Please welcome Tony Ballantyne to the blog! His new book, DREAM LONDON, just came out and he stopped by to chat about the new book, and more!
Tony, will you tell us a bit about your new book, DREAM LONDON, and Captain Jim Wedderburn?
London has gone, Dream London sits in its place. The new city changes every night and the people change every day. Captain James Wedderburn, a crook and worse, used to be a soldier. He’s the last person anyone would choose to rescue London. But desperate times call for desperate measures…
Captain Jim Wedderburn strode into the pages of Dream London all by himself, looking cool and charming. I disliked him from the very beginning, but people like him have a habit of imposing themselves where they’re not welcome. I decided that if Captain Wedderburn was going to stay, he was going to become a better person. His name comes from an old folk song I heard Bellowhead perform.
Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write Dream London?
Ten years of living in real London, and then another ten years of going back to visit and seeing the place slowly change. But what really set me writing was the scene on the very first page of the book. It was a story told to me by a friend, something that had happened to him in India. As soon as I heard that, I had to dash back home and begin writing…
Will you tell us a little about your version of London?
In Dream London you can buy a fortune scroll to see if your partner really is The One. You can go to sleep in a mansion and wake up in a shack, or you can walk into your back yard and discover that it’s turned into a five acres of garden. There are strange creatures sailing down the Thames to trade and Armies recruiting for service in other lands. And you can’t escape. The rest of the country is looking on in horror, hoping that Dream London will not swallow up the world.
What did you enjoy most about writing Dream London?
The chance to let my imagination run riot. I loved playing around with mathematics and dropping in lots of puns and jokes. Most of all, I loved playing with the characters, of exposing Captain Wedderburn for the fraud that he is.
What are a few of your favorite authors or novels?
Like everyone, I think, my favourite novels change all the time. But I suppose the novels that have most influenced me have been (in no particular order) The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth, 1984 by George Orwell, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and – I know they’re not novels – the short stories of Chekhov and Saki have had a big influence on me.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Lord of the Rings. Stories, music, all art seems to diminish with cultural familiarity, to become cliche. I read the Lord of the Rings over and over as a teenager. I often wonder what it would be like to read it fresh, would I enjoy it as much?
What are you reading now?
Capital, by John Lanchester. I love the range of characters and the way their stories intertwine, I love how wise the writing is, but above all I love the lightness of touch. This is an author confident enough not to have to ram his literary credentials down your throat.
What do you look for in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
I like something that’s original. I don’t necessarily mean something that is way out there, something completely unheard of, but rather something that does something in a different way. Following on from the last point, I rarely give up on a book, If I do it’s usually because its too self consciously aware of itself.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write, write, write.
What’s next for you?
I’m racing against deadlines to finish Cosmopolitan Predators for Aethernet Magazine. And then, some short stories set in the Recursion universe…
About DREAM LONDON:
In Dream London the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day. Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage by the bucketful. He’s adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He’s the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world, and he knows it. But the towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the East End and a path spiralling down to another world. Everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be, and Captain Jim Wedderburn is beginning to understand that he’s not the man he thought he was…