A Few Quick Questions With…Malcolm J. Wardlaw

A little bit ago, I blogged about A Bloody Arrogant Power, and now it’s time for a quick Q&A with the author, Malcolm J. Wardlaw.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I am a natural-born scribbler. That said, I studied engineering at university (and later business administration) and have spent my working life to date in big-name corporations. Why? Because it has brought me a good living, and the work interested me. My writing has developed rather slowly, and in fits and starts. Being a “pantser” has pros and cons. I finished lots of drafts, but could never work out how to raise them above the level of scribbles. Oddly enough, it was the toughest nightmare of an engineering project that gave me the necessary determination to apply the same relentless force to my writing: to stick at editing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting until eventually I was closing in on something presentable. It has taken a long time.
I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one — what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
My objective in Sovereigns of the Collapse is to dramatize how the world will settle after systemic financial collapse. The collapse is inherent within the model of debt-fueled infinite growth on a finite planet. However, it proceeds more like a glacier than an avalanche, due to the flexibility of our affable, liberal-democratic traditions. I would judge its starting point as the decoupling of the US dollar from gold in 1971, although you need to look carefully to see the signs. The politics required to avoid final collapse appear so unlikely, at least at present, that I expect it to run its course within my lifetime (I can reasonably expect to live at least to 2050). The resulting world is still orderly, people go about their daily lives, there are Haves and there are Have-nots. The big difference is that the value system of this society is virtually the inverse of ours.
What kinds of research went into the construction of this concept and the world? What was the thing you came across in your planning that you loved, but ultimately couldn’t figure out how to use? (assuming there was one).
I would not say I consciously sat down to complete a research program. This theme has been an obsession for the best part of twenty years. Early drafts failed repeatedly. This stimulated my curiosity. I read more. I imagined more, and this fed my curiosity further. I would describe my “research” as haphazard, but these explorations did eventually identify a series of processes that eventually culminate in the Glorious Resolution.
In the writing of A Bloody Arrogant Power, what was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
Definitely the latter. Had I known just how frustrating it would be to shape the story I wanted, I would not have had the courage to sit down and write Page 1. Ignorance served me well! But it was a crucial learning experience. I am now engaged in writing Book 3 of the series (Book 2 The Night of Blind Ambition is now published on Amazon). This has followed several months of free-writing ideas every day, picking out the promising leads and working them further to construct a summary of just a couple of pages. In this way, the writing has a general sense of direction, whilst still leaving plenty of room for white-water scribbling (pantsing). The best ideas I have ever had only came after I consciously threw myself into the unknown. Hopefully I have at last found a sensible balance between writing-by-numbers and pure pants.
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
I have never had this feeling. What I will say is this (considering my whole life, not just the last five years). If there is one book that overwhelming impressed me, and inspired me across years of dead ends and futility, it was Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dr Zhivago, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Madame Bovary also deeply impressed me.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for A Bloody Arrogant Power, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens after that ending!

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