15th December 2018
Interview with Ryan Kinmil
Good afternoon Mr Kinmil. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Can I tell you about myself? Yes. Will I stop at little? We’ll see…
I’m starting to consider my life between 15 and 25 years of age as goofing off, as I did only as much as I needed, and spent the rest of the time reading (not that bad), and playing everything from computer to tabletop and board games (which is fun, but not really constructive).
At 25 my first kid came along and change my (and my wife’s) view of the world and time completely. Fast forward 7 years to now, during which we had another child, moved five times (once to a different country), I changed three jobs, my wife changed two and is now self-employed. So a lot of things happened, and we managed things we couldn’t have imagined before the explosive part of our lives started.
So now I look back at those wasted 10 years, and how much I could have done on absolutely any front if I applied my time better. And I would still have had time to play.
Yeah, set on not wasting any more time I’m now set to do as much as I can, and writing is something that for some reason I never imagined when younger. But it seems so natural and obvious to me now. So when not developing software, trying to raise two wonderful monsters, or spending some let’s-stay-sane time with my wife, I’m discovering what it is to be a writer.
Would you not count those ten years as life experience which could inform your writing?
If I’m very optimistic yes. It’s not like I haven’t done anything during those years. But if I could change it so that up to half of the time was spent working on something more worthwhile, I would do so without a second thought.
What do you hope to achieve in the next ten years?
Now that’s a tricky one. As 10 years ago I wouldn’t be able to tell you almost anything of the things I’m proud of now.
As a human, I hope we survive that long, and take action that prevents us from destroying the Earth. Not something that I can achieve, at least not at a larger scale, but still quite important.
As a father and husband, I hope to set my children on a path that will take them into a good life, and to support my wife.
As a writer, I would love to keep going and improving. Have a few books published and a clear sight on where I want to go next.
You’ve described yourself as a writer of sci-fi stories. What sort of sci-fi do you write?
My longer-term plan is to have an image of the world in 2040s and beyond. Inside it I hope to tell stories of impact of technology on individuals, groups and civilization as a whole. Things are moving fast enough that whatever I come up with might very well be completely off, but I’d like to present my view on at least some of the problems/challenges that are likely in front of us.
Automatization, machine learning, AI, blockchains, quantum computing, biotechnology. There is a lot coming, and if I manage to touch upon any of the ramifications in a way that people can connect to, I’d be more than satisfied.
Of course, I started off very naive and considered just bits of technology that I wanted to explore in a given story. But there would be great impacts on all aspects of life, from education and healthcare, through food production and ecology, to of course politics and wars. So I’m working on building a general idea of everything (easy, right), so I can actually portray things somewhat realistically (science in SF).
Are you exploring these ideas through short stories or novels?
Funny story. I started with a general idea of a few stories, and settled to start on one of them. After writing a few pages, it suddenly grew first into a novel, and then into a series (likely a trilogy. Everyone likes a good trilogy).
So I came up with two others which I outlined like short stories. Can you guess what happened? Both are novella or novel length now in my head. And it’s one of them that I hope to work on during NaNo. It should be a serialized story that I’d plan to release on my website next year. No, the website isn’t up yet, but I have the domain.
There are of course short stories idea popping up as I think about the world, and some of them might stay contained at single digit thousands of words. We’ll see.
What authors inspire you?
I grew up reading some Clarke and Asimov, which certainly gave my imagination a push in the direction that I’m currently on. Of other SF, I mostly enjoyed Star Wars extended universe, but can’t say that I feel like it did much for what I settled on.
Stephen King came into my life relatively late (at least in I-want-to-read-all-of-his-books sense), but I’m glad he did. With the Dark Tower I came to realize how good a picture of things that are possible can be painted. From Sombra Corporation to North Central Positronics, and Tet Corporation, I’d love to paint players that readers can imagine existing in their world.
Do you have a favourite Stephen King book?
I already mentioned the Dark Tower, and I have to mention the Stand. Both are great works. But The Green Mile will likely remain my favorite. Whether because it was his first book that I read, or that I read it while much younger, and more impressionable, doesn’t really matter.
As much as I really enjoy Stephen King’s work, I find his earlier, shorter work much more compelling (The Shining rather than Under the Dome, for example). Do you find the same thing?
As I haven’t read either, and have limited exposure to his huge opus it’s hard to tell. I tried reading Carrie, and just couldn’t get through it. IT is waiting on my shelf. Shining and Misery are on my to-read list.
I do love his new work - Hodges trilogy, despite it lacking most of his usual fantastical/macabre elements. But the Outsider, on my shelf as well, probably makes up for it.
I love the Shining! I would absolutely, thoroughly and persistently recommend that to anyone!
As someone new to writing, what have you found to be challenging?
Everything? From being afraid of doing things wrong (or at least poorly), to missing opportunities, and having a good thing that no one will ever see.
Mostly I’m struggling with limiting how much research and learning I’m doing, so I actually spent time writing.
