Cementum – interview with Richard

You cannot imagine how enjoy doing those interviews! I not only learn more about people I work with but more and more look up to them – their ideas are brilliant!

Here’s one I did with Richard, author of Cementum, blog based around his project of writing a sci-fi novel. Here you go:

Syl: Your blog, Cementum, is describing the process and your experiences during the writing of your book. What inspired you to start the blog? What is its aim?
Rich: Well, I’ve been blogging for a number of years now about various subjects. Prior to starting to blog about my novel, I was blogging about technology, and as much as I enjoyed it I found I just didn’t have the time to do both, i.e. blog regularly and write a novel. So I decided to combine my two passions and blog about writing a novel, including some tips, try and join the aspiring novelist community online, get involved and have some fun with it, and it’s been great so far. Lots of feedback, always constructive, always interesting.
The aim was to just talk about my novel writing experience, add some tips in there on the experience I have had and possibly get some feedback. Since I decided I am going to try and get it published, however, I’ve ‘upgraded’ the reason for doing it, to self-promotion as well, so as well as joining the conversation and community around novel writing, I wouldn’t mind a bit of traffic these days as well.

Syl: What is your book about? When did you start thinking about writing it and what made you want to publish it too?
Rich: The book revolves around my own personal fatalistic beliefs and tries to explore how they work, why I believe in them and how I can explain them. It’s done through the medium of science fiction and, at its basis, tries to show how you can believe in Fate, without having to believe in a Sky Wizard (read God), I know it’s a contradiction, but that’s what I enjoy doing, challenging myself. Taking two opposing views, smashing them together and seeing what comes out the other end.
I hadn’t thought about publishing it until I got a few of my peers to read some of my first chapters, just to see if it made sense really. They came back with shining praise again and again so I thought, well why the hell not try to get it published. It’s a very personal book, very exploratory, raises some deep philosophical questions about the inner self and society as a whole, but it’s definitely readable, and after some revisions, I think could do pretty well.

Syl: What was the main challenge while writing the book? What is your favourite part of it?
Rich: Sometimes I sit down and have this stream of consciousness whilst writing, it’s called surrealist or automatic writing, where your brain just pumps out ideas and prose, without any real thought or structure. That’s the best part, just letting my imagination literally run free and turn ideas into words. It’s brilliant. The most challenging part is exploring my personal beliefs, my own belief system is complex and full of contradiction, arguing with myself about it and why I believe in it is very difficult. Putting the words on the paper isn’t a problem.

Syl: How does a book writing differ from blogging? What are the similarities?
Rich: Novel writing and blogging can be compared on one level I think; that you’re often putting yourself out there for others to read and praise or criticize, whether intentional or not. You’re bearing yourself to the world, so to speak.
A novel will always give a real insight to the author, and similarly a blog will always give you an insight to the writer. But similarly, you can get authors that ‘write by the numbers’ like Danielle Steel, that just pumps out romance novels to a certain structure, in the same sense, blogs can be purely informational blogs that don’t really show what the writer is all about. However, given that the author, or blog writer, has chosen to write about romance, or tech, or whatever, you can always get a little bit of info on them by the subject they chose.

Syl: If you were to choose, which one would you prefer?:)
Rich: VERY difficult question. What if I take, blogging a novel? Like each post is another chapter or paragraph or something like that, I’ve seen them around. I’ll go with that, it’s cheating a little I guess but I get to embrace both of my passions then!

Syl: Going back to your blog – you have a very strong presence online. Does this presence influence your life and/or vice versa?
Rich: My presence online has influenced my life for a number of years now, since I went to my first ‘geek meet’ about seven years ago now. I remember it well, a bunch of us hired out an internet café for 24 hours, and generally drank and geeked out for that period. Since then, my online life and real life have been a blur, just the other day I went to a stag do of a friend who I’ve known for 8 years, we first crossed paths in a gaming forum, now we’re good pals, crazy really.
Now everyone is jumping online with the explosion in social networking, which isn’t a bad thing, but I generally like to keep ahead of the curve. I like to get involved in all the latest technologies to get to know new and interesting people.

Syl: There is a lot of discussions recently about blogging dying out. Do you agree?
Rich: I don’t see blogging dying out, I see it getting diluted as more and more people get involved, and I see it getting rubbished as more and more companies/money grabbers try to take advantage of it. Blogging is here to stay, just how much people trust it and the people who blog, is the real question. 4 years ago if you saw a blogger, you’d instantly trust that was a person without an alternate agenda, now you have to take your time when hitting a new blog to see who the person is, what they’re trying to sell, what ideas they’re trying to get you to read etc.

Syl: What about more traditional genres – novels, traditional letter writing, printed books (as opposed to e-books), do you think we will gradually move away from those?
Rich: They’ll always be around, just in more limited forms. I occasionally like writing letters to people I’ve not spoken to in a long time. With the advent of E-Ink, e-readers are becoming a lot more popular and easy on the eyes, books will always be around though unless the green lobby gets its way of course~!

Syl: You live in Oxford now – what is your favourite place in Oxford for writing?
Rich: definitely G&D’s cafe on Cowley road. It’s nicely lit, it’s got a good atmosphere, they do great bagels and brownies, it’s independently owned, it has free wifi and loads of power sockets and the ice cream is awesome. I’d say I’ve written at least 50k words in there in the last 8 months. The staff are really nice as well!

Syl: You have seen our new project, Bar Mleczny, and already gave us few tips. Do you think one day you would like to sit down in our Milk Bar and meet few Polish readers of your book?:)
Rich: Yeah absolutely, I’d love to go to a milk bar, I adore milk always have, so writing with a big glass of fresh milk sounds like a great idea to me. The polish contingent wouldn’t be too bad either! Hehe.

Syl: Have you ever been to Poland? If so, what was your best and worst memory of it?
Rich: I haven’t, although I’ve planned on going a number of times! I’ve had a lot of polish friends whilst working in the states over summer months of old and I get along with the polish very well. I think it’s the hard working attitude, the love of drink and a good time, their impassioned nature and consummate humility that I see in a lot of the Polish people I meet that I enjoy about them. They’re very much like the Scottish, and being half Scottish myself I can see why we get along. I’ll get to Poland one day, when, I’m not sure, but some day!

Syl: Bar Mleczny is all about culture and food. What is your favourite dish? Do you cook yourself?
Rich: I try to cook every night, I love it, I find the process very cathartic and love having produced a tasty meal at the end of it. I really enjoy cooking a nice curry, Indian or Thai, my spice and sauce cupboard is always full of hot and tasty things!

Syl: When I say ‘Polish food/drink’ what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Rich: Vodka and erm, Vodka! The polish guys and girls I’ve hung around with in the past have always enjoyed introducing me to very nice native vodka’s, which I’ve always encouraged. In terms of food, I’m not sure, I think I’ve had a polish dish cooked for me once or twice when working with the Pols, but I can’t remember what it was, it was a good few years ago now and I’m fairly sure I would have been drunk at the time of eating as well!

Syl: Just last question about your book (2 q’s:): when can we expect the book in stores? Will you continue blogging to promote it then?
Rich: In stores?! Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here! But seeing as you asked, I’ll go with the ‘dream’ scenario, which is basically; Finished in the next few weeks, revisions up until Christmas, submissions in the new year, get a publisher by the end of the first quarter, sign contract, marketing, printing and release late 2009. Though like I said, that’s the ‘dream’ scenario and is highly unlikely. And yeah, I plan on building Cementum as a platform for discussion and exploration on all the novels I write in the future, and as a place, aspiring novelists can use as a resource for tips and advice. So you’ll see it around for a good while yet!


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