interview by Joe Vaz

From Issue 16 (Dec 2011)

Where is home?
I’m British, but I live on the island of La Palma, which is Spanish, but just off the coast of Morocco. I originally came to the island with a six-month contract to work as a software engineer at the astronomical observatory here, but that was twenty years ago and I have no plans to leave.

A friend of mine recently moved back to the UK from the observatory in South Africa, and she said, “You know, people in Cape Town say that’s the most beautiful place in the world, and people here say this is. I think it’s kinda hard to say.” So I think South Africa must be pretty amazing, too.

Are you a full-time writer?
I wish! But my main day job is working as a freelance tour guide, and I get to show people around the telescopes here, including GranTeCan, which is the biggest optical telescope in the world. I also translate (some texts are much more interesting than others). But writing is definitely the most fun.

What inspired this story?
I was reading a book on plotting fiction, and it said that the best way to make a story tick was to have a time bomb. I’d just been reading about asteroid impacts, so there was my time bomb, but I felt that asteroids hitting the Earth had been rather overdone. Besides, it usually makes a better story if you have a small group of people who have only each other to depend on. Hence the impact on an asteroid mine.

How much research did Breathing Space require?
Quite a lot, but I found a fascinating site on how an asteroid mine would work and spent several lunch-hours inhaling it.

Your descriptions of the interior of spacecraft, (down to the smells) are wonderfully rich. Was this researched? What is your background?
Well, I’m an engineer, and I mostly just thought really hard about how you’d make it to keep the price down, and then what the logical consequences would be of adding humans. Thinking about asteroid mines while you’re ironing is a lot more fun than thinking about the ironing itself.

Do you mostly write SF?
SF is probably my favourite, but I also write fantasy, and non-fiction about astronomy and the island I live on.

Jim is a fabulously fashioned character – please tell us he’s based on a former boss.
Yes, Jim’s based on a former boss, but I can hardly give you the name, now can I?

If it were possible, would you take a job in space? And if not, what keeps you on Earth?
I’d love a temporary job in space, but I don’t think I could live without walking in the woods. Like Dan, I think I’d miss things like cockroaches. Well, maybe not cockroaches, but certainly spiders’ webs and moss and birdsong.

Are you working on anything right now?
I’m currently working on a guide to the astronomical observatory here, which I plan to sell as an ebook.

Where can we find more of your work?

And I have an ebook of SF coming out soon, “The Dodo Dragon and Other Stories”. There’s still a slim chance that I’ll get it up on Amazon by Christmas, but you’ll be able to buy it by January.

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Joe Vaz

Joe Vaz is the founder and editor of Something Wicked, which occasionally affords him the honour and good fortune to hang out with really cool people.
In his other life he is a film and television actor who gets small parts in big movies, most recently in Dredd 3D, due to be released in September 2012.

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