Steve Vincent on his debut novel The Foundation

17 September 2014 / Leave a Comment
Steve Vincent's debut novel The Foundation was published by Momentum last week. The Foundation is a political thriller, described by one reviewer as: ‘This is a jet-setting, alarming, bang-pow-kaboom read full of metaphorical and literal bloodshed, political machinations you’ll hope desperately will never become reality, and late-night giant-popcorn-wielding funsies.’ Here Steve tells us about how he came to write The Foundation, about writing like a madman and the '10k day' ...

How did you come to write The Foundation?
The idea for the book was planted during a drinking session nearly a decade ago, by a guy named Jeff. I’ve barely spoken to him since, except for when he calls me up thinking I’m his plumber. True story. The seed? What would happen if the largest media organisation in the world was subverted? It took a while – like, five years or so – to start writing the book, but the idea was always there.

I really got cracking in 2012, when I signed up to do a course through Writers’ Victoria. I needed something meaty to work on and The Foundation was it. During the course I smashed through a draft, and then did another course in 2013 to workshop the manuscript. It was a great way to write a first book, nestled in the positive cocoon of an experienced author alongside others going through the same thing.

It seems like it has been a long ride, with lots of dead ends and trapdoors, but I’ve loved it. I’m not sure I’d be keen to take such a roundabout path to finish a book again, but I think it was useful. I trashed about 40,000 words along the way, on top of the scenes that were heavily amended. Given the whole book is 88,000 words, it gives an idea about how much extra work didn’t make the cut.

What is The Foundation about?
It’s a book that looks at the dilution of democracy and the concentration of power in think tanks, the media and unelected individuals. It plays with the consequences of what could happen if someone nasty took advantage of this. Beyond that, I’m going to point to my blurb, because my publishers did a much better job in summing up the book than I can:

He who holds the pen holds the power.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation's deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack's boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation's plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack's the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it's too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

Tell us about how your book got picked up by Momentum?
It was only towards the end of the second course that I realised my work might be good enough to try and publish. Up until that point, it had been a nice dream, but not something I’d seriously given thought to. I think authors, especially first timers, work themselves up into such a mess about how hard it all is to get published that we get a little bit paralysed. I definitely did. But I’m so glad I had a go and submitted it.

I originally submitted the book to Momentum’s big daddy, Pan Macmillan. When I received the email back it was mixed news: their Commissioning Editor liked the book and thought readers would as well, but thought it would do better as a digital-first release. If I was interested, she offered to consider it for Momentum’s list.

Given I read pretty much exclusively on my Kindle, this didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I gave the nod, and a few weeks later I had an offer in front of me and the real fun began. It has all been a whirlwind. One of the advantages of digital is the publishers seem to get the book ‘to market’ very quickly. I’ve had to learn a lot on the fly.

What advice would you have for others starting out on their writing journey?
Treat it like a job and give it regular time in your schedule. Then write. Lots and lots and lots. Finish a draft of something. Show it to some honest friends. Welcome feedback with a smile. Revise it a few times. Do a course or get a manuscript assessment. Revise it again. Flick it off and see if anyone wants to publish it. If they do, great! If they don’t, self-publish or try again.

In terms of the first step (writing like a madman), the teacher of those courses I did was crime writer PD Martin. She introduced me to the ‘10k day’, though I’m not sure if she invented it or not. Basically, turn off all your devices, your wifi, your spellcheck. Boot any distractions (pets or people) out of the house. Sit down and write madly for 2 hours, with no editing and no looking back. Take a 15 min break. Repeat 3 more times. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s the best way I’ve found to punch out large chunks of a novel. The stuff you throw down quickly isn’t great and needs to be revised heavily, but it gets words down. I do these every now and then, then supplement it by scratching out a couple of thousand words a week in ‘spare time’ writing. An hour here, 30 mins there. Getting to the end of that first draft is the hardest bit. Once you’re there, you can see the book, flaws and all. Once you can see it, you can fix it.

What are you working on next?
State of Emergency is the working title. It’s a sequel to The Foundation. Jack is back and the book is looking at what the end point might be for the creep of anti-terrorism laws and the assault on civil rights and freedoms in the name of safety. Totalitarianism comes to America!

At the same time, I’m thinking about a prequel novella for the series, a tiny thing to explore Jack’s adventures in Afghanistan prior to the first book.

And I’m an inch or two into a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller…thingy. It’s on the backburner in a pretty big way, but if I get time I’d like to finish it at some point.

Twitter: @stevepvincent


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