Interview with Don Langdon

Published 2020-01-13.
What is your writing process?
I think this question is more about what is my creative process rather than writing which is mechanical. The story is always created in my head if it stays in my head and continues to develop I know it is viable for me to start physically writing. I have to have fun when writing a story as that way I figure that the reader will also get some fun out of it and enjoy the experience.
Once it has all exploded in my face it is then time to get rough and pluck the main story out, with a couple of the more outlandish sub stories. Having selected these I then get down to weaving the yarns into a single multi-coloured fabric that is hopefully as attractive to others as it is to me.
The acid test comes when I get someone to read it professionally and then take into account their opinion. So ends the honeymoon period and I have to get serious about keeping the story on the straight and narrow by pruning out some more subplots and characters.
The trouble is that in life every story has a story behind it and I have got this fractal that I’m creating all on its own.
Do you remember the first story you ever read that had impact on you?
It was not so much that I read the story but it was back in that English lesson where once a week the teacher would read to us, presumably so we could hear what fine prose sounded like. It was winter and getting dark outside on the last lesson of the week. The classroom was warm and over the ensuing weeks the teacher read us the Hobbit by JR Tolkien. It was captivating when he read it and fired my imagination into the realms of fiction where one could put yourself into a situation and figure out how to solve the problems.
My career as a scientist meant I was always being asked to solve problems and if possible invent something new to overcome current barriers. Creating things is what I enjoy and the Hobbit certainly made me aware of the fascinating world beyond my parochial outlook.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything that intrigues me and can keep my attention on the first page of the story.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
What only 5! I don’t normally restrict myself or rate books against one another I tend to take them on their merit. Is Lord of the Rings a book or 3 books? Do I just read one of the Heinlein’s Dune books and forget the others? Azimov’s world of positronic brains and the three laws of robotics, amazing stuff and we still use the stem of the Slavic verb robota meaning to work. The Disc world of Terry Pratchett, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, James Herriot recounting his life and times as a Yorkshire Dale’s vet and of course Agatha Christie’s fine array of sleuths.
Please note I am not answering the question just prevaricating. If I base it upon which books I have read the most often over the years I would estimate and nominate in no particular order and excluding text books:
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett because it introduced me to his works and that crazy place the Disc world. I am not a fan of the films that have been made of his books as they tend to be Gothic Victorian whereas I view them as being medieval comical parodies.
‘Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’ by Agatha Christie with a flurry of new amateur detectives set in an era never to be seen again. The suspense of waiting for Poirot or Miss Marples to leap out of the woodwork and solve it all just adds to it.
Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor (a.k.a. for tax purposes as Rob Grants and Doug Naylor) an extrapolation of the unlikely with a probable human response to a situation created by a depressed computer, an egocentric hologram, a cat and the re-jigged admirable Creighton.
Lord of the Rings by JRRTolkien, the book not the film, I enjoy the original storylines especially Tom Bombadil and Glorfindel. I read it as a student and loved Tyrannosaurus Rex’s interpretations. Since then I have read it again and I also read it to my children.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams a masterpiece of hilariously funny hypothesis woven into an improbably plausible story.
How do you approach cover design?
Badly according to Mark Coker’s doctrine of ‘get a professional to do it for you’. You have seen my attempt tell me what you think. Should I have asked a professional or does it catch the eye and capture your attention long enough for you to want to look further into the book?
Describe your desk
I think it is a typical computer desk set up though I must admit I doubt if there is anything that can be described as typical these days. All things come with options and every year a new model is put on the market for no apparent reason other than to say here is the new model.
What is on the desk? Probably much the same as anyone else who has had a working life sitting at a keyboard: memory sticks (sometimes called flash drives or USBs or thumb drives), scraps of paper with notes of things you have to do, pens to write the said notes with and paper to write them on.
The one thing that might be considered slightly different is the presence of an English dictionary. It is amazing as to what words mean and what people think they should mean.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My early childhood was in Plymouth which was in the grip of the post-war rebuilding phase part of which was to condemn the house whose basement we had lived in as a slum. Calling it the basement, on reflection, is a misnomer. It was definitely below street level but it was at garden level. The garden was communal for all the tenants, most of whom were family i.e. great Uncle George, my maternal grandparents, Uncle Jack and a spinster who was not a family member.
If location is everything in real estate then this was probably nothing. The house faced on to the main road out of Plymouth to the county’s capital, Exeter. On one side was a dairy and bottling plant, at the back, was a large building material supplier’s yard. If we went upstairs to look out the front window you could see the railway yards behind the bombed housing sites.
Did any of this affect my writing? Not really. Years later we moved to the relative country side of Plymstock where things like cattle and woodlands definitely have entered into my writing.
When did you first start writing?
Pre Dot Blue Moon was first outlined in 2008 and started to be handwritten in a notebook later that year. Black Saturday put a dent in writing and then I restarted the story on my lap top. Consulting work then entered a hectic phase which basically meant writing became a luxury I could not afford so it was put on the back burner.
As luck would have it one consultancy customer turned into a full time job and the first draft was edited by my lovely wife, who hates science fiction. Corrections all in place with some good tips, the title changed, etc. it was offered to various publishers but to no avail.
