Hi Nolan, welcome over to thebookplank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us!
BP: First off, can you tell us a bit more as to who D. Nolan Clark is, what are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
NC: Hi! D. Nolan Clark is actually a pseudonym. In reality, I’m David Wellington, the horror writer. I’m partial to long walks and sunsets… and writing and reading. I don’t have much free time for hobbies at the moment, but I play the occasional video game.
BP: What is your foremost reason to write under a pseudonym?
NC: It was a decision I made with my wonderful editors at Orbit. We wanted to make sure people didn’t expect this book to be another horror novel. It’s not. It’s straight up science fiction. Though there’s plenty of suspense and some intense scenes here!
BP: Forsaken Skies isn’t your debut novel but still a first in a series, how did you went about and plan to write Forsaken Skies?
NC: You could say I’ve been writing this book since I was six years old. That was the year I saw Star Wars in the theatre. The heady rush of that movie was followed by a bit of a sinking feeling—there wasn’t likely to be any more Star Wars for years to come, which when you’re a child feels like forever. So I decided if I wanted more, I’d have to write it myself. That was the moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been an odd journey. I ended up writing a lot of things that were nothing like Star Wars—but now I’m back to my first love, science fiction.
BP: Pursuing the career as an author is chancy road, what gave you the motivation to pick up the pen and start writing?
NC: For me there’s just never been any other option. It’s the only thing I really wanted to do. There were a lot of setbacks and discouraging moments along the way, but I never stopped working at it. Writing every free moment I could. Trying to get better, all the time. It was a lot of work but it’s been very fulfilling.
BP: if you look back on writing Forsaken Skies, what did you find the hardest?
NC: Characterization. I’ve always struggled with creating realistic, sympathetic characters—it’s a very different process in sf than it is in horror. In horror you just take ordinary people and put them in extraordinary peril. It’s easy to garner sympathy for people being chased by a monster. Here, I needed to create people who had a reason to do impossible things. I tore my hair out, at first. But then…
BP: Besides the hardest part, which part came to you the easiest?
NC: That’s the “but then” part. I was amazed to find that once I had the characters I wanted, the book pretty much wrote itself. The dynamics between them drove them into the plot, and soon they were taking on a life of their own. It’s always a great feeling when you start having conversations with your characters, rather than just throwing them from one scene to another.
BP: Which character, scene or chapter did you enjoy writing about the most?
NC: There are a lot of great characters in the book, but my favourite is Auster Maggs. He’s a fighter pilot and a bit of a scoundrel. No, scratch that, he’s all scoundrel. He’s not the villain of the book, but he’s always looking the main chance, and he ends up making everybody’s life harder. He gets away with it because he’s so charming and witty. Getting to write his dialogue was incredibly fun—though it took some work. He’s much better spoken than I am!
BP: Forsaken Skies was released on September 6th, if you could rewrite or change one scene in the book would you do it? If yes what would you chance and why?
NC: No, no, I would never do such a thing. Is it tempting? Sure. A writer always sees the flaws in their own work. But the book is out there now and it needs to live its own life.
BP: Science Fiction is always the genre that pushes technology, what do you like most about writing in this genre?
NC: It’s the sense of wonder, to borrow a rather hackneyed phrase. It might be a cliché, but it’s true. Science fiction lets us explore the secrets of the universe. How could you resist that?
BP: Space opera’s are making an appearance more often, where do you think Forsaken Skies stands out compared to the others?
NC: Well, there’s plenty of action and intrigue in this book, but I like to think there’s something more. It explores one answer to Fermi’s Paradox. The question of why, if the universe is full of life, we haven’t detected any of it yet. Why isn’t the sky full of alien voices, babbling away? Why have we never met any aliens? I won’t claim to have the definitive answer, but I raise one possibility.
BP: If you would have to sell Forsaken Skies with a single sentence, how would it go?
NC: Want to read a science fiction epic with tons of action, unforgettable characters, and an incredible twist ending? Thought you might.
Forgive me. I’m an American. We’re all born pitch men.
BP: which authors and which stories are your source of inspiration?
NC: I’ve already mentioned Star Wars, but I’ve been hugely influenced here by people like Larry Niven and Richard K. Morgan. There’s also a tiny bit of Terry Pratchett in the book, though good luck finding it.
BP: And last but not least, can you give us a sneak peek of what will be instore for us in Forsaken Skies?
NC: There’s a planet at the edge of human space, called Niraya. For a long time it’s been the middle of nowhere, a religious retreat and a mining colony barely worth keeping up. When a distress signal comes in from Niraya, saying it’s being attacked by mysterious drones from out of the sky, the corporation that owns the planet decides it isn’t worth saving. It’s just not cost effective.
Aleister Lanoe, a starfighter pilot and veteran of a hundred battles, is the only one who seems to care. He gathers up as many pilots as he can and rides to the rescue—only to find himself squaring off against incredible odds. For hundreds of years humanity has thought it was alone in the universe. There are indications that these alien invaders aren’t human. Together with his crew he’ll have to find a way to fight them—and to figure out who they are, and what they mean to the history of the human race.
BP: Thank you very much for your time and good luck with writing your next book!
NC: Thanks so much for letting me walk the bookplank!