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Think of Your Storyline as Lacing Up a Shoe: An Interview with Liz Cansdale

Think of Your Storyline as Lacing Up a Shoe: An Interview with Liz Cansdale

 |  Author Interviews


The future is a scary thing. We’re fearful of what we do not know, and with no way to properly determine what will happen in the coming days, weeks and years, people have always had a twisted obsession about laying out a plan for what’s to come. Will countries still be defined as they are today? Will we all be flying around in hover cars? Will they bring the Chicken Legend back to McDonalds? So many questions, yet all we can do is wait and see.


Liz Cansdale, with her book May The Fourth, takes the reader to the distant year of 2222 for a fantastic science fiction thriller. We spoke with Liz about the present day inspirations for her future world, her literary inspirations which helped her writing and a little about her time spent travelling.



For all stories set in the future, they have strong grounding and influences in the present day. What has been the main real-world inspirations for the fictional world of May The Fourth?


My real-world inspiration for May the Fourth was a conversation I had with someone while I was living in Italy. It was at the start of the war in Ukraine, just as we were coming out of Covid, and this person said, simplified into a sentence, that he thought the way to achieve world peace was to eradicate all geographical borders so people were free to come and go as they pleased. To say I was irritated would be an understatement! I thought it was such an un-thought out and idealistic thing to say, that I started making a list of all the reasons I thought it couldn't work, even with the best of intentions. I took all the points of that person's argument and blew them up to their extremes, and May the Fourth was born.


The 4th of May just so happens to be my birthday, as well as having the genuine political significance that I refer to late in the book, so that's why I chose that particular day and title for the book.



Anthony Hurst, the lead character in your book, now joins the great pantheon of literary spies. Did you find writing Hurst as a challenge or an intimidating prospect?


To be honest, the biggest challenge with Anthony Hurst was keeping him at the forefront and relevant to the story, fighting as he was to make himself heard over the two strong female characters in the book. His anger at his situation fuelled his progress throughout the book and also fuelled my writing of his predicament.



Writing a suspense thriller requires a great understanding of pacing and plot. What did you learn through writing your book that you would share with other aspiring authors?


The first thing I'd say about pacing and plot sounds an obvious point: know where your story is going and what the end result will be. Then, write each piece of the plot loosely. By that, I don't mean be vague or unclear, but instead, think of your storyline as lacing up a shoe. First, you thread the laces in loosely. When you get to each point of tension, shock, or fear, move on. Begin the next chapter and talk about a different character. Keep your reader on the edge of their seat and then as you get to the end of the book, pull up all the laces nice and tightly and tie them into a neat bow.


The other thing is to edit your work over and over again and don't be afraid to cut parts out if they don't work or if the pace isn't what you think it should be. In all, I probably edit at least ten times before sending to my publisher.



You have spent teaching English abroad. How has your time spent travelling and living in other countries added to May The Fourth?


The importance of cultural differences is probably the main thing that living abroad brought to May the Fourth. Although Italy isn't that far away from the UK geographically, culturally we are worlds apart. Literally everything is different, from verbal expressions to dining habits, from the shops and what they sell to the tax system. Every tiny little thing is different and those differences, although sometimes incomprehensible to us, define who we are, and are so important. This point was crucial in my book.



Finally, do you have another book or writing project that you are hoping to publish in the near future?


Yes, I've just finished writing my next novel, this time on the topic of time travel. It too has links to Italy. I'm not going to divulge the title, or too much about it just yet, but hopefully it will be in print soon. For now, I'm editing!



May The Fourth is available in paperback now.



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