Friday, June 29, 2012

Author Interview--Selso Xisto

Today I'm interviewing the author of Particle Horizon, Selso Xisto, and next week I'll be posting a review of the book itself.

What’s your favorite genre to read/write?

Science fiction, no doubt! I love reading lots of different genres, but I can only write in the one genre I love the most. I think it’s the hardest genre to write due to the amount of world-building and narrative freedom and therefore the most rewarding.

How do you come up with your characters?

Depends. Often they are based on a feeling or emotion, like the Cain character in Particle Horizon for example; he is pure rage, pure unexplained fury and resentment. This then drives the character’s development and actions and motivations. A lot of my characters are amalgamations of people I’ve met in life or read about. I’ll lift the stubborn streak of a friend and mingle it with the situation and circumstances of the character’s place in the book. How I choose individual characters is related to the overall mix of characters. I try to have them contrast and clash as much as possible in their motivations and personalities; after all, conflict is drama!

How do you “get in the zone” when writing? Do you listen to music? Look through art? Something else? What is your writing environment like?

Hmmm… Music often helps, but nothing beats some good old-fashioned quiet and isolation. I wrote a lot of Particle Horizon during ‘holidays’ to my family’s home in Portugal. They have a quiet farmhouse in a village and there’s no internet to distract me. I don’t actually have a regular writing environment due to a very busy job in TV; I tend to write wherever and whenever I can find some peace and quiet. This is something I’d like to remedy in future!

What’s your favorite part of being a writer?

At the moment, it’s the joy of getting a good review! I’ve had a few good reviews lately and it really makes all the hard work feel worth it. It’s such a thrill to think that all those crazy ideas and scenes that existed only in your head have now been shared by another human being and that they actually liked it enough to talk about it. I think a book is one of the most personal expressions of art a person can create; 130,000 words from your own imagination, your own dreams, your own ideas, all lovingly crafted and agonized over… for someone to take the time to read through all those miniature explosions of creativity and like them… best feeling ever!

What’s your least favorite part?

I must say the internal brainstorming for the main concepts and plot twists was agonizing on my last book… I didn’t help myself by having a very complex story and weaving in so many characters. I am very harsh with myself in terms of the ideas I come up with, so this becomes painful! I think the worst thing about being a writer as opposed to being an artist or musician is that it is so much harder to show your work to people and have them appreciate it. An artist can show you their art at a glance; a musician only needs three and a half minutes of your time to show you theirs – a writer has to beat much higher barriers for entry into a potential fan’s attention span and free time to make an impact! To get appreciation for a book requires either a reputation so that people will buy into your fiction on trust, a lot of amazing reviews and word of mouth or a personal recommendation. I’d love to figure out a way to get past these practical barriers to sharing my crazy ideas with like-minded people around the world!

Do you ever have trouble with writers-block?
Hahahaha! I don’t know a writer who doesn’t! I’m currently suffering from a severe case of this trying to decide on my next book.

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you aren’t writing?

I work for Cartoon Network in London, so I’m lucky enough to have quite a creative job making promos for all the channels across Europe. I posted my showreel in a ‘day job’ section on my site for anyone who’s curious! It can be a fun job occasionally, but nothing scratches the creative itch like a good story with great characters. I don’t consider my writing ‘work’, it is my favourite hobby of all. Out of work, I have an unhealthy obsession with very fast motorbikes (I ride an awesome Suzuki GSXR1000 every day if you care) and all forms of science fiction; books, films, games… Oh and I have the cutest cat in the universe who I treat like a human baby, but it’s probably best not to go into that…

Best thinking activity? (e.g. washing dishes, folding clothes, driving)

I come up with a lot of ideas whilst riding my bike at naughty speeds… Is the exciting answer but, if I’m honest, most of my ideas come from random idle moments in the day, walking to the shops, waiting for the dentist, etc… not as dramatic, but I guess my brain needs to be un-engaged from real-life to think up new stuff. Evernote on my iPhone is my absolute lifeline for taking notes on the go.

Worst/most interesting writing related injury? (e.g. falling off chair or tripping over whilst trying to do something you're sure your MC could manage)

Well, I have had rather painful RSI in both wrists and have had to receive cortisol injections to get rid of the swelling! The needle has to go INTO the carpal tunnel; Google it. Beat that.

How do you go about choosing names, locations etc?

