A Conversation With Rod Duncan

 Rod Duncan is a Leicester based author, screenwriter and Creative Writing university lecturer. He has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick and East Midlands book awards. During my time at De Montfort University, I had the pleasure of being taught by Rod who told many stories from his path to being published, to The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – the first book in The Fall Of The Gas-Lit Empire. Now on the release of the third book in the series, The Custodian of Marvels, Rod answered a few of my burning questions.

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With the release of your new book, The Custodian of Marvels, finally here how are you feeling?

Although there is more of the adventure to come, this book brings the story to a significant moment.  So I am really excited about it.  I’m so happy that it’s finally out there and people are going to be reading it.
When you started writing the series, what was the first aspect to jump out at you? (for example, a character, plot idea)

I began with the city of Leicester and the many traces of the Victorians who built it. That started a story. But I only knew it was going to be a novel when I discovered the voice of Elizabeth, the protagonist. And then, as I began to understand who she was and where she came from, I realised it was going to be a whole series of books.
At the States of Independence festival last March, you did a talk on Steampunk which has become a sort of identifier for this series. Did steampunk act as an inspiration or has it just been associated with your work?

Some people have called the novels steampunk and some say they are ‘gas-lit fiction’. Others say they are crime fiction and other others say they’re alternate history!  I see all those labels as influences, but I never felt constrained by them.  The story had a life of its own and, to a certain extent, I followed to see where it would take me.

Which character was the most interesting for you to write?

I have to be interested in all my characters. That is the only way I can write them.  Often there are things about them that I know but never get to tell the readers.  A few of those secrets are revealed in The Custodian of Marvels. I’m very interested to see how the readers react to those revelations.

 

Did you struggle writing any of the books and if so, which one?

The most difficult was The Custodian of Marvels – because there were plot strands from the previous two novels that needed to be woven together. And there is a heist element to the story – which is technically intricate to plot. But I think it is the strongest book of the three. I’m really delighted with the way it all worked out.

 

Are there any books that got you into writing?

Listening to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC Radio 4 was the first time I really became aware of authorship. I remember thinking – Wow! Someone wrote this. Someone created it out of their imagination. That was very inspiring. But I didn’t at the time think I could write anything.  I’m dyslexic and writing was very difficult for me back then.  But later, after the word processor came along and I did start to write,  I remembered that moment and it felt significant to me.

 

How do you handle rejection/negativity on your work?

I wrote several novels before I had my first one published. So I did go through the whole  rejection thing. It was difficult. But I always felt compelled to go back and write another one.

I’ve been lucky with reviews of my books. Most people have been very positive. But it’s important to not get fixated on trying to please everyone.  I write the kind of novel I would like to read and happily there are people out there who have similar tastes. But if someone hates it, that’s fine. It wasn’t meant for them.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never say: ‘I want to be a writer’. If you feel compelled to write, then you are one already. Accept it. Other people might judge you not a ‘real’ writer until you win a prize or get a publication deal. But the day before you get that big break you’ll be just the same writer as you are the day after.

It’s fair enough to say: ‘I want to get published’.  But don’t let the goal make you miserable. So long as each new thing you write is a little bit better than the last, be happy. And if you keep that up then the other stuff will follow.

We’re all on the same journey.

 

Finally, and most importantly, what can readers expect from The Custodian of Marvels?

You can expect the return of some characters from The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – both friends and enemies. There will be a heist and secrets will be revealed about the origin of the Gas-Lit Empire. And there’ll be a lot more besides – but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

 TheCustodianOfMarvels-144dpi“You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared International Patent office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to do.”

The Custodian of Marvels is out now in the UK on Ebook and audiobook platforms and will be available in  physical form from 11th February. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rod can be found here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

 

The Future

I know that the purpose of this blog it to deliver reviews on books I have read recently (along with the occasional bookish tag) but today I will be taking a different direction, however, for a very good reason.

On Thursday 16th July 2015, I graduated from De Montfort University with a “second class (upper division)” in Creative Writing and English.

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If it isn’t at all obvious from the title of my degree, I really love reading and I really love writing.
When I started University I was struggling with low self confidence and anxiety. I moved to a city, into a flat in halls with four other girls that I didn’t know and I would literally hide in my room watching Glee boxsets while eating copious bowls of cheesy pasta that I had made at 2am to try and avoid them. In classes, I was the stereotypical quiet one – keeping their head down hoping that the teacher wouldn’t pick me.

After the “settling in” period I knew things needed to change, that needed to change and so I began forcing myself to ask people if I could sit next to them in classes. The result was gaining (what would become) two very close best friends, funnily enough, both called Jenny.

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I have always known that I want to be a writer. Going to University helped me learn which genre my strengths lay with and what path to take with my writing: Young Adult Fantasy. I remember in my first year having a chat with one of my teachers and when she asked what my end goal was and when I said being a writer she said “then you’ve already achieved your dream” when I asked her, rather confused, what she meant she said “if you write, then you are a writer. What you want to be is an author.” This teacher in particular helped me gain the confidence to say that I am a writer and to not be ashamed of it as I had felt so much in the past. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who thought the same way as me. They were willing to have intense debates, listen to and understand opinions even if they didn’t agree with them. Being surrounded by fellow writers made me feel confident because all of them had experienced negativity from family and peers over wanting to pursue a career in some aspect of writing. They listened to my ideas for novels, encouraged me, and even made suggestions.

I was able to unapologetically be myself.
When I started coming out to people as bisexual, and when I told what would become my friendship group, I was shocked to discover that not only did it not bother them, but being heterosexual was actually the minority.

In my second year I really pushed myself to experience more from university life. I joined the Creative Writing society, run by Corey who would become a lifelong best friend. I went on nights out and tried to push myself to see how long I could stay out. The result? I eventually met my boyfriend in this society.. on a night out.

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Whether I had highs or really bad lows, it didn’t matter as much anymore (well it did a little) because I had that support network I didn’t have before. For one of the first times in my life I now have people I can turn to if needed and they won’t project their own issues on me when I confide in them.

Third year was must tougher as I had a Creative Writing portfolio (dissertation) to work on. I am now turning the piece I submitted into a novel.

Also I now have a very expensive piece of paper showing the world that I am now a good writer. So I can stick a finger up to anyone who’s negative to me.

I am now constantly bombarded with questions about the future… my future. For now, I will continue working on my novel so that it is good enough to be published. I will also continue providing review for you lovely readers. The long term plan? Write novels and work for Bloomsbury.

My intention with this post was to not only to share a special day but to show anyone out there who has doubts about what they want to do, that it is possible. You just need to work hard!

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For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings