At the beginning of this series I told you what made me theme it The Backstory. So now at the end let me share with you the inspiration. The person who's the whole entire reason for this particular series to begin with.
Last year I was gearing up to do another set of interviews. I called it The October Sessions. It would be my third such series. By that time I'd had a number of guests under my belt and I was feeling my Wheaties enough to have a wishlist of sorts. One of those peeps on my...wait. Is it wishlist or wish list? Either/or? Anyway, one of those peeps on my list was Tim Lebbon.
I'd seen a movie based on one of his books. I'd listened to an audiobook based on one of his novels. In fact, it was the style of that audiobook that got me into the ensemble cast audio drama format that I now listen to more than any other style.
And since Grandma once told me that a closed mouth won't get fed, I reached out.
Tim Lebbon was gracious enough to agree to be interviewed by me. Sadly however, somewhere along the way, my health conditions took a downside turn. I wasn't able to focus on any interviews or writing projects. It was hard enough just to keep up with the job I actually get paid for.
Tim Lebbon became a "lost interview".
Fast forward to many moons later. I was back to doing interviews. Say Your Piece, in fact. As I was putting together my interview with Wendy Liebman, another person from my wishlist (look, I'm just gonna say wishlist as one word for now), I thought about the lost interview. Instead of putting Tim Lebbon's with that series, I decided to wait for one that would be more fitting. Which brings us here, the final The Backstory interview and the man behind the reason for the series.
And now, Tim Lebbon.
KD: So first, let's get into the overall picture of the writer. Who are you? Who is this Tim Lebbon?
Tim Lebbon: A nice short first question, then! I'll resist a novel-length answer and say ... I'm a father, a husband, a writer. And a triathlete and cake lover. Born in London, I've lived in Wales for over forty years, so I'm pretty much Welsh in most regards (especially when it comes to rugby, something that took a while to move over from supporting England! My dear old mum would turn in her grave.) Dogs, not cats. Countryside, not city. I like Marmite.
KD: Y'know, at first I thought Marmite was an exotic little animal. Yes, I Googled it, but my mind still conjures an image of a marsupial doubling as a rich woman's purse pet . What do you do for relaxation?
Tim Lebbon: Read, walk with my wife, and I love triathlon, so I train most days with running, biking, swimming or weights. I enjoy watching TV too, but don't usually do it more than an hour at a time.
KD: If I ever interview you again, and I hope I do, you're gonna have to break down your triathlon training regimen. Give a shout-out to your corner of the world by telling me the best thing about your neck of the woods.
Tim Lebbon: I live in a gorgeous part of South Wales, close to the town of Abergavenny. Surrounding Abergavenny are three mountains called the Sugarloaf, the Blorenge, and the Skirrid, which we love exploring. Closer to our village, my regular four mile run takes in 3 woodlands, a canal, fields, and a wharf - I see kingfishers, buzzards, red kites, foxes, otters... We are very lucky, and we never take where we live for granted. We've been here for 25 years now, and there's no way I could ever live in a city again.
KD: Wow. That sounds just...wow. Thoughts on the month of October?
Tim Lebbon: Autumn is my favourite season, and it kicks in around October. Halloween too, of course! And oh, I should probably mention it's our wedding anniversary on 14th.
(We interrupt this interview to have the class bear in mind that this was from over a year ago, and was intended to be part of The October Sessions series. We now take you back to Tim Lebbon.)
KD: Happy Belated Anniversary! Now this here is one of my fave questions! What genre of music/movies & shows/reading do you listen to/watch/read more than others?
Tim Lebbon: Music, I'm a rock fan at heart but I listen to a wide range of music. I've just recently, at the age of 53, got into jazz, and listen to it a lot when I'm writing.
Movies & TV, again quite a wide range, from Alien to Springwatch!
And reading I guess I read more horror than any other genre, but I'm reading a lot more non-fiction lately. I enjoy books about exploration and people pushing their bodies to the limits.
