Saturday, October 20, 2018


An interview with author Ru Pringle.


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

I've written five novels so far, as well as several published short stories. The first two published novels - A Time of Ashes and Hunting Gods, part of a planned six-book series called Fate and the Wheel - came out this June. My first novel, Sanctuary, was written back when I was 23, but, despite netting me a well-known agent in 2005, hasn't been published yet. My most recently written book, October Song, was released this October. Apart from fiction, I published a hiking guide in my twenties, along with factual contributions to various anthologies and other books.

What got you into writing?

I always enjoyed creative writing at school, though I wasn't popular with a couple of teachers in particular who didn't see speculative fiction as 'proper' writing. At university I was lucky living somewhere with free university tuition and having parents who could help with accommodation, but living costs meant grim holiday jobs to meet living expenses. Reading a mountaineering magazine one day, I thought 'I could write this,' submitted a piece about a weekend I'd spent climbing, and to my surprise they published it. I enjoyed the magazine feature format, and kept myself afloat for much of the next decade largely through articles connected with mountaineering, hiking, and increasingly writing about travel and science as I got older and an injury stopped me climbing. I got my shoulder rebuilt with bits of plastic a couple of years ago - it feels as good as new now I'm a cyborg, so who knows, maybe I'll start climbing again.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

It started life as an idea for a screenplay, written for an actor I know (who's now my girlfriend). The original idea was to develop a short thriller that could be shot fairly close to where we both live, making use of the wonderful Highland west coast scenery. However, I'd only written a few pages when I thought 'hang on, this is starting to feel like a book.' Much to her disgust, I then got obsessed with developing the empryonic idea into a novel - I still haven't written the screenplay, though I've promised to make it up to her by writing something else. Some of my other books have been hard work, but for some reason this one developed a momentum all of its own, at least until editing, which I always find hard. I also got some good advice particularly from my agent about aspects of the story that weren't quite in balance - one of my favourite characters in the book was a last minute addition because of this.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Can't say too much for fear of spoilers, but definitely the lead. She's scarred, vulnerable and guilt-ridden, but also thoughtful, ferociously determined about what she feels is right, and utterly ruthless when she has to be. She's a survivor to an extent no one, least of all her, realises at the beginning of the book. But the personal cost of that survival is high. It's fair to say that I like all the characters though. I think that's important in writing a good character, even one that's not outwardly sympathetic. Each is very human, and all of them - well, perhaps all but one - believe they're doing the right thing.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

That would give far too much away! Okay, well *one* of my favourites is when a well-known town in the Scottish Highlands is essentially pummelled to bits while two lead characters play cat and mouse around it. And I get to destroy a prominent Highland landmark in the process. It's not just pyrotechnics though: for various reasons, this is a pivotal and massively emotional scene too.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

This depends on how the writing's going. When everything flows, writing feels like a cathartic draining of ideas from my brain into words via my fingers. Just as often though, when it's not flowing, I have to force every word out, which isn't fun. Oddly, I haven't found a correlation between how easy the writing feels to how well it reads. I enjoy developing plots and stories, but have to restrain myself from diving into writing too early. If I'm writing well, I don't differentiate between describing scenes or writing dialogue: it feels as though I'm describing a film playing in my head. Dialogue can be tricky though. Again, if it's going well, it can be immense fun, getting characters to spark off each other, and seeing how much unspoken meaning can be stuffed into outwardly simple dialogue. On the other hand, when dialogue just isn't right, I can spend hours just trying to tweak a couple of lines into submission. My least favourite part of writing is arguably the most important: editing. Every page edited can take hours. It's worth it, but I must admit, if I had an editor to do it for me, I'd be very happy!

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I usually wing it - the process depends on the book. October Song was a relatively linear process: I more or less started at the beginning and wrote to the end, then moulded it into shape in around five different passes, then applied editing polish. Previous books have been more complicated: the first two instalments of Fate and the Wheel, for example, involved me writing each character's story as a separate thread, then combining them. I think October Song took around six months, part time (I was also renovating a house and doing part-time building work at the time), though a lot more if you include edits. Previous books have taken longer. My first, Sanctuary, I worked on for more than two years.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

