He’s a globe trotter and journalist with a taste for steampunk, creating worlds we cannot see but fervently seek. Please welcome to the blog author Henry Anderson.
Congratulations on releasing your first novel, THE MOUTH. How does it feel?
Thanks for having me on A.B. It feels fantastic – I can now look people in the eye and say I’m an author. My words have somehow escaped out into the wild!
Can you give us an excerpt?
When sixteen-year-old Jack’s home town is burned down and his family killed, his only chance of survival is to travel through a dangerous device called “The Mouth” that opens doors into other worlds.
He must do the impossible – find the world that gave his enemies their extraordinary power and travel to a mythical place known simply as “The Maximum.
The Mouth is a gritty science-fantasy adventure story about hope, resolve and finding the courage to carry on fighting even when all seems lost.
From Chapter One:
The forest was a dark line ahead of them.
Badger disappeared into the woods.
A bullet smacked into a window frame by Jack’s feet. He climbed up a heap of rubble and jumped into the treeline.
Birch saplings broke his fall.
Soon he was sprinting amongst the old, broad- leaved trees of the Weald.
The noise behind him died away. His boots crunched on frozen leaf mould.
Two notes from a horn sounded in the air.
Badger stepped out from behind the bulbous trunk of an old beech tree.
“What was that?” said Jack.
Sweat steamed from Badger’s hair. He said, “They won’t want to do us straight off. Those fellers like to take their time.”
“What can we do?”
“When I was a kid, my old man used to lay something on the ground to put them off the scent, like wild garlic. Or a blood trail. The dogs like blood, you see.”
Jack pulled a string necklace out of his jumper. A key hung from it.
“I know a place near here where we can hide,” he said.
I’m intrigued by steampunk. Can you define it for us and tell us what draws you to this genre?
I’m currently writing some short stories that are a bit steampunk. I grew up reading the science fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells – their adventure stories had steam-powered machines and unfeasibly large dirigibles. Steampunk seems to look back to nineteenth-century science fiction – and fashion. It also allows some of the prejudices of that time to be scrutinized and possibly opposed. Sometimes there are top hats – and corsets.
As an army kid, you grew up with your bags packed. How did this experience impact your fiction?
As a writer and reader I think a sense of place in fiction is important. Not just landscape and geography but people’s character as well. It doesn’t even have to be a “real” place. In “The Mouth” I’ve tried to create fully-realised worlds that feel as authentic as the real world (which is also in the novel). Back to the question – growing up we moved around a lot – including foreign countries so I don’t really have deep roots. Maybe I’m now over-compensating.
You also worked the news a reporter in the UK. Is the axiom true? Is reality stranger than fiction?
I’m not sure about stranger – I think real life is often a bit more random than fiction. Fiction is quite structured.
I think reporting can be good training though. Daniel Defoe wrote “Robinson Crusoe” after a long career in journalism. The book was initially presented as a true story. It reads like classic reportage. An older journalist told me early on in my career that when reporting you should always be on the lookout for the “telling detail”. Defoe had no experience of being shipwrecked or marooned but the book is full of thousands of telling details – all invented. It feels authentic.
Also, journalism is similar to fiction in that it’s about capturing people’s attention and then keeping them interested enough to get to the end of your story.
The battle to triumph over extreme challenges is a primary theme in your work. What other subtexts are at play? Do these run through all of your written work?
I think it’s good to defy the fates sometimes! Maybe some of the triumph-over-adversity tropes are wishful thinking on my part. I have had a few challenging life events which I have struggled to triumph over. Sometimes we are at the mercy of forces we can’t control. I think it’s good to be defiant. Sometimes when the shit hits the fan it’s the only thing you have left.
On a larger scale I think it’s also incumbent on people to try and make society better and fairer. I also think politically we should confront bad behaviour and hold it to account. Maybe fiction can help with that.
THE MOUTH, in some ways, reminds me of Python Terry Gilliam’s TIME BANDITS. What are some of your key influences?
I love that film! Travelling between worlds is such an exciting idea. The guys in that film have a map to help find openings between worlds which the character in my book doesn’t. “Time Bandits” probably is an influence subconsciously. The idea of escaping into different fictional worlds has always appealed to me. I liked the episode of Star Trek where Kirk and his away team are transported to a parallel dimension where the federation is an evil empire and the crew’s counterparts are barbarians. I was quite taken with Michael Moorcock’s “Warlord of the Air” where the hero wakes up in a parallel world still ruled by empires – allowing the author to explore themes of colonialism and imperialism.
Superhero movies: High art, or strictly for kids?
There was a time when comics were for kids. Graphic novels like “Watchmen”, “Maus” and “The Dark Night Rises” changed that in the 80s. I generally find it difficult to differentiate between “high” and “low” art. I contend it takes just as much skill to write a successful comic strip as it does to write a “literary” novel.
And the WIP?
I’m currently writing an urban fantasy about a police officer who encounters some strange events during a robbery investigation. I’m also trying to write some steampunkish short stories.
Facebook author page: fb.me/henryandersonauthor
Author Page: http://author.to/henryanderson
The Mouth : http://mybook.to/themouth
Thank you for joining us, Henry, and best of luck with the short stories.