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An Interview with Author Saul Stone

Stone

My name is Saul Stone. I am a 21-year-old writer and student, based in Chester, UK. I am studying my MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chester. I am also the editor for Tin Can Poetry, an online poetry magazine looking for poems with LGBT+ topics, dark themes, swearing, weird ideas, and strong, compelling writing. For almost two years now, I have been working on a passion project novel called Atop Burning Fields, and have assembled a project book to contain every bit of information concerning the story, characters, ideas, and world.


What inspired you to start writing this book?

In 2022, I was frequently hanging out with one of my good friends, a man named Fionnan O’Mahony. At one of these times, we were discussing space and the universe, and the topic moved onto Venus, which is one of my favourite planets. He discussed with me multiple theories proposing that Venus was once in a similar position which Earth now resides in, many millions, possibly billions of years before life on Earth began. Upon learning this, like a lightning bolt, the idea came to me of writing a story of life on Venus. That is how the story first started. I knew there was a significant amount of intrigue and endless possibilities for how a story set on Venus could go—especially as unlike Mars, there are very few stories concerning the planet Venus. From there, I researched heavily into the planet, went into libraries searched for more specific information, and found out as much as was relevant for the time about the world. The fact that in the past years, three new study missions have been announced concerning Venus has inspired me further that this story, by the time it is done, will come part and parcel with brand new revolutionary information regarding the second planet from the sun.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The original work-in-progress title was “The Venusians,” referring to lifeforms on Venus. This was rather uncreative but for the time, sufficed. Fionnan and I batted ideas off one another until I came up with a title that since that day, has been the story’s official title: Atop Burning Fields. This name came naturally once I knew more about the story I wanted to tell. It relates to multiple moments and ideas present in the plot of the story, which encompasses everything from trauma, pollution, devastation, and the idea that fire represents the transitive property of creation through destruction. It took around five months to settle on this title.

Describe your dream book cover.

My dream book cover would be one designed by my partner, who is an artist currently studying Fine Art, Cat Abbey. The front cover would feature the protagonist of the story, named Rising-Vortex, standing in barren land, bathed by evening sunlight. The backdrop features a small mountain range on the left, where the fields are on fire, and on the right, there is a pale moon beginning to rise. Behind the protagonist, there is a lake of shallow water.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I actually have a playlist on Spotify which features a number of songs I believe are appropriate for the tone and themes of the story. Notable songs are ‘Venus, The Bringer of Peace’, and ‘Mars, The Bringer of War’, both composed by Gustav Holst; as well, the song ‘Blood of the Past’ by The Comet is Coming (and most other songs they’ve done would deserve to be included). Some others on this playlist that I would want included in the soundtrack are: ‘Will You Smile Again For Me?’ by …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, ‘Man To Ray’ by Juno Reactor, ‘The Planet’s Hum’ by Spock’s Beard, and ‘My Kingdom’ by The Future Sound of London.

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

Recently, I have been reading a bizarre range of literature. Some standout books so far have been Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural by Maurice Bessy and other contributors, The Man From the Diogenes Club by Kim Newman, and a very odd pick perhaps, Fairy Tales by Terry Jones. I do my best not to limit myself to specific genres, although I have a particular love for science-fiction as of late, especially of the odd variety, such like the works of Stanislaw Lem, and Philip K. Dick. I believe that I have taken away many useful tips and thoughts from reading these books, and as I have an ever-expanding list of books to go on to read, I hope to keep learning from and enjoying literature of all kinds.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have worked a few odd jobs in my life. I have worked as a Warehouse Operative for two years at separate companies, once during the Covid pandemic; a barista/server at a café and bistro, as a Sales and Marketing Intern for a Self-Publishing House, and most recently, have started a job working for the University I study at. A few things about me that often surprise others is the fact I have been playing bass for almost a whole year, love playing RPGs both tabletop and on computer, and have met Hugh Grant once when I performed in an amateur performance of The Phantom of the Opera.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

It’s hard to narrow down why I wanted to make writing my main profession. I would argue there was no particular person or logical reason as to why I chose creative writing as my outlet; for most my time as a child and teenager, English was regularly a tiring class often taught by teachers who could not handle the class or engage students. I reckon the literature I read and my dad, who once tried writing a story but quickly gave up, planted seeds of inspiration for me to go on and try writing. I still remember the first story I ever wrote when I was around four years old; it was about a family of owls. Nowadays looking back, the writing is impossible to make sense of, but I distinctly remember at the time believing that story was very lovely and happy. Creative writing always excited me, and I believe the first moment I ever took writing seriously was when my great-grandpa passed away, and I wrote a poem encapsulating my feelings and how I thought of him, in a metaphorical sense. From a young age I have also been very intrigued by art, especially abstract works, but as I never became competent at drawing what I thought and felt, I took to writing instead.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I would like to say my favourite place to write is at the library, in a café, around town in a notebook. Majority of the time however, I am writing at home in my room. I have social anxiety, and while I can combat it, often I find writing requires a lot of focus and that is hard to manage when there is a lot of sound around me. Although I do make an effort to go to these places I’ve mentioned, as I often find something amusing or interesting to write down, whether through observation or from random thoughts that come to me.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I understand many writers have rituals or ways of writing, for example, waiting for a spark of inspiration to write, and then spend the next days, weeks or months turning that spark into a poem or story. I followed a similar sort of mentality when I began writing, now that isn’t very true of me. I still search for those sparks, but I won’t wait for them any longer. My main ritual when it comes to writing is having water and a coffee to hand when I’m writing! With occasional, sometimes frequent breaks depending on the day, to play bass or disengage for a while and rest my head. Playing music while I write also might be considered a ritual of mine. I’d argue the most important kind of ritual I follow is a mental one: I prepare for the fact I may not like what I write, or that what I write may drastically transform in future editing or drafts. To be prepared to kill my darlings to match what the story is trying to do, not what I perhaps intended for the story to be originally. Another frame of thinking that I consider a ritual is being optimistic; if I do not like how the story is at a given time, that I always have the ability to fix this, or know that if I sit on it, perhaps my opinion will change, and I will see the light where there was only shadow before.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Perhaps it’s the realist in me, but I’m not able to envision a perfect reader. Someone who reads at all is the perfect reader for me. I would likely market my book to fantasy/sci-fi fans, especially those who are fans of the works of Ursula Le Guin, who has inspired me greatly with her writings. Readers who like fiction similar to Star Trek, where science-fiction is used to tell stories about morality, ethics, and politics, also match who I believe would be the intended audience. The main takeaway I’d hope readers have is how life on Earth is precious, and that while our experiences are ours alone, that we are not solely entitled to this gift. Life is a fleeting chance, and many before and after us on Earth, and very likely across the universe, share our triumphs, failures, and struggles. If we do not protect life on this planet and preserve this gift we enjoy, Earth shall become like how Venus is today; a scarred, unhospitable planet that others marvel and wonder about, never knowing what was or could have been. That takeaway would be the main point of my story.


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