Monday, March 18, 2013

The Runner: A Chat with Dystopian Author WJ Davies

WJ Davies knows dystopian. This particular genre is one of my all time favorites, because it takes something that could actually happen and makes it real for you as a reader. It's fascinating. Maybe the same kind of fascination that people get when they read a zombie novel because, while the zombie part is obviously fiction, the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario is something that everybody thinks about every once in a while. Davies' novella, The Runner, is a bestseller on Amazon and one of the most interesting plot premises I've come across in that category. Check out what he had to say about himself as a writer!

Welcome! Tell us a little about yourself, as a person and a writer. 

Thanks for having me, Summer! 

I have to admit that since I’ve undertaken this crazy hobby called writing, I’ve turned into a complete hermit. Seriously, my friends are mad at me cuz I try to spend every weekend editing… not good. If I had it my way there’s the danger of me locking myself in my room until the book is finished. 

I’ve always wanted to write a book, and have written more than a few first pages over the years, but it wasn’t until I discovered the possibility of self-publishing on Amazon that I really started taking this seriously. In the past year, writing has become an addiction, something I must do everyday or else I go into writer’s withdrawal… which means I get grumpy until the next time I get to indulge in this increasingly nefarious activity. A person could have worse vices though, right?

Sum up The Runner. 

The Runner is a post-apocalyptic dystopia that takes place in a gigantic silo buried deep in the earth. The outside is no longer habitable and silo residents must abide by the strict rules of the “Pact”, or face the ultimate punishment: they are banished from their insular world. If this sounds like Hugh Howey’s Wool, it’s because The Runner is a fanfiction of sorts, fully sanctioned by the author. I strived to stay true to Hugh Howey’s vision of the silos, as well as adding my own twist on what life would be like for these people living deep underground. 

What inspired you to write a story like this? And why dystopian? 

After completing the rough draft of my novel Binary Cycle, I needed a break from that story, and so decided to write a novella to keep up my writing chops. I fell in love with the shorter length as it allowed me to take bigger risks and experiment with the structure of the story. In my novel, I don’t think I’d kill off my main character, but in a short story, anything goes. The dystopian genre allows the writer to take the world we’re familiar with, turn it on its head, and tease out comparisons and juxtapositions that help lend some clarity to our everyday reality. 

Do you have any specific writing methods that help you write? 

I use a program called Scrivener to write. One of my favorite features is the “Project Target” bar. I set a daily word count goal and as I type out words, I can watch the word meter fill up as I get closer to my target. The visual effect is satisfying and really makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. That and, you know, the words I’ve written on the page. I also need to be listening to music to keep my brain activity up, usually upbeat indie tracks.  

If The Runner had a playlist, what are the top three songs that would be on repeat? 

These songs are not upbeat… but I feel they suit the dark mood of the story quite well. 

“Crystallized” - The xx
“No Cars Go” - Arcade Fire
“All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands” - Sufjan Stevens

Advice for aspiring authors? 

It’s axiomatic to say this, but a writer must write. Every day. Your novel isn’t going to finish itself, and unless you’re willing to spend hundreds of hours cultivating it to perfection, you may as well find a different activity. Maybe I’m just slow, but I was amazed at how much time it took to get my fifty page short story out the door. 3 weeks writing and 3 weeks editing, doing 2-3 hours a day. In this business, patience is your biggest ally. 

Bonus Question! Favorite writing snack? 
(My favorite writing snacks remain a secret. Although chocolate may be involved)

Does black coffee count? I have a soft spot for cheese and crackers, especially if hot sauce is thrown into the mix. I know I know, its bachelor food. I should find something healthier, shouldn’t I? 

Thanks for joining us - looking forward to seeing more of your work! 

You’re welcome, thanks so much for having me. Keep an eye out for my next book Binary Cycle, out April 2013. I’m going to go check out State of Emergency right now!
About the Author
WJ Davies currently lives in Toronto, ON, and works for a software company. His debut work, The Runner, is a 60 page dystopian novella set in Hugh Howey's Wool universe. It is recommended that you read the Wool Omnibus first to avoid potential spoilers. The Runner has appeared on several Amazon science fiction top-ten bestseller lists and an audiobook version is currently in production by Podium Publishing.
Wes's next project is Binary Cycle, a full length adventure Sci-fi, a novel currently in editing state. Part One will be release in April 2013.
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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!