Tag Archives: space pirates

Author Interview: Jim Webster

When I asked Author Jim Webster to describe himself, he replied: “Modest, but I have much to be modest about.” Please welcome my fellow Sci-Fi Roundtable Knight to No Wasted Ink.

Farmer, adviser, writer, husband, father, churchwarden, Maverick. I’ve been a farmer for the vast majority of my life, a writer for not much less. I became a husband slightly later, and a father later still. As for adviser, I was never shy of giving people my opinion and with being a maverick, I may always have been one. Churchwarden just happened.

I farm in the south of Cumbria, between the sea and the English Lake District. Married, three adult daughters and still I have no dress sense.

When and why did you begin writing?

In simple terms with a small farm you need another source of income for a family to survive. Admittedly I didn’t have a family at the time, but this also meant I didn’t have a wife to go out to work. So I turned to writing as a form of diversification which took no capital (Unless you allow for the typewriter, and then a fax machine.) So I did freelance journalism, (almost all in trade publications) and then about 2010 people started pestering me to write fiction.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It’s not something I’m precious about to be honest. I’m Jim. I’m a farmer who writes rather than a writer who farms. Some have suggested I stick with ‘farmer’ because I can cope with the dress code. How I quantify it is that I would leave my writing to help a calving cow, but I wouldn’t leave the cow because I realised I had to put in another paragraph.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’ve just finished a series of Science Fiction four books, the Tsarina Sector. I was asked to do it by a small publisher back in 2013 and Justice 4.1, the first book, was published in 2014. I went to Loncon with it in 2014 and it sold well. But the publisher was fading, life was closing in on them (in the nicest possible way, an addition to the family) and so by the time the second book War 2.2, came out, they gently closed down. I was left with two manuscripts and half a third. Anyway I went on to write other stuff (a lot of fantasy) and in 2020 I thought I might have chance to finish the series. Whilst farming didn’t have a lockdown, (if anything we were busier) all sorts of government bodies and inspectorates went into hiding and left me alone. So I got the time that way, finished the third book and wrote the fourth. I pressed publish on them all on the same morning at the end of June.

Having had the series almost die because of ‘life’ I thought that I wasn’t risking having it happen again. Now people can buy the whole series at once.

It’s SF, set on the planet Tsarina, which is not particularly important, but isn’t a bad place to live and all sorts of people want to take it over, from Starmancers (space pirates) looking for a base, to genetic engineers who want to sterilise a continent, ‘just to be sure.’

What inspired you to write this book?

Actually I was asked. But I’ve always loved SF as well as Fantasy and I’d been mulling over the idea of a story set in the backwaters of a galaxy.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Because I’ve done so much freelance journalism I am not precious about my ‘voice.’ Indeed even now, I have a different voice when I write as ‘Tallis Steelyard’, the poet who narrates some of my fantasy, to when I write my ‘dog and quad’ tales about life farming in Cumbria. Ironically from the comments made by my proof reader, Tallis Steelyard has better grammar and sentence construction.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Ironically I didn’t. The publisher did and as he read it before suggesting it, I have stuck with it. I do think it fits.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I think the question that hangs below the surface across all four books of the series is, ‘What is Justice’ and at what point do you have to compromise for the greater good? As one female character comments on the last page of the final book in the series, “I think it is fair enough to buy justice at the cost of your own life. But I don’t think anybody is entitled to spend the lives of others just so they get to feel a warm glow of smug satisfaction that justice, however you define it, has been done.”

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

All sorts of things I have been told by people, living or dead, have drifted into the books. A phrase of my grandfather’s is in there. When cake was cut too thin he would comment that, “It tastes of knife.”

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Jack Vance. Because he was an amazing writer. His work straddled the fuzzy borderland between fantasy and science fiction and his powers of description, and his ability to invent and describe cultures and societies has always awed me.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Writing is like carpentry, the more you do, the better you get and the better you are at covering up your mistakes.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Don’t be precious, be prepared to laugh at yourself, write books you enjoy. A good book is a holiday you can take without all that nonsense of going through airports. When you turn the final page, you should experience the sensation of leaving one world and returning, perhaps regretfully, to another.

