All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Q&A With… Steve Worland

on July 24, 2013

6477700Australian author Steve Worland exploded onto the scene last year with his fast paced novel Velocity, featuring the unlikely pairing of an American NASA astronaut and a laid back outback Australian chopper pilot who can communicate with his dog. The follow up to Velocity is Combustion and sees Judd and Corey paired up for yet another adventure trying to save the world one disaster at a time. To celebrate the release of Combustion, I welcome Steve to my blog for a bit of a chat.

Q1. Hi Steve and welcome to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. How did you come to be published with your first novel, Velocity?

I worked as a screenwriter for many years but grew tired of the development process which can be tediously long winded. I had sold a large number of screenplays but had only seen two produced as getting a movie off the ground is often an arduous process that has less to do with the quality of the writing and more to do with the financing and casting arrangements. Basically, I was spending a great deal of time and effort creating stories that very few people read and I no longer owned, which was frustrating. And also, let’s not forget that screenplays are a blueprint for someone else’s work of art, which is not very satisfying creatively.

So, I decided to write a novel. At least people could read my stories if they wanted to and there was, I thought, a market for Aussie action adventure novels, especially ones with a focus on humour. I’ve always been fascinated by how US culture dominates the Western world, so the aim was to take the classic form of an American action adventure novel and inject a distinct Aussie flavour into it. I wanted to explore the clash of cultures between two characters from different worlds: One, Judd, a tightly wound Yank astronaut and the other, Corey, a laid back Aussie heli-muster.

If I couldn’t get a publishing deal I thought I would self-publish, which made the decision to do it easier, knowing I had that as a back up. Fortunately I was able to land a very supportive publisher in Penguin.

Q2. Share a little bit about your writing habits: do you write ‘full-time’ and if so, do you treat it like a job, writing to a schedule, or just whenever the mood strikes? Where is your favourite place to write (ie study, café etc) and is there anything you consider essential to the process, like music or good coffee?

I do write novels full time now. I’ve been saying no to a lot of screenwriting work recently because you do need to focus on one thing and getting caught up in the movie world can be, more often than not, a great time waster. Everything takes so long and there is absolutely no certainty that anything will be made.

I give myself a certain number of words I must write every day and I do not go to sleep until I have hit the number. It’s as simple as that. 1000 words a day and you’ll have first draft done in three months. Of course it’s not that easy but it helps to have that structure in place. The only thing you lose is sleep.

I can write anywhere — because of the iPhone and iPad. You can be writing while you’re waiting in the car to pick up your daughter from dance class or while you’re standing in line at the Post Office. I love how mobile technology has helped writers.

I actually write in my office most of the time. And I do like to write with a soundtrack playing. My fave at the moment is ‘Man Of Steel’. I’ll pick up a soundtrack if it evokes a certain mood, then use it when needed.

As for beverages, Pepsi Max will keep you awake if you need to pull an all-nighter. I shudder to think how much caffeine it has in it but it has come in handy in the past.

Q3. Your novels are so filled with explosive action! How extensively do you plot before you begin to write?

I like to break the story into three acts, find out where the beginning, middle and end is, get an idea of its flow, where there might be action scenes, then start writing. As you write you get a sense of pace and timing and your plans often change as characters evolve and take you in unexpected directions. You want to have a firm sense of where the story is going but you don’t want to work it out in too much detail before you start because it will always take a different tack.

Action scenes are often easy to imagine but hard to execute because you have to balance the need to keep them moving at a brisk pace while making sure the reader has enough information to know what’s going on. They take more time to write than anything else.

Q4. I feel as though Corey really shines in Combustion and comes into his own as a more confident and dominant character. Was that intentional or did his unique personality just take over?

I’m so happy that came through clearly. Yes, that was definitely something I was aiming for with ‘Combustion’. I was lucky to get some generous feedback after ‘Velocity’ was released and pretty much every comment was about how much people enjoyed Corey and his blue heeler Spike.

I wanted Corey to be equal to Judd in this chapter so I fleshed out his backstory, gave him a couple of personal dilemmas to wrestle with and introduced him to the smart and resourceful Lola Jacklin, who just might be the woman of his dreams.


Q5. Who would be your ideal casting for Judd and Corey in a movie of their adventures?

