Friday, August 16, 2013

Interview: Steve Worland (author of COMBUSTION)

Steve has worked extensively in film and television in Australia and the U.S.A. He has written scripts for Working Title and Icon Productions, worked in script development for James Cameron's Lightstorm and wrote Fox Searchlight's Bootmen, which won five Australian Film Institute Awards.

Steve also wrote the New Line action-comedy telemovie Hard Knox, the bible and episodes of the television series Big Sky and the Saturn award-winning Farscape. Paper Planes, a children's adventure movie Steve co-wrote, starts production in late 2013 for a Christmas 2014 release.

He is the author of the action-adventure novels VELOCITY and COMBUSTION. He is currently writing his third book. (author bio and picture taken from Steve's website!about/c21kz)

Steve was kind enough to answer some questions following my reviews of VELOCITY and COMBUSTION.

(Josh) Both VELOCITY and COMBUSTION are big on action. A space shuttle is high-jacked in VELOCITY, while LA is set on fire in COMBUSTION. What was your inspiration behind the plots for these books?

(Steve) 'Velocity' was inspired by an article I read in the Sydney Morning Herald about the Royal Flying Doctor Service being partially funded by NASA. The Americans wanted to be sure the RFDS was on call during space flights if they needed to use Central Australia in case of an emergency. The article sparked my interest and became the jumping off point for the book. 

'Combustion' came about when I was posed a question during a pitch meeting in LA about an interesting way to destroy the world. I immediately thought about a virus, then pushed it from my mind as being cliched. Cut to the following weekend and I'm reading a Time Magazine article about the Firestone tyre delimitation issues that were causing Ford Explorer SUVs to roll over at speed. I wondered how a virus could cause a car accident and came up with 'The Swarm', a nanotech virus that infects combustion engines and causes them to explode. Also, after living in Los Angeles for a long while I wanted to write about an Aussie coming to grips with the City of Angles.

VELOCITY introduced Judd Bell, an astronaut plagued by his insecurities who seemed to evolve and grow as a person as the novel progressed. Was it always your intention to create a damaged protagonist who wasn't picture perfect from the get-go? How does this separate him from other traditional action heroes (in general terms)?

Yes, that was definitely the idea. The characters in my books tend to be making it up as they go along, trying their best but not always succeeding to reach their goals because of their character flaws. They must utilise whatever skill set they might possess to give it a go -- without knowing if they will be successful or not. To me it is much more satisfying to write an 'everyman' who is unsure of what course of action to take but will give it a whirl rather than a 'superhero' who has all the answers and knows exactly what to do. I write it so my characters grow and change over the course of the story, eventually come to grips with their character flaws, then use what they've learned about themselves to reach their ultimate goal.

Despite the serious nature of both books, there's a nice balance of humour and liberal dose of light-hearted banter between Judd and Corey. How important was it to get this balance right?

I think comedy is the key ingredient for the kind of action adventure stories I write (and love). It's simple really, I believe you have to 'pay for the heart with the funny'. It's an old Hollywood saying but I believe it's necessary in all forms of drama. Essentially it means that if you want the readers to care about the characters at the end, when the stakes are at their highest, then the readers must love (or at least like) the characters, and the best way for that to happen is for them to make the readers laugh at the beginning. It doesn’t have to be laugh out loud funny, but the characters must endear themselves to the readers early on.

In COMBUSTION we see Corey play a bigger role in the hero stakes. What was the rationale behind bringing Corey into the spotlight (not to say Judd is an armchair hero, he's very much part of the action)?

I'm happy that came through clearly because it was definitely something I was aiming for with 'Combustion'. I really the wanted the Aussie to be front and centre this time around. I was lucky to get some generous feedback after 'Velocity' was published and pretty much every comment was about how much people enjoyed Corey and his blue heeler Spike. So to make Corey the equal of Judd in 'Combustion' I fleshed out his backstory, gave him a couple of major personal dilemmas to wrestle with and introduced him to the smart and resourceful Lola Jacklin, who just might be the woman of his dreams.

The Atlantis 4 are all unique characters who compliment one another across both VELOCITY and COMBUSTION, can readers expect to see more of this group in future books?

Yes, I will definitely revisit Judd Bell & Corey Purchase and the whole Atlantis 4 gang in the future, but my next book will introduce a fresh set of characters (the main character is an Aussie) and will be set in the world of Formula One. It will be published this time next year.


- Read my review of COMBUSTION

- Read my review of VELOCITY

- Visit Steve's website

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