KD: Speaking of Alien...some of your writings are novelizations based on movies. I have Alien: Out of the Shadows in my Audible collection. The story is set in the Xenomorph universe, but that story is all you. How did the idea for the storyline come about? Like, what inspired you to say, "I got an idea for an Alien novel?"
Tim Lebbon: That novel, along with Sea of Sorrows and River of Pain, were conceived by Fox, but we (my friends Chris Golden and Jim Moore) had a one page proposal from which we had to come up with the three novels. That was absolutely a dream job for me, as Aliens is my favourite film of all time, and I had an absolute blast writing that and the Alien/Predator trilogy that came after. And having the opportunity to write a Ripley story (with all the problems that presented me with) was the bloody icing on a xenomorph cake. I'd always be happy to dip into the Alien universe again sometime.
KD: Yeah, I listened to Sea of Sorrows and River of Pain also. An excellent trilogy overall. Okay, let's get to THE question. Coffee, tea, or...?
Tim Lebbon: Tea in the morning, then mostly coffee. I love coffee. Have a nice bean to cup machine, and if I'm out and about I'll always pop into a local cafe.
KD: I love me a good coffee house! You write horror, but you dabble in fantasy and other genres. How hard is it to go from say, doing a horror novel like The Silence to making a contribution to that long ago and far away Star Wars galaxy?
Tim Lebbon: It's all storytelling, and I love telling stories. People ask me why I write horror and my stock answer is a saying my grandmother used, 'It's the way my mum put my hat on'. And most of what I write tends towards the darker fantastical side, and I'm fine with that. But moving from a horror novel to, for instance, a science fiction short story isn't difficult, as I'm telling the story I want to tell (sometimes within constraints, as with Star Wars, but I never find that a difficulty -- sometimes it even focusses the mind). Just recently I've expanded into new territory, including working on the computer game Resurgence and also an exciting audio drama, and while there's new stuff to learn in those different media it's still very much storytelling. We're all about stories.
KD: "We're all about stories." I like that. I also like what your grandma said as well. Okay, one sentence parenting advice.
Tim Lebbon: You'll be given endless advice, but only filter out what you need, because there's no right or wrong way.
KD: True...true. And two sentence writing advice?
Tim Lebbon: Read a lot. Write a lot. Repeat. And always read the question.
KD: I mean, technically that was four sentences, but you're Tim Lebbon, so that makes it okay. Ironman competitions. How far in advance do you begin training to enter into endurance events?
Tim Lebbon: Oh man, it's an ongoing experience for me now, and has become a way of life. My first Ironman was maybe 2 years after I started trying to get fit. There are 30 week Ironman training programmes you can follow, but I've always said that (for me at least) to get fit and stay fit, it has to be a way of life. I never go for a run 'to get fit', I go because I love running. Being relatively fit (it's definitely up and down with me, and Covid was a lazy blip) is a by-product. Saying that, Ironman races require a very particular level of fitness and attitude. It's said that 80% of an Ironman is in the head, and the other 20% is mental. I could write PAGES about this, but check out my book Run Walk Crawl: Getting Fit in my Forties (my only non-fiction book), from Amazon. I never thought I'd be doing anything like this, and now I can't imagine not doing it.
KD: This is not to be confused with Tony Stark's Iron Man, of course. Okay, granted, that sounded better in my head before I typed it out. Anyway, have you ever written a story that got so deep in your mental it touched an aspect of your real life? For example, I wrote a story about the wendigo. After researching the creature, plotting the story, and putting its tale to paper, I'm no longer excited to go camping in the woods.
Tim Lebbon: I've written stuff that is much more autobiographical than I first realised, and some stories that are very personal (I've written about the death of my mother a couple of times, and I find those stories very difficult to read). But I've never really frightened myself, I don't think. We've got enough real life to do that.
KD: What, to you, is the greatest aspect of the UK?
Tim Lebbon: Our countryside. And Victoria sponge.
