TIM LEBBON is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. His most recent releases include Coldbrook from Arrow/Hammer, London Eye (book one of the Toxic City trilogy) from Pyr in the USA, Nothing as it Seems from PS Publishing, and The Heretic Land from Orbit, as well as The Secret Journeys of Jack London series (co-authored with Christopher Golden), Echo City, and the Cabin in the Woods novelisation. Future novels include Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi (Star Wars) from Del Rey/Star Wars Books. He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Awards. 20th Century Fox acquired film rights to The Secret Journeys of Jack London series, and he and Golden wrote the first draft of the screenplay. He has a TV series in development in the USA, and he’s also working on new screenplays, both solo and in collaboration with Stephen Volk.
Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net
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Mircea PRICĂJAN: Please allow me to start with a few things meant for those who are not familiar with you and your work – if such alien life forms do exist among us, that is… When and why did you start writing? What kind of stories got you interested back then?
Tim LEBBON: I’ve been writing ever since I could pick up a pen. Or pencil, I guess, because I remember writing my first stories when I was 6 or 7. I’ve written ever since. Back in my pre-teen years I was writing disaster and action stories, then in my teens they were generally war stories and thrillers. My first horror/supernatural tale wasn’t until I was around 20, and that was a short story called Dark Heart. Since then I’ve never looked back… and I don’t think anything I’ve written since then has not contained an element of the fantastic.
M.P.: You published your first novel in 1997. It was called Mesmer. What are your memories of that time? Was it hard to see your story in print? Did you get the recognition that you hoped for?
T.L.: That was an amazing experience. I had a book launch at a local shop, all my family and friends turned up. It was a great day. I think the book sold about 400 copies, but it was a good start. And that book actually resulted in me getting my first mass market deal several years later in the USA with Leisure Books.
M.P.: For someone new to your work, which would be the best place to start from?
T.L.: Wow… that’s difficult. I’ve written about 45 books now, 28 of them novels. So if you’re a short story fan, I’d suggest my latest collection Nothing as it Seems. If you’re a fan of (very dark) fantasy, then The Heretic Land, or Echo City, or Dusk (the first of four novels set in my imaginary world of Noreela). If you’re into horror, then new novel Coldbrook, or perhaps Berserk. I think most writers have one piece of writing for which they are known, and for me that’s probably my novella White from over ten years ago. It’s been reprinted in several Best Of anthologies since its first appearance, and has been under option for years.
M.P.: You write in so many genres… How do you manage? Which one gives you more satisfaction?
T.L.: I love everything I write, I have no real preference of genres. Actually I think of most of my work as horror, because even when I’m writing a fantasy novel it’s filled with monsters and horror. I don’t write much fluffy stuff! I also write YA novels now, but YA isn’t a genre as such, rather a market. So my new YA novel London Eye is as much horror as anything I’ve ever written.
M.P.: This year you had no less than three novels out: The Hectic Land, London Eye (the first in a YA trilogy which I think you said somewhere that is already written to conclusion) and out this very months Coldbrook. Not to mention the mammoth collection Nothing as it Seems. Did I miss something? How do you survive such a pace? And when do you have physically the time to write so much?
T.L.: Well, it just happened that all these books came out at the same time. Both Coldbrook and London Eye were both written two or three years ago, The Heretic Land was written last year, and Nothing as it Seems is a collection with only several original stories. So I might look incredibly prolific, but it’s not quite how it seems.
Saying that, I do work very hard and write a lot. By my last count I’ve had 28 novels published in 15 years (seven of them in collaboration) with four more finished and awaiting publication. I worked so hard early in my career that I don’t think I could work any slower now… the idea of only writing 500 words per day seems alien to me. I love what I do, and I’m always filled with new ideas.
M.P.: By and large, Coldbrook is a zombie novel; if we need a handle on the book, that that would be it. What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think of zombies? And more than that, what would you like to be the first image that comes into your readers’ minds after reading Coldbrook?
T.L.: Zombies… flesh eaters. But in Coldbrook they’re only part of the story, because there’s a lot more going on. It was one of the first novels for which I did a huge amount of research (into multiverse theory and the science behind that), and I think I’d like readers to remember it as a startlingly different take on the apocalypse.
M.P.: What can you tell us about the experience of writing in a predefined universe? Are you comfortable with that? I know that even as we speak you are working on a Star Wars novel…
T.L.: Yes, I’ve done a few tie in novels now. Two original Hellboy novels, an original 30 Days of Night novel (as well as novelising the movie), the Cabin in the Woods novelisation… and now the Star Wars novel. I have to admit… I love working on these tie-in novels, and Star Wars has been one of my most enjoyable writing experiences. There are limitations and rules of course, but these only make the job more interesting. And I always approach these original tie-ins as I do my own novels –– I want them to be a great story, well told.
Some people do look down on work like this, but it’s still an art. And I’m a working writer. I have a vivid and rich imagination, but I think I also have a healthy balance between the art of writing, and the need to pay the bills.
M.P.: How hard is it in this day and age to be a full-time writer? You’ve been doing it since 2006.
T.L.: I’ve been very lucky. Well, lucky, and very hard working and committed to the job I love. These are changing times for sure, but an intelligent writer will change with the times. I still love writing novels, but I’m spreading my wings to write screenplays, and hopefully soon comics as well. I also have a TV series in development in the USA based on one of my books.
M.P.: What is your medicine of choice when you really don’t feel like writing?
T.L.: Running, cycling, swimming… I’m heavily into triathlons and running races, and I’ve entered Ironman UK next year (a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a marathon, all within 17 hours). Along with that and a very busy family life, I have plenty to fill my time!
M.P.: Now that FantasyCon has ended, what are your thoughts on the proceedings, the wins, the talks, the signings? What is the master-of-ceremony point of view on all that?
T.L.: It was a great convention. I’ve been going for years, and I always have a fantastic time. This was one of the best, and being MC merely made it more exciting. I spent the Awards Ceremony sat between Joe Lansdale and Muriel Gray … that was great!
M.P.: What’s next?
T.L.: Now that the Star Wars novel is delivered there are several projects I want to work on. A novel with my friend Mark Morris, which we’ve been writing for several years. A TV series proposal I want to write. A new novel. Some short stories. A screenplay… there’s so much I want to do!
M.P.: A message to your Romanian readers?
T.L.: I hope you enjoy my work! And perhaps one day I’ll be translated into Romanian.
M.P.: Thank you very much for this interview. I wish you the best of luck with all future projects. Looking forward to read more of what you have to offer.
T.L.: Thanks for having me.
Paleu, Romania – Monmouthshire, South Wales, UK via e-mail
Read a review of Coldbrook here.