Interview with Ray Sullivan
Author of The Journeymen
Ray Sullivan is a British author born and raised in north Wales. He completed a 24 year military career in the Royal Air Force before returning to north Wales to work in the public and private sector. He is currently a lecturer in aeronautical engineering when not writing. Ray's writing is impossible to pidgeon-hole - his novels range from sci-fi, to military adventure to comedic. His latest book is Hotel California, a dark comedy thriller.
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How did The Journeymen come to be?
- It started as a short story about four adventurers on a distant planet who break the rules to explore a region of the planet forbidden to explorers. In the forbidden area they discover a dark secret from the planet's past.
I wrote the short story in my final days of service in the Royal Air Force one sleepless night on a resettlement course and it sat on a floppy disk for a few year as I settled into civilian life. Fast forward and I've completed my first novel, Parallel Lives (also spawned from a short story) and I've got the writing bug. A bigger story than the original one seeps into my consciousness and the Journeymen concept was formed
The Journeymen is about aliens, isn't it?
- It's based on the concept that an alien race has populated us not once, but at least twice. The alien race, who are never given a name in either of the Journeymen books, colonised this planet a long time ago, but lost contact with the home planet thanks to a terrible war at home that destroyed the technological base they had. Fast forward millennia and the descendants of the home planet have rebuilt their planet but not all of the technology they once had. Critically they are dying out due to a lack of sufficient biological diversity and decide to mount a mission to what we now call Earth to recoup any original DNA from the colonists.
The crew making this journey, which spans several lifetimes, are known as the Journeymen. On the journey a rift occurs and a splinter group, known as the Sons of Arlgon, becomes sworn enemies of the Journeymen.
Once on Earth the Journeymen dedicate themselves to propelling the technology of this planet to achieve the aims of returning the DNA of the remaining Colonists, who are essentially the elite of the planet, home. The Sons, as they are now known, dedicate themselves to thwarting the Journeymen. The remainder of us, known as IBs, suffer the consequences.
The Journeymen is two stories, isn't it?
- Yes. The story I've described above and a story set in the present about a space vehicle designer, Tom Roberts, who becomes of interest to the Journeymen and the Sons and finds himself a pawn in a bigger, more violent game than he would ever anticipate.
The two stories are interleaved, winding in and out of the main thread as the book progresses. Much of the back story, the Journeymen history, is gleaned through Tom's eyes as he reads modern translations of ancient accounts while a prisoner recuperating from injuries. This backstory forms the whole concept of the Journeymen and their mission, shows how a bunch of essentially good, altruistic guys morph over history into an organisation that works in the shadows of power, manipulating world events to fulfil a specific aim. Journeymen don't aspire for the top jobs - in particular the royalty of this planet - those are the Colonists and they are protected by the Journeymen who inhabit the corridors of power. They ensure the right people are in the right positions to influence the big decisions, which is why you might have been beaten to a job you were perfect for because it was seen as a necessary stepping stone for a Journeyman somewhere.
Is it violent?
- There's a lot of violence in the book - some quite graphic. I don't think I realised how violent it was until one of my Beta readers pulled me up and made a bit of a comment about the violence. In the book the Journeymen and the Sons have a pitched battle on the journey to Earth and didn't have access to guns or similar weapons, so all the fighting was carried out with knives and steel clubs. Fast forward and both groups consider those weapons as a mark of honour and use them out of preference, if only to send a message to those read in to the Journeymen..
Although Tom Roberts, a space vehicle designer for the European Space Agency, is saved from a brutal killer who ran Tom and his friend Alex down, he finds himself effectively incarcerated by his rescuers while he recovers from his injuries. They want to use Tom, and more importantly his design for a space-borne sieve, as bargaining chips to get them back in favour with the secretive Journeymen.
After Tom discovers he has been framed for the killing of Alex and then witnesses the brutal murder of one of his ex-colleagues by one of his captors he escapes, but quickly finds he is operating at a level that transcends the normal criminal justice system and is pursued not only by the Journeyman network but also by their arch enemies, the Sons of Arlgon.
Unable to trust the police he contacts the only person he feels can help him, his lover Helen who enlists the help of a senior policeman, John, who not only has to put his career on the line to help the woman he mutually loves but also his deepest engrained responsibilities as a Son.
The chase culminates in an adrenaline pumping finale which sees Tom and his friends pinned down by a psychotic killer with an automatic rifle and a trail of innocent deaths resulting from the determination of the Journeymen to obtain Tom’s design by any means.
When you read the background to the Journeymen, their history, their mission and their tactics you will never be able to look at a political decision or technological development in the same light again