What are the main ideas or themes in your book?
My new novel, PICA, explores the relationship between people and the natural world. Luke is a cynical teenager who is slowly introduced to the wonders of nature by an enigmatic young man called Guy, who seems to possess strange powers, such as shape-shifting. Luke discovers ancient secrets and magic that will change his life forever. The very future of planet Earth itself is in his hands.
What is the setting or context of the narrative?
Luke lives in an unspecified but typical British town. His family and school life will be familiar to most readers, and the narrative is set in the modern day. However, fantastic events begin to occur within this naturalistic setting. I want readers to believe in the reality of all that takes place. Even though some of the action is fantastical, the underlying theme and message is very real.
Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas:
Initially, Luke hates going on walks in the countryside, preferring to mess about with his air pistol or massacre alien species on computer games. When he first meets Guy he joins in the general bullying before witnessing the new boy’s strange control over nature. Luke is the character who changes the most. He has to decide whether to stick with his mates who are being mean to Guy – or turn his back on them and befriend the new kid. Making that decision rips his life apart…
Why did you write this novel? Any issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it?
PICA (which is the first book in the ‘Gaia’ trilogy) deals with environmental issues. Humans are slowly destroying planet Earth with our pollution, greed, consumerism, over-fishing and deforestation. Someone has to stand up to the politicians, multinational ‘fat-cats’ and world leaders.
How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?
You have to think long-term when writing a novel. It’s very complicated, with many strands to consider. I spend some time planning and structuring what to write – with enough flexibility to include changes and new ideas. Then I find it’s best to just get on with writing – not worrying too much about editing at that point. I’ve come to realise that it’s important to get words on paper. I write the first draft (I’ve made that process sound simple – it isn’t: it involves a lot of sweat and tears and decisions to give up) and then I look at how the structure can be improved (particularly the beginning and ending), plus what else can be added. The next editing phase involves looking at what does NOT work and deleting or changing those sections. You have to be brutal and if you read something and remain uncertain about it, then it probably needs to go.
What advice do you have for less experienced writers?
Never give up and keep believing in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then nobody else will. Act professionally and take your writing seriously. Think long-term in your writing career too. Unless you’re very lucky (or a celebrity), it will take time and effort for you to establish yourself, or even to get published. Take rejections on the chin and don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Great answer! What are you working on currently?
I’m currently writing the third book in the ‘Gaia’ trilogy. Book two, Falco, is with the editor.
What would your perfect day be?
My perfect day would involve writing, as it’s what I love doing. I also enjoy being with my kids. So a walk in the countryside with my children, followed by a pub lunch with family and friends. Then the chance to write, whilst sitting by the beach or a lake, somewhere secluded. If I could fit in a rock concert or the chance to watch Liverpool win the FA cup then that works for me…
Name a book or a film that means a lot to you:
Smoking Poppy by Graham Joyce is a beautiful tale of a father whose daughter is caught smuggling drugs in Thailand and sent to prison there. So he travels to Thailand to help her. It’s a brilliant and emotional journey of love and reconciliation.
If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?
Stop being selfish and think of others – especially those who are struggling. The real heroes of this world are selfless and compassionate; helping those who are disadvantaged.
Thanks Jeff, for visiting my blog!
More about Pica:
Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.
Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.
Connect with Jeff:
More about Jeff
Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia and Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.
Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”
“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)