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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Like #steampunk? Fancy a bit of #scifi? Then check out this author interview with .@RichardDockett1 #syfy #fiction .@rararesources

Richard Dee is a sci-fi and streampunk writer, and WWBB has been lucky enough to pin him down for an interview about himself and his book:  Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café.

So, without further ado, grab a coffee, relax and read on…

Writers always have unfinished files, handwritten or typescripts hidden somewhere (usually under beds!) How many unpublished books do you have tucked away?
Last time I looked under my bed, there were three completed novels, about five halfway written and a bunch of short stories. There were also some socks, a lot of dust and fluff and a suitcase with a broken handle.

What’s your least favourite part of the writing process?
The bit in the middle, when the story is still developing as you write it. At this point, I’m never sure if it will just fizzle out and become a short story or go on to be the start of a series.

I think most writers can relate to that! So, how long does take you to write a novel?
It took me thirty years to write the first one! I wrote the short story that became Freefall in 1979 and completed it in 2012. I guess you could say that life got in the way. I have speeded up a little since then. Now, I write 2 or 3,000 words a day, so a first draft will take…, hang on while I get my socks off. Longer probably, because I’m always jumping around from project to project.

Seriously, about four months. Andorra Pett was my fifth novel of seven so far and a bit of a departure, the others are Space Opera (Freefall, Myra, Ribbonworld and Jungle Green) and Steampunk (The Rocks of Aserol and A New Life in Ventis).

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café is the start of what I hope will be a series, Andorra has grown on me as a character and I can see her having lots of adventures.

How do you juggle a writing schedule?
I’ve retired from my ‘proper’ job, but I had to get up early for it and it became a habit. I still get up early and write for an hour or so, then my wife and I have the rest of the day to do what we want. I might do a bit more in the evening. I carry a notebook so if I see or hear an interesting situation during the day I can jot it down for future reference. But you must be careful, being spotted can be embarrassing!

Who do you aspire to be like as an author?
I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Rad Bradbury and Phillip K. Dick. They had a gift, a way of describing a universe in three sentences. I’m not a big fan of pages and pages of flowery description; I’d rather get straight to the action and keep it coming. I try and give the reader a reason to turn over on every page.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
I just want to know what happens next, my writing process is like watching a film in my head and typing what I see. I can rewind, pause and slow it down but I can’t fast forward. Every time I start I must keep going until I get to a good bit. Sometimes that can be after 1,000 words, sometimes 5,000.

When did you first call yourself a writer? 
When I used my first royalties to buy myself a celebratory drink. I think that once you’ve sold a book to someone you don’t know and spent the money you can call yourself a writer.

Abso-bloody-lutely When people ask, ‘what do you do for a living’ do you tell them you’re a writer or do you buckle and say something else?
Now that I’ve retired from my real job, I introduce myself as a writer at every opportunity. After all, it’s how I pass my time, I might not make a fortune, but I do have an income from it.

Do you have a critique/editor partner?
I have a team of wonderful beta readers scattered around the globe. They get a first look at all my work and I really value the fact that they are prepared to tell me if they think that its rubbish. And they do sometimes! Which also saves me from bad reviews.

What’s your talent for writing this book?
I can write female characters thanks to my wife and three daughters, who taught me so much about the way that the female mind works. I like to think that there’s a little of each of them in my books, strong, loyal women who are resourceful and clever, as well as being beautiful.

Why did you write Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café
My wife was reading a book about someone who moved to the country and opened a café on a beach and the story involved lost love and new beginnings.

She challenged me to write something similar but in a sci-fi setting, and never one for refusing a challenge, I got stuck it. I wrote it as a short story first, but then my editor encouraged me to develop it, and the rest is history.

Tell us about Andorra Pett, what’s her story?
It features a reluctant amateur detective called Andorra Pett.

Written through her eyes, it’s a story of new beginnings in strange surroundings. She just wants a quiet life, but events conspire against her, as they so often do. As well as dealing with her new life, running a café on a space station and all that entails, there’s a mystery for her to solve. In the process, she discovers a lot about herself and the people around her. Mostly she finds that she’s quite clever, which is a surprise to her.

There’s a lot of friendship, some new romance and a murderer to catch.

But basically, Andorra is a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land. It’s all about how she learns to thrive.

 I’ve done my best to make the characters familiar, I’ve just placed them in a different setting. I now have ideas for another three sequels to Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café. The first of them, Andorra Pett on Mars, will be published in April 2018.

It has a mixture of themes, doesn’t it?
Well, I gave the tale a crime element as I thought that a space station would be the perfect place for a mystery—especially as it was all a mystery to Andorra! It could also be called a comedy, although there is plenty of drama in it, nothing too heavy or explicit.

