episode #19 Interview with Trudi Jaye
  • Cover Design being close to my heart, my favourite episode to date is their Podcast #43 How to get a great Book Cover Design - quite probably because I agree with what they say! - see my book cover essentials check list below. 

Book Cover Design essentials check list
 
So what are you waiting for? Jump right in by visiting the SPA Girls Podcast Website