Jim Webster
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England


The Tsarina Sector: Justice


Author Interview: Stephen Hall

If Matthew Reilly (who writes all those fast-paced adventure novels) and Douglas Adams (who wrote The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy) had a love-child… well, that’d be really weird. Not to mention impossible. But if they DID, that love-child might write a little bit like Stephen Hall. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Hello, I’m Stephen Hall. I’m a writer and actor, a father to one daughter, a husband to one woman, and a meal ticket to one Staffordshire Terrier. I have one sister and no parents. For the past four decades or so, I’ve mostly been trying to make people laugh.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always loved entertaining people, telling stories. I suppose the first professional writing I did was writing my own standup comedy material, which I started performing a week before my 18th birthday.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I was first officially employed as a writer in 1996 – with a contract and everything – when I got a gig writing gags and sketches for the Australian TV sketch comedy show Full Frontal.
FUN FACT: That’s where Eric Bana got his start!

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’d love to, Wendy! Symphony Under Siege is a rollicking sci-fi comedy adventure set 512 years in the future. On a Thursday morning. It tells the story of the 5-star luxury space cruise liner the Symphony of the Stars, as it’s raided by desperate space pirates in search of the secret fabulous treasure hidden somewhere on board. This playground for the ultra-rich now becomes a battleground for the two crews, as their two headstrong captains circle ever closer to their fateful showdown.

Did I mention one of the cruise ship’s crew is a serial killer? That’s just one more thing the cruise ship captain (highly-decorated ex-navy Captain Diana Singh) has to contend with.

The story’s fast pace is a product of its serialized beginnings, with chapter after chapter of cliffhangers, daring escapes, twists and turns and there’s-no-way-they-could-have-survived-that! moments…..
Oh, and I’ve tried to put in a lot of gags, too.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d wanted to write a novel for ages. As my 50th birthday approached, I bit the bullet and vowed to finally DO IT before I turned 51. I told my wife and daughter, then I devised a framework to hold me accountable; releasing one chapter online every week, for 52 weeks. Those 52 mini-deadlines were exactly the motivation I needed to stick to it, and get that first draft done. I’m happy to report I met them all, and the original serialised version of the novel is still online, right here: http://www.thestephenhall.com/novel-chapters/

And I always knew that I’d be self-publishing it. I was confident I could do that part of the process, because I’d done it with my previous (non-fiction) book How To Win Game Shows.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

When I started writing it, I didn’t have a title in mind; I just trusted that one would present itself to me… Then, as I neared the end of the writing process (and I knew what the story actually was) I came up with a shortlist of three potential titles, and ran a survey! I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to vote for one of the three options, and Symphony Under Siege won hands down. So Symphony Under Siege it was.
And is.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t know about a message, as such – this is just a rollicking, escapist adventure. It has virtually nothing to do with life on earth in 2021. There’s nothing in it to remind you
of our global pandemic,
of our seemingly endless lockdowns,
of the continuing harmful – and sadly, successful – spread of misinformation, ignorance, arrogance and fear,
of the continuing global climate emergency or
of all the petty things that divide humanity being exaggerated and incited by The Powers That Be to overwhelm all the beautiful things that unite us.

Not referencing any of that – or even hinting at any of it – in the book is all deliberate on my part… perhaps that’s as much of a message as anything.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I wish! No, this is all just invented adventure… probably born of being such a Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Star Trek fan, and all those old Saturday afternoon matinee serials I’ve watched as well.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Winton, and Robert Louis Stevenson are some whose work I really enjoy. I tend to enjoy speculative, imaginative fiction with a sense of humour on the slightly dry side. And Dickens – how could I forget Charles Dickens?! When it comes to serialised novels, Charles Dickens wrote the book.
(In regular monthly instalments, you understand…)

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Oh, I think Douglas Adams was pretty brilliant, wasn’t he? That mix of wacky, brilliant sci-fi concepts and laugh-out-loud (and very British) comedy gets me every time.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover was designed by a Venezuelan studio called The Kicke Studio. I found them on Fiverr, after commissioning concept sketches from 5 or 6 other artists. I knew I wanted the image to feature my luxury space cruise liner at the moment just before the pirate attack. Although I’d described the ships’ appearances in the novel, I’d only done a few rough sketches of what I thought they might look like. I hired a number of artists to design the two ships based on my descriptions and sketches, and I instantly fell in love with what The Kicke Studio submitted. I’m really happy with the cover they painted for me, and I look forward to teaming up with them again for the sequel!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

A writer writes. Don’t wait for the muse to strike – just write something, anything! The worst thing you did write is always better than the best thing you didn’t write. Remind yourself what fun writing can be – what fun writing should be!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yes. Thank you for reading this far.

Stephen Hall
Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)


Symphony Under Siege

Cover Artist: The Kicke Studio