If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.
Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.
My guest this week is author, Leila Eadie.
Hi Leila, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Career-wise, I stayed in education as long as possible, collecting degrees, then worked as a medical writer and editor for a few years before returning to academia as a research fellow at University College London and then University of Aberdeen. I’m currently working at Aberdeen’s Centre for Rural Health in Inverness, investigating the use of ultrasound as an ambulance-based diagnostic tool, which we hope will be particularly useful for people living in remote and rural areas far from a major hospital. I write dark speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, sci-fi. I’ve had lots of short stories published in magazines, anthologies and online, and now I’m trying my hand at novel-length fiction. I’ve also started writing theatrical plays in the last couple of years, and have had a few short pieces performed in Inverness.
What were you like at school?
A brainbox! I was one of the kids vying for top marks in every class. But having said that, I spent many classes writing stories in my notebooks. I wrote ‘choose your own adventure’ stories for my friends, which we dived into at break-times, but I wasn’t always kind to them – they suffered many wonderfully gory deaths!
Tell us about the evolution of Leila Eadie, the author.
I was always a writer, filling spiral notebooks with my stories. These were just for myself and my friends, and I didn’t send anything to publishers until my mid-20s. But then my short stories found homes at various venues, winning small competitions, and so on. When I finally (reluctantly) left full time education, my fiction writing slowed because work took over, but I was working as a scientific writer and editor, so I was still writing, just a different type of thing.
More recently I’ve been working on a few novels, partly thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in November), which has helped provide motivation and word count targets to work with. I have a couple of pieces at the redrafting stage, and one with a first draft almost finished. And finally, I’m also interested in writing for performance: stage, screen and radio.
I joined the playwriting group run by Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, which has been wonderfully supportive and helpful, providing feedback and opportunities to have my work staged. So I now have a few short plays written, and a full-length play that I really should send to theatre companies…
What is your style of writing?
Dark, disturbing, funny. I love writing brilliant bad-guys and anti-heroes.
Why do you write this way?
Therapy? Maybe it stops me acting out all the strange stuff myself…
Are you inspired by any writers in particular?
Oh, there are many who have inspired me. I would love to write with the same power to suck a reader into the story that Stephen King has. The complexity – yet humanity – of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series astounds me and makes me try to reach further. China Mieville and Charles Stross remind me it’s okay to be clever and strange in my worlds and plotting. John Scalzi writes serious stories that are full of comedy. I love Neal Asher’s sci-fi vision of a techie future. I could go on… On the other hand, meeting Catherine Webb, whose Matthew Swift books (writing as Kate Griffin) I completely adore, was not so much inspirational as a source of envy: she’s so smart and so young – and a brilliant writer!
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing an initial draft of a dark comedy novel about evil geniuses. It started out life as an idea for a television series, but I think it works much better as a book. I love the characters; I think there’s a fun mix of comedy, action and mystery.
How much research do you do?
Quite a lot; I like to be accurate when dealing with real things that people can check on. But I also like writing about futuristic technology and alternate worlds where I can make my own rules. The key is not letting research distract me from writing. The internet is a wonderful source and a massive time-suck.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Way too long. Once I have a draft, I put off redrafting. Books sit around in limbo interminably. I’m afraid I fall prey to the common problem where bright new ideas are more fun than old ones that need polishing up.
Best writing moment so far?
Winning a writing competition that involved finishing off a short story started by Mike Carey, who’s written some great books and graphic novels. I submitted the story, then later received an email recommending I go along to a specific book festival. That was a clue that my story had probably been shortlisted, but when I met Mike at the festival and he said such nice things about my contribution… well, it was lovely to hear that from a writer I respect so much!
What are your ambitions, writing wise?
I would like to publish the novel I’m currently working on – I think it’s good enough to entertain people. And I would like to see my full-length play performed. But really, I write because I enjoy it. It’s a great bonus if others like it too.
What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing?
Afternoons work best for me, through to evenings.
Do you have a set amount of writing to do each day – if so, how is it measured – pages, words, lines, time…?
No. I probably should. It would definitely increase my productivity!
What is your writing method?
Most of the time I approach a project with a hook and only a vague idea what’s going to happen; I let the characters dictate the bulk of the plot. This has worked out quite well, but my most recent novel was written from a detailed outline, which really helped me achieve the NaNoWriMo word count on time. So I’m happy to use both methods.
Do you have any particular writing habits?
Not really, but I always use my laptop (or my phone/tablet if I’m travelling) rather than long-hand, and I generally have some music on while I write.
What inspires you to write?
Ideas! Wonderful scenes appear in my mind, leading me to ask questions about the characters, the situation, the way forward… Science and technology innovations also inspire me, as do oddities of the natural world.
What are you reading right now?
I usually have a few books on the go at any time, both paperback and e-book, for different reading opportunities. At the moment, I’m reading End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Kill the Dead, part of the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey and Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.
A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book…
Hmm. I could give you a favourite bookshelf-full, but just one – impossible. However, books I recommend to others include: The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay… (there will be lots of others worthy of a mention that have slipped my mind!)
Non-alcoholic: milkshake! Alcoholic: Swedish cider
Something Italian, or a lamb roast. Or jelly sweets, of course. Surely they’re a writers’ staple?
The Prestige, Bladerunner, 13 Ghosts
Game of Thrones, Suits
I enjoyed the recent adaptation of Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)
Industrial metal, EBM; rocky things like VNV Nation, Covenant, NIN, Blue Stahli
Thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord, Leila.