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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, science fiction author Geffreyjen Edwards talks about his book series, The Ido Chronicles, and the latest installment, Plenum: The First Book of Deo.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Geoffreyjen Edwards about his life and career, the inspiration behind his science fiction book series, The Ido Chronicles, and the story of his latest release, Plenum: The First Book of Deo.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

On social media I call myself a “radical creative”. It’s a good description of the range of what I do.  I was trained as an astrophysicist, and carried out research in a very wide set of domains, including the physical sciences and computing, the social sciences, health science and the arts. Since retirement in 2019, I have been working on publishing an ambitious collection of novels.

Geoffreyjen Edwards on The Table Read
Geoffreyjen Edwards

I am also a fashion designer for both women’s and men’s clothes (with collections in 2011, 2016 and 2022), and since retirement I also contribute expertise to an firm working on sustainability issues.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

In my teens. I wrote a lot back then, including a first attempt at a novel, but published little of it. I allowed myself to be steered by my parents into training and eventually a career as a scientist. I can’t regret this. The yearning to write, never went away and I ended up doing a number of highly unusual projects that crossed disciplinary boundaries and eventually worked to combine the sciences with the arts. I only stopped doing that and retired when it became clear to me that I needed to write full time if I was going to get my books finished and into press.

When did you take a step to start writing?

In 2012, I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and took time off work. Often awake in the middle of the night, I discovered writing – it came naturally to me. I couldn’t manage doing the science, it took too much concentration. But the writing flowed. Possibly because it was much more visceral than the science. So I decided to pick up my lifelong dream of writing a multi-book science fiction saga.

At the time, remembering my efforts as a young man, and even though I had written hundreds of scientific papers over the course of my career, I wasn’t sure I was good enough to write fiction. But I decided to try, and if I got into trouble, then I would call the whole thing into question. Hasn’t happened yet!

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

This is a complicated question to answer, given that the project was a multi-book endeavour. It took me three months to draft a 200-page outline for the whole series. This was to be 15 books, organized in five trilogies. Why five trilogies? In my future society, there are five main factions, each with a different approach to advancing humanity in its progress. So I planned one trilogy per faction, each focused on a representative individual from that faction.

Also, the Ido Chronicles, which is the name of the series, are organized around the principles of gaming, and so I conceived a book focussed on “opening gambits”, a second on the middle game, and a third on the end game. This became the organising principle of the each trilogy as well as the entire saga. 

The first book published is not, however, the first one I wrote. Plenum was started in the second year of the effort, 2013. I think it was the fourth manuscript I drafted. It also required considerable research, since I only had limited knowledge of theology. I wrote the first draft over the course of four months. Then I set it aside to work on other manuscripts in the saga. I reworked it in 2017, and then began a long process of submitting it to editors and beta readers for feedback and revising it through successive iterations. It was finally published in the spring of 2022.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

My second manuscript in the saga is currently being evaluated by my publisher. If all goes well, it should be out early in 2023. That book was begun in the very earliest days of the project, in the spring of 2012. The first draft took me two months. It was revised in 2020, during the pandemic, and passed on to several beta readers. 

The third manuscript, which was the first written, I am currently revising. It should be out by mid 2023. So the rate of publication is accelerating.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Plenum: The First Book of Deo?

Plenum: The First Book of Deo, is about gender identity, sexual orientation, and issues of spirituality and religion and how these relate to issues of identity. The latter is an unusual focus for science fiction. Frank Herbert, in his Dune saga, wrote extensively about religion, but more as an outsider looking in. I wanted to write as an insider looking out, even though I am myself more an atheist than someone with a clear spiritual focus. I think the numinous is an integral part of  human experience, however.

In addition to those issues, the whole saga is predicated on the idea that human gender is not binary. In my books, there are seven genders, that is, seven sexes, and gender is aligned with sexuality. When I started writing in 2012, no one was talking about gender. For the first five years following that, the subject was largely quiescent. All that has changed since. 

The Ido Chronicles by Geoffreyjen Edwards on The Table Read
Plenum, The Ido Chronicles

I also feel that youths are often shortchanged in our society, and that books could give them more power and authority. So that is a third issue addressed in the novel.

Editing and Proofreading by Scribendi

What were your biggest challenges with writing Plenum: The First Book Of Deo?

I mentioned that I knew little about the internal workings of religion and faith, and so I read a great deal about religion. This has actually developed into other writing projects as well. I also struggled with pronoun use. Remember, this was before the recent explosion in diversifying pronouns.  I tried several neutral variations before settling in “zhe/hir” pronouns. 

For the series as a whole, the biggest challenge was learning to separate the requirements for each novel from those of the story arc of the saga as a whole. This is similar to what writers do in episodic TV. It is easy to get distracted and write the novel as if it were the larger arc and I made several false turns as a result.

Managing such a large writing project is also quite difficult. As well as finding a balance between writing and living!

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

That’s a really good question. Vanu Francoeur, the main character, is perhaps how I might have been if I were deeply religious. Same kind of questions and doubts. 

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

My Antagonist is not so much a single person as a way of doing things, or perhaps a cabal who does these things. At one point in my life I was a rabble rouser, and the book reflects that perspective.

What is the inciting incident of Plenum: The First Book Of Deo?

Vanu’s younger sibling is the victim of a nasty practical joke by a bully. 

What is the main conflict of Plenum: The First Book Of Deo?

Vanu meets and forms a liaison with an outsider, which is formally forbidden to novices. The authorities seek to apply punishment, and Vanu’s siblings and friends protest. A power struggle develops, but it is complicated by Vanu’s bullied sib, who suffers from anxiety and depression. Ultimately, it is the tension between these two elements that determines the outcome. So the book is about mental health as much as it is about gender identity, sexuality and the clash with authority.

Did you plot Plenum: The First Book Of Deo in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

For a project like this, I have a rough outline. The larger story arc requires this. I know where things need to end up. But when I’m writing by the seat of the pants, I find the plot sometimes takes surprising and fascinating turns. So I mix up both modes of writing.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Plenum The First Book Of Deo need?

The #1 Writing Tool

Plenum is my first published book, and as a novice fiction writer I lacked confidence in myself, even though as a scientist I have written and published hundreds of papers. I hired a freelance editor and rewrote the text based on those suggestions. Then a group of beta readers read it and I revised again. After securing a publisher, my editor also wanted substantive changes through two iterations. So Plenum has been heavily edited, through three, even four rounds. 

Messioph, my second MS has also been heavily edited, and there’s more to go – I’m just completing the third round. Pinnacle, my third, probably will have had two to three rounds of editing instead of the three to four rounds of the first pair. 

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Find a good editor to assist you once you have a decent draft. My books jumped in quality dramatically once I started to work with good editors.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I am on a publishing schedule of about two books a year, slightly less to begin with. It will take about ten years to finish publishing the 15 books of the Ido Chronicles at that rate. However, I also have several other writing projects, including a pair of books dealing with the Second World War, a contemporary fiction novel, and a thriller. No idea when those will be done, however.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Just doing Plenum was huge. I think publishing even a single novel is an achievement. I had some great reviews for Plenum, so I feel my bet with myself has paid off. I am also pleased that my 15-book saga has found a publisher willing to invest in the project. 

I imagine readers will come as the saga takes form. And marketing is a big issue. Once people read it, they seem to get it. Several discussion groups have also formed around the book. The challenge is to get the book into more readers’ hands.

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First book: Plenum: The First Book of Deo

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