Friday, January 27, 2012

Author Interview: Geoff Gander, author of The Tunnelers

It's finally Friday! Today, I had the very fortunate opportunity to interview author, Geoff Gander, about his novella (The Tunnelers), upcoming short stories and novels he is working on, and what inspires him to write.

When he isn’t writing or toiling on a public sector cube farm, Gander prefers to spend his time reading (fantasy, science fiction, and philosophy), entertaining his two boys, watching British comedies, playing roleplaying games, and travelling. Not at the same time.

Gander has also written several roleplaying game products, including sourcebooks and adventures.

The Reading List: When did you first realize you wanted to become an author?

Geoff Gander: Good question! I’ve been writing since early adolescence, and my long-term dream was always to drop out of the rat race and write full-time, but the actual decision to make a serious go of it came in 2007. An event taught me that we’re here for a very finite amount of time, and it can be ended very quickly, and without warning. For that reason, I decided that I wouldn’t wait to pursue my dreams.

RL: Do you ever experience writer’s block? If you do, how do you work through it? Do you have a particular routine that helps you write?

GG: I get writer’s block more often than I’d like to admit. What I do to get around it is commit to writing 300 words each day, and I don’t let myself off the hook until I do it. The words I write each day are sometimes good, sometimes terrible, but I always try to stick to that routine. I like to believe that doing this keeps my mind working. That being said, there are days where I can’t get my writing done due to a variety of factors (job, kids, etc.), and at those times I’ll sit down and plot out story ideas, so at least I do something writing-related every day.

The other thing I do is carry a notepad with me as often as I can.  That way, whenever I get an idea I can write it down before I forget it. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll pull it out and read through the scribbles, and get some ideas that way.

RL: Who were some of your favorite authors growing up?

GG: The earliest novel I remember reading and really liking was the Hobbit, and Tolkien has remained a favourite ever since. I also read a pile of those old Choose Your Own Adventure novels. I devoured Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series when I was 10 or so, and when I learned in my teens that Terry Pratchett wrote fantasy in the same dryly satirical style I started reading him, too (I still pick up every book he releases). To me, the ability to write humorously about serious topics (as Pratchett does) is a wonderful gift. I rounded that off with Robert Anton Wilson (the Illuminatus! and Schrödinger’s Cat trilogies did wonders in expanding my teenage mind) - and more recently I’ve been reading his semi-philosophical works on psychology and the nature of reality, which I’m sure will give me lots of story ideas, someday. 

I would have to say, though, that the single most influential author for me during my formative years was H.P. Lovecraft. I discovered him in high school, and within a year I had read all but a handful of his stories. Blood and guts never appealed to me, but Lovecraft’s notion of cosmic horror, of forces completely beyond human comprehension, struck a chord within me. I still go back to him regularly.

RL:  What do you do when you’re not writing?

GG: I spend most of the day working in a nondescript government office, writing policy documents, presentations, and other things for the people at the top of the pyramid – but of course this kind of writing isn’t quite as entertaining. A good chunk of my time outside of that is spent with the family – the requisite wife, kids, and dog. It’s very busy, and my writing time is often the period between getting the kids into bed and finishing the day’s chores and going to bed myself, but I think it’s made me a more well-rounded person.

I also spend a few hours per month playing roleplaying games with friends – I get lots of ideas from these sessions. It’s the one of the few hobbies that’s remained constant in my life.
RL: The Tunnelers is a horror fiction. What was your inspiration for the novel? What attracted you to the horror genre?

GG: I think what I like most about the horror genre is that it revolves around how we react to that most primal emotion: fear.  Fear motivates us to run away from danger, but it can also force us to face whatever is threatening us, or our loved ones. To me, it’s one of the master switches of the human psyche, that can turn normal people into heroes or lunatics, or destroy them. When I write a horror story, it feels like I’m tapping into a kind of primal, dangerous force – and I think well-written horror *should* give you goosebumps and make you look over your shoulder!

That said, I wanted to write a classic Lovecraftian story, and set it in my hometown - which, to my knowledge, has never been the setting for any tale like this. My city (Ottawa) has a large mental health care facility (the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, as featured in The TunnelersLovecraftian monsters (Cthulhu et al). 

After I had the setting, I thought about things that would be frightening. Having been in a deep mine once, I find absolute darkness unsettling (and I know a lot of people do, too).  Very soon afterwards I came up with the Tunnelers, a race of nasty, alien creatures who never see sunlight. The other details fleshed themselves out very quickly soon afterwards!
RL: You have another short story, Deadly Cargo, that is being released as part of an anthology this year. When will the anthology be available? Can you explain the premise of the story? What inspired you to write it?

