TIM LEBBON is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. His most recent releases include Coldbrook from Arrow/Hammer, London Eye (book one of the Toxic City trilogy) from Pyr in the USA, Nothing as it Seems from PS Publishing, and The Heretic Land from Orbit. Future novels include Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi (Star Wars) from Del Rey/Star Wars Books, and The Silence. He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Awards. 20th Century Fox acquired film rights to The Secret Journeys of Jack London series, and a TV series of his Toxic City trilogy is in development with ABC Network in the USA. Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to start writing? How did you begin?
Tim Lebbon: I’ve always written, ever since I can remember. Always loved telling stories. Stories make the world go around. As for when I started writing with a view to getting my work published … I think that was with a short story in my early twenties. Writing is a business now as well as a hobby, but I still get that thrill of creation, and a tingle of excitement whenever I get a new deal or see a new book published.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in school? How did you learn your craft?
Tim Lebbon: I’m self-taught. I’m not sure writing can be taught –– good writing, at least –– although it can be nurtured. I never attended a writing class, but learnt through trial and error, writing lots, paying attention to responses (whether acceptances or rejections), and spending a long time finding my own voice.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did you write until your first sale? What was that?
Tim Lebbon: My first short story sale was to Peeping Tom magazine when I was about 25 (I was paid £2.50). My first novel was Mesmer, published by Tanjen when I was 27. I earned a little more for that, but not much more.
SFFWRTCHT: What aspect of London Eye came first? Characters? Plot? Setting?
Tim Lebbon: My ideas come from everywhere, their growth never quite the same. This one … title first. Toxicity is an album by a band called System of a Down. I always loved that title. Turned it into Toxic City, wondered where and what that toxic city could be, realised it might be London, wondered why it would be toxic. Then the story and characters grew out from there. Of course, the whole trilogy is is informed by my love of apocalyptic fiction (both reading and writing it).
SFFWRTCHT: What sort of pre-writing did you do for London Eye? Did you outline?
Tim Lebbon: Only very vaguely, to show my agent and just to provide a platform where I could brainstorm ideas. This project was unusual in that I wrote the first novel on spec (without any publishing deal or publisher interest) and then we sold it afterwards. More usually nowadays I’ll write a proposal, sell it, then write the novel. I rarely outline in any great detail, and when I do the story inevitably changes as I’m writing it. It’s the telling of a story that gives it life, not its planning.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like? Planned time? Grab it when you can?
Tim Lebbon: I write full-time so spend the time when the family are away from home to work. So the kids go to school, my wife goes to work, I write. Sometimes I do some work in the evenings or at weekends, but that’s inevitably non-writing work (could be copyediting one of my books, doing interviews, emails, business, developing ideas…)
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use any special software or music playlist?
Tim Lebbon: I usually listen to music when I’m working, but I’m still a bit retro and use cds.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Tim Lebbon: I don’t believe in it. Some days I might not feel like writing, but that’s not writer’s block, it’s part of the process. Writing a story isn’t like building a wall … you can’t do it all the time. Sometimes you need to step back and see where each brick goes, and those days when maybe you don’t write 2,000 words, or even a thousand, are as much a part of the process as actually hitting the keys.
SFFWRTCHT: What role do beta readers play, if any, in your process as a professional author?
Tim Lebbon: I’ve got one first reader who sometimes gets a new book or story to read before it’s submitted, sometimes not. It all depends on deadlines! He’s really helpful with looking at proposals, seeing if they make sense, if they’re written in a punchy fashion. He’s become a good friend. And his name’s also Tim!
SFFWRTCHT: What advice would you give an up and coming writer?
Tim Lebbon: Read lots, write lots, never give up.
SFFWRTCHT: Are you involved with cons and fandom? Cosplay?
Tim Lebbon:(What’s Cosplay?) Yes, I go to conventions. I never miss the British Fantasy Convention, and I’ve been to World Fantasy and World Horror several times, Horrorfind, Necon… I don’t get to the ‘States quite as much as I used to.
SFFWRTCHT: Where did your love of specfic and urban fantasy in particular begin?
Tim Lebbon:From my early teens I loved Stephen King, James Herbert, Clive Barker, and that love of fantastic fiction has stayed with me. Not everything I read is ‘fantastic’, but maybe 50% still is. Sometimes I think we all need to escape from our world and enter another. It’s healthy.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of your favorite authors/books growing up?
Tim Lebbon:See above. Also, Willard Price and Arthur Machen, two very different writers but great influences on my love of story and language.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you define urban fantasy? Science fiction?
Tim Lebbon: I think definitions and pigeonholing are quite subjective. I never read a book and consider what genre it is … I just go for stuff that piques my interest.
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
Tim Lebbon: The exciting news with Toxic City is that the trilogy is in development with ABC Network as a TV series! Alex Proyas is attached to direct, and Jaime Paglia is writing. That doesn’t mean it’ll definitely be a series, but it’s moving that way. Should know more soon.
As for me, my first Star Wars novel Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void will be out in May, the next two Toxic City books (Reaper’s Legacy and Contagion) are out over the next 12 months, and a new apocalyptic novel, The Silence, will be published in the UK and US early next year.
Michelle Ristuccia writes short fiction of all speculative fiction genres in between chasing her toddler from tree to tree. The shorter the work, the better, because 200 words looks very long on her cellphone and that keypad is very, very small. You can find out more about her rabid love of writing, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com