Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Exclusive Interview: Ruth Wheeler

"Tom Bowler is probably mostly like myself. He is easily embarrassed and blushes a lot and he is overly polite, but he isn't afraid of adventure."

Alwyn Ash: Hi Ruth, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Ruth Wheeler: I would describe myself as very creative - creativity just wants to escape from me anyway it can. My degree at Uni was in Fine Art and I have been working full time as a Graphic Designer since graduating 8 years ago. I also play bass guitar in my local church worship band and have been in 5 plays with my local amateur theatre group RATS in the past 5 years. Even the Martial Arts do not escape me - I recently achieved 6th Khan in Muay Thai which is great fun and an excellent way of keeping fit. I have recently discovered a love for Skydiving too after a charity jump in July of this year. I have an obsessive personality and love collecting scifi memorabilia, visiting conventions, filming locations and meeting up with like-minded people. I am always on the go and wondering what mad thing I can do next - I love having things to look forward to and take opportunities while I can - often whisking my friends into my whirlwind of a life as I go as experiences are best enjoyed when shared.

Your début novel for Truxxe, All Aliens Like Burgers, was published this year. What was your inspiration for the novel? And if you could explain a little about Truxxe...

My inspiration for AALB hit me on the way back from a surfing holiday in Newquay with friends. I was half asleep having been dozing in the back of the car and we had stopped at a motorway service station. I routinely bought food, used the facilities and took time out stretch my legs as one does at these places. It struck me that I had no idea where I was. I could be anywhere in the country. These places are all so similar - catering for people's needs; feed water and shelter them before they go on their merry way. I began thinking that what if there was a station on a different planet and they had to cater for the needs of different creatures? What kind of needs would need to be met? Would there be different types of toilets for example (toilet humour features a lot in my book)? Different fuel for different space craft? Maybe the planet could be stationed between galaxies rather than cities. Maybe the planet was made up of different fuels for all the different crafts and what else would it have?

The obligatory burger bar was the constant that I wanted to keep - the title is taken from a line one of my characters uses in the novel. I wanted to make my world very earth like in some ways but transpose all of the familiarities and places them as far away as possible. My thoughts just grew from there. The name Truxxe, incidentally, is taken from the term Truck Stop. I did toy with the idea of calling in Truxxe Toppe but in the end I settled on simply, Truxxe.

So did you create main character Tom Bowler with anyone in mind? And if yes, do they know?

Tom Bowler is probably mostly like myself. He is easily embarrassed and blushes a lot and he is overly polite, but he isn't afraid of adventure. I think his character is growing throughout the series - he is taking more risks, enjoying himself and going along for the ride although he can be quite serious at times and his strong bond with is family makes him miss home and Earth at times.

It's not always easy finding the right literary agent or publisher. Can you tell us how you managed to get your novel published? And do you have any advice for those thinking of following in your footsteps?

It is not an easy journey - I tried for several years to get published. It is a very frustrating process but if you want to find the publisher that is right for you then it really is worth all the hard work. I was fortunate enough to meet a publisher face to face who was just starting out so it is a journey on which we have both travelled together. They have since taken on many more authors and become successful which is great. Don't be disheartened - if your work is good enough then it will find it's market and the right publisher eventually. There are also many self-publishing options out there, but read up on the industry first and get clued up because writing the novel is only the start. Knowing about the industry and how to market your work is the hardest part.

Reviews of your work have been very positive. How much of that positivity helps when writing further...

I am really encouraged by the positive response I have had with my novel. I have also had some constructive criticism which is really helpful and definitely helps with writing the sequel.

So how is your second Truxxe novel coming along, and do you have a title for it yet?

Part two is called "Do Aliens Read Scifi" which is taken from one of Tom's thoughts in the novel. I am about 2/3 of the way into writing it and I will be launching it at a Scifi convention in LA in February 2011 which is all very exciting.

How different will it be to the first?

The novel will be different in that there will be less of the day to day details of Tom working in the burger bar itself and less time spent on Truxxe. Tom has grown up a bit and his relationship with his new friends has deepened. There will be more peril although I am still steering away from needless violence and large action scenes. The plot is getting more complex and there are a lot of ways the story could go. I don't want to give too much away so I shall stop here.

You're a huge fan of Doctor Who. Some might even say Douglas Adams too. How much of these worlds do you think plays an important part in shaping your imagination?

I am really flattered by comparisons I've had to Douglas Adams as he is my favourite writer. My very English central character being placed in such odd situations with very strange creatures is probably the main similarity and I do like to keep my story flowing and pepper it with humour, although our styles are different. I like the way that Douglas uses language - he doesn't use clichés in his writing and if he does he turns it on his head which makes you think about what the words actually mean. His words are very evocative. In the same way I try to not to use clichés either. I'm not sure how much Doctor Who influences my work but I'm sure it does somehow as my brain is so full of the Whooniverse. I like to add scientific explanations into the story and not just write about an adventure in space so perhaps the influence is in that side of my writing.

As a fan you must have visited Doctor Who conventions and gatherings, do you have any favourites?

I am indeed a huge fan of Doctor Who. I particularly like the weekend long conventions. It's hard to choose a favourite as they all have their charm. One of the nicest things is seeing some of the same people at each event and the whole atmosphere is amazing. I am looking forward to experiencing the LA convention next year (Gallifrey One) as I am so used to there being two or three hundred at an event whereas there there will be more like fifteen hundred. I am interested to discover the similarities and differences with UK events.

Do you have any literary plans beyond the Truxxe books series? Another creation that you are waiting to reveal?

I do have a novella which I wrote some years back, called The Loop. It is a much more serious scifi story set in a dystopian England. But it depends on my publisher whether he's happy to release this. It might not get published. I might just shelve it. I would definitely like to write something different between books two and three so that when I come round to writing book three it will seem fresher and I'll be full of ideas for it (although I do have a basic premise in mind) and also I will hopefully have had a lot more feedback from the first two novels by then.

What kinds of things did you find fascinating as a child, and which of these have transgressed into your adult life?

Interesting question! I'm sure I'll think of many more ways I can answer this once it's too late but I will note that, thinking about it now, it's no wonder I turned out how I did as I was brought up on a diet of Lost in Space, Red Dwarf, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Close Encounter and Doctor Who.

Do you have a favourite quote, Ruth?

My favourite quote is a Douglas Adams quote which puts things into perspective for me whenever I'm feeling stressed: "TIME IS AN ILLUSION. LUNCHTIME DOUBLY SO"

If you could visit any period of Earth's history, where would you travel and why?

I'd like to travel back to medieval England and watch some proper jousting and go to a feast or something. I'm sure it's not as glamorous as TV will have us believe and also a lot more smelly - I think it would be really interesting to see it first hand. Also I've always said I'd like to go back to the garden of Eden and change the entire course of human history by saying "Oi, Eve - NO! Put down that apple!"

Thanks to Ruth - Twitter
Ruth Wheeler interview copyright © Alwyn Ash 2010