“‘The questioner becomes the answer to the question asked.’
2012. It has already begun; the end of the world.
One man, Alexander Staalman, is the catalyst. He will be the destroyer of worlds.
The signs are all around him: The dead return to warn him. His dreams foretell it. And he alone knows of the monster that has been let loose from his own mind to devour everything.
He must pull the fragments together before time runs out. He must come to accept that he holds the key to it all inside his thoughts, his nightmares. For he is more than just flesh and blood and bone; He is a god. ”
How did Quintessence start ?
The whole thing started as a reaction to how I felt when my wife became pregnant. For many deeply personal reasons I did not want children, and it came as a shock when my wife said she wanted to keep the baby (I had told her before we were married, not to marry me if she wanted children). Up until the moment of my daughter’s birth my wife did not know if I would even be at her side when it happened. That day changed everything. I saw her born, and I held her little life in my arms. I told my wife that if I was going to be a father, then I was going to be the best a child could wish for. It took years for me to repair the damage I had done to my wife. But, and to this day, I carry those original feelings inside me, I have never forgotten all that had made me the kind of man who would demand that of his wife: ‘The baby’s life, or mine?’ So I started to think; what if she had done as I asked? What if Elizabeth had never come to be? And that is where it began. The impact a single thought can have upon the lives, the world, perhaps even the fabric of reality itself – all altered by a single thought, a single act. Into this is woven and even grander story, about the meaning of life itself and perhaps the greatest secret all: The secret of the Universe. … But, at its heart this is a story about redemption and forgiveness and love and sacrifice.
What do you hope will be the main impact made on readers of Quintessence ?
I hope that it will make them think, think deeply about who, and what, and where, and when they are, and what it truly means to be a living, vital being. And about the ever growing effects of all we say and do on those around us – worlds rising and falling on a single thought, a single word, a single action. I hope it will make them think about the world around them, the true nature of it beyond our immediate senses, our subjective view, and the intimate relationship we have with everything beyond our bodies – the interconnectedness of all things. Its not so much a novel, as an event. Someone said something like that to me after reading it. The story reaches out beyond being just a tale with a beginning, middle, and end. I hope I don’t sound full of myself. But I truly wanted to write something that hadn’t been done before – perhaps with good reason. It’s up to others to decide if I succeeded or not. But I wrote the book I intended too. Sometimes people think I’m a little odd, because I don’t tend to see the world as most do; reading this book will make them see just why that is so. Creating it changed me dramatically, it truly did alter my personality.
Who, as the author, do you most empathise with in Quintessence ?
Ooh, tough one, and not as obvious as I guess it should seem – as the book is written in first person, I guess my empathy should be with my main character Alexander. But… oh boy, it being the book it is, by saying that I’m also saying my empathy is with the other main character, his psychiatrist Dr Blake, and that is just going to confuse anyone that hasn’t read it – because only by reading it would they know why I’m saying that. You don’t spend ten years plotting and crafting a single story without things getting harder and harder to explain in an easy way. Especially in a book like this. Light holiday read it ain’t. But as we all know, we are complex beings with complex drives, untangling a persons needs and wants and persona, is not a simple task. You see, we spend the whole novel inside the mind of one character – but as to whose mind that is, is one of the mysteries to be discovered by its end. (That’s a clue by the way) *winks*
Is there one author in particular you feel has influenced and/or inspired you most in your writing ?
Now this may come as a shock but no, not anyone really. I spent so long writing and researching that I didn’t have time for fiction. I read factual books exclusively. So the authors who have inspired me all wrote non-fiction… that said, they wrote wonderful prose on what could be very dry subjects. If I had to pick three it would be, the philosophers David Deutsch and Daniel Dennett and the writer, playwright, translator, Michael Frayn for one amazing book called ‘The Human Touch’, which is my greatest treasure in print. So style wise, plot wise, structure wise, and theme wise, no, its what it is in itself, I had no blueprint to follow. This may explain why it took so long…
How do you start writing : at a desk, on a computer, on paper or on screen ?
Paper first, always. In many ways this is the bit I love the most, this is when I feel like a writer.
What drives you to write ?
The need to communicate ideas and concepts and to get others to maybe look at things from a different angle than they did before.
Is there a special place where you go to work on your novels?
My study ( sometimes spare bedroom) is where I work. Though in the summer I like to write in the garden.
Can you tell us anything about your next novel ?
I have a choice of three started novels… I may work on more than one next, I was working on them while working on Quintessence as well (I needed to step away sometimes)… in fact, I often do, I find writing a deeply intense experience that drains me emotionally and swapping from one to another helps. But, okay, if I pick one, then there is the one, (called ‘Memories of Dust’), about a man whose wife dies of cancer and before she dies, he makes her a promise to go and see an eclipse (they saw one together before she died) and to scatter her ashes as it happens. He meets a younger woman, (while witnessing the eclipse) whose boyfriend died the night before they were going to run away together. These two strangers spend one night together then the girl disappears. Her clothes are found on a beach and all her other belonging are in her hotel. A body is never found. He goes in search of her and ends up in her home town seeking out her family. The rest… is a secret. Needless to say this one won’t take me 10 years to write!
Where can readers connect with you on the web ?
I have a blog that I have just revamped, early days but it’s there. http://staalman.blogspot.com
Where is Quintessence available ?
At present it is only available on Kindle through Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005IWZLL8 for the UK Link.
I have plans for a print version but that is a way off at present.
Andrew Meek, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.