29 December 2015 - 6:30 pm

Interview: Green & McRae

Suffrage is the debut novel from Julian Green and Finn McRae. Here’s the lowdown on the story:

There is something hidden on Earth that could change the fate of two worlds. A secret so immense it’s worth killing and dying for. A small group of freedom fighters must change the fate of their own world, by coming to ours… but at what cost?

Our choices change us, as much as they change the world around us.  Sometimes it’s subtle.  Sometimes it’s a dimension-spanning wave that causes ripples through many worlds.

What would you choose for the greater good?

Suffrage: (noun) The right or chance to express an opinion or participate in a decision.

At this moment, the first draft of the novel is complete and undergoing the usual overhaul and edit required to turn it into a publishable novel. Green & McRae are hoping to publish through a new (to me) venue called Inkshares, if they can get enough support to make it happen. You can help with that!

The two authors were kind enough to answer some questions for me, so let’s learn some more about them and the novel they have created.


Suffrage, the debut novel from Green & McRae

Suffrage, the debut novel from Green & McRae

Melanie Edmonds: Suffrage is your first novel. What spurred you to start writing, and how long has it taken to complete the first draft?

Finn McRae: I blame Julian.  Almost entirely.

That said, are you talking about writing in general or writing this particular piece?  Because if it’s this piece, then it’s totally Julian’s fault.  I think we started about three months ago, give or take.  Julian had already done a very large amount of legwork on this.

Writing in general for me started something like 30 years ago.  I actually don’t remember.  I think I was trying to do comics and wound up with short stories based around Indiana Jones but using a different name.  Don’t judge me.  I was like 8 or something.

Julian Green: Finn blames me. Apparently my muse is highly contagious. Seriously though, I’ve always been a writer of stories. I tried and failed to write a novel when I was in high school. When that didn’t work I got into writing online in Role Playing Games, MUD’s and Play by Post forums. Just writing for myself and having fun, and fifteen years ago I started getting bored with other people’s worlds and visions and started writing my own. Suffrage was a game where the ideas behind that world and the characters just wouldn’t go away and so there was this dull ache to write about it if I could ever find the time.

It all came to a head when I was on a camping trip with a few mates, no TV, no internet, no fish, and after a few beers I started talking about the story, giving them the background and the response was very encouraging (and it wasn’t the beer talking). So from that first spark… eight months, but I’ve been thinking about the story for well over two years.

ME: What’s the central theme of Suffrage?

JG: I think every generation has some iconic event where people always remember. For me that was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 10 year anniversary events were happening when I started thinking about the game which has ultimately led us here. I was seeing a lot about freedom and what it means and the world events where freedoms were sacrificed for “security”.  What is a civilized society prepared to give up to feel “safe” from the barbarians at the gate?  What choices do we make as people and as a society to find that balance between security and freedom? That’s a central theme of the whole series, not just this book, because of where our main characters come from, and the principles that govern their society.

FM: Good question.  Big topic actually.  Julian and I had a long sit-down about this prior to actually starting and a lot of that was my own trepidation about projects, theme, audience, etc.  Really, it’s about freedom.  And that sounds like a no-brainer, as if everyone who’s anyone should want to read it.  Because after all, freedom is a born right, correct?  It’s a good thing, isn’t it?  But what freedom really means is the freedom to choose.  It’s the freedom to act.  It’s those actions and the circumstances around those choices that give the freedom context.  If someone is free to choose to do “good”, they are also free to choose to do “evil”.  Choices aren’t always easy.  And what if the alternative was to give up freedom for security, safety, and the greater good?  Is the freedom to be destructive still a good thing given that possibility?  Those are questions we wanted to look at in the book.

ME: Suffrage is a collaboration, which can be a challenging way to write. How did the partnership come about, and how did you make it work for you?

FM: We met via some other people in a writing group on another website for Play by Post gaming.  [Julian] said he had a sweet idea for a book, and I seem to remember gelling pretty well.  The overall feel of some collaborative pieces felt pretty organic.  Sooo…yeah. Novel.  It seemed like a logical step for two people who’ve never met in person and know nothing about one another to go do on a lark.

