Interview with G R Forrest

What is the story behind 'Tamzin and the Viper'?
This book went through quite a long evolutionary process. I started writing it when I was still doing my A-levels, and in a very real sense it has grown up with me because I finished it (or at least, a full draft of it) while I was at university. As you can probably imagine, writing time had to be fitted into whatever space was available around those educational commitments!
The main character, Tamzin, had been around in my imagination, in various different guises, for a few years before this particular story was even conceived. She eventually became part of what I remember as a ridiculously complex extended story that I had under construction in my late teens, to which the contents of ‘Tamzin and the Viper’ (only vaguely sketched out back then!) were supposed to be the backstory. One day, having got bored of trying to figure out the minutiae of the large-scale story I thought I should be writing, I sat down and penned a very early version of what became the prologue of ‘Tamzin and the Viper’. Before I knew it, I had become inspired by the characters and events, and realised that this was the tale I really wanted to tell.
What are you working on next?
My second book is going to be a sequel, set a few months after the events of ‘Tamzin and the Viper’. Tamzin has travelled south to the coastal town of Ashmin, right on the border of Kazanchutah. There she takes part in the Rain Festival marking the start of the monsoon season, answers a plea for help and uncovers a sinister plot which, if successful, would have catastrophic consequences for the town.
The development time for this one has been much shorter than for ‘Tamzin and the Viper’! When I wrote that first book, I spent a lot of time learning the process of constructing a story, and finding out what would and wouldn’t work in terms of plots and characters. A lot can be learned from books on writing and from other people’s knowledge, but in the end there’s no substitute for just sitting down and trying things out for yourself! Also, for a variety of reasons, my ideas and attitude to life were changing very rapidly at the time I started writing ‘Tamzin and the Viper’, so it took me a while to find a style I was happy with. Of course, the fact that the second time around I already know my main characters very well helps too!
What is your writing process?
I seem to have settled into a rough pattern of forward planning alternating with the organic development of ideas. I start off with a scene in my head, which I’ll write down and then tweak a bit until I’m happy with it, and during that process I usually find myself gaining ideas about where the story could go next. After that I’ll compile a series of questions relating to how the developing story is going to work on a practical level: which characters need to know what and when, what provokes somebody to act in a certain way, how the timescale is going to work and so on. Once I’ve answered at least some of those practical questions I’ll move on with the narrative, which will provoke more new ideas and also sometimes uncover pitfalls in my original planning. I tend to end up with a general ‘road map’ of where the story is going, with the main points of action and character motivations marked out along the way, but I seldom plan each individual chapter in detail before sitting down to write it. I used to try, but something extra or different would always creep in regardless!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting ideas to slot neatly into place, of getting dialogue to sparkle and flow, or of suddenly having a new scene or character jump out at me so vividly that I find myself being swept up in the flow of the story, and laughing, crying or whatever along with it! In all three of those cases it can often take quite a while to arrive at that point, re-writing and fine-tuning or staring into space for days on end while trying to work out exactly how this bit of the story is supposed to go until, all at once, the answer is obvious.
Very occasionally, one of these glittering little nuggets will drop out of the sky straight into my lap, fully formed, before I even know I’m looking for it, but for the most part it’s my job to hunt them down for myself!
What do you read for pleasure?
If I’m reading purely for pleasure, nine times out of ten it will be fantasy fiction. The idea of being able to slip away and go exploring in an alternative world has a perpetual attraction for me. Cliché though it may be, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ made a huge impact on me when I first read it and saw the films in my early-mid teens. Then, at around the same time, a friend introduced me to the work of Terry Pratchett and I quickly became hooked on the Discworld series. The warmth, humanity and sheer intelligence of Pratchett’s writing make every book sparkle and he remains to this day my literary hero. More recently, two authors whose work I particularly enjoyed are Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson: the worlds and plots created by both are richly detailed and full of well-realised characters. I’m also a fan of a number of authors who write primarily for children and teenagers, including Brian Jacques, Philip Pullman, Frances Hardinge and Michael Hoeye.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I did most of my growing up in a small town in Derbyshire, surrounded by huge hills and cliffs - a beautiful and dramatic landscape. My imagination used to populate the countryside with fictional characters, both those taken from books and films, and those of my own creation. To the child I was then, the open spaces seemed so vast that there might be anything out there!
It was also a safe area, for the most part, so as I got a bit older I tended to go out wandering by myself. That and the fact that I was an only child gave me plenty of mental space to daydream, and I certainly needed no other encouragement!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The opportunities that this mode of publishing offers. If you take advantage of all of the services which are available to help produce and distribute your book, you can have a reach which is comparable to that of traditional publishing, which is fantastic! Of course, the other big advantage is that you can do everything on your own terms. I won’t say that that same independence doesn’t have its challenges (it does!), but I’ve learned a lot about how the e-book industry works, and about the mechanics of producing an e-book, in the process of getting my first one out there.
Describe your desk.
Wherever I happen to be when I’m writing! As I started writing while I was still at school, I got into the habit of always carrying my notebook with me and fitting in as much wordsmithing as I could, whenever I could. That habit persisted all the way through university too. After I graduated the notebook was replaced with a netbook, and I still write whenever and wherever I can: the corners of pubs while my partner does his sound engineering work, the decommissioned boiler room at my workplace (no, really – it’s quite cosy!), the local library and, of course, those favourite writers’ haunts: cafes!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Music is the other big occupation in my life: I play keyboards and sing, and at any given time am usually trying to learn at least one other instrument as well... I spend a lot of time listening to music too. I’ll try anything once and my CD collection ranges from film soundtracks and musical theatre to indie rock, disco, world music and metal!
I also enjoy sewing, especially in the context of creating costumes. I first dipped my toes into the colourful world of fandom and conventions a few years ago, and quickly became hooked: there’s a wonderful, instant sense of camaraderie to be found wherever people meet together dressed as fictional characters.
Published 2014-10-06.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Tamzin and the Viper
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 80,210. Language: English. Published: July 20, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
The unlikely hero always wins through in the end, so they say. Except, not always. As the Chaskandrah City Council fights to quell the unrest caused by the infamous Viper Shanathan gang, a conflict unfolds between two people who have both failed in their bids to defy tradition: one who is struggling to fit back into a normal life, and one who has spectacularly refused to let go of old resentments.