I had the pleasure of interviewing author Roger Ley about his new short fiction collection, Dead People on Facebook recently released on Amazon. Hope you enjoy our little chat!
Lee Andrew Forman: Hi Roger, why don’t you take a moment to introduce yourself?
Roger Ley: Well Lee, I live in a hamlet in the rural county of Suffolk in the UK. It’s very quiet here and I look out of my study over rolling fields and the valley of the tiny River Alde. The view from the rear of my house is the background picture of my website at rogerley.co.uk. I retired a few years ago from teaching Computer Aided Engineering and took up writing, something I’d wanted to do for years, but full-time employment and raising a family meant it had to wait. I started writing articles for magazines, mainly autobiographical stories. In the end I put them all together, filled in the gaps and self-published my first book, ‘A Horse in the Morning’. It’s named after a story I wrote about a runaway horse that came and knocked at my front door (with its hooves) one morning.
Lee: Tell us about your latest release, Dead People on Facebook. What inspired you to put the collection together? What challenges did you face along the way?
Roger: After I wrote my first time travel novel ‘Chronoscape’, I joined a writing group and when our tutor set us fifteen-minute writing exercises I found I could often make a rough draft of a story in that time. Once my creativity was released, I found myself writing and submitting stories to eZines via the ‘Submission Grinder’ and was surprised and pleased when they were accepted.
In the end there were enough stories to self-publish an anthology. I called it ‘Dead People on Facebook’ because I’d put six stories on the ‘Curious Fictions’ website and the one with that title got nearly three times as many hits as the others.
Lee: What would you want potential readers to know before reading your work?
Roger: The stories in the first part of this anthology concern Martin and Estella Riley who are the main characters in my novel ‘Chronoscape’ but you don’t need to have read it for the stories to make sense. They were written randomly over 2018 and I put them together in the order of the protagonists’ ages. They are only loosely connected, think of them as occurring on different timelines so, for instance, Martin can die on one and still be alive on another.
Lee: Even horror writers have fears. Tell us about yours.
Roger: I have all the usual fears: aging, death, unpopularity but more immediately, I will shortly be appearing on stage at our local arts theatre in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, by Charles Dickens. (‘Tom Codlin’s the name, people call me Trotters. Pleased to make you acquaintance.’ ) I’m worried that I might forget my lines and look a complete dick in front of three hundred people, some of whom I know.
Lee: What draws you to the horror genre? What made you decide to write horror?
Roger: I didn’t set out to write horror, I wanted to write hard science fiction, but many of my stories, for instance ‘Piranha’, ‘Penance’, ‘Horsemen’, ‘Rivals’ came out nasty, others came out funny or romantic and there are some sci fi stories. My stories are written by somebody who shares my brain with me, someone who I’ve never been introduced to. As I was writing my stories I felt more like the midwife than the parent. The short answer to your question is that I didn’t choose horror, it was the other guy that chose it.
Lee: If you had to choose one fictional character to be real, from any book, movie, or television show, who or what would it be?
Roger: Sorry to harp on about my own work but while Mary Lee, the fly drone pilot is my creation it doesn’t stop me from being in love with her, unattainable though she is. Several other people have found her intriguing but none could possibly carry the torch for her that I do. She appears in this anthology in the story ‘The Fly on the Wall.’
Lee: Where does your inspiration for writing come from?
Roger: I wrote all these stories in a nine-month period. I don’t know where the ideas come from but I don’t sit and think about them, I put the pen on the paper and write, I let the other guy in there do the creating.
Lee: Tell us about the inspiration for one of the pieces in your collection, Dead People on Facebook.
Roger: One of my favorite stories is the second one in the collection, ‘Dia de los Muertos’. It started to form in my mind as my wife and I took our regular walk which passes through the village graveyard. The story changed quite a lot as I wrote it and it became apparent to me that it was loosely related to the first story in the collection, ‘Harley’. I thought about the shades of dead people appearing once a year near their graves and talking with the corporeal friends and relatives, after a little Wikipedia research into the Mexican festival of the Dead the story eventually emerged, screaming loudly, and I placed it into the loving arms of the ‘The Sirens Call eZine’ where it lives to this day.
Lee: If you had to recommend one book in any genre, what would it be?
Roger: I really like ‘The Fountains of Paradise’ by Arthur C Clarke. I have incorporated the idea of space elevators into several of my stories and sited mine on the equator at Kisumu in Kenya.
As far as horror is concerned, I think ‘Carrie’ by Stephen King was a game changer although, in general, I find SK’s books rather too long.
Lee: Do you have a preferred sub-genre or theme when writing short fiction?
Roger: As I’ve said, for short fiction I put the pen on the paper and see what happens, it’s up to my alter ego. I guess I like nasty/funny. Is that a recognized sub-genre? The best example in this collection is possibly ‘Turing Test’.
Lee: What piece of your writing are you most proud of? Tell us about it.
Roger: I got an ‘Honorable Mention’ in the ‘Writers of the Future’ contest for the story ‘Pilgrimage’ which is a pure fantasy piece. It was published by AntipodeanSF and they’ll be broadcasting it in the new year on their AntipodeanSF Radio Show. But I also really like ‘Pressing Matters’ published by Sirens Call Publications. I love the idea of a downtrodden woman finally… no spoilers.
Lee: What three things do you need to sit down and write?
Roger: I live on my own some of the time and while I can do the routine stuff like submissions and social media when I’m at my wife’s house I need to be alone to write creatively.
I have a double walled mug which keeps my tea hot.
I need to get all my small jobs cleared out of the way before I can free myself to write.
Lee: What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a writer so far?
Roger: The difficulty of publicizing my work and selling books. I don’t expect to make a living from writing, but I would like to get my books to a bigger audience. This is the reason that I’ve embraced flash fiction, it’s easier to get it published than larger works.
Lee: Any final words for the reader?
Roger: You may not like all the stories in ‘Dead People on Facebook’ but you will almost certainly like some and if you do, please leave a review. Good reviews are like gold nuggets to a writer and often they’re the only feedback you get from your readers.
About Roger Ley:
Roger Ley was born and educated in London and spent some of his formative years in Saudi Arabia. He worked as an engineer in the oilfields of North Africa and the North Sea, before pursuing a career in higher education. His stories have appeared in about twenty ezines this year and some have been podcast and broadcast, notably on the AntipodeanSF Radio Show in Australia.
He has published three books:
‘Dead People on Facebook‘ is a recently released collection of flash fiction stories in various speculative genres including Steampunk, Horror, Sci Fi, Time travel, a little magic and one Romance.
‘Chronoscape’ is a science fiction novel about time and alternate realities. It has been well received and was included by author Jessica Lucci on her Summer reading list 2018.
‘A Horse in the Morning’ is a collection of comic autobiographical stories.
Reach him at rogerley.co.uk