Interview with Geoff Nelder
Author of XAGHRA'S REVENGE
Geoff Nelder lives in Chester with his physicist wife, within easy cycle rides of the Welsh mountains.
Geoff is a former teacher, now an editor, writer and fiction competition judge. His novels include Scifi: Exit, Pursued by Bee; The ARIA trilogy; The Chaos of Mokii; thrillers: Escaping Reality, Hot Air.
Recent: historical fantasy inspired by the mass abduction of the population of Malta’s Gozo in 1551 by pirates. Those 5,000 spirits need justice: Xaghra’s Revenge (July 2017)
Collections: Incremental– 25 surreal tales more mental than incremental.
Suppose We, a science fiction / surreal novella out early 2019
Buy this book
What inspired you to write XAGHRA’S REVENGE?
- Pronounce it like the English do – Zagra – unless you’re Maltese and you know how to utter guttural sounds with the back of your throat. Who doesn’t love a juicy revenge, especially with a bite of fantasy on the side? In this case real people were outrageously wronged, yet no one cared for nearly 500 years until I strolled onto their island and wrote their story.
Are the characters based on real people?
- The main characters were inspired by the 5,000 victims who suffered their abduction and the pirate-Ottoman buccaneers who were merely doing what many sea-faring people did then. Some still do.
Have you ever needed to publish under a pseudonym?
- When I was a teacher I wrote a humorous thriller – ESCAPING REALITY. It had naughty bits so it was published under the name John Ambit. Surprising that Ambit isn’t an actual surname, anywhere. The older kids soon discovered it was me so the following editions were as Geoff Nelder.
You make good use of locations in the book – there’s a real sense of place. Are these locations significant for you?
- I am a former geography teacher. Places are so important to me that I spend up to two years researching the landscape, smells, sounds and people for my novels. Xaghra is an ancient town housing one of the world's oldest buildings - the Ggantija - when I hug its giant rocks I get a buzz, which I hope travelled into the story.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
- My readers expect me to be original. Damn them.
Which authors do you most admire? Which qualities, in particular, have influenced your writing?
- For short stories I admire A,L Kennedy because of her lyrical prose. Lateral thinking too in Tibor Fischer and the literary tone of Julian Barnes. Favourite modern writer would be Claire North. Her novels reflect my efforts of being more surreal than conventional science fiction and fantasy.
How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
- Pleased. I’m hard of hearing and it’s damned hard getting their names and whatever words they want me to write.
Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
- In my HOT AIR thriller set in Europe but mostly on the island of Mallorca, a lady features who claims to be a muse for Robert Graves when he lived there. She inspired him in bed, allegedly. Also maybe in just the idea of bed. She admired genius and he was urged on to rise to her expectations. I have a small bunch of regular readers and I belong to writing groups and their hilarious nods and applauds – often in the wrong places – are muse enough for me.
Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?
- An English teacher told me when I was 15 that I was such a good liar it should become my profession. Hence I am a writer.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- Flying Crooked. Robert Graves wrote this poem about butterflies. I learnt it as a kid. I and you are not allowed to quote it online or in print without copyright permission but I can give you a link to it on my blog because I paid for permission. Here it is.
I was outside in Greece writing my current project – SUPPOSE WE – when a butterfly landed on my laptop. So you want to be in my surreal science fiction novella do you? So it was. Of course it is an alien butterfly and not really a butterfly but it became a character even though it has no speech. It becomes attached to a French scientist, who calls it Papillon, of course. It has a chapter of its own in the sequel, FALLING UP.
In 1551 pirates abducted the entire population of the Mediterranean island of Gozo. 5,000 people were forced onto 150 galleys, and taken to slave auctions in Libya and Constantinople. The loudest crying babies, the sick and old were thrown overboard! Lidia was taken to a harem. Separated from her husband, she swore to escape partly because she experiences more than a good catholic girl should. Her husband, now a slave, also seeks escape to reunite with Lidia and their baby son hidden by her father on Gozo. Meanwhile, in present-day France, a man and woman are thrown together by ancient spirits. One is descended from the abductees, the other from the pirates, but which is which?