Welcome to Lee Murray’s New Zealand Speculative Fiction Show, an interview series featuring star acts from NZ’s science fiction, fantasy and horror community, including news, insights, and sneak-peeks of their latest performances. Today’s guest is Waikato writer, Adrian Smith, who burst onto the scene in the last year with his high action speculative thrillers, The Rule of Three, and The Fourth Phase, both based in Nicholas Sainsbury Smith’s bestselling Extinction Cycle series.
A lot of people wouldn’t think an author could get their big break from writing fan fiction, but some of genre’s best writers have got their start that way: Lyn McConchie writing in the fantasy worlds of Andre Norton is Kiwi example. How did you happen to get involved in fan writing? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of starting your writing career in someone else’s world, albeit as well-loved as Nicholas Sainsbury Smith’s?
I’d always wanted to write or be involved in filmmaking, something like that, but I was told by my high school English teacher that I was a daydreamer and writing is for intelligent people. So, I did the kiwi bloke thing and went and did a trade. Fast forward 25 years and after reading Nick’s Extinction Horizon I reached out. I was pleasantly surprised that Nick responded and so began a great friendship. I told Nick how I wanted to write, and he encouraged me, even more so when he opened the Extinction world. I’d had this idea for the plot stewing for months, so I took the plunge.
Advantages: An established fan base eager for more stories.
Disadvantages: Kindle worlds is only available to US readers at the moment. But this may change soon.
Ever feel constrained?
Not really. There are a few rules you have to follow set by NSS but it didn’t affect my story.
For my speculative military fiction, Into the Mist, several reviewers noted how refreshing it was to read a book of this genre that had been set in New Zealand. Has this been your experience? How important is the New Zealand setting to your work?
Yes! I’ve had a ton of feedback from American and British and even an Australian about how refreshing it was. NZ is important to me as a setting. I became sick of the US set post apoc fiction. There are 200+ other countries.
In The Fourth Phase, I included a lot of Māori culture as well. Partly to honour my friend who passed away suddenly and partly to educate the rest of the world to our amazing country.
You’re lost deep in the New Zealand bush with a severely twisted ankle. Happily, there are no Variants in the vicinity, you’ve got food and water and help is on the way, but it’s going to take a while for the rescue team get there, which is when you reach into your pack and pull out BOOK by XXX [no, you cannot name Nick here]
Easy! The Purge of Babylon by Sam Sisavath. This is the book that started it all. Leading me to Nick and others. And giving me the kick to have a go. Plus, this book and series is fantastic and I highly recommend it to any post-apoc fans.
Are we likely to see any further Variants (see what I did there?) in the NZ Extinction series? Any hints about upcoming titles that you’d care to share?
Yes, one more. Book three: The Five Pillars. I hope to publish it by late April, early May.
To date, your work has tended towards long fiction (novella length) rather than longer texts. Is there a particular reason for this? Is it because they’re readily consumable over a day’s commute, or do thriller readers have short attention spans?
The Rule of Three is 35k, and The Fourth Phase is 75k. I decided to start small and work my way up to larger novels, because I was new to the craft and didn’t want to become bogged down in a 100k book.
Book three, will most likely be around the 75k mark too. I’ve spoken to a lot of indie authors who try to keep their books between 75k and 120k. A lot of readers don’t like doorstoppers.
What about an Adrian Smith original? Is that on the cards?
Yes! I have two series planned. I hope to have at least book one of my original series out this year.
Hint. It’s a technology gone bad post apoc story. With a kick ass Heroine.
I notice you have a great entourage of beta-readers and critique partners helping to hone and polish your work. Did you hook into a local writing group, or have you used other sources of support? Are you involved in the New Zealand literary scene?
I gathered most of my beta readers from various Facebook groups that I belong to. I have specific beta readers for different skills. Eg. A retired Colonel. A pilot. A nurse. I think it’s important to get people who are not afraid to call a spade a spade. And not to take their suggestions personally.
Quick writing test: Use the following words in a sentence or paragraph: blood, darkness, scramble, key, hollow.
Dee scrambled back from the dying Variant. She always hated the stench of its black gunky blood. Her katana was imbedded deep in the hollow of its back. Standing, Dee pressed her foot against its torso and yanked it free. That was its weak spot. That was the key she thought as she ran to join the fleeing Renegades. She glanced up at the darkening sky and quickened her pace. It was best to be indoors at night.
Something about you which readers will find surprising.
I’m obsessed with Studio Ghibli films. Hence my tattoo sleeve.
Thanks for stopping by Adrian, and good luck with the next book in the series!
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y5KHZHG The Rule of Three
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078MDC8D6 The Fourth Phase
Bio: Adrian J Smith is the author of the Extinction cycle Kindle world novella; The Rule of Three and its sequel The Fourth Phase. He has had a couple of careers. He started his working life as a Painter before switching to Landscape design and construction. He switched back again, and for the last decade he has run his own successful Painting and decorating business. Adrian lives in Hamilton, New Zealand with his two cats. A self-confessed book and movie geek. He admits that he is obsessed with Star Wars, Aliens, Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. When he isn't working his day job or writing, Adrian can be found wandering the mountains, hiking, swimming, quizzing, watching movies and of course reading.