This month, we celebrate the release of The Soul Continuum, book two of Simon West-Bulford’s Soul Archives, an epic sci-fi series that invites readers into the perspectives of multiple fascinating characters throughout time. Publishers Weekly writes, “West-Bulford peppers his expansive chronicle with vivid descriptions of cosmic creations, philosophical musings on eternal life, and an exploration of man’s hunger for enlightenment.” Get to know Simon and more about his creative process here.
- What inspired you to write The Soul Archives?
So many things, but the fundamental inspiration was the idea of finality. The idea fascinated me that you could be doing something routine and never really consider whether you were doing it for the last time. That thought wandered off a number of different directions, prompting many questions: Who would the final living human be, and what if they never died? Does life have more or less meaning without death? What if there was something bigger than ‘life’?
- Which part of The Soul Archives has challenged you the most?
The continuity and complexity of the story. There is an arc for three novels and ideas to reach beyond that, but preparing the way for where the third novel leads (working title: The Soul Conundrum) means there are a lot of pieces that need to hold together, and the smallest details can lead to great glaring errors if you don’t keep track of them. Taking a complex story and telling it in a way that doesn’t lose the reader is no easy thing.
- What have you learned about yourself as a writer while working on The Soul Archives?
That I often bite off more than I can chew. I start with a single idea or a specific image in my mind, which rapidly blooms into several interwoven themes. With a new idea, I’m like a kid who’s just discovered Spirograph (do they still sell that?). It turns me into an obsessive plotter, creating a framework to hang all those ideas from, and then I’ve thrown myself into a world of hurt trying to unravel a complicated tangle of threads, background, and subplots. This is the part I like best, though. Solving those kinds of problems with a story forces me along unexpected paths that lead to fresh ideas.
- What types of research have you needed to do to write The Soul Archives?
One of the goals I set out to achieve with this series when I started was to find a way to draw a reader more deeply into the world I was creating. The idea of living the life of another person through their memories without any knowledge that you are doing so made me want to plant the thought that this could be true of the reader. So I started to explore the idea of autosuggestion in writing and began researching performers like Derren Brown and salesmen like Joe Vitale. I labelled that kind of writing ‘Hypnoprose,’ and although not much of that ended up in the final drafts, elements of it still exist in the books that might raise some interesting questions for the reader.
- Which character do you identify with most? In what ways?
The idea that I might be anything like some of the characters I invent scares me a little because I like to expose the flaws in them to create conflict and personality. Inevitably bits of me get woven into the fabric of the people I write about somewhere, though. As long as I’m not identifying with the traits of the serial killers or evil entities I create, I can breathe easier, though if I’ve had a bad day in the office they might be more vindictive than usual. On those days, I’m Keitus Vieta!
- What’s one of your own tried-and-true writing rules?
For me, it all comes down to the discipline. Days when I start out feeling confident enough to believe I can write something awesome are very rare, so I have trained myself with all the focus of someone with terrible OCD to aim at writing at least 1,000 words a day. By the time I’m half an hour in, I’m usually in the zone again, enjoying myself.
- What are your thoughts on genre blending in works of fiction?
I love the idea. Without it, we may not have discovered steampunk. Although it’s a nightmare to classify works when they break new ground, I think it’s an essential part of keeping fiction fresh, and it’s something that drives me to experiment with my own writing. The Soul Archives dips into all sorts of genres because the scope is vast and Salem Ben can live any life he chooses, but this is more a journey through genres rather than a blending of them, although the Soul Archive novels do blend genres in one or two of their substories.
- What are you working on now?
I’m almost finished writing a crime novel called To One Knight’s Heaven. One of my pet fascinations is Gematria and Numerology, so I wanted to write a novel in which the antagonist is an influential and devious killer, obsessed with sharing a spiritual message by means of murders with numerological meaning.
- Favorite writer?
- Favorite movie?
The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky)
- What scares you?
- Favorite place to write?
The spare room at night
- What book do you wish you wrote?
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
- What are you currently reading?
Subliminal Messiah by Anthony David Jacques
- Coffee or tea?
No, toffee. Okay . . . coffee
- Junk food: sweet or salty?
Sweet. Very sweet.