Author Interview: Tullio Pontecorvo

Today’s Blog World Tour: Science Fiction Edition interviewee is Tullio Pontecorvo!

Tullio believes the greatest virtue of speculative fiction is the Socratic exercise. Suppose blank: what are your choices, and your beliefs? A good speculative story can tell you more about yourself as a reader than about the author who crafted it, because it doesn’t beat you on the head with a stick: it confronts you with a complex situation akin to those we face in everyday, real life. That’s what goes into his writing.

Thanks for being here today, Tullio. Let’s dive into those questions! First off, what are you working on?

Hello Heather, so glad to join you!

My main WIP, at the moment, is a scifi novel set in an alternate history. I tried to imagine how different the contemporary world would look, if WW2 had had a different outcome–in this case, a sort of white peace that allowed all major combatants to survive, and led to a fractured, multipolar international order. Throw in an alien invasion that is not really what it seems, and a wide cast of characters of different ideologies that need to learn how to work together in order to uncover mysteries far bigger than humanity, and you’ve pretty much got my vision on paper. I’m nearing first draft completion, let’s see how that pans out!

Oooh, neat! I love alternative histories, and a good old alien invasion definitely helps spice things up. Sounds like there’s a lot going on–are you pantsing it, or did you plan it in advance?

Oh, I’m a pantser at heart. I write into the dark. That has caused me endless headaches, but I couldn’t have done it any other way. I didn’t exactly come up with this story–I just planted the seed. The characters told me the rest. The world I built, and its mechanics, told me the rest. That’s how I fell in love with it.

I’m a pantser at heart as well! I love to let my stories and characters develop organically. Is there any advice you have for writers regarding the learning process of writing? Certain elements you recommend they focus on developing?

Joining a critique group! I’ve improved more in ten months on a critique group than I have during years spent in a vacuum. But ultimately, practice is what makes writers great. I’m not sure how much talent comes into it, as such, but regardless of that, it’s a rusted sword without the patience, methodical determination and crafting that comes only through sinking the hours in, day in, day out. And the trained eye of peers and editors, of course!

I totally agree with that. My novels would not be where they are today without the support of all my wonderful critiquers and beta readers, nor without the hours and hours spent practicing the craft. How about for individual works? Any suggestions for where to find inspiration when a writer’s struggling with their muse?

This might sound funny, but most of the other inspirations belong to the visual arts. Some of them are movies like von Trier’s Europa, Alien, or Blade Runner. There are several videogames in there too: Mass Effect obviously, but also the Talos Principle, XCOM, Deus Ex… too many to count.

I’ve definitely been inspired by movies–and games–before myself. *clock chimes in the background* We have time for one more question! Earlier, you mentioned falling in love with a story. I do the same, each time I start a new tale–is this more advice you have to offer for new writers?

Absolutely. Do not fret over what story might sell, at least not at the beginning. Making a work commercial is nothing to be frowned upon–I do it myself–but it’s one thing to have a keen eye for the market, and another to turn writing into a chore. That’s not going to win you anything.

I’ve said this before, but I do believe that as a writer, you codify your experiences into your own words. Art, politics, love, any place you might have seen or person chance met, every nightmare that woke you up at night… when I sit at the keyboard, it all bleeds on the page. Writing, really, is a way of talking: you’re imposing form upon the chaos of your thoughts, molding them into something that you can communicate. This isn’t about creating an approximate model of reality, but making other people understand how you feel. And, perhaps, share the feelings with you!

Makes sense to me! Although I do hope to become successful with my writing, the most important part of writing for me is discovering my stories and the characters that bring them to life.

Thank you so much for being here today, Tullio! I wish you the best with your stories!

Tullio Pontecorvo is an aspiring science fiction author. He studies political science and international relations, and is currently working on a near-future sci-fi novel that explores the relationship between the individual and the ideological in a complex geopolitical environment. He’s also a freelance journalist.

You can follow him on his blog and Facebook page. You can also check out the article he wrote for Earth Island Journal under a different name.