GUEST POST: Questions and Answers by DAVID TOWSEY

David Towsey Name: DAVID TOWSEY

Author of: YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD (2013)

On the web:

On Twitter: @D_Towsey

I’m very pleased to welcome David Towsey to Reader Dad, to celebrate the release of his debut novel, Your Brother’s Blood, the first book in his The Walkin’ series. My review of this excellent book will be live on the site soon, but for now, here’s David with some background on the series, and his writing process.

In YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD I pose a lot of questions. Questions are one tool in a writer’s arsenal when trying to draw a reader into a new world and meet new people; and once they’re there, to keep them turning the page. I can’t imagine there are any authors who don’t generate questions for a reader in their fiction – but I’d be interested to hear suggestions to the contrary. But there is tremendous variation between authors when it comes to answers.

It sounds basic, and that’s because it is. The setting up of questions followed by the gradual process of answering them is arguably the foundation of fiction. ‘How will character X defeat situation Y?’ etc, etc. There is a kind of contract between reader and author: if a reader is going to put themselves into a position of receiving the question then the author must, at some point, deliver the answer.

This is further complicated by ideas of satisfaction and individual preference, which is what makes the whole thing interesting. Some readers want all the answers and they want them now. Other readers only want some of the answers and are willing to negotiate when they get them. There is, I think, a minority of readers who only want one answer and are happy to have the other questions remain unresolved. I don’t believe any of these approaches are better than the rest, but I am definitely part of said minority.

‘I write books I would want to read.’ Heard that one before, huh? Bear with me; it’s a useful cliché for what I’m trying to say.

I like reading books that show me a world, resolve a particular narrative within it, but do not resolve that entire world. The example that leaps to my mind, and forgive me for choosing a film rather than a book, is THE MATRIX. Like many people I was blown away by the first Matrix film; I guess I was at the right age and the right demographic for it to have a major effect. Ignoring the kung-fu action and the cyber-punk aesthetic, both of which enthralled me, the ending of that film was possibly the most satisfying ending for me as a “reader” of SF texts that I can remember.

Neo is standing in a telephone box. The audience doesn’t know specifically who he is calling, but it becomes apparent he’s addressing the machine consciousness as a whole. He admits he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. He hasn’t saved the world or defeated the villain – not completely. There are so many hinted at or inferred possible futures. It is a narrative that is both complete in terms of the contractual agreement the audience has made with the film makers, and incomplete in terms of the internal world of that narrative. So much so it spawned THE ANIMATRIX (which I greatly preferred to the following sequels, for reasons that are probably now obvious) and a narrative heavy MMORPG. After my first viewing of the film I came away satisfied I’d experienced a story, but also excited about other stories. I wanted to write a book like that.

In YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD I created a world but I only wrote one story. The story of a soldier, Thomas McDermott, that dies, comes back to life, and is desperate to see his family.

*** SPOILERS ***

The journey he takes with his daughter is the only question that is fully resolved by the end of the book. Neither side has won the war that killed him. The religious regime in the town of Barkley is undermined but still in place. The questions of what the world will do with Walkin’ like Thomas, or what caused them in first place, are left unanswered.

As the first book in a trilogy I sense YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD is being cut some slack. Readers that might otherwise dislike the open-ended nature of the book are reserving judgement. But with book two pretty much finished and being halfway through book three, I can say with some certainty that I’m still channelling that Matrix vibe that excited me so much as a youngster. I might be finishing the McDermott family saga in these three books, but this is not a resolved world. I still have questions, and so will my readers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.