I needed help. I joined Writers Victoria and had the manuscript professionally assessed. A year later the manuscript was ready thanks to U3A e-publishing, new software (Scrivener), and Smashwords fantastic self-help tutorials.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Pre Dot Blue Moon takes a look at how people respond to situations and why people are upset by the polarisation of power brokers. Passionate ideology and change for change sake do not auger well for the average person. A minority might love it and that is usually enough to swing a polarised political system one way or the other and so ultimately it is the minority rather than the majority that rule. The outcome of which is the apathy and disenfranchisement that leads to revolt.
Take this scenario and drop a bunch of nosy do-gooder aliens in and ask them to sort it out and you have the background as to what prompted the Skuide to set up Dukiesland before they officially arrive. What is their plan and what do they hope to achieve you will have to wait and see. All we know to date is that they have achieved the survival of Gabriel Galesac. Why is that important?
Pre Dot New Moon is the second book in the series and is going to be a little bit more out and about.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The freedom to express oneself and to be able to invent something enjoyable.
What are you working on next?
Book 2 in the series which is called the Pre Dot New Moon.
Who are your favorite authors?
The inventors and mystery writers who have a flare for a touch of dramatic comedy about them.
Would you, as the police, allow a non-police detective to call all the murder suspects into a room so that he/she may reveal the real culprit? One look at the invitation would be enough to send any real villain into hiding. It’s hilarious but adds to a great story of hidden clues and deductions.
Heinlein, Pratchett and Tolkien set up their worlds and systems in great detail with a plethora of characters and sub plots in each and every book. Something you can really get immersed in. There was no thought of reducing their works to fit in with what was considered the size a book should be. They told their stories their way.
Stretch your imagination put in some outlandish plots and rewrite all the scientific rules and you might reach Douglas Adams brainstorming levity. Mice had the planet Earth built as a computer to solve the answer to everything which turns out to be 42. Brilliant!
Durrell and Herriot recount their life and times in a light comical way belaying all the hardships and difficulties they went through. Real people like them writing it all up for us to enjoy, incredible. Their journeys through life are inspirational and not full of malice and darkness. To them, life is all about highlighting the lightness and joy whenever they could.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Undoubtedly not as we churned out the prescribed, “What we did on our holidays,” and other such inspiring topics while the primary school teacher recovered from her holiday and thought of what to do next with a class of 70 kids. (Two grades per classroom and one teacher per room.)
I do remember one story I wrote at what is now called high school and that was over 50 years ago. We were given the task to write an essay about something in the future. I wrote a comedy about undersea farming. It was the first time the English teacher wrote some encouraging comments on my efforts with regards to his subject, it was not the last time. He enjoyed the story so much that he read it to the class instead of the gawky shy pipsqueak who had written it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
So many things to see and do and not enough time to do them all is a common complaint but not for me. When I am not bashing away on a keyboard I love to go walking in the countryside. Not difficult as we live in the country and our trusty collie loves her walks, local and not so local.
We have a garden and gardening is complicated. One thing you need where we live is an irrigation system which doesn’t use your drinking water. So we have two irrigation systems, one runs on bore water from an underground aquifer and the other utilises our sewage treatment plant’s output.
Mountain soil is not all that high in nutrients so you constantly have to top them up so composting, mulching and manuring are required. Now that we have created the right environment to grow plants we have to protect them from the marauding wildlife, e.g. rabbits, birds, wombats, our pet collie and bugs. For the larger pest, we use nets to protect our fruit trees and vegetables. For the smaller ones, it is a case of identifying and using pyrethrin or something similar. This hobby makes another hobby called preserving.
Travel has been a large part of our lives and we can now enjoy doing it at a rather leisurely pace rather than as business travellers. If you travel for work you know what I mean, early start, catch a plane. Arrive somewhere many hours later in their early morning, in a different time zone and in a different season. Get to the hotel where you cannot book in until 2:00pm but you can answer the phone and do your email. With luck, you may get a few hours sleep before you start doing business the next day. A few days later, usually the weekend, you get on a plane and fly either to another business venue or home. Someone asks you, ‘What sights did you see?’ Your answer to which is you saw the office site, the factory site, the plant site, the laboratory site, etc.
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Books by This Author

Pre Dot New Moon
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 127,230. Language: English. Published: January 4, 2020. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
WARNING! Apoplexy is hard to live with, try laughter. If you are not of the professionally offended persuasion, you will enjoy laughing with the Skuide as they try to help some planet dwellers achieve peace, happiness and freedom (must be all three). The totalitarian Duffers declare war, but why steal Warden’s football? The Drug Cartel wants hooch nuts and tiddly tea. Their zombies want revenge!
Pre Dot Blue Moon
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 119,160. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Science fiction » General
Have a politically incorrect stomp on an alien world. The voluntary (OK, ‘Shanghaied’) Skuide force nearly arrive but opt to do a straw poll. Those results give rise to Dukiesland, their pre arrival colony. They are not human but are they just and incorruptible. How do three people disappear from Dock’s hospital? Why is this glade protected? Who is shooting at who and why? Patriotism or drugs…