I suspect I'm a publisher's nightmare: I don't really pay attention to genres. I write stories I find appealing, and usually find out afterwards that they don't neatly fit any given pigeon-hole. October Song can probably best be described as a dark near-future thriller, though it has elements of things like police procedurals, spy novels, action thrillers and science fiction. To be honest, I haven't read many dark near-future thrillers. The closest I've come are probably Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road', P. D. James' 'The Children of Men', or Margaret Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake.' I like that such novels allow you to ask 'what if,' though typically their plots hinge on some unpredictable event. My aim with October Song was to extrapolate as plausibly and directly as possible from current events.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Iain M. Banks has been a huge influence, especially his earlier books. I love their raw complexity. Although I've found Peter F. Hamilton's work patchy, he showed me how huge a book can be: The Neutronium Alchemist blew my mind when I first read it. I love the intelligence and emotional charge of Sheri S. Tepper and Vernor Vinge - two authors who can sustain an emotional charge beyond what I'd previously have thought possible. Neal Asher for his wilful weirdness, and Robert Rankin for his wickedly demented sense of humour and, in the Ealing (ahem) trilogy, unexpectedly acute and warm insight into what it means to be human.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

Yes, this happens all the time. I see it as the sign of a well-developed character if they start to misbehave. The trick is writing a well-formed character that can live and breathe within the confines of your plot. I've had to rewrite plots because, when it came to the crunch, a character simply wouldn't do what I'd originally intended him/her to, leading the book in a completely different direction. There are quite a few I've tried killing off, but they just wouldn't die. I've had friends describe this as me being pretentious, but the way I see it is that a well-formed character is essentially an algorithm, with its own internal logic. Algorithms need to follow inbuilt rules, and it's the writer's job to construct a program - the book - in which the algorithms can function as intended. Otherwise neither the program nor the algorithm can work properly. I think it's far better to change the plot to keep characters behaving believably than have them acting out of character in the interests of the plot.

Thanks for stopping by!


'An absolute piledriver of a dark future thriller that instantly hooks you and doesn't let go till the end. Horribly believable and utterly compelling.' Neil Williamson, author of The Moon King.

'Reads like a perfectly structured thriller [...] Its combination of a gritty noir aesthetic with one of the most chilling depictions of the near-future since Children of Men results in a work of superlative readability.' Gary Gibson, award-nominated author of Angel Stations.

'A grim and gripping near-future thriller with sharp political edges and scarily plausible projections, rooted in intimate knowledge of real places.' Ken MacLeod, award-winning author of The Night Sessions.

Following a devastating bomb attack outside the North British Council Building at Holyrood in Edinburgh, a police officer finds herself fleeing from her employers and MI5, the domestic counter-intelligence and security agency of the United Kingdom, up the west coast of the territory of North Britain towards the front line of an intensifying war.

But it's not just her pursuers she must beware of. The wild coastline has become a hiding place for desperate boat-borne refugees. Meanwhile, someone unknown seems to be going to extraordinary and ever more lethal lengths to stop her pursuers finding her.

October Song is both a dark roller-coaster ride and a blistering reflection on a world on the edge of collapse.
'The little electric hatchback had vaulted cleanly over a drystone wall, mangling itself as it ploughed a furrow down a steep bank, flipping on to its side as it hit a half-buried boulder and slamming to a stop against a tree. As she sat suspended, watching airbags deflate, she could hear police sirens approaching. She didn’t dare move. Perhaps three minutes later, a police convoy screamed past. As if it would help her, she sat stock still as the sirens were killed. Flashing red and blue lights illuminated tree-tops where the vehicles had pulled up a few hundred metres further on.'

'As she drifts into the narrows there’s a noise from downwind, somewhere in front of her. She squints into the dark and raises her binoculars again. What the …? Some kind of battle is taking place on the bridge. Breathing very fast, she strains for details. Even in moonlight, it’s too dim for her night vision to make out much. There’s a scrum of movement, and a growing roar of voices. And clanging – lots of clanging. Also thumps, like haunches of meat being dropped on a floor. She sees a flash of something bright and metallic. There are screams. Something falls noisily off the bridge right in front of her, barely three kayak lengths away.'

Find it at:
Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

147,000 words
Published: 15th October 2018 (official release 20th October)
Available on: Amazon (Kindle), Apple (iBooks), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo, Indigo, Angus & Robertson, Scrib'd, 24 Symbols, Playster and Mondadori.


'Ru Pringle is one of the most interesting and exciting new writers to emerge north of the border since Iain Banks' - Gary Gibson, award-nominated author of Angel Stations, Against Gravity and Stealing Light.

Ru Pringle began his writing career at the age of 18, paying university bills by writing features for magazines. After a stint as an environmental scientist, he became a full-time writer, gradually veering towards travel journalism. He has also worked as a tree- and vineyard-planter, footpath builder, roofer, joiner, plumber, yacht crewperson, youth hostel warden, mountain and trail guide, oil-painting salesman, cook, sound engineer, and didgeridoo and mandolin tutor.

After several years as a touring musician, he now lives in the South West Highlands of Scotland.

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