It's a particular pleasure to do a Pro-File of Tim Lebbon. He's been one of my favorite writers for some time. His prose blends muscle with elegance and his people are always finely drawn and achingly true voyagers on our ship of fools.
He also writes one hell of a good novelization. I've never understood the scorn the form receives so often. Sure there are bad novelizations but if you've glanced at some of the treacle on the bestseller lists lately...are bad novelizations any worse? Besides, I've read two or three dozen movie inspired novels that were far superior to films they were designed to promote. People such as Max Allan Collins, Nancy Holder, Greg Cox, Christopher Golden, Alan Dean Foster and many, many others bring all their skills to the form. Like Tim Lebbon, they make the story their own.
PREDATOR: Incursion is an example of a franchise novel rich in all that muscular and elegant prose I spoke of above and what's more the dark brutal chase and confrontation scenes are rendered with a Peckinpahesque menace.PRO-FILE TIM LEBBON1. Tell us about INCURSION and how you generally approach novelizations.
PREDATOR: INCURSION is the first of an Alien/Predator trilogy called The Rage War, which I'm writing for Titan. 20th Century Fox licensed the project. It's set hundreds of years after the Alien/Predator movies, and involves a threat to the Human Sphere (the expanse of human exploration in the galaxy) from beyond. So while it's tie-in, it's not strictly a novelisation, as it's all my own story and characters. The outline concept came from Titan/Fox, and I took it from there and fleshed it out, creating characters and concepts, worlds and technology, and the large background arc. These are pretty unusual novels for me as I don't normally write such wide-ranging stories with so many characters. But it's an epic story, so for that I needed to spread my wings and create an epic cast of characters and situations. I think it's turning out pretty well.
I approach such novels the same was as I approach my original books, really, and I don't really treat them any differently. It's still all about the story and the characters, it's just that in these novels I'm including creatures and creations from someone else's universe.
2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?
I'm writing the third book in The Rage War, Alien vs Predator: Armageddon. I've also just finished editing my new novel Relics, for Titan, which will be out early 2017. A long wait, but I think it'll be worth it. I'm also writing a proposal with Christopher Golden for a new series of novels, as well as working on a couple of screenplays and more novel ideas. I'm always working on a few things at any one time.
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Can I list a few? Making a living out of my hobby. Having the time and opportunity to let my imagination run wild. Being my own boss (to a degree...). Making up stuff out of my weird, twisted head and making money from it. Keeping my own hours. Meeting some wonderful people and making loads of great friends. The commute is good, too.
4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?
Another list? The constant fear. Not only about money, but about where the next idea's coming from, will it be any good, is my current project any good, am I losing 'it', did I ever have 'it' in the first place, what happens if the ideas and/or deals dry up, what about if everyone realises what a fraud I am .... etc.
But I have to say the positives FAR outweigh the negatives.
5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Apart from pay writers more? Well, the whole sales numbers versus orders situation frustrates me a huge amount. If you print ten thousand books and sell seven thousand, the way to go for the next book ISN'T to only print seven thousand, because then you'll only sell four thousand. You print ten thousand of book two and you'll sell another seven thousand. I guess this is a bookseller problem rather than a publishing problem, but they're closely connected. I'm not an old hand yet, but I've been around long enough, and seen enough books published, to know that the more copies of your book get out there into the big wide world, the more you'll sell, regardless of publicity budgets and quirky marketing campaigns.
6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?
(Ed, not sure I can think of any really. I'll mention a horror writer though)
I'm a big Arthur Machen fan. His work is still in print, but usually only in small editions and from small or specialty publishers. It would be great to see his work more widely available, to the extent that people who've never heard of him might pick up his work.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget
How true! I was sitting in work (I worked for the local authority at the time). I'd sent my novel Mesmer in to Tanjen Publications about two months before. This was back in 1996. So I gave them a call one lunchtime from work when most people were out at lunch. I spoke to Anthony Barker, the owner and editor, and he told me that he'd just read it and would like to accept the book for publication! So the first person I told the news to was my boss, who came out wondering why I was jumping up and down and shouting. A good moment. Tanjen were an indie press, and I think I made about £200 from that first book. But it got me on the shelves and on the radar, it was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award, and from then on I never looked back. I knew what I wanted to do, and I worked hard for the next seven years until going part time, then four years later I quit to write for a living. And I'm still working hard on being an overnight success!
I recall my wife and I went out for a beer that evening :-)