There is a lot of talk regarding everything (thank you Internet), but it makes finding things that work for you increasingly difficult (thank you Internet). It’s not that something is plain wrong, there’s a lot of that, but we’re so different from one another in experiences, expectations and situations, that very little is universally applicable. Yes, we all need to sit down and write. But how to get there, and produce something that makes sense and is engaging. Cue the flood of approaches.
Similarly, I found putting a story together a lot like raising a child: everyone's got advice that they freely give but ultimately you learn by doing.
Probably yes. Two short stories and a lot of ideas probably aren’t enough for me to tell you much. But with NaNo coming I am starting to delve into the “proper” writing more, so I’ll likely be able to agree with you on personal experience in a few months.
Are you someone who strives for total technical accuracy in their fiction?
I’d like to say that I’ll try to keep everything aligned with what we know now and just make things more widespread/economically feasible/better thought through. Whether I’ll manage that remains to be seen.
How do you find the writing community on Twitter?
Huge, much bigger than I would have guessed before joining. I probably started too scattered. So I hope to get myself more organized, get to know the people I connect well with better, find the people that I can learn from, and hopefully produce things that will benefit someone. If they manage to get a similar system in place, they just might reach them. The following/follower dynamics, lists, and community hashtags are all things I’m aware need more of my attention and intention.
Would you say that interacting with other writers online is important?
Listening to them certainly is, as I have found out a lot of resources and ideas that I would likely never find (or look for) on my own. Interactions, especially meaningful ones, are something that I’m still trying to build/achieve. Sometimes Twitter makes me feel like I’m shouting into the void. Yes, I forget to use tags half of the time, have no idea when the peak times are and don’t have a system to consistently connect with the people I’d like to interact with more. Yet. I’m getting there.
I’ve seen you using the hashtag #9writerDays on Twitter. Could you say a little about what it is and why you decided to use it?
It’s an experiment, that so far isn’t doing very well, but I’ll keep at it until the end, maybe it makes a comeback somewhere down the line. As a family and working man, I’m happy if I manage to find an hour or so each day to write, and it’s far from my peak performance.
And now (week of 22nd October) I’m on annual leave. So five work days, plus the two weekends around it form my 9 writer days, in which I hope to get a sense of how much I can do if I commit to it. And in a moment of insight, or lunacy, I decided to share my path with the world, or at least Twitter.
I’m far from giving details explanation, and while I had the idea of having someone follow me each day, and give advice, make comments, it didn’t really pan out.
Hopefully I’ll have more leave days dedicated (at least in part) to writing, and maybe I do a better job next time. I’m mostly trying to do things I would like to have available myself.
Outside of writing, what are your passions?
Heh. I definitely try to do better by my family. Three years ago I was a miserable mess because the job I had sucked, and changing it felt like weaving a magic wand. Now starting writing has done the same for me. Instead of spending all the time-consuming content and still feeling unsatisfied, I grab what time I can to work on my stories, and do my best to enjoy the rest of life unburdened by an identity crisis.
Also, self-improvement (adult behavioral change). I started it a bit earlier than writing, and the two in tandem give me feeling of accomplishment.
I‘m afraid a lot of people, even when they find something that fulfills them, struggle to do it in addition to their day jobs, family obligations and everything else.
It’s hard to be creative when you’re exhausted, your body and mind struggling to keep up with a lifestyle that is far from good for you. But it’s hard to realize some things needs to change, and even harder to actually do it.
So I try to get myself in a place where I can do my best work, while learning how to do it.
For you, was the desire to change your life a gradual realisation or did it just come to you all in one go one morning?
It seems to come in waves, so a strange combination of both. It started in 2010, when I was set to lose a few kilos before my wedding. But the “diet” that I set on was so far from maintainable that it’s a wonder I managed to power through it. Then we learned and implemented a lot with cloth diapers and wraps for carrying babies. Then I heard about intermittent fasting, and after starting it three times are now finally on it for good.
Lately more broad performance and behavior improvement came on our radar and we’re riding that wave now. But it’s impossible to do everything you want at once, so we pick and choose things we find more feasible to implement and/or most worthwhile and stick to them until they are routine and then move to the next one.
Could you explain what you mean by behaviour improvement?
I can try. When people decide to change something, it usually relates to a habit. But how you approach the gym/running trail/cigarettes/sweets/fast-food, is in the end up to you (paraphrasing Marshall Goldsmith here). And those are all worthwhile things, but it’s you against the obstacle.
Behavior, in this context, is how you interact with the world and the people in it. For me, it’s becoming better at communication (both listening/asking questions and sharing real insight), being more decisive when someone needs to (avoid the endless I don’t care loops that just frustrate everyone involved), and keeping down my temper (be it in the traffic jam, line at the post office or with kids when they do something completely inappropriate).
Both are challenging, but from personal experience I can acclaim that behavior is the tougher one to crack than habits.
Thank you for your time again. Ryan Kinmil can be followed on Twitter here .