JG: Writing a novel is a strange and lonely activity. You’re trying to communicate this terrible delirium/hallucination that you think is really cool and that maybe other people will enjoy reading, but you have no idea. My problem was for over twenty years I’d been writing collaboratively, and then I was trying to write alone. I struggled a lot in the first stages of the book, and actually completely abandoned my first fifteen thousand words and started again. I was about twenty or thirty thousand words in when I stalled and realized that I needed the energy of another writer in the process if this was going to work.

Finn was someone I’d met through an online Play by Post website and I liked his style of writing and reached out to him. Turns out we are very similar people and once we had established a unified vision for what the novel was going to look like, it worked extremely well. There were some teething issues at first where we tried to pass chapters back and forth, but it wasn’t until we tried writing together, at the same time, that the process started to flow extremely well. One of us would take the lead and the other would follow along behind adding details, and making suggestions, then we’d swap. It was actually a lot of fun, but without Finn and I being very similar people, I can see why other writers struggle with collaborations.

ME: What was the most important thing you learned about working as a partnership on a novel?

JG: I think the reason it worked so well with Finn and myself is mutual respect and that we are very similar people. At the start we had a pretty frank discussion, not about the book, but about ourselves and our goals and it turns out we were both ENTJ personality types. Finn’s also a great guy, really easy to talk to and fun. From that base it was all about communication, any kind of partnership works because of the quality of the communication and we got pretty comfortable early on.

FM: Oi…Partnerships in general are difficult.  Not because people don’t get along, but because they’re individuals.  Nobody sees any one thing exactly the same way as another person.  That said, Julian is stellar.  Novels are a massive undertaking.  So having another person who is at least on the same page the vast majority of the time is not only encouraging, but a bit humbling.  It means we’re not alone, even as individuals.  Considering he and I have never met in person, and I have no idea how his body language even looks, the fact that we share so much in concept and execution is pretty amazing.

ME: Would either of you do another collaboration? Would it be with each other?

FM: I almost certainly will.  And likely with Julian, though there are a few other personas I’ve met that I would consider writing with for this kind of project.  I’ve talked with one already.  Maybe things will work out.  Maybe not.  Life is funny like that.

JG: Suffrage is the first book in a series, so pretty safe to say yes to both those questions. I think I’d be careful after hearing a few horror stories from other authors about who I collaborate with, but writing on my own for the first few months and achieving little and then writing with Finn and achieving a huge amount in a very short period of time has told me I’m a collaborative writer. Whether I write with anyone else will entirely depend on what happens with the series.

ME: What drives you to write?

FM: Life.  Things I see.  Things I experience.  Those lovely thoughts I have when I touch the sky at the top of the world in the mountains.  Those terrible things I dream when I’m still awake.  Those wonderful muses among the stars.  They come out.  All of it.  It’s not good.  It’s not bad.  It just is.

JG: I joked above about my muse being contagious, but it was only half in jest. After having this unshakable need to tell the story, I actually struggled with medium for a few weeks. I did some research into how I wanted to communicate the story and I originally imagined it as graphic novel or possibly even a screen play. It quickly became apparent that if it was a novel, it could easily become those other mediums.  So I started a steep learning curve with a local creative writing group, which has helped enormously. Now I can’t think of any other way to communicate the story, but I still think it would make a great movie or graphic novel.

As for motivation, I think stories are important, they help us to make sense of things that are happening in the world and in our own lives and I’ve always found writing to be very cathartic experience.

ME: What’s your favourite word?

JG: Yes.

FM: Haha!  Julian nailed it.

(ME: I think we can see why they’re such an effective partnership!)

ME: What sound or noise do you hate most?

JG: Sound actually plays a big part of the novel so this is an interesting question. I’m one of those people that when I’m concentrating hard, you have to punch me on the shoulder to get my attention and noise is just background. Today my highly musical daughter snapped one of her guitar strings when she was playing and the guitar made this odd sad little sound. Then my daughter made this odd sad little sound. I didn’t like that sound very much.

FM: I’m trying really hard to keep a positive spin on life.  So for a negative question, I have to give you a positive answer.  The sound of politicians opening their mouths is an anathema.  The sound of people in wonder at some event or some spectacular view… is quite amazing if we take the time to listen.

ME: What’s the single worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever seen or received?

JG: Someone told me that writers have a wall at twenty thousand words. Here I was blissfully ignorant of the wall, writing up a storm and then I checked my word count…and I stalled as I wasn’t sure which direction to take the story in. It was like a part of my superstitious hindbrain was looking for an excuse to fail and that cheerful “watch out for the wall” was the excuse it was needing. Deciding to get Finn involved was the kick I needed to get out of that funk. Now there was someone else involved and counting on me to write.

