Author Spotlight Interview: O.R. Simmonds
Today’s interview is with debut author O.R. Simmonds. His time travel thriller, The Timepiece and the Girl Who Went Astray releases later this month and we were honored to chat with Simmonds about his self-publishing journey, writing style and exciting upcoming projects.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
ORS: I’m the author of the upcoming time travel thriller, The Timepiece and the Girl Who Went Astray. I currently work in the games industry but have previously worked as a writer and director for nearly a decade, dreaming up deep, detailed worlds with weaving narratives only for them to be ‘value engineered’ by clients. It was during this time that I decided I no longer wanted to be a frustrated writer and to try to be an actual writer instead.
Now I try to write fast-paced, adventurous stories which throw ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances. I like to keep my stories – even science fiction stories – firmly rooted in reality and inject thrill and mystery at every opportunity.
HG: Fantastic! When did you take the plunge into “author life” and what was the transition like?
ORS: I’ve always been a writer in one form or another, even as a child. I still have a small doodle-covered notebook containing dozens of stories written by my younger self to attest to that (they’re not very good, but then I could have only been 10 or 11 at the time!). However, when it came to writing a full-length novel, it happened gradually and almost by accident.
Several years ago I had been working on a proposal for a point-and-click adventure game that didn’t end up getting made. By the end of that whole process, I had this 200-page game document with a story that I knew would never see the light of day if I didn’t do something about it. So, one day I decided to start writing and a few years later (yes, the first book took quite a lot of re-working and re-writes!) I had finished my debut novel.
HG: What a journey! What has been the most challenging part of your road to publication?
ORS: Where to start! Well, the toughest thing right at the beginning was coming to terms with the fact that I was unlikely to find an agent – at least not for my debut novel – and that I would instead need to self-publish.
After that, the most challenging thing was the steep learning curve to go from new author to book marketing whizz. I found out very quickly that marketing your book really isn’t something you can avoid if you choose to self-publish. The other thing I discovered is that there’s so much more to self-publishing than I had ever imagined, but it has been an enjoyable journey so far, even if it has been tough going at times!
HG: The Timepiece and the Girl Who Went Astray is a time travel thriller releasing on July 30th and available for pre-order now. Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters and what readers will love about this story?
ORS: The story follows William Wells, a gifted but risk-averse US college dropout living an unadventurous life in London, who stumbles upon a mysterious Timepiece with the ability to alter time. Will is an everyman, someone I hope all readers can relate to in some way. He is thrust into a crazy situation that forces him to fight for the ones he loves and to reach his true potential along the way.
Will is aided in his quest by Frenz Belingi, a trustworthy and selfless companion who sees in Will what he fails to see in himself. The bond that grows between these two unlikely friends and Will’s unwavering determination to save the woman he loves is at the heart of the story.
Finally, there’s Abigayle, an intentionally mysterious character and the person who propels Will – and the story – forwards (and sometimes backwards).
HG: Sounds intriguing! How do you come up with character names?
ORS: When I decided to write a time travel story, I knew from fairly early on that I wanted the main character to share his name with the great H.G. Wells (even if Edward Page Mitchell technically wrote the first literary time travel story!). I’m also a sucker for alliteration and have always been fond of the name William.
As for Frenz Belingi, this was a name that I happened to glance at through a car window when honeymooning in the Caribbean many years ago. It was painted on a wall and I only caught a momentary glimpse of it, but from the moment I saw it, I knew that I wanted to explore what kind of character might lay behind that name.
Generally, when it comes to naming characters I try to tread the line between distinctive, memorable names and the everyday. As I touched on earlier, I try to ground my stories in reality, so the idea of having a cast of characters all with outlandish or obscure names just doesn’t fit with that philosophy.
HG: Very thoughtful. If The Timepiece and the Girl Who Went Astray was made into a movie, who would you cast?
