Name: Joe Kipling
Writing is an incredibly personal experience that takes a lot of bravery to be able to share. When and where do you find yourself writing? How did you come to share your work with others?
Writing is not a full time career for me so I often have to fit it in around other commitments. Sometimes this means I have a full day to write, other times just a few hours. As a result
I’ve trained myself to write almost anywhere –
crammed in the corner of a crowded commuter train, on a plane stranded on the runway, at a table in a café or with my laptop balanced on my knee in the back of a taxi. I write best when I’m surrounded by lots of noise and people so my favorite place to write is a café or bar. A nice cappuccinoand a piece of cake also helps.
I’ve been writing for a number of years, but Blinded by the Light was my first completed novel. I sent it to Cillian Press in Manchester and I was lucky enough to have them agree to publish it for me.
For many authors, personal experience influences what and how they write. Has your background career and other experiences helped to inspire and inform your writing?
When I was in my 20’s I spent a number of years backpacking around different countries. I’m a person who naturally seems to attract trouble…if there’s an armed bandit, runaway camel or shoe thief within 20 miles then somehow they’ll track me down. This has given me a lot of ideas for my writing.
How did you research for Blinded By The Light? Did it include people’s first hand experiences?
I don’t tend to do a lot of research before I start writing as I like to jump straight into the story. I usually research information as and when I need it. Blinded by the Light is set in Manchester and the Peak District which is an area I know very well so I didn’t have to research the location. The caves that the Union live in are actually a fusion of a number of real life caves in a village in the Peak District called Castleton.
My 2nd book ‘Light the Way,’ takes place in the highlands of Scotland. I was lucky enough to go up there on a research trip last year so I could get a real feel for the area.
Books and films focussing on terrorism are often accused of glorifying the topic. Do you feel this is a fair comment?
I feel that sometimes books and films can portray a very black and white view of terrorism. Violence on the part of an adversary is a terrorist act, but can be acceptable, even glamorous from the protagonist if they’re seen to be fighting
for a ‘cause’. If we’re rooting for the protagonist it somehow makes the violence acceptable. Whether you classify something as an act of terror depends on which side of the conflict you identify with. ‘One persons freedom fighter is another persons terrorist.’
In Blinded by the Light, The Union are a partisan group fighting for the freedom of the Delta and Echo left on the Outside after a devastating Flu virus. They plant a bomb in a government building to protest against the way they are being treated. I deliberately wanted the morality of the bombing to be blurry so that readers could make up their own minds about it. I didn’t want it to be a heroic act because ultimately people died and death has consequences.
Our TV screens are more often than not filled with some rather bleak dystopian-esque stories from around the globe. What news stories were most influential in your writing?
I grew up in the UK in the 80’s when we felt that were living on the cusp of a nuclear apocalypse. News broadcasts seemed to regularly report on the threat and the government issued public information broadcasts and pamphlets. I watched all of the broadcasts and read all of the pamphlets. At the time I really thought that duct taping the bathroom window and hiding under a mattress was the key to survival.
A number of films were also released in the 80’s that dealt with nuclear apocalypse, in the UK we had Threads and How the Wind Blows and in America; The Day After. I think all of this has had a real influence on my writing and my interest in stories about how the world might end.
Our society is often seen as not wanting to talk about the topic of death and loss. How did this affect your choice of storyline when writing Blinded by the Light?
Death and loss is a key theme in Blinded by the Light. MaryAnn loses her parents early on in the story, while Peter has lost his whole family. I don’t like it when a book or film uses death as a tool to elicit an emotional response, but
doesn’t fully explore the consequences. The person suffering the loss has a brief period of mourning and then suddenly is over it. This can be quite harmful as it has the two-fold effect. It gives people who may not have experienced death a false understanding of how quickly people can recover from a loss. In addition the person suffering the loss can be left feeling that an extended period of grief is not normal. Often when we
someone dies we don’t ever ‘get over it,’ we just learn to live with the loss.
Blinded by the Light is your first novel, are there any other stories you want to write?
Blinded by the Light is the first in a trilogy, the second book Light The Way will be available towards the end of 2015, with the final book planned for 2016/17.