If you could live in any land, real or imaginary, where would it be and why?
Part of me immediately leaps to memories of growing up and experiencing The Belgariad for the first time, being dizzied by Elric of Melnibone and Thomas Covenant’s The Land, but you know what, they’re all really pretty profoundly disturbing places to actually live. Imagine being in Middle Earth, Third Age, Sauron on the rise, life expectancy probably about 20 minutes… sure I’d love to hang our with Belgarath the Sorcerer, I mean, how cool would it be to have that old storyteller drop by? But a war with Torak, the mad god kicking off? Yeah, no. I think I quite like where we are, even if I’d happily have a little magic slip into our more mundane world every now and again.
The books that I’ve reviewed of yours were both written under pseudonyms. I know that authors publish under different names for a variety of reasons, such as when they write in different genres. Would you discuss your reasons and let us in on the names we should look for to find your books?
Most of my stuff is under my own name, (he says, then contradicts himself) but there are five novels under the Alex Archer penname, there’s Black Flag written as Matt Langley, and I originally released Moonlands as Aimee Carr but changed my mind and rereleased it as Steven Savile. Honestly part of the problem is I feel like I’m screwing with my readers and I don’t want to do that. I want you to know if you pick up a Steven Savile novel you’re getting something you’ll enjoy – but because I spent about a decade writing for hire in a number of worlds that’s more difficult as there’s no seeming continuity. There’s Doctor Who and Torchwood and Stargate, Primeval, Warhammer, Slaine, Arkham Horror, Fireborn, heck there’s computer game stuff like Risen, and the soon to be released Hollow Point and there’s nothing remotely similar. So I made a bit of a tactical mistake, people picking up my thrillers like Silver and Crucible aren’t going to love Shiftling, for instance, which is a coming of age horror story. The problem is I want to fix this, but every publisher who buys me now says ‘oh, no, we’re buying your name as well’ so it’s getting more difficult to create a new persona that will carry the different genres… but I’m working on it.
What are the next three books you are planning to read?
Right now I’m reading The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker, which I’ve been working on for about two months, which is really unlike me, but sometimes life is just like that, it gets in the way. Then I’ve promised myself I’m going to revisit Sir Terry Pratchett (as a football fan I’ve got Unseen Academicals cued up) and have Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House up after that.
Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule? And specifically, are you working on a sequel to MOONLANDS?
In terms of releases, I’ve got Hollow Point – which is a punchy science fiction novel due out from Paradox Interactive – some time soon. It’s been ready for launch for about a year but the game it links with has been delayed several times so that pushes the book back. Then there’s my first Sherlock Holmes novel for Titan, Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, which is co-written with my good friend Robert Greenberger, which is out in October. Right around the same week my original conspiracy thriller Sunfail, is coming out in the US via Akashic Books. These things are all done and have been finished for a fair while, going through the editing, proofing processes in pre-production. It ends up making me look incredibly prolific, but for instance Sunfail was actually delayed by 9 months, so what should have been a nice gap between novels now makes it seem like those buses that always seem to come three at a time.
In terms of what I’m working on right now, I’m just finishing off the first novel in my contract with St Martins, Glass Town, which is an original fantasy novel in the same kind of vein as Clive Barker’s Weaveworld (for an easy comparison) and when that wraps I’ve got two more big things lined up, Parallel Lines, my debut crime novel with Titan Books in the UK and US (which I think will be out some time around Fall 2016) and Herne the second novel in the St Martins contract. I’ve been approached by Amazon to kick off a very popular Kindle Worlds universe too, which could be interesting, and have some fun short stories coming out soon, including Last Light, which will be in Kevin J Anderson’s 2113 anthology of stories inspired by RUSH.
Which is all a long way of saying Sunside, the second book in the Moonlands universe is a way off yet. My hope is to sit down and write it around Christmas time, if I’m lucky. It’s all mapped out, and I like to think it’s pretty epic. It’s certainly something I’m looking forward to doing. I’d also like to write a second Matt Langley novel at some point. But you know what, I always want to slow down, take 12 months to write a novel, savour the process, not feel the stress of knowing people are waiting and are disappointed that they’re not getting the resolution they want… I write probably 8-10 hours a day, five-six days a week, so I’m not really as productive as it might seem, I just focus very hard on keeping on keeping on.
What five people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Like everyone I’ve got people I admire, but they’re probably not who you’d think. I’d love to sit down with Steve Perryman and Garry Mabbutt for instance – Spurs players, I’m a huge Tottenham Hotspur fan and have been all my life. These two embody everything I love about my club. Neil Peart, the drummer of RUSH, who has lived an incredible life and is part of my favourite band of all time, to talk the craft of words and to listen to stories of cycling across Africa etc. and from the world of movies, I think it’d have to be Cameron Crowe, who is responsible for several of my favourite films of all time. It’s all a bit male, so in the habit of saving the best til last, the fifth guest would have to be Aimee Mann, just because…
Who are the authors that influenced your life the most?
That’s really hard to give a definitive answer to, I guess I owe the most to those who first captivated me as a reader, so it’s several of the names mentioned in that what world would you want to live in question. Off the top of my head, David Eddings, Clive Barker, Jonathan Carroll, Stephen Donaldson, Stephen Gallagher, would be high on that list. Moorcock…
What do you do to lift yourself up when you’re feeling down?
It’s easy to be flippant, and I might have had a really good answer to this one once upon a time, but the truth is, a lot of writers suffer with depression and depressive episodes, and my life pretty much turned upside down seven months ago when my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Diffuse b-cell. He didn’t make it through the chemo, and five weeks ago he died. I’ve been feeling down for something like seven months, properly down, unable to shake the mood that’s taken away my usual smiles and chirpy nature to the point where several times my wife looks at me and just says ‘I know…’ she knows I’m not me at the moment and haven’t been for a long time. I’ve tried the usual things, listening to favourite albums, reading beloved authors, going for walks in glorious countryside, but the truth is something inside me is changing. I’m angry. I’m sad. It’s festering inside me and soon I think I’ll go through some sort of rebirth, coming out the other side transformed by life into whatever the next version of me is going to be. That’s probably a more depressing answer than you were expecting, sorry about that.
If you could claim one book as your own, think fame – not fortune, which book would it be and why?
Weave world. I’ve loved it since I read it when I was 18, and read it again as a 40 year old and loved it even more but in so many different ways. First time it was the staggering imagination, second time it was the fact that every paragraph was packed with beauty and thoughtfulness.
What’s your comfort food?
Mars Bars and Ben & Jerrys… why go against tradition?
How do you want the world to remember you?
Oh, that guy… you know… him… he wrote that book… You know the one? It was really good… what’s his name again?
It was a pleasure having you here today, Steve. I hope we meet again soon!