GG: The two-volume New Tales of the Old Ones  anthology is scheduled to be released by KnightWatch Press in early- to mid-2012, and my own story, “Deadly Cargo”, will be appearing in Volume II. The story is set in Prince Edward County (on Lake Ontario) in the late 19th century, which at that time was a centre of shipping.  Thomas de Raaf, the youngest of four sons (and a bit of a black sheep), knows that the family farm will be divided among his older brothers. His mother sends him down to Picton, the only town and port of note in the region, to sign on as a ship’s hand under his uncle, who is a first mate. Thomas is eager to prove himself, but many stories surround the taciturn captain, and he soon learns that there are worse perils in the Great Lakes than stormy weather.

The idea for this story came to me after visiting my parents, who live in that region (and it does have a storied past to it – from shipping in the 19th century, to rum-running during Prohibition). I also did some research on ghost ships and Lake Ontario monster legends, and found a large amount of information. I had always wanted to write a Cthulhu Mythos story, but I didn’t want to set it in the 1920s or the modern era (as most of them are). All the pieces just flowed together from there.

RL: I know that you are also working on a number of other novellas and a children’s novel. When can readers expect those titles to be available?

GG: Another good question! The first draft of my children’s fantasy novel (working title: "The Golden Curse") is about 70% complete.  Because it’s a longer-term project, I return to it whenever I have a gap in my other work. I expect the first draft will be done by Spring/Summer 2012, at which point I’ll be doing a serious edit.  That’s the thing about longer-term projects: As your skills improve you look back at your work and you’re tempted to make considerable changes to the early parts of it! Once I have a draft I’m comfortable with, the real work of marketing it will begin.  And that’s where my other projects fit in. 

Most of my output right now consists of short stories and novellas.  At the moment I have several short stories making the rounds, and three more complete and in various stages of editing. Most of these are horror (some Lovecraftian, some not), but a couple are short adventure stories aimed at children. I fully expect that some of these will make it into print this year. My plan is to have enough work published that, by the time I’m ready to market my novel to publishers, I’ll have enough of an established track record to make me an appealing prospect.

Speaking of new releases, I recently received news that a novella of mine (“Divided Loyalties”) will be published in the upcoming Heroes of Mars  anthology, by Metahuman Press. This is a classic “rock ‘em, sock ‘em” pulp story set on the world of Barsoom (Edgar Rice Burroughs’ sci-fi version of Mars), which centres on a young warrior, Kor Tharak, who is forced to choose between his loyalty to his city-state and his own personal moral code – and to decide whether he has the courage to live with the consequences of that choice. This is my first fiction publication outside of the horror genre, and it was great fun writing it.  Kor Tharak will definitely have further adventures.

If anyone is interested in hearing when I have a new publication, the best thing for them to do is visit my blog or to “like” my author page on Facebook (Scribblings by Geoff Gander). I always post updates whenever something really big happens.

RL: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

GG: The best piece of advice I can give is: Don’t ever give up!  By the time I wrote The Tunnelers, I had written two other short stories, submitted them to a number of publishers, and had already received rejection letters. But I knew this was something I wanted to do, so I kept at it. Even after some of my other works began to receive favourable attention, I still went back to my older material, with an eye toward improving them any way I could. My vision is for every piece I write to eventually find a home, somewhere.

On a related note, I would advise writers not to take rejections personally. Editors are very busy people, and even for a small-run magazine it’s not abnormal to receive dozens of submissions for every open slot they have. They need to pick the stories they think will appeal to their readers the most, and often the decision not to go with your story is based on what “fits”, rather than whether the writing is good or bad. That being said, I think there’s no harm in asking an editor what made them decide not to take your story, or if there was something major in your work that made them write it off. More often than not, I do get a sentence or two of comments, and I take those into account when I re-read my story before submitting it elsewhere.

Read my review of The Tunnelers then get your own copy from Solstice Publishing or on Amazon!

Find out more about Geoff Gander and his novels on his blog:
Or check out his Facebook page: Scribblings by Geoff Gander

And be sure to look for New Tales of the Old Ones (featuring "Deadly Cargo") and Heroes of Mars (featuring "Divided Loyalties") coming soon!



  1. Great interview Geoff! I loved 'The Tunnelers' and am looking forward to reading some more of your work. It was fun to see that we like the same authors, too!

  2. The Tunnelers was an amazing novel! Glad you enjoyed the interview!



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