Mainly, I want it to be perceived as light-hearted entertainment hence the cartoon cover. I’ve tried to make it a story that’s suitable for all ages, from teen upwards.

Give me the first, middle and end line in Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café
  1. “Is that it?”
  2. I opened the book, expecting chapter and verse on one man’s rampage through the female inhabitants of the station.
  3. Cy smiled, he had that look of contentment. “Mind your own!”
Does Andorra change or learn by the end of the book?
As the story opens, Andorra is running from a bad relationship. She thinks that it was all her fault and that what she needs is to get away. So far so normal. Then I added the sci-fi twist by setting the tale in the future and letting her run to the edge of the solar system. She arrives on the space station intending to have a quiet life, events conspire to make sure that it’s anything but.

As the story unfolds she learns a lot about herself and changes her opinion. Her friend Cy, who has stuck with her, always knew that she was so much more than she realised. Wisely, he lets her find out for herself. 

As I said before, I don’t plot my novels in advance. I had to write the book to find out who the villain was. Right up to the end, it could have been one of several. When I found out, it was as much of a shock to me as I hope it will be to the reader. And the way they were unmasked proved to Andorra that she was as clever as other’s thought she was.

Who would be your dream cast if Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café was made into a movie?
Someone like Miranda Hart’s sidekick Stevie (a character in the BBC TV show Miranda) would be a perfect Andorra. In case you’re not sure who I mean, Stevie is played to perfection by the excellent Sarah Hadland (if you’re reading this Sarah, tell your agent immediately!).

Sounds like Miranda Hart could play Andorra!
A sexier and younger version of her maybe!

You mentioned Andorra’s wingman, Cy. Who’d play him?
Ah, the late Alan Rickman would have been the perfect foil for her as Cy, with his dry wit and superb comic timing.

What about the villains in the book? All books need a baddie!
Indeed they do! I need a villain who isn’t on the face of it, but has a sort of undercurrent. The person who’d play them needs to be outwardly normal but with a mysterious side, which could be good or bad. Helena Bonham Carter or Matthew Macfadyen would be a possible fit. Would they audition, do you think?

If Andorra was one of your friends, what advice would you give her?
You can do whatever you want, as long as you try hard you will never fail

Good advice, and would she make the cut as a bestie?
Definitely, she’s loyal, amusing and actually very smart. She also has a talent for putting herself down and breaking things in an embarrassing way. I’d have to check with the wife first though.

Hit me with the most shocking one-liner from Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café?
Possibly… ‘My God, he was hoping to shag his way out of this!’


Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café

Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!

She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.

Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

For more from Richard check out:

About Richard Dee:
A native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee's family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.

In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge.

In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging.

He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

Click for an excerpt below:

