Owen H Lewis, author of the recently published The Mark of Man offers his tips for writing powerful science fiction.
Get to know your craft
The Mark of Man started out as three short stories which had been in development for quite some time. Following an extremely vivid dream that I woke up from believing I was truly in the world of The Mark of Man, I realised I’d finally found my premise to link the three together and was able to embark on my triptych.
Decide on your themes
The result is a dizzying ride that provides a window into mankind’s soul, whilst casting a glance on our constant internal struggle with science vs. religion and nature vs. technology.
Aim to bring something new to the genre
Science fiction novels often break down into two distinct camps, with the cerebral and intelligent grouped on one side and with the laser battles and starships lined up on the other. I believe that my new novel The Mark of Man manages to bridge these views well whilst also inviting a new audience to the table; the cultural female!
Tackle big subjects
The central premise of The Mark of Man concerns a mark on the wrist which indicates the death age of the beholder and contrary to other tales of this type, this is a genetic anomaly. So the race to find a cure is not a simple chase and pursuit tale with evil overlords and an over reliance on the familiar clichés and tenets, but one that concerns the whole of humankind and compels everybody to try to find an answer to this ticking doomsday clock.
With most of the world clamouring for the next vampire saga or Game of Thrones clone, I’m of the conviction that the world is now ready for a more intelligent and challenging story. Science fiction shouldn’t just be about shiny spaceships or flesh eating aliens, it should challenge and create discussion; perhaps even arguments.
Be willing to think beyond the genre
The Mark of Man isn’t necessarily a sci-fi novel – in time it might be considered as the first of a long line of anti sci-fi’s. However, when using such a paradigm, I’d suggest that you must firstly forget the environment whilst you shape the story, then set up the premise based on your own views and experiences – then you insert the techno babble.
Relish both the genre and real life
Sci-fi provided me with a blank canvass to posit my theories and ideals. It gives me a clean slate to start over again; with our culture, our systems and the environment. I can challenge the reader without alienating them and I can keep them guessing because there are no rules.
I studied English at university and worked in TV & Film until family life took over and compelled me to move into Real Estate Investment. However one’s interests and skills never leave and with almost another 20 years living a varied existence, I hope that I have now acquired enough life experience to be a social commentator.
Consider the changing marketplace for novelists
It’s a hot topic right now in both literature and film. I guess, as we all broaden our horizons through our use of technology, we re-educate ourselves and therefore reach the point where it is acceptable to question our own beliefs and convictions; those that were formed before the advent of the web.
Seek publishers as well as agents
Not knowing the publishing world, I went through the usual painstaking route of researching the most appropriate, making contacting and then waiting for a positive response – over the succeeding months I received a lot of encouraging notes from a whole host of agents but no one wanted to wanted to take The Mark of Man any further until one day, out of the blue, I received two requests for the manuscript, direct from separate publishers.
Get to grips with promotion
I get support from my publisher and, contrary to my formerly naïve view of the marketplace, I have had to become quite the modern author with accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Shelfari, Facebook, Linkedin and Google. I’ve recently learnt that the writing of a novel maybe one thing but that the promotion is something entirely different – something that has to be done regularly and comprehensively.
I recently had a launch in Mayfair, London which was a huge success, where just prior to the occasion I momentarily reached the dizzy heights of number 3 in the Metaphysical & Visionary charts on Amazon.
The premise of The Mark of Man hinges on the date 14.12.14 and therefore I have no doubt that there will be another launch.
Be true to your story’s heart
Ensuring that there is a beating heart to the story – that it never waivers nor meanders. Much sci-fi involves a web of deception and hidden truths that makes it hard to keep control of your characters. Your job is to leave your readers enlightened by their journey, feeling as if they’re active participants in the tale.
About the author
After working in film and television in London and Madrid, Owen H Lewis settled in Los Angeles with his own production company. Outside pressures led him to adopt a more conformist career path and he moved instead into real estate investment before turning to writing. Coloured by his experiences, Lewis started work on what was to become The Mark of Man, his debut ‘anti-sci-fi’ novel. Owen lives in Kew, with his wife and two children, and is already writing a companion piece to his debut, which promises to be darker and even more contentious.
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