Ha! In a perfect world Hugh Jackman as Corey and Matt Damon as Judd — with Ben Affleck (Argo) directing. I think that would be just great! But actually, you could flip the casting and have Jackman as Judd and Damon as Corey and that would be great too! Of course if Tom Cruise wanted to be in it that would be excellent as well!

Q6. What do you feel is the most difficult part of the writing process?

First drafts are always difficult as there is a lot to invent. I’m in the middle of that process at the moment on my third book and it takes a great deal of concentration. Once the first draft is done and you have the bones of the story down then the editing begins and that is the fun part. My best writing is always rewriting.

Q7. What do you like to do to relax when you’re away from the keyboard?

My wife and daughter enjoy action adventure movies as much as I do so we try to see one a week if possible. I love to read but when you’re writing all the time you want to get away from it if you have a little time off. Having said that, I am reading, and enjoying, ‘Telegraph Road’ at the moment. The TV shows my wife and I watch tend to have great writing — ‘Mad Men’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Dexter’, ‘Modern Family’, ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘True Blood’, ‘The Killing’ and a pair of fantastic new ones called ‘Ray Donovan’ and ‘Banshee’.

Q8. Share 5 favourite books/authors.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series – Robert Arthur

Twilight for ’70s-era prepubescent boys! The first books I read without being threatened with punishment. I chose them over ‘The Hardy Boys’ and had heated discussions as to why they were better. I cannot, for the life of me, recall my arguments. Why a 10-year-old would care about an old British film director whose films he’d never seen is anyone’s guess.

The Fifties – David Halberstam

It explains how a series of sweeping changes during the ’50s defined what America is today. As I’m fascinated by the US’s impact on the world, this book is catnip for me. Halberstam covers everything, from the shenanigans behind the McCarthy hearings to the motivation for the Korean War, from the birth of McDonalds to the television quiz-show scandals, all detailed in his wonderfully enthusiastic style.

Different Seasons – Stephen King

Four tightly structured plots, vivid characters and King’s ability to cut to the emotional core of big issues, in this case justice, death and growing up. Oh, and Nazis – let’s not forget the Nazis. His use of slang and regional patois is one of the reasons I wanted to write as kid. It’s difficult to pick a fave out of the four stories but ‘The Body’, later filmed as ‘Stand By Me’, probably nudges ahead.

The Right Stuff – Tom Wolfe

Wolfe didn’t glamorise the Mercury Seven astronauts but gave us a truthful look at the group of flawed, morally ambiguous fighter jocks chosen as America’s frontline in the space race. The way he describes those 1960s pilots, encapsulated by the rugged, slow-talking charm of Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier, is the finest I’ve read.

The Player – Michael Tolkin

Tolkin’s background in screenwriting (‘Deep Impact’) created the novel I’d always wanted to read (and write); a sophisticated page-turner with the pace and brevity of a script without the time constraints. It’s also a ripping yarn about Hollywood’s studio system. I met many bitter screenwriters and robo-executives during my time living in LA and most would have been perfectly at home within the pages of ‘The Player’.

Q9. And lastly….what’s next for you? Anything you can share?

I’m writing a novel set in the world of Formula One for 2014. It’s a new set of characters but will still be an action adventure yarn with plenty of car chases, larger than life characters and humour.

Also, a movie I co-wrote is shooting at the end of this year. It’s an Aussie kids adventure, in the vain of ‘Stand By Me’, called ‘Paper Planes’. We don’t make many Aussie kid’s movies so I’m really happy Screen Australia funded it. Robert Connolly (‘The Bank’, ‘Balibo’, Tim Winton’s ‘The Turning’) is directing. It will be released in time for Christmas 2014.

9781921901119 copy

Thank you so much for your time Steve!

Make sure you check back later today for my review of Combustion and the chance to win a signed copy, courtesy of Steve.

Visit Steve’s website
See his page at Penguin Books Aus
Follow him on twitter
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2 responses to “Q&A With… Steve Worland

  1. Tien says:

    OMG – someone who actually knew The 3 Investigators series!!! I inherited these books from my sister who is 12 years older and LOVED them so much in my teens (grew up in Asia) but absolutely no one I mentioned them to, these days, knew of it!
    Had to pass the books on when I moved to Oz 😦 but I managed to hold on to a couple faves 🙂

    and btw, there was no opening credit in ‘Man of Steel’ & NO Superman theme song – what’s with that?

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