Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Interview with Tim Lebbon

Joining me for today's interview is dark fantasy and horror writer Tim Lebbon. My first book by Tim Lebbon was the Dusk/Dawn duology, and I remember enjoying the mix of horror and fantasy. The first encounter with the Red Monks was nail-biting. The last book I read (and reviewed) by Tim Lebbon was Echo City, which is another good example of his innovative world building, and knack for adding a dash of horror to a fantasy novel.

For more information about Time Lebbon visit his website and/or follow him on Twitter, @timlebbon.

Firstly, many thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. To kick things off, could you tell me a little about yourself and your work, and why you chose fantasy/horror as your genre?
I didn't really choose fantasy and horror, it's just the way my writing turns out.  Dark, fantastical, virtually everything I've ever written has been out of the ordinary.  I don't spend too much time analysing why.  To use an old saying of my grandmother, it's just the way my parents put my hat on.

When did you start writing? Is it something you have always been doing? Were there any books you read as a child that inspired you to take up writing?
I started writing as soon as I could pick up a pencil or pen and make up stories.  I've always loved it, from a very early age.  I'd write stories in school exercise books, then in my teens I started writing longer novels.  I read voraciously as a child –– more than I do now –– and I think I'd name the Willard Price Adventure novels as inspirations for my childhood self.  They weren't supernatural, but were hugely imagination adventure novels.

 Could you tell us more about your writing routine? When is the best time for you, are there any rituals involved, favorite pen, writing robe, lucky eraser?
My routine is built around my family, and my kids' school times.  So I start after my wife and kids have left the house, and usually finish when they all come home.  Sometimes I'll work in the evenings too, but that's rarely actual writing––calls, planning, emailing, plotting, editing.  I have an office at home, but enjoy working in different places on my laptop.  Other than that, there are no rituals as such.  I sometimes write to music, and I'm busy expanding my music library to try and find music that fits better.

Did moving back to the country change anything with your writing? All those jogs up and down the mountain help with inspiration?
That's not why we moved to the country, but there's no doubt that it helps, in countless ways.  And yes, since I've started a lot more exercise outside, I think it's benefitted my writing.  I have less time to write now because of the running and cycling etc, but the time I do have is far more concentrated and intense.  For me, there's no doubt that a fitter body means a fitter mind.  It increases enthusiasm, energy levels, and can see away the blues.

What is your favorite single malt?
Actually I'm a Jamesons's fan.

We recently met at a book signing at Forbidden Planet and I’m quite pleased to say you signed a copy of Echo City for me. Do you do a lot of interacting with your fans? What is your favorite way of doing just that?
I love doing signings, and it's only now that my work is starting to be published in the UK that I'll be able to do more of them.  I'm always open to email communication, and I love hearing from readers who have enjoyed my work.  

Echo City felt so detailed, not just the city, but also the politics, its past and its legends. Where do you keep it all? Is your study littered with maps and diagrams?
There are lots of notes, and yes, maps.  Usually it's all in my head when I'm working on a particular novel, and with something like Echo City there are lots of notes about forthcoming chapters, and files with details about flora and fauna, religions, politics etc.  Especially with these large scale fantasy novels, I always know more about the worlds than makes it into the books.  That's the best way to make it feel real.

What is the best piece of writing advice ever given to you, and do you follow it?
I can't recall any single piece of advice, but I've probably incorporated all manner of advice into my writing processes––write what you love; write through problem areas and fix them later; be aware of the details heading into a contract.  One that I stick to, and frequently give out to other people, is that writer's block is part of the creative process.  Don't get too hung up on it.

I often hear that characters have their own will and sometimes even surprise the author. Is this something that you have experienced?
Yes, occasionally a character will lead their own way.  One of my characters went and got himself shot without me expecting it to happen, and that changed the whole novel.  Obviously if something happens that's to the detriment of the book, there's always that 'backspace' key!  They don't really have a mind of their own .... but it's good when the story builds itself in unexpected ways as you write.  I always say that I love reaching the end of writing a novel because I want to know what happens!

Echo City is a book with a lot of strong female characters. Do you draw inspiration from people around you when writing a female character, or is gender something you don’t really think of much when writing a character?
I love writing female characters.  I think I do it okay, and it always pleases me when someone comments about my novels having strong female characters.  You can't write a novel with just men taking the lead.  Of course gender is something I think about when coming up with my characters.

Echo City is another book by you set in a very harsh and unforgiving world. Am I imagining things or do you favor this kind of settings for your books?
Well ... I am pretty grim.  Especially with my fantasy novels, I love setting stories in worlds in a state of flux, it makes the story more exciting and give the book an emotional wallop––the characters are
 already facing change when they first appear.  I love apocalyptic stories for the same reason, and that love has crept into my fantasy novels as well.  It's the change that fascinates me––how humanity deals with alterations from the norm.

What books are you currently reading and are there any must reads you would like to recommend?
I'm reading the Stephen Fry autobiography Moab is my Washpot, and the novel Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.  Must reads?  Millions of them...  Try China Mieville, Dan Simmons, Joe R Lansdale.  Check out Rob Shearman's short story collection, or Paul Meloy's.  World War Z is a great zombie
 novel.  Christopher Hitchens is fascinating.  There are many more!

Most importantly, are you working on something at the moment?
Always!  At the moment it's the third Jack London novel with Christopher Golden, revisions on a new fantasy novel for Orbit, edits on my big zombie SF novel Coldbrook.  I'm also about to start work on a major new project with a good friend in the USA that I can't tell you anything about (infuriating, eh?).  I've written a screenplay that I want to spend some more time on, and I'm also writing a new novella and finishing off a collection for PS Publishing.  And there's probably more I'm forgetting right now ....

Thank you Tim for your time and effort.


  1. Great interview. Makes me want to go off and buy Echo City. In fact...Yep, just bought it from Amazon.

  2. @Mark - Great, hope you like it :) Pint on me otherwise.