Please welcome indie author J M Leitch

Author Bio:

When Mum picked me up on my first day of primary school I was in tears. 'Whatever's the matter?' she asked. I spat out my words between heaving staccato sobs. 'YOU said they'd teach me to read!’

It took much longer than I expected... but they did teach me. And I've not stopped reading since. They also taught me to write.

As to my background? Well, I was born just outside London, England, and moved to Asia where I've lived half my life. I now spend my time between Singapore, Assam in North East India, Bali in Indonesia and the UK.

In addition to reading and writing I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends. I love laughing and try to spend as much time doing that as I can. I think it keeps me healthy!

My hobbies are reading, Pilates, tennis and travelling. I also enjoy good food and wine. Mmm...

Book title:

The Zul Enigma

Brief Synopsis:

The Zul Enigma, a futuristic thriller fused in reality, seamlessly weaves New Age beliefs with hard, scientific facts. Set in 2068 it follows a quest to expose the perpetrator behind a cataclysmic event

that occurs in December 2012, changing the world forever.

Underpinned by a theme of betrayal, the novel is set against a backdrop of climate change, overpopulation, world war, alien visitations, presidential plots, global deception and a new world order.

A venomous twist reveals the most horrific conspiracy one could ever imagine and Zul is behind it. But who... or what... is Zul?

Buried deep beneath layers of subterfuge lurks the shocking truth.


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

I like going out and catching up with friends, I enjoy watching films and good TV series with my husband and daughter, but above all I love reading.

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

I always dreamed I’d write a book one day and back in my 20s I woke up one morning from a haunting dream and thought it would make the basis for a great novel. I started to write it but gave up after allowing every-day life to get in the way. Over the years I started a couple of other books too – I still have the drafts – but I never got very far with them. Then, after I’d been living in Bali a few years and my daughter was spending full days at school, I had another idea for a novel and I thought to myself ‘If I don’t do it here and now, I never will.’ So I jotted down a rough synopsis and just did it.

Current work

What or who inspired you to write your current novel?

Back in late 2003 my husband, who was in the UK at the time, told me about a BBC documentary he’d seen that predicted the east coast of North America and the west coast of Europe would enter a phase of drastic cooling. Scientists at that time thought so much cold fresh water coming from melting ice in the Arctic would slow down and stop the conveyor - the North Atlantic Drift – that traditionally brings the warm water north and keeps those coasts warmer than they’d otherwise be in winter.

Oh no! I thought. My poor Mum lives in England. What would she do?

I fantasized how good it would be if a bunch of friendly aliens relocated us to a parallel planet with a stable climate. And that’s where the original inspiration came from although the story has now evolved into something more sophisticated and dark.

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

1) The protagonist, Dr Carlos Maiz, is the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs – OOSA – an organisation that exists in real life and that actually does have its offices on the 9th floor at the UN building in Vienna.

2) The main action takes place in Vienna, Washington DC, New York and Miami.

3) In addition to being a futuristic thriller, The Zul Enigma is also a love story.

What research did you need to do for this book?

The plot in my novel is so bizarre I needed to anchor it in fact in order to make it believable. Therefore I did a huge amount of research into all the locations and organisations that I mention in the book to ensure they are true to life. Thank goodness for the Internet and Google Maps! I was also lucky that a friend of mine works at the UN in Vienna, so she gave me a lot of inside information including the lay out of the building.

In addition, New Age concepts and physics principals – in particular string theory – play a part in the plot, so I spent many, many hours researching all that too, as well as the latest laser and holovideo technology. Then I also needed to do some medical research. I would say that a good year of the 7½ years it took me to write this novel was spent on research, and similar to other authors I’ve read about, I probably didn’t use 75% of it!

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

Only one minor part of the book is inspired by a real life experience, but I did incorporate some traits of people I know in some of the main characters.

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

It will be another thriller, but set in present day. Like The Zul Enigma, it will be grounded as far as possible in fact and will include, if I can come up with one, another bizarre twist!

Writing/publication process

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

One of my faults is that I’m always very impatient to start a new project. So rather than spending the time to take a fiction writing course and complete detailed plotting and character development first, I jumped right in and both learned and let the story evolve as I went along. It was a fun way to work, but not an efficient one.

About the only sensible thing I did was to set a target number of words I wanted to churn out each week, but I only did this after I’d already been working on the book for about 3 years!

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

All I need is a computer. That’s it. I don’t have a favourite place to write and I don’t need special music playing and particular food and drink. I don’t only write at certain times or for a specific amount of time or number of words. All I need is to find the right place in my head and to have somewhere to type and store the words as they flow. Of course, if I can, I like to arrange it so that I keep interruptions to a minimum, but if I can’t then I just have deal with them.

What prompted you to self-publish your current book?

Although my novel is set in 2068 it looks back at a cataclysmic event that occurs on 21st December 2012. Because the book took many years longer to write than I’d anticipated, I only finished it just over a year ago and I didn’t have time to find a publisher and capitalise on the end of the Mayan calendar in my marketing. So I went ahead and self-published.

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

1) The self-imposed time constraint regarding 21st December 2012. When I started writing, nearly 10 years to go seemed a very long time. Believe me it wasn’t long enough, and I will never lock myself into a date like that again!

2) Needing to spend so much time on research rather than writing. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the research and I learned so very much, but it did take up a huge amount of time.

