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  • 5 Books That Changed My Life

    With Jon Ford: Author of ‘The Saints of Humanity’

    Psychoville, Christopher Fowler. Warner Books. 1995

    I bought this book on a whim while on a school trip to Coventry Cathedral as a teen. I only went on the trip because a girl I fancied was going too – but I’m glad I went now! Being from a small town I really related with the outsider status of the main character and I loved the revenge part at the end. Very satisfying! I’ve read a load of Chris Fowlers’ other books, but this one is my favourite.

    One Shot, Lee Child. Bantam. 2011

    Another book bought on a whim –  while skiving off work! I must be good at spotting the winners! This was well before Jack Reacher became the TV and movie star he is today, but reading it you could tell it was something special. The plotline was incredibly clever. I loved the mix of muscle and intelligence from the main character – Lee Child got it absolutely right. I’d love to know how you capture lightning in a bottle like that.

    Tintin – Explorers on the Moon, Herge. Egmont UK. 2012

    I used to read these books in the school library during lunchtimes and I’m a huge fan of adventure capers. I’ve always been obsessed with James Bond, Jack Reacher and of course, Tintin. Lone heroes appeal to me. That mix of thrills, humour and great characters…. that’s hard to get right but Herge does it with panache and personality. What’s amazing about this story in particular is that it was written in the 1950’s before we’d been to the moon but lots of the science turned out to be bang on. That’s impressive.

    3862 Days, The Official History of Blur. Stuart Maconie. Virgin Books, 1999

    I read tons of biographies but this one is so good. Stuart Maconie is a brilliant writer, he writes in a very wry, humorous way. He does put a fair bit of personal opinion in here but it’s never intrusive – it’s just trying to get you thinking for yourself which is an artform in itself. The story itself gave me hope that I could achieve what I wanted in life, the way the band did. The book also got me into the music… usually it’s the other way around so kudos to Maconie for that!

    Killigrew and the Sea Devil. Jonathan Lunn. Headline, 2005

    My dad got me into lots of historical adventure fiction. He’s a big fan of the Sharpe TV series and I think he got into the books from there, and in turn, I did too. This is just a good old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure story.

    The Saints of Humanity is available now through Amazon

  • Interview with Jon Ford, Author of ‘The Saints of Humanity’

    Thanks for letting me beta read, I really enjoyed it!….What were your influences for the story?

    All kinds of stuff! I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. I’ve always been really influenced by things I see and read. In terms of science fiction it was mostly movies like Aliens, Predator, The Matrix , Edge Of Tomorrow, Twelve Monkeys, Akira and so on. I was also a big fan of the TV show Red Dwarf. When I’m writing I paraphrase bits of prose I remember from all over the place – self-help books, lyrics to favourite songs, even interviews in old Kerrang! Magazines. I have a really good mind for remembering stuff like that for some reason!

    How about writing style influences?

    So you mean authors I like who inspired me? The nuts and bolts of the actual writing rather than the plot ideas or overall concept?

    Yes. In other words; how do you get from ideas to cohesive sentences on a page?

    Well that’s the hard part isn’t it? A lot of the time I was working on the book without doing any writing – I was pacing up and down thinking of ideas! I knew about plot, description and how to create intrigue, just from reading a lot so I took scene ideas I thought were exciting or interesting and started piecing it together. Over time I felt that translate into what I would call my writing ‘style’ as the story came together. Normally with a mystery/thriller you start at the end and then work backwards, but I didn’t know that which is why it took me so long to write! I learned the hard way. I literally had hundreds of post-its all over the spare room as I put my ideas together. When I was world building I was of course just trying to describe what I had in my head and just getting it down on paper at all felt like a huge win. Thankfully, I had a great editor to help me put it all together and make sense of it all.

    Did anything else go into the pot influence wise?

    Oh yeah, tons of stuff! The murder/mystery angle came from being a fan of the early Reacher books by Lee Child. I love the way his books are based in the real world, you get the full details of where the character is and what he’s doing that day. I try to keep it genuine where possible without being boring – no-one wants to read a soap opera! But at the same time I had so much to pack into the story I didn’t get the chance to throw as much of that in as I’d have liked. Maybe next time around!

     I’m really interested in visual influences too. The yoga scene for example was inspired by the clip in ‘Minority Report’ where Tom Cruise crashes into a yoga class and they are twisting their bodies into all those odd shapes. I loved that tiny, odd scene that adds nothing to the story but it stuck in my head and I knew I wanted to put little bits like that in my book.