ORS: This is an easy one. I’d be surprised if I’m the only author who does this, but I regularly fantasize about the day when Spielberg invites me to lunch to discuss casting! When I wrote the book I always pictured Adam Driver as Will, he can be funny, vulnerable and charismatic all at once. Frenz Belingi’s character and mannerisms were inspired by Lester Freeman from The Wire, so of course, he’d have to be played by the brilliant Clarke Peters. As for Abigayle, she needs to be simultaneously mysterious and conventional, distinctive but familiar. For me, Jessie Buckley would be a dream casting!
HG: Love it! What feeling do you want to leave people with when they finish one of your novels?
ORS: I like readers to feel as though they’ve reached the end of an exhilarating adventure and that while not every loose end has been neatly tied, there’s satisfying closure for this chapter at the very least. There should be a feeling that this part of the story has ended, but there are still enough threads for me to pick up and continue to pull as an author and enough mystery for the reader to wonder about what the future holds for these characters.
HG: That’s fantastic. Switching gears, tell us a little bit about your actual writing process. Did it change during the pandemic? When and where do you write?
ORS: Yes, it did as a matter of fact. Before the pandemic, I had tended to try to get out of the house to write. My brother is the head chef at a lovely café not too far from where I live and I would often ask him to reserve the little round table in the corner for me – the one next to the only working plug socket in the whole place – so that I could sit down with a cup of tea and write. They had patchy WiFi and poor phone service which is a pretty good way to keep you focused. As much as I find people who sit in café’s writing a little pretentious, I actually found the hum of conversation and the isolation of that little round table in the corner quite liberating.
At home, there are often too many distractions and I needed to make more of a concerted effort to shut all of that out. When I do write at home, the evenings are really my only option, which isn’t always easy after a full day’s work and spending time with my two young boys.
Fortunately, I have been able to resume my pre-pandemic writing routine to some degree, as life slowly returns to something approaching normal.
HG: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what’s on your playlist?
ORS: No, I can’t listen to anything like that. Boring, I know! As I mentioned above, I can’t sit in total silence, but a monotonous hum of activity is usually the thing that helps me to focus.
HG: Understandable! What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
ORS: I’m not sure if this counts as a quirk, but I tend to visualize the characters and scenes when I write as if I were watching a movie or playing a cinematic video game. I picture the camera angles, the cuts, the framing, everything. The most common thing I’ve heard from readers of The Timepiece is, “it would make a great film!”, so perhaps this way of visualizing the story has transferred onto the page in some small way?
HG: That’s so interesting. I love that! What do you like to do when not writing?
ORS: When I’m not being a husband and a father, I spend most of my free time voraciously consuming stories, in almost any medium. Like everyone else during the pandemic, I’ve binge-watched countless television shows and movies, but I also read every day, often alternating between novels and graphic novels. I also indulge in my first love: gaming, but lately, I’ve had to become picky about where I invest my time. If it doesn’t have a narrative that I’m fully invested in, then I tend to lose interest pretty quickly.
HG: If you could ask your author idol one question about their writing, writing process, or books, what would it be?
ORS: I’d ask George R. R. Martin to please finish the last two A Song of Ice and Fire books so that I can read them! I’d also ask how – when you’re 3-4 books into a series – do you keep all of the smaller details in check?
HG: Great questions! Before we wrap up, what can you tell us about any projects you have in the works?
ORS: I’ve finished a couple of drafts of my second book and am just making some tweaks to the tone and pacing. This is probably unadvisable for a new author, but it’s quite different to The Timepiece, to the point where I may need to release it under a different pen name altogether, but we’ll see! It’s a darkly humorous thriller about a man who must overcome face blindness to bring a privileged abuser to justice.
The moment that book is tied up, I will continue work on a follow up to The Timepiece. I was determined not to just write a sequel for the sake of it, but I’ve landed on a concept for a follow up which I think readers will love. The outline is written and I can’t wait to resume writing that one in anger!
HG: How exciting! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today! For readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?
ORS: You’re very welcome, and thank you for having me!
The best way to get in contact or to keep up to date with the release of The Timepiece is to visit my official author website. There you can also sign up to my mailing list and connect with me via my various social media channels. I’m most active on Twitter with the handle @o_simmonds.
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