Please welcome indie author Clive S Johnson

Author Bio:

Clive was born in the mid-1950s in Bradford, in what was then the West Riding of the English county of Yorkshire. Mid-way through the 1970s he found himself lured away by the bright lights of Manchester to attend Salford University.

In addition to getting a degree in electronics, he also had the good fortune of meeting Maureen (Kit) Medley - subsequently his partner and recent Editor. Manchester retained its lure and has thereafter been his hometown.

Torn between the arts (a natural and easy artist) and the sciences (struggled with maths), youthful rationality favoured science as a living, leaving art as a pastime pleasure. Consequently, after graduation, twenty years were spent implementing technologies for mainframe computer design and manufacture, and being a Group IT Manager for an international print company.

The catalyst of a corporate takeover led to a change of career, and the down-sizing opportunity to return to the arts. The unearthing of a late seventies manuscript - during loft improvements - resurrected an interest in storytelling, and one thing led to another. A naïve and inexpert seed finally received benefit of mature loam, and from it Leiyatel's Embrace eventually blossomed.

Book title:

The Dica Series currently includes:

Leiyatel’s Embrace

Of Weft and Weave

Last True World

Cold Angel Days

Brief Synopsis:

Four volumes of mystery, all set within the exquisitely realised fantasy realm of Dica, but a realm without magic or dragons, without orcs or elves.  At its heart is an epic science fiction story spanning the millennia - from ancient myth and legend to the realm’s last dying days - all seen through the intimate vision of its idiosyncratic characters.  These are, though, folk who’ll become as real to you as friends or family, and whose revealing story will stay with you forevermore.


What do you do to relax when you are not writing?

Recently I’ve taken to doing editing and proofreading services for other authors, so that fills some of the time.  I also still write and paint, although not as much as I used to.  You can see some of my drawing as chapter headers in all my books bar the first, Leiyatel’s Embrace.  Other than that, Kit and myself do a fair bit of walking, often around National Trust lands and properties - we’ve been members for donkey’s years. We used to do a lot of motorbike rides but the change in the climate made me take the bike off the road a few years ago.  It wasn’t worth the cost, more’s the pity.

What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?  

A love of reading and being naturally creative is probably the answer, although I can’t be sure.  As some may know already, a vividly imagined world grew in my mind when I was in my late teens, one I tried to capture in drawings and paintings, but I soon found the word a better medium for addressing the complexity and richness it held.

Current work

What or who inspired you to write your current novel?

My latest, Cold Angel Days, was inspired by my previous book, Last True World.  It’s the same with all my works.  There’s always something in each that begs the next, and usually a single paragraph somewhere that tells me exactly what it’s about.

Tell us three interesting facts about your book which are not covered in the synopsis.

1) Leiyatel’s Embrace has a few characters who are the same person, but in different guises, in other parts of the story, separated by long stretches of time.

2) Of Weft and Weave covers the exact same period as covered in Leiyatel’s Embrace, with most of the same characters, but is a totally different yet related story.

3) Leiyatel, the central theme to all my books, is nothing more than a quantum machine.

What research did you need to do for this book?

I don’t do a vast amount of research, only really to check exact facts about devices and the science I use in the plots.

Are any elements/characters of your book based on real life experiences or people you’ve met/known?

All of it, but clearly not directly.  What can you write but what you know?  Nobody should go looking for themselves, though, for it’s only elements that I use, facets of places and people I know, or have seen or met.

Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress.

Ha!  I can’t, it’s a Mystery.  Sorry.  No, seriously, because of the mystery nature of all my books, it is hard giving much away.  My works are all so tightly integrated around the various mysteries that it would seriously spoil them to say too much.  It’s a bit of a problem because it severely inhibits their promotion. The same thing happens to people who review them, they can’t really divulge much about the plots.

What I can say is that Prescinda, the protagonist in Cold Angel Days, is again the protagonist in my next book.  She’s a great character, one who’s gone down really well with readers.  The best I can reveal is that she’s involved in investigating something far beyond the Realm of Dica, but enough said.

Writing/publication process

What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?  