    Yeah, I hope you don’t mind me saying but I’ve seen some of the ideas in your book before…… ‘Handmaids Tale’ has a similiar premise…..

    Yes, a friend of mine told me that when I told him the plot to Saints. But I swear I’ve never seen Handmaids! But it’s one of those things. The whole ‘single guy alone on a spaceship with no-one to talk to except his computer’ thing has been done hundreds of times in sci-fi. So has the whole ‘trapped in a simulation of reality not knowing what’s real’ thing. I think it’s great that people feed off each other’s ideas to create new sci-fi, be it in films or Netflix series or in books. Lets face it, every pop song you know is based on the same few recycled chord sequences.

    Good point! I really liked the idea that the future was in jeopardy but it isn’t a dystopian future like say, The Matrix for example….

    Absolutely – well done for picking up on that! My book isn’t quite a dystopian nightmare… yet! The disaster has happened but humanity is still figuring out if it is heading towards dystopia or something more hopeful and I think that comes from the influence of Nolan’s Batman. Nolan chose to give Bruce Wayne a happy ending which he doesn’t get in other formats. That influenced me to leave the book a bit open-ended; as if to say that in life you have a choice – you can work on making things good or leave them to go bad.

    How much of Talin’s (main character) personality is your own?

    She suffers from mental health demons, as do I. She is very pragmatic and doesn’t care about luxury items, which is the same for me. She is more interested in achieving goals and is offended by mediocrity and boring people which is so me! The thought of settling down repels her but by the same token she is a bit of a loner and part of her wants that. I struggle with that contradiction too. 

    Will there be a sequel?

    I’ve got the setting in mind, I just need a good plot idea now. The trend in books currently seems to be aimed towards writing a series so you can build a fanbase, but that was never my agenda when I started. I’d rather write something big and bold and colourful and throw everything I have at it, than write something that’s ‘meh’ and try to build on it next time around. I prefer to just be creative and in the moment than write for the sake of it. If I do a sequel it’s because people ask for it, which might sound like a strange motivation, but art exists to please people so if anyone wants more books, then great!

    What about a prequel or tie-in? 

    Definitely not a prequel. In literature they’re part of the world-building, which is fine but I think the prequel thing is really a film industry invention anyway – a way to capitalise on a franchise. It removes the sense of mystery from your beloved favourite characters.

    You aren’t afraid to be opinionated are you?! I noticed there’s some passages in the book that come across as personal agenda….

    And why not? It’s my book – I’ll say what I like! 

    I’m not saying that’s a bad thing…in fact, its quite refreshing (not to mention amusing) to read!

    Who doesn’t get annnoyed at the assholes on the roads or how London house prices are now completely over the top; which is something else I mention in there. 

    The story addresses how these things might either resolve themselves or get worse in the future. But I’m well aware that talking about these things in a very superficial way as I do in the book can come across as rhetoric, so there’s a fine line. But to not mention that stuff would be cheating myself because it’s part of who I am and how I think. I’ve tried to put a bit of my own personality into the story to give it character and weight, whether that’s through the Talin character or some of the exposition. 

    So, I always make my last question a slightly personal one, I hope thats OK! If you were a reviewer – what would you say about the book and why?

       Ooh, now thats an interesting question – love it! Very meta! If I was going to review my own book I would probably pick up on the fact that I didn’t stick to the brief, which turned out to be a good thing. The blurb on the back cover I wrote relatively early in the process and if I’d have adhered to that I would have had a really solid, if unspectacular mystery story. But I decided to throw the kitchen sink at the plot instead which always threatened to take it somewhere else. There’s loads of threads in there. Whether it’s the power play in government, the nano technology stuff…. If I’d have stuck with just a few ideas like the president and his news propaganda while Stacie hunted for clues I’d have had an OK book, but typically for me I went the other way and turned it into a gigantic social commentary with lots of characters and dialogue. So my advice to young writers would be: stick to the synopsis! There’s a lot going on; but on the other hand I think just seeing an event like that from one or two points of view would be cheating the reader – they wouldn’t get a sense of the escalating chaos.

    Thanks so much for answering my questions and good luck with the book!

    Thanks for letting me talk about it – after five years of writing it feels like catharsis to talk about it as a finished product!