Interview with John Mierau

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Interview with The HeavenField’s IG Hulme

Originally posted on June 26, 2012

1. How long have you been writing?

As long as I can remember really. There’s never been a moment when I ‘started’ writing. It’s just always been a part of my life. Short stories, song lyrics, poetry – I’m always scribbling something down! I completed a few short stories in the past, but The Heavenfield was the first novel-length piece I had written. I didn’t intend for it to be that long – it just happened!

2. What was your inspiration for The Heavenfield?

It may sound odd, but to me The Heavenfield feels like an autobiography! Perhaps not in the sense of the way events occur, but the feelings, psychological situations etc. are all reflections of what was going on in and around me at the time.

Writing (and all my creative pursuits) stem from a need to try and communicate my emotional state, both to myself and others. I don’t write to ‘make a story’ – writing feels more like an act of survival.

3. Have you always written SF or do you write other genres too?

Mainly SF. I’ve written a series of space-type sci-fi short stories which I’m hoping to release in the future, and of course written lots of work surrounding the Heavenfield. But I do write odd bits in other genres too.

I’m half-way through a comical, slightly surreal fiction about the bumbling adventures of an artist and a failed author being chased by the Devil! And I also have a childhood love of Fairy Tales, particularly books with early 20th century Art Nouveau illustrators, and especially those stories by Oscar Wilde. I’ve written a series of Fairy Tales which I’d love to get illustrated one day and get released. They’re some of the most precious works.

4. What made you decide to podcast your novel?

I wanted to release the story in a way that felt like more of an ‘event’. I didn’t want to release the story as a book on one day and then that was it – I liked the idea of people uncovering the story a little at a time, hopefully anticipating the next chapter, and getting excited as the story moved towards its end. An audiobook / podcast seemed like the perfect way to set a pace, and suited my background in music.

5. You mix in sound effects, and narrate, beautifully and chillingly. Have you a background in theater or audio production?

Thank you! Yes, I’ve been involved in music in one way or another all my adult life. I played many instruments and sung in bands for years, spending a lot of time in recording studios. I dabbled a little with recording some music myself, but when PCs became a realistic option for home recording I got really excited about the possibilities! I played in a folk/world music band for many years, and got really interested in music from all different cultures, and the instruments used.

I’d get friends to bring me instruments back from their travels, and picked up quite a lot on adventures of my own, and used them all to create lots of different samples and sound textures. Some of these I used in various pieces I wrote for theatre/visual arts performances I collaborated on, but I also ended up with a huge sound library. When it came to recording the Heavenfield it was a great resource to have, and it felt like I’d done much of the hard work years before I even thought about an audiobook!

6. How did you get started in podcasts: as a listener or creator?

As a creator, in respect to the actual format of a podcast. I guess the essence of a podcast is nothing new really (a serialised story), just the method of delivery, and I loved listening to radio plays as a child – and of course having stories narrated to us I think taps into something deep within us. I still have wonderful, vivid memories of my mother reading me the Hobbit before I was old enough to read myself. : )

7. Having finished the entire run of The Heavenfield, I can call it a satisfying, nail biting SF thriller. It reads to me like a combination of Tom Clancy, XFiles and Lovecraft. The tone, pacing, and action all blended together perfectly. My question to you is, what surprised you during the writing and podcasting?

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, X-files and Lovecraft I love – though I’ve not read Tom Clancy (I do adore Le Carré though).

As to what surprised me, I think the whole writing process for the Heavenfield was a continuous surprise! I didn’t know where the story was going, although I wrote it completely out of sequence, so some of the key parts, which ended up in the final parts of the story, were the most surprising, and then the rest was more ‘filling in the gaps’.

I think the early scene with Pattie in the Field was a bit of a shock – I hadn’t known where her character would lead at all. And the way Alex/Alexi’s story unfolded was unexpected too.

But, the sequel I wrote recently has caused more surprises than anything actually. I had no idea where the story might go after the first book (and actually had no intention of writing another), but I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat as I scribbled down the story as fast as I could – I was like an eager reader watching the story unfold and take sudden twists I’d never expected!

In other terms, one thing that surprised me about the recording process was the intensity of involvement I had when narrating. I found it a very emotional (and quite cathartic) process, acting out all the characters and storylines.

8. What are some things in your past, your environment or your media consumption that informed the story?

Well, as I said earlier, the themes of the story had a very autobiographical element to me. As an artist, I always strived to be as sensitive as possible to the world around, to learn to look and see. But sometimes the world can be a bit overwhelming if one looks too deeply at it! For me, that’s the underlying essence of the story, that one can make the world into whatever we want, good or bad.

As for media that informed the story – I was always an avid sci-fi and fantasy reader as a child – a complete Tolkien nut! And I love really honest and intelligent sci-fi films (2001, Alien/s, Bladerunner, Dune etc). I love any great films from any era really, from silent films through film noir up to present day. I find it harder to enjoy contemporary films, as the good tends to get swamped by the deluge of bad. At least when looking for older films, time weeds out a lot most of the bad ones!

9. Can we expect new stories in the Heavenfield, or other settings?

Well yes! The sequel story is finished (though I do feel the urge for another ‘final’ edit!), and I’m hoping to release it in one form or another in the near future. It’s split into another four ‘Books’ or parts, so it would suit another podcast release if I can find the time! I’ll keep everyone posted on my Facebook page and the website. As I said earlier, I’m really pleased the way the story has evolved – it kept me guessing!

I’ve also started work on a third book, which takes a slightly different angle on the Heavenfield story so far – still very much within the storyline though. And also, I’m always working on the Heavenfield datavault, an encyclopaedia of all things to do with the Heavenfield world, which, although not a full story itself, has lots of little bits of back-story and vignettes (as well as tons of images!).

10. Since the time you began the podcast, the publishing landscape has changed dramatically. How do you consume fiction now, and how will you continue to get it out to your listeners and readers? Thank you for your time!

Well, strangely enough I’ve gone back to paper books! haha, I know it may seem like a luddite thing to say, but I can’t afford an iPad or a Kindle and I’ve been dying to get immersed in reading again, so I’ve been raiding my local library and falling back in love with books.

They are so immediate (as well as easy to read in the bath!), after sitting in front of a computer all day, there’s something really pleasurable about settling down with a book.

There’s no temptation to check my emails on it or have a quick look on Facebook! That focus and depth of concentration and involvement is something I really crave now that our world has shortened our attention spans to a couple of minutes at most! I would listen to audio fiction more, but I find my love of music always wins over – if I have some headphones, then I can’t resist listening to my favourite songs!

I think for me, there’s still a lot more to be explored in the way I’ve been recording and presenting stories. I really like the format of several seriealised episodes, and I hope I can create many more, both for the Heavenfield storyline and for other projects.

I’ve been so fortunate to get such a great set of listeners who have been really supportive and encouraging about my work so far – it really does make all the difference. So a big thank you to all of them! I hope that they can help me grow the amount of listeners, as I’d love more people to get involved with the story.

I’m always hoping I can get a bit of support from a publisher or an agent in order to spread the word, but getting a chance to talk to you here is a wonderful opportunity, and hopefully more people may get to hear and enjoy the story – so thanks John, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you! : )