Oh struth!  Now, there’s a hard question.  Perhaps I ought to answer it in light of my last published work, Cold Angel Days, and how I’m tackling my next.  Over the five books I’ve refined my writing process until I now write and edit each chapter almost to its final form.  It helps that I live with my editor.

I know roughly where the story’s going, but always leave myself completely open to the tale telling itself. So, I really spend most of my effort getting the words to tell the tale accurately, and in as easy and pleasant a way as possible.  Really, the story mostly takes care of itself.

I’m a very logical writer, tightly constrained by the story’s own internal logic, one entirely based on genuine science.  I may stretch that a little, but I can’t invent the basics I work with.

So, put simply; I start with the bare idea, begin writing at chapter 1, get that as near perfect as I can, then move on to the next, and so on.  Eventually, I find myself at the last chapter, having done no more than set free a previously imprisoned but autonomous tale.

What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?

Peace and quiet.  Currently I’m working in the garden, seeing we’re experiencing that rare thing called Summer.  I have the twitter of birds, the gentle rustle of leaves in a slight but warm breeze, the soothing splash of the pond’s waterfall, and the occasional sound of frogs migrating through the leaf litter.  That’s pretty ideal, but usually I sit indoors in a quiet room, so I can get totally engrossed in the tale I’m trying to unfold.

What prompted you to self-publish your current book?

Going back to Leiyatel’s Embrace, it was a writer friend who, having read the first decently edited manuscript, said I’d never get a publisher.  The work was simply too long to be considered, she’d said, not from an unknown writer.  Too great a financial risk, you see.  It was her throwaway comment about self-publishing that made me prick up my ears.

What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?

1) The biggest one for my first book was learning how to write ‘proper’.  A lot of novice writers don’t realise the amount of learning involved in handling the grammar alone, never mind structure, narrative, setting, plot, dialogue, pacing, and all the rest.  I’m well educated, have read a lot, and widely, and always been a creative writer, but it took me eighteen months to get to grips with the demands of producing a truly publishable book.

I’m still learning after getting four books out.  But here’s the sweetener; all that learning eventually pays off through immense enjoyment.  I love writing, I love the written word, and what you can achieve with it. That makes all the damned hard work well worth it.

2) Getting time for writing was another major problem.  When you work fulltime, there are precious few hours left in the day.

3) I can’t think of a third!

Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?

I never have had need to, not in any major sense, you know; having to suffer months of a blank mind.  My head teems with ideas, so the only problem I have is in choosing which to use.

The nearest I get, I suppose, is blank page syndrome, when I’m starting a new chapter.  There’s so much pressure to get right what is in effect the seed for the rest of it.  To get over this I concentrate on the feel of the opening scene; what it looks like, what sounds and smells fill the air, that kind of thing.  That invariably starts the action; suggests a figure coming into view through a window, or a threat of rain darkening the sky.

Once something begins to move in my mind’s view, then it all soon starts happening, like watching a play, or a movie scene.  I also don’t worry too much about what words I put down to describe it.  They’re only a starting point, and improvements soon follow from the action, and what that suggests of mood, setting, ambience, and the rest.

I think it helps that my method involves going over the evolving text time and time again, perfecting it, getting it all right.  I never leave prose behind, where it can become overlooked and fester.  I’ll get so far and then go back to the beginning of the chapter and appraise it all over again.  It means I don’t consider the text sacred, which frees me to bash in any old thing, anything just to get the story rolling.

What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?

Learn how to write.  It might sound trite, but it’s the tools of your trade, and the one thing far too many aspiring writers ignore.

You have to start with the grammar.  If you don’t know how to use the language then you aren’t able to tell the story you want to tell, as simple as that.  However good your story may be, without a proper understanding of the written word you’ll end up telling a different tale.  How different depends on how unskilled you are.

Grammar isn’t rocket science, it’s not hard, but it does require application, and a hell of a lot of honestly appraised writing practice.  You need to find someone who’s a skilled reader, and who’s prepared to tell you fearlessly what they think of your writing ability.  Take what they tell you on the nose, and then learn from it.