KD: Won't lie, it took me a minute to realize you were referring to sponge cake. What are your other passions outside of writing and endurance training?
Tim Lebbon: My family. Our kids have grown up to be the two best people I know. And cake.
KD: Okay, now I have a taste for sponge cake. Name something you wish you would have known or learned way earlier than you did?
Tim Lebbon: Chill.
KD: Direct and to the point. Pet peeves?
Tim Lebbon: I'm fairly laid back most of the time, I think. But – Christmas starting in October. I'd enjoy it a lot more if it wasn't three fucking months long.
Tim Lebbon: Also, drivers who don't acknowledge when you let them out/pass/whatever. It doesn't take much to lift a finger or nod. So ... more generally, impoliteness. Hate that.
KD: Same, my friend, same. Especially that whole Christmas in October stuff. Seems to start in October and end in February. From a writer's perspective, what was (or is, if you haven't found it yet) your holy grail?
Tim Lebbon: I've had a pretty exciting career –– novels published, movies made, awards. I used to use the word 'lucky', but a good friend of mine says 'screw that, you've worked hard'. And I've managed to make a living from writing for sixteen years. Through that time the 'holy grails' have changed, from being published, to being published by a mainstream publisher, to being able to write for a living, to getting a bestseller, to writing in the Alien universe, to having a movie made. I think it's healthy to keep shifting your horizons whilst still trying to live in, and appreciate, the moment. So right now I'm thinking, 'hey it'd be cool to have a TV series made', but at the same time I'm really enjoying the variety of projects I'm working on right now, from a small comic to a massive computer game.
KD: After that response I kinda feel like this next question might be a bit redundant, but can you tell me about a "wow" moment you experienced?
Tim Lebbon: These are the biggest wow moments in my career––
Attending a vampire convention in Transylvania, doing a reading in a cemetery at night with lightning flashing and bats circling the belfry and wolves howling in the distance (true story).
Being a corpse in the movie version of The Silence and acting (dead) with Stanley Tucci.
Arranging a gig by my favourite singer Frank Turner as a release for a book of short stories based on one of his songs that my friend Chris Golden and I edited.
KD: I know writers that just a quarter of those experiences would equate to several holy grails! What was your biggest accomplishment of 2022 thus far? What's a goal you have for 2023?
Tim Lebbon: I raced a half ironman this year called The Brutal. It was tough. I guess the clue is in the name. I've done it before, as well as lots of other endurance races, but this one almost broke me (I'm a bit older, a bit heavier, a bit less fit), so finishing it was a good moment. Next year I've signed up for another equally serious race, so I'd better get training!
(We remind the class that this interview took place in 2022.)
KD: What's an unpopular opinion you stand by?
Tim Lebbon: The Princess Bride isn't that good.
KD: And (swiftly switching topics) what are things that you wouldn't mind others knowing about you and your world?
Tim Lebbon: I'm quite emotional and often cry watching TV, reading moving stories, or watching people cross the finish line in races that mean a lot to them.
KD: I like that. I like all of that. If peeps wanted to reach out and connect, what would be a preferred method?
Tim Lebbon: My email is pretty easy to find – email@example.com . I do get DMs on Facebook and Twitter, but sometimes I forget to answer them. Email is best. Hey, I'm 53.
KD: Any websites you'd like to promote?
Tim Lebbon: My website is www.timelebbon.net.
Thank you, Tim Lebbon, for your patience. This interview was over a year ago, yet for me it was well worth the wait. I hope to have the chance to interview you again in the very near future!
My thanks to Tim Lebbon for his participation. Although he would have been part of The October Sessions in 2022, it's fitting that he as a writer is closing out The Backstory at the end of 2023, because the beginning of 2024 starts a new interview series geared towards writers and authors. The Writers Block! And my thanks to you, the reader, for closing out the year with me. Let's go into 2024 together, shall we?
Take a break from your world...visit for a while in mine. Come often. Stay for a spell.