Today I interview G X Todd in the latest of my Author Interview Series. For those of you not familiar, G X Todd is the author of the wildly successful post-apocalyptic novel Defender released in 2017.
GJ: My close friend Sarah, devours post-apocalyptic fiction and inspired me to write my apocalyptic novel, In The End. She introduced me to your debut novel Defender whilst she’s impatiently waiting for the second in the series, Hunted to be released in paperback in the UK on 10th January.
Can you tell me where your inspiration came from for the series?
G X: It came quite late in the game, to be honest. I’d finished writing Defender, which was originally a standalone concept, and it wasn’t until I reached the end that I realised I still had a lot more I wanted to explore in the world I’d created. I’ve always enjoyed sticking characters in really tough situations and seeing how they react, and an end-of-the-world scenario seemed like the ultimate challenge.
I had the idea very early on that I wanted to set the story in a world that was empty. Few people, a society that had broken down and decayed. A wild frontier. I approached it very much like a Western, actually, with the main character being the quintessential Man with No Name, wandering the desolate plains, not wanting to engage with anyone. Of course, that doesn’t stop Voice from engaging with him…
GJ: I believe the series will be a quartet. Are they all written and what’s next after the series is completed?
G X: I’m currently finishing writing Book 4 as I write this, so I’m right at the end of the series. I’ve been immersed in the Voices world for more than four years now, so it’ll be nice to have a stretch and tackle something different. I’m all apocalypsed out, though, so I’ll be looking to do something a bit different. I don’t have any concrete ideas (I have a Book Ideas folder that I’m itching to read through once book 4 is put to bed), but it’s safe to say there will be themes surrounding the darker side of human nature, as well as exploring loss, hope, love, despair, pizza, why the hell people still watch Friends, all that kind of stuff. I don’t think I’ll ever stray too far away from the horror genre, though, perhaps with a few sci-fi/fantasy elements thrown in for good measure.
GJ: Can you tell me about your journey from writing the first novel through to publication?
G X: Boy, this could easily turn into an essay. I’ll try and keep it short. Defender is the third novel I’ve written. I spent a little time trying to get my first two novels placed with a literary agent but decided to shelve them when they didn’t find a place. I wrote Defender and I think it took around eight months of submitting it to agencies before Camilla Bolton of the Darley Anderson Literary Agency offered to represent me. She’s a very hands-on agent and for around six months we worked back and forth on editing the novel, getting it ready for the London Book Fair. The manuscript was sent to a select number of UK editors, and four days later we received a pre-emptive offer from Headline for a four-book deal. After signing on the dotted line, there was a nineteen-month period where things became either full-on manic (with more edits, copy edits, proof reading, a publicity campaign, etc.) and quiet periods when I got busy writing Hunted (book 2). Defender hit the shelves in hardback on the 12th January 2017, a date I’ll never forget. The whole thing has been amazing and surreal and has caused more grey hairs to appear than at any other stage of my life. I’ve been very firmly thrown out of my comfort zone in terms of doing events and social engagements. But it’s been an unbelievable journey, and I feel incredibly lucky to be on it.
GJ: For those people who are not familiar with the Voices series, can you give an introduction?
G X: The series set-up is fairly simple. A significant portion of the population begin to hear voices in their heads, whispering murmurs that turn their thoughts to self-destruction and violence. In a matter of weeks, many of these people have killed themselves and others. What’s left is a broken world divided by paranoia and fear, split between those who still hear a voice and those who don’t. It’s at this point, where the human race is on the brink of unprecedented change, that we enter the series.
GJ: How has your life changed since the success of Defender?
G X: I’d say the biggest change is that I get to wear pyjamas for the vast majority of my day, which is awesome.
GJ: Are you a full-time writer?
G X: I am full-time now, yes. I worked for public libraries for fifteen years and took redundancy in 2017 (when the government decided to shut more than 60% of the library service in my home borough). I’m probably less productive now than when I had the day job, though. I think you use your time more wisely when you have less of it.
GJ: It must have been pretty amazing to get a quote from Lee Child on the jacket of Defender. Do you have many author friends?
G X: I do now! They’re just people, though, you know? It’s the same as going to a new place of work and making new friends. I’d say 90% of my author friendships are based online. I have maybe only two or three who I see regularly in person. But then, I kind of wish all my interactions were based online (WhatsApp/emails, etc.). I’ve always felt more myself when using the written word as my medium.
GJ: What do you do when you’re not writing?
G X: The usual. Watch movies (I’m a big movie buff), read, play videogames (I’ve just finished Red Dead Redemption 2 and will be starting the new Tomb Raider soon). I run a Read Along book group on twitter called #ReadWomenSF where we pick a science fiction book every month written by a female writer to enjoy and discuss. It’s really great. I’ve discovered some fantastic new authors. I’m looking at you, Octavia Butler and Martha Wells.
GJ: Where are you based?
G X: I live in my head. All of the time.
GJ: What genres do you typically read?
G X: I used to be so stuck in my genres when I was younger. I went from reading solely sci-fi and fantasy and then became obsessed with all things horror. But now I read a bit of everything. Recently I went from reading Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring to Gillian McAllister’s No Further Questions to Tana French’s The Wych Elm to Disobedience by Naomi Alderman and, finally, to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I’ve got my fingers in alllll the genre-pies. It’s nice.
GJ: Where do you write?
G X: It really depends on what stage I’m at. I tend to write first drafts downstairs in my living room where I can yell at Alexa to play music at me. I sit in an armchair with lots of cushions and a poof for my feet. Edits and copy edits get done in my study upstairs. And I sometimes go out to coffee shops or pubs/bookstores to work when I find the motivation to change out of my pyjamas.
GJ: Which is your favourite aspect of getting a novel to publication?
G X: I do love writing but recently the process of getting a first draft down has been like pulling teeth. So, right now, my honest answer would be maybe the bit after you email your work off to your agent/editor/beta reader and can go turn Netflix on.
GJ: Do you have a first reader and who are they to you?
GX: I did when I didn’t have deadlines. Now that I tend to work right up to the crunch-line, I often have to send off manuscripts without them being seen by anyone but me. My first readers end up being my agent and my editor.
GJ: How long have you been writing for?
G X: Since the Summer of my fourteenth year. My dad brought a laptop home from work for the school holidays and I spent nearly the entire six weeks writing my first story. It was epic fantasy (I drew a map and everything), about a kid whose family gets murdered on the first couple of pages. It was really cheery stuff.
GJ: Do you have any advice for new writers?
G X: Whenever possible, finish what you start. Even if you think it’s crap, keep going. It’ll give you something to work with, to shape and re-draft until it’s shiny and beautiful. It’s a fallacy to think your first attempt at anything has to be perfect. It never is. Everything has to be rewritten if you want it to be the best it can be. But you need to finish it first.
GJ: Are you a pantser or a planner?
G X: Oh, how I wish I was a planner sometimes. I think much of my writing angst would be banished if I knew more of my story’s framework before I sit down to write it. But the lost feeling I sometimes get doesn’t outweigh the pure delight I feel when the characters pick the story up for themselves and take it where it needs to go. I’m going for the ride as much as the reader is most of the time. It’s always scary but always fun, too.
It just leaves me to thank G X Todd for taking the time out of her schedule to talk with me today. Defender is available to buy now and the second in the series, Hunted, is available in hardback or you can pre-order a paperback to be released on 10th January 2019. You can stay in touch with G X Todd either by Twitter or Facebook.
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