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café
Chapter 1
“Is that it?”
The entrance was in partial darkness, the alleyway behind me dimly lit with flickering tubes. My heels had clicked on the floor as I passed small piles of rubbish and stained brick-effect cladding. The heels didn’t really work here but I was out of my depth and struggling to catch up. Same as the clothes, my designer suit was a little out of place in this riot of grey. It was a splash of colour in a drab working world.
“People don’t come down here much,” explained my guide, the rental agent for the place I wanted to see. I’d forgotten his name and instead thought of him as Mr Greasy. It suited him, his hair was greasy, as were his clothes; even his smile was up there on the grease-o-meter. He probably thought of himself as a ladies man, I know we were out on the fringes but surely not? Maybe a desperate ladies man but I wasn’t desperate. At least, not that desperate. Not yet.
Mr Greasy was still talking. “No-one comes down here much since the new diner opened up.”
I knew where he meant; we had passed it on the way here, next to a pharmacy and a few other shops. The diner looked new, all gleaming chrome and fresh baked aroma. The barista was archetypal, white teeth and blonde hair, a role model for Mr G. Maybe someone would tell him.
He opened the control box and pressed a few buttons on a keypad. The steel security curtain rolled up to reveal a wide window and a door at the side. Faded lettering proclaimed that this was the ‘ucky Strike Bar and Grill’. The ‘L’ had fallen off; there was the faint outline of where it had been. As the mesh rose, dust fell from the links; the place must have been shut for a while.
“What happened to the last owner?”
“There was a change in the law, no booze allowed any more. It kind of stopped him in his tracks. He gave up and walked away, owes me a month’s rent too,” said Mr G as he opened the door, this one had a combination lock. He flicked the light switch; dim red lighting came on, just enough to see tables, chairs and a bar. Everything was covered in dust, there were dirty glasses on the tables and the overhead video screens were blank and cobwebbed. That meant spiders, space spiders! I shuddered, I don’t like spiders.
“The kitchen is out back, together with stores and living space,” continued the sales patter, “a nice master bedroom, en suite.” He leered, “Plenty of room for a little lady like yourself. I’ll show you.”
“Take your word for it,” I answered, not wanting to be in a confined space with him; his breath was probably greasy and, well, I didn’t want to know about his hands. “Are the fittings and stock all included?”
“All the alcohol’s been impounded but everything that’s here is yours for two hundred a month, one month up front.” I had a sudden feeling, like this place was where I was meant to be.
“I’ll take it.” OK, so it wasn’t ideal but to be honest, I was fed up with running. I’d ignored my feelings before and look where that had got me. I might even grow to like the place. Besides, there wasn’t anywhere further to run. We were on the edge of civilisation.
“What you gonna do with it? You can’t open it as a bar and we’ve already got a diner.” It was a fair question, I didn’t really know but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
He moved closer. “Let’s seal the deal then,” he suggested, with a wink.
One of the advantages of being a short shrimp, as my mother used to say, was that you didn’t have to reach down too far to do a man serious damage. I was just contemplating that when he was saved by the arrival of Cy, my friend and business partner, dragging a trolley full of luggage.
“You lost me, Andi,” he puffed. “It’s bloody dark down here, is this it?”
Greasy backed off; Cy was larger and less greasy than him. He didn’t know but Cy had no interest in me in that sort of way. Dave was the love of his life, he had left him to look after me, and that made me feel alternately good and bad, they had seemed as happy together as Trevor and I had.
“He’ll wait,” Cy had explained on the trip out. “And if he doesn’t then I can cry into my cappuccino for a while and move on.”
“Pay the man, Cy.” I had decided. “Four hundred and let’s get the gingham bunting out.”
Greasy shook his head. “Gingham! What the hell are you going to do to the place?”
“Maybe the diner needs a little competition,” I ventured; this brought a smirk and a shake of the head.
“Mr Munro won’t like it.”
“Mr Munro can lump it. Shall I tell him or will you?”
He was saved from having to answer by the sight of the money in Cy’s hand. He took the notes, counted them and walked away, chuckling in a greasy sort of way. “I’ll give you a month,” he shouted over his shoulder. I thought that wasn’t too much of an endorsement, considering I’d paid for a month. Or maybe that was what he meant.
“You’re not serious are you?” said Cy as I walked around the tables to the far wall. “We can’t run a café.”
I stopped and turned back to him.
“Why not, Cy? It’s perfect; remember what that bloke said on the shuttle. There’s only one other place selling leisure here, all we have to do is pretend it’s the shop in London, just coffee and cake instead of clothes.”
“Can you bake cakes, Andi?” He had a point; he’d tried my sandwiches once. He reckoned that I wouldn’t be able to do toast without a recipe and a video. I’d show him.
“Yes,” I said with confidence, and then I thought about it, “No… sort of; how hard can it be?” My mum had taught me and she’d never killed anyone.
I turned back and continued to the end wall. I had thought the place was dark, I was about to find out if I could make it lighter.
I had spotted the control for the picture windows all along one wall, reaching over the stained bench seats I grabbed it and turned it. The switch was sticky and resisted but in the end it rotated and with a whir the view was revealed as the shutters went up.
Saturn’s rings in all their glory filled the room with reflected light, the space opened out and the room became more than just a derelict and unloved bar. Even an ‘ucky’ one.
This was now my café, and I was going to make it work. I’d even thought of a name. And Cy was going to help me.
“Welcome to the Oort Cloud Café, Cy.”
He shook his head. “I just hope you know what you’re doing.”
It’s about time I introduced myself, I’m Andorra Pett, my friends all call me Andi. I’m short and feisty with a few curves and a mess of dark hair. I used to run a vintage clothes shop back on Earth when I was young and still believed in happy ever after. Then there was Trevor, he said I was the love of his life, I believed him too, right up to the moment that I caught him with my soon-to-be-ex best friend Masie. Then I knew it was time to change everything. I raided the accounts, took the money and ran. That was a bit out of character for me, I wasn’t a space hound or even the flying to Spain type.
But, I thought, it’s time to get over it and DO something. Cy, short for Cyril – and don’t laugh – caught up with me and tried to stop me at the port but he ended up coming with me. He said he was looking out for me but I reckoned he wanted a break, the same as I did. Why else would he try to stop me with a suitcase of his own? Cy was my assistant from the shop, a genius with a sewing machine and my confidant. Plus he tended to bail me out when my mouth got me into trouble.
“Won’t you miss Dave?” I asked as we boarded the shuttle up to the orbiting ship, ahead was Mars, then here.
“Maybe,” Cy answered. “But then I’ve always wanted adventure. Keeping you safe should guarantee me that.”
You can find Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café via this universal link

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