Place names in Particle Horizon were given an immense amount of thought. I wanted a solid, believable, thoroughly justified and thought-out world for my story. None of the place names are random; I’ve developed background story-related reasons and plot-related reasons for all the names in there, though I don’t always spell those reasons out in the book! In real life, place names all have a real reason for being called whatever they are called, so I like to apply the same logic to fiction.

The more solid and believable a world is, the easier it is for a reader to ‘buy into’ your fiction. The reason the asteroid world in the book is called Angelhaven is revealed in a key scene later in the story and I think (and have been told) that the revelation was a poignant moment in the narrative. I had a similar process for character names but this was more of an internal justification; you can’t explain everything in the story, but it was important to me to know it was there! I have a pet hate of scifi with loads of random made-up names, sorry Star Trek, I still love you!

How did you fall in love with this story idea?

I mulled over the central theme of the book for years before coming up with a plot around it. I have a fascination with the origins of the universe and god since I was a child. I was always fascinated by the big questions, and read lots of books about it after university. Carl Sagan didn’t help!

How long did you work on Particle Horizon?

Particle Horizon took me 7 years! It was a bit of an off and on project for the first few years though. I didn’t really realize it could be a good book until a couple of years ago when I really began to take it seriously and extensively re-write it.

Which character do you relate to the most?

I love the Aja character. Unlike a lot of story heroes, she has no real influence or understanding of the great events around her; she’s a reluctant conscript, a leaf caught in a storm. All she wants is to survive whilst the world is going to hell around her. Although she isn’t the main ‘hero’, I think she’s the most courageous character and you have to have a heart of stone not to really root for her!

What is your favorite moment, scene or line from the story?

I have to say my favorite scene is when Aja meets Xavier for the first time. You really see how fearless she is, even when unarmed and faced by a powerful Union marine holding a rifle. She’s terrified but is unable to show her fear regardless… I apologize for the one swear in there (I promise the book isn’t full of gratuitous use of the F word!), so I’ve inserted some sneaky asterisks for you:

The Navy man had never taken his eyes from Aja. She felt suddenly angry, tired of the constant fear.

“The way you keep staring at me, I can’t tell if you want to f**k me or kill me.”

The man seemed genuinely amused by her outburst.

“That’s not the kind of language you expect to hear from a good little LightBringer girl.”

Aja’s heart skipped a beat. She cursed her own naivety; of course this man had figured them out instantly. Gabriel’s hand squeezed tighter, his breath held.

“Ok, Navy man, so you think you know who we are. Why haven’t you killed us yet?”

Best part of the writing process?

I confess to having a secret and deep love of a good action scene! I delight in forensically piecing together an action sequence, going into a sort of literary bullet-time to convey the violence and intricacy of an event.

Anything else you want us to know about you, or the book?

Particle Horizon is out now on Amazon on Kindle and paperback. Sometime in July it will also be made available in all the other ebook formats!

Non Writing Questions
What’s your favorite color? Arsenal Red.

Current favorite song? Billie Jean. Greatest pop song of all time. Fact.

If money were not an option, where would you love to spend your next vacation?

I have to say that I just came back from my dream holiday! I recently spent a week and a half in New York which has always been my number one dream location to visit. I also completely my long-awaited nerd pilgrimage of all the main locations from Ghostbusters (I posted a few pics on my site!) whilst there! Next on the list is Tokyo! Money would need to be no object as I’ve heard its pretty expensive there.


  1. i really enjoyed this sci fi filled interview! not enough of them!

  2. Great questions and answers. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has stories pop into her head while doing things like riding bikes and chopping onions!

  3. Thanks Tara, the book was quite enjoyable as well. Good science, good imagination. :)

  4. I bet working at Cartoon Network is one of the coolest jobs ever. Though I will say I like their older shows much better than their newer ones. The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Courage the Cowardly Dog. It's hard to top those. The Total Drama series is almost on par.

    1. Ah, Dexter's Laboratory. Those were the days...

  5. This interview was awesome! I particularly liked Selso's explanation of why he loves positive reviews - he captured that experience so well! Thanks for introducing us to him, Charity. :-)

  6. Love the interview. Cartoon Network is so cool because it shows Clone Wars and the new How To Train Your Dragon series and the new Tron Uprising series! I could go on and on. Way to network Charity!

    1. ;) I didn't think of it that way, but hey! Hope your summer is going well.

      I'm so far behind on reading blogs that I'm going to mark all as read and start fresh again. :( Summers are SO busy with kids! Now I'm really looking forward to school starting again.


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