Writing’s a continual learning process.  If it isn’t for you, then you’re doing it wrong.


What genre does your book fall into?  

You know, I do hate genre classification.  It was invented by the publishing industry to make their life easier, but I suppose we’re currently stuck with it. Right, here goes: science fiction based mystery set in a fantasy feel world, seen through the perspective of unusual but realistically drawn characters, with some romance elements, and all delivered in a deft poetic and artistic literary form, infused with wry humour and irony. You tell me!

You as a reader

Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?

1) Mervyn Peake.  One of the most idiosyncratically imaginative and inventive writers I’ve ever come across, and who can write so beautifully.  His settings and characters have such intricate depth and fidelity, and his world is fashioned so well it becomes more real than the real world.

2) Charles Dickens.  One of the original indie authors, his characterisation and handling of multiple characters is only bettered by the deft touch he has with narrative.  A fine example of no-nonsense, straightforward English prose, nothing highfaluting or rarefied, used so precisely and with such effortless nuance that his stories spring to life before your eyes.

3) Olaf Stapledon.  A consummate but largely unsung master of Science Fiction.  Recognised by many great writers, such as Asimov and Stephen King, as a significant influence on their own work.  His now little publicly known books encompass everything from the nature of matter through to the sentient life of stars, with every conceivable slant of intelligence between.  The universe is his stage, and time but an actor that carries, separates and often reunites a plethora of story threads.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Richmal Crompton’s Just William series.  Great, mischievous stories with surprisingly well rounded characters.  Lovely, concise prose unfolding well thought-out stories with a delightful twist, set against the idyll of an English, rural, twenties setting.  They’re honest stories with a hidden adult sensitivity.

What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?

‘Best’ is very subjective, but perhaps the most engrossing and involving book has been Raised by Hand, Lifted by the Tides by Willett Thomas.  This is a seriously literary historical work that tells the first person story of a few eventful years in Lily “Lil Bit” Dalton’s childhood.  It takes place in the quirky, yet racially divided waterway township of Arcadia, Florida, in 1954.  I’d highly recommend it.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?   

A Game of Proof by Tim Vicary.  I recommended it to Kit because she loves crime fiction, and has read a great deal of it.  I thought it would be right up her street, and it was.  She thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?

I prefer paperbacks.  They’re easier to use, flipping back and forth for example, but are also for me a part of the reading experience.  It’s possibly an age-related thing.  I’ve grown up with paper, not readers.

However, everything has its place, and a reader’s great for a lot of things.  Like going on holiday, especially as I have a small car in which packing boxes of books was a real hassle.  I also swear by the Kindle for proofreading; problems just leap out far more readily than from my laptop’s screen.  Having said that, a paperback proof’s even better at the task.  The poor old video screen just ain’t a patch on either.

Hollywood is calling

You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?  

I haven’t the foggiest, honestly.  I’ve never had much interest in celebrity, well, none actually.  Actors are actors, few of which I remember by name.  I can see their work in my mind’s eye, and appreciate their skills, but for me it’s the character they’re playing that’s important, not who they might happen to be in real life.

The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?

You’re going to hate me!  I wouldn’t want a soundtrack.  I don’t think my books are that kind of thing, you know, like Star Wars, where the soundtrack’s probably as important as everything else.  If you pushed me then maybe Philip Glass or Kraftwerk, or maybe Tangerine Dream.  But then again, maybe not!


Drink – Coffee.

Meal – Probably a stew, on a cold winter’s night, but then maybe a nice fresh plaice on a summer’s eve.

Holiday destination – Cornwall.

TV programme – Never watch TV, sorry, largely a waste of valuable time.

Film – Eraserhead, but it’s a close run thing with 2001 A Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, The Lord of the Rings, THX 1138, The Shining, The Birds, and Street of Crocodiles, and probably a load more that don’t spring immediately to mind.

Method of travel – Motorbike, but Shank’s pony comes close.

Sport – Sorry, what’s that?  Nearest I’ve ever been to sport is Judo and Karate, but then they’re art forms. Ha!

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