3) Getting my head out of the book to deal with everyday life. Of course I love my family and friends, but there were times when all I wanted was to immerse myself in the novel and not come up for air until it was finished. There were many occasions when I found ‘real life’ an irritating interruption and ‘real life’ found me grumpy and distracted!

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

I never finish a writing session at the end of a section or the end of a chapter. I always keep on going for a few more lines and I sometimes even end mid-sentence. Before I get up I often jot down some key words about the direction I want to head in, a development or reaction of a character, or a twist in the plot, while it’s still fresh in my mind. Then, at the beginning of the next session, instead of staring at a blank page I look at my notes and re-read the last sentences I wrote and I find it helps me get my head back to the place it was in before and provides the momentum for me to carry on as if I’d never taken a break.

Of course there are times in the middle of a session when the words stop flowing or the ideas stop coming. To me it’s not useful to dwell on or worry about it, and when it happens I do research or editing or some other ‘book’ work that needs to be done instead. That way I’m still using my time productively. Sometimes I may just call it a day and skive off.

I do find a walk helps feed the creative beast in me. The rhythm of walking is meditative and creates a mental state that allows one’s subconscious to percolate through with valuable insights. It’s amazing the number of times I’ve worked out how to get a character out of a jam, or into one, when I’ve been taking a walk!

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

In the words of the Nike slogan – Just do it.


What genre does your book fall into?

It’s hard to peg The Zul Enigma into a specific genre slot. It’s set in the future so it could be classed as science fiction – but it’s also a love story. Because it describes a multi-generational quest to discover the identity of ‘Zul’ it’s a mystery - but it also incorporates crimes and espionage so it’s a thriller as well. The hard core, however, revolves around a complex web of intrigue that, when unravelled, reveals a horrific conspiracy.

Many people have said that although they don’t normally like science fiction they’ve enjoyed this book, and perhaps the most powerful thing about The Zul Enigma is that it’s so tied to reality it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that something similar could happen in this world of ours today. It’s an unsettling novel and lives with you after you turn the final page, so perhaps the genre of factual fiction is most appropriate, I’m not sure and I’d be glad to hear what my readers think.

How did you get interested in this specific genre?

I’ve read some great books from all the genres I mention above which have piqued my interest.

You as a reader

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

I’m sorry, but I can’t pick just three.

Some of my favourite authors are Rose Tremain, Margaret Atwood, Iain Banks, Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Rohinton Mistry, Patrick Gale, Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan… but there are many more. My favourite espionage writer is John le Carré – I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written.

Other authors that I admire for their originality, imagination, beauty and skill are: Franz Kafka (The Trial), Herman Hesse (Siddhartha), Günter Grass (The Tin Drum), Yukio Mishima (Forbidden Colours), Haruki Murakami (The Wind Up Bird Chronicle), Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go) and of course Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses).

What was your favourite book as a child?

As a little girl I loved Enid Blyton’s ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ and ‘Adventure’ series.

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

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke. I can’t believe I’ve not read it before!

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

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. With an underlying theme of the mortality of humans, I admire how Ishiguro paints a world the reader thinks she knows with subtle brush strokes of ‘odd’ until they blend to reveal a different place entirely. Although the premise of the story is horrific it is recounted with little emotion and utter acceptance giving the impression of detachment. Before I got about 2/3 of the way through I found I had to stop reading at times to take stock of what I’d learned so far and push myself to work out what was really going on and to stop myself from blanket acceptance too.

I like books that shock and I like books that make me think. This book did both.

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

I love reading and use every medium possible. I listen to audio books when I’m driving, I read paperbacks in bed and I use my Kindle when I don’t want to carry books around with me.

But I can’t lie – I do prefer physical books. There’s nothing quite like the texture of the paper, the smell of the ink, the sound as you turn the pages, and that glorious feeling of anticipation when you hold the weight of someone else’s words in your hands and wonder to what world they will transport you. Bliss!

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 would like Javier Bardem to play my protagonist Carlos, who is Spanish, and Sean Bean to play his English friend, Drew. This opinion is entirely based on these two actors’ abilities and skill, and has nothing to do with the fact that I might get to meet them.

I also held an image of Uma Thurman in my mind when I wrote the character of Astraea and would love it if she could play that part.

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

Carlos is a huge Rolling Stones fan and he collects Stones memorabilia. The soundtrack, therefore, has to be a compilation of Stones music with the opening and closing credits rolling to Paint It Black and Sympathy for the Devil.


Drink – Bloody Mary, extra spicy… shame it’s a workday and only 11am!

Meal – equal first: dahl, aloo gobi, chana, bindi and basmati rice and roast lamb, roast potatoes, roast onions, cauliflower cheese, frozen peas, carrots, mint sauce and gravy… my goodness this is making me hungry!

Holiday destination – places I haven’t visited before – Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and South America.

TV programme – I’m still waiting for something to top Boston Legal. I just loved the dialogue!

Film – Pulp Fiction… I’m not a knowledgable film buff but if I’m not wrong I believe this was the beginning of a new genre in films

Method of travel – train… I love the comforting chuggedy-chug and still think sleeping on a train is a huge adventure

Sport – Watching rugby… playing tennis

How can people connect with you?

Website:   Blog:  Twitter: @JMLeitch

Facebook Book Page: whatabout2012  Facebook Author Page: JMLeitch

Where can readers find your book? Waterstones


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