FM: So going for positive once more: “Try my proven system for writing a novel!”  That’s the best poor piece of information anyone could give a writer.  There are a ton of books on how-to.  And this isn’t to say that any of them are bad.  But what it really takes is a writer willing to spend the time with an idea that they fell in love with, and then communicating that idea into a form that someone else can partake of.

Writing, really any sort of writing, not just a novel, is personal.  It’s the writer’s bias, their hopes, and their dreams all collected into a dram of perfection spilled out on a page.  There’s no formula for it I don’t think.  I’d love to romanticize it or simplify it, but in the end it’s a lot of work in front of a keyboard.  Sometimes our personal muse gets ahold of us and that work is easier.  Sometimes the muse won’t come visit, and it’s twice as hard.  In the end, it comes down to the writer.  Do we or don’t we?  If we don’t, nothing happens.  If we do…

ME: What drew you to try Inkshares, and what are your hopes for it?

JG: I’m a planner who likes to research. I like to have all my planning done well in advance before I start a project. I looked at traditional publishing methods and read the horrible slush pile stories and the multiple rejections and considered the likelihood that it would take years via a traditional publishing method, before Suffrage might be published. I then looked at self publishing and realized that also came with challenges around publication, editing, etc. Self-publishing has all these things we’d need to do which are just putting barriers up between the new authors and their potential audience.

So I needed something else, something new. Inkshares was what I found and I think it’s a really interesting take on publishing. Connecting readers and authors together to take some of the risk out of the traditional publishing model, and allow fledgling authors an opportunity to get a traditional publishing process if successful.

FM: Again, I totally blame Julian here.  He had started with Inkshares before he even asked me.  I had no idea that self-publishing via the interwebs, and putting a book on-the-line even existed until this year.  Shame on me for not knowing.

ME: What’s the next exciting project on your horizon?

FM: Well, I suppose first off, there’s a sequel to Suffrage coming out.  The book was never meant as a standalone. In addition to that,  I’m looking in some different directions at some other genres as well.  But that will likely be a long time in coming.

JG: Finn’s absolutely correct. Suffrage was never meant as a standalone, the book ends with a number of unanswered questions and Finn and I have already spoken about events we’d like to see in the books remaining in the series. So book two already has a few major plot twists sorted out and we can see the shape of it.

ME: And now for some shameless promotion: how can we support Suffrage and help it be released for us to enjoy?

JG: I really want to give Inkshares a red hot go which means going to the Suffrage project on Inkshares. You can read the first few chapters of the novel in there and decide if you want to pre-order the book.

Just by registering on Inkshares and participating in the community, by commenting, recommending books, etc, you get free Inkshares credits which allows you to pre-order and back projects. Free books: who doesn’t like that?

Every pre-order gets us closer to our goals for the publishing options at Inkshares. Currently, Inkshares is doing an imprint with the Sword and Laser podcasters, for which there is a competition.

So we’re doing a competition as well. Finn’s brother is very arty, as in he makes a living from it and is doing a unique piece of art that we will be giving to one of our backers. We’re also going to draw the name of one of our backers to include as a character in the next book in the series.

FM: We would be thrilled if people bought it.  And really, signing onto Inkshares and pre-ordering a copy is probably the best way.  Show it off, hand out some links on Facebook or Google or in blogs.  Heck, give us some reviews.

However, “No publicity is bad publicity”, the saying goes.  We set up the Google+ page to encourage some discussion.  We think we touch on some thoughts in the book that are worthy of being assessed not only in the realm of science fiction and quantum physics, but also about people, governments, and society in general.  We’d love to hear some thoughts on that.  And you never know, we might be incorporating that into future books.  Just saying.


Thanks for taking part in the interview, Finn and Julian!

When asked for a bio, they said to me:

We’re two handsome men who enjoy long walks on the beach, hefty drinks with little umbrellas, sunsets that would make a poet go mute, and the ability to entertain on a plethora of subjects.  Oh, and we write novels.

Other cool stuff:

Don’t forget to go over to the Inkshares project and pre-order the novel. If they get enough pre-orders, they’ll get published! Spread the word, everyone!

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