Hi, I’m Steven M. Caddy, or just Steve – only my sister calls me Steven. I live with my wife in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, UK, a beautiful, if rather unknown town in the east midlands, that boasts a busy market square dominated by the spire of the parish church is St Mary Magdalene, views of the river Trent, a castle (where King John I died), and thriving café culture. When I’m not writing stories, or writing computer programmes for a living, I enjoy playing the church organ, square dancing, and broadcasting on hospital radio. I like to write adventure stories that are either science fiction (with a liberal dose of science fact), or light fantasy.
1) When did you first discover your love for writing?
I used to love writing when I was at school, but I was never very good at spelling, and as a result of negative feedback from my teachers, I was put off developing my skills. I came back to writing in my early thirties, when I found I had more spare time, and I wanted to try something new.
2) Do you have a favourite place to write?
No. I’m one of these people who can write anywhere! I think I do most of my writing sitting on my sofa, but I’ve been known to write in pubs and cafes, and often I’ll write when I’m travelling by train.
3) Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?
I have to carefully plan my stories. I’ve tried to write without a plan, and I end up with a story that goes nowhere. So I’ll spend some time setting out a series of writing prompts to keep me on track. I then try to write a chapter each day based on each prompt. After I’ve written my first draft, I then re-write the story, throwing away ideas that don’t work, expanding on good ideas, and fixing the mechanics of language. Gradually, over several re-writes, I end up with a novel. In Exchange took a bit over four years to write from starting my first draft to publication.
4) Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to?
I like different authors for different reasons. I like John Green, because he’s not afraid to let the reader “own” the story. He creates scenes in the story where a character will go off to do something, but without saying what they actually do in that time. As a reader, you can make your own guess at the missing detail, which could be as wrong or right as any other reader, or even the author himself.
I’m currently very fond of Susan Kaye Quinn’s books. She has the wonderful ability to create new slang that her characters use to describe their world. I think that’s really “mesh”.
5) What inspired you to write In Exchange?
It’s a cliché, but if I’d not read the Harry Potter books, or The Famous Five, I wouldn’t have written In Exchange. There’s something so charming about young people discovering their world through adventure. I also have a lot of time to think about what sort of story I’d like to write. I’m a church organist, and I often sit at the organ console with a notebook, dreaming up ideas in the near silence when I’m not actually playing. In Exchange was just a collection of random ideas for about seven years before I started writing the first draft.
6) Can you tell us a little about your book?
In Exchange is the book I would have wanted to read when I was ten or eleven. I loved adventures and I loved the idea of travelling in space (and I still do). Michael Morgan is the boy I would have loved to have been, living in space. But for someone who lives in space, I could imagine their dream would be to live on Earth. Peter Davies, is the Earth-bound reflection of that life. In Exchange is the story of these two boys’ dreams, and their adventure as they discover each other’s lives, and more about themselves.
7) Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?
Max is only a supporting character, but probably the person I’d most like to spend time with. Max is loosely based on several of my teachers from school and university. In Exchange is dedicated to my former tutor, Professor David Barnes, who unfortunately died suddenly before I finished writing the story, and so he only ever knew me as a software engineer, and not an author. The name “Max” was the name of a hexapod robot that was one of Dave’s showcase projects (for Dave was a space robotics expert). Max, the character, oozes wisdom and charisma, while not letting you in too close to his personal situation. I’ve kept back a lot of his story because it would over-shadow what the boys get up to. But maybe we’ll get to explore Max in the future?
8) Does your book contain a message for readers to consider?
I’ll let the reader decide. The story means something to me, but I’d rather readers discover what it means to them. One of my favourite authors taught me the importance of letting go of your story like that.
9) Would you be interested in sharing a teaser?
“Good morning, Michael,” said the well-built, and rather formal looking man in the middle of the group.
“Morning, sir,” Michael replied.
“Commander Marcsom.” Max gave a nod of acknowledgement to the mission director.
“Have you both had a good week?” Marcsom asked, trying to sound casual.
“Not bad,” Michael said with a little shrug, “Apart from the cosmic rays. One woke me up rather early this morning, so I managed to get ahead with my exercise programme.”
“Oh, good,” interjected the green haired man.
“Err, yes?” the green haired man responded, sounding a little less confident.
“What happened to your hair?”
“Err. I wondered if you’d ask me about that. Everyone else has. Bit of a long story. Final year medical students having a bit of fun. You know,” Dr Kleets’s face turned a contrasting shade of red that clashed with his shocking green hair.
Michael wasn’t convinced, but it’d give him something to laugh about later.
10) What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing In Exchange?
In Exchange was the result of my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This became badly derailed a couple of weeks into the challenge after I met Lorna… who is now, five years later, my wife. That wasn’t conducive to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and why it took me three months to complete the first draft.
11) What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing In Exchange?
Mostly that I can do it, and that my I shouldn’t have been discouraged by the criticism that I gained earlier in life. I’ll admit it took a lot of hard work, and I did have a lot to learn in order to transform my ropey first draft into a publishable product, but it wasn’t beyond my abilities as I originally thought.
12) Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?
Find a writing buddy, someone else who is an author. You need someone who isn’t frightened to be brutally honest about your work, and is willing to let you pull their work apart at the same time. It took me a few years to find my writing buddy. She warned me that she might appear rude when she commented on my work, but I was so glad she was. Everyone else told me that my story was “good” or “nice”, and failed to tell me that my American characters sounded British, or that I wrote over complicated sentences. I think my writing (and editing) has improved as a result of that experience.
13) Anything else you would like to say?
I love this question. J K Rowling wrote the best answer to this question in one of her books: “There are great many things I’d like to say”. I think I’ll save my “many things” for future works, though.
14) And finally, do you have any future works planned?
Yes. I originally said that I wouldn’t write a sequel to In Exchange, but I left so many ideas unfulfilled at the end, I left the door open, possibly for several more adventures. Just before I started my final re-write of In Exchange, I wanted to explore my characters a bit more, so I decided to write some new material to do that. And I changed my mind. So there are about 40,000 words on my laptop right now, and several thousand more in my head. Some of those words make me cry, sometimes with laughter, and sometimes in sorrow. That’s all I’m saying right now!
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01DED72NW
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DED72NW
Mightier Than The Sword: https://mightierthanthesworduk.com/authors/steven-m-caddy/in-exchange/