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Meet Carl Bayley

Every Friday, we meet a member of the BFS and peer deep into their soul (or, at least, a form they filled out). Want to be featured? Email us: online@britishfantasysociety.org

Name, including preferred pronouns:
Carl Bayley (he/him)

Which region are you based in?
I live in the Scottish Borders now, and am proud to call this magical place home, but I grew up in the West Midlands, and was also based in Edinburgh for 20 years.

If you write, which genre: 
All of the above! My first novel is fantasy/horror, but later books in the series will introduce sci-fi elements too.

If you don’t write, what do you do?
Creative writing is my passion but, to keep a roof over my head, I also write plain English tax guides and lecture on tax.

Are you drawn to any specific SFFH sub-genres?
My favourite stories are anything that defies the boundaries of a normal human lifespan: time travel, vampires, immortality, reincarnation, etc. But a good story is always more important than genre.

Your influences

Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?

The very first thing has to be Doctor Who. It’s so early, I don’t even know how old I was, certainly under five. The impact it had was profound: it opened my mind to a larger Universe, where anything was possible, and gave me the licence to let my imagination run wild.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

So many places! First off, there’s the real world around me. I live in Scotland, and its landscape, history, people, and wildlife are all tremendous sources of inspiration. I remember watching a heron flying gracefully over a river then landing, very awkwardly, on a tree branch. From that I got the idea of my protagonist, a Space Corps cadet, piloting a huge spacruiser for the first time and the mantra in the corps being, ‘The bigger they are, the more gracefully they fly… and the harder they are to land.’

Then there’s film, TV, and of course, books. Writing is very much a case of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, drawing inspiration from others who have gone before but mixing the elements in a fresh, new way. It’s like creating a new recipe out of your favourite ingredients: they’ve been used before, but you’re still making something original and unique.

I’m also often inspired by music. I really admire the ability of some songwriters to get across a whole story in three minutes or so. Think of something like 10cc’s ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’, or Brian May’s ‘39’: there aren’t many songs about the devastating human cost of time dilation in interstellar travel, but he does it beautifully.

Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?

For horror, it has to be Stephen King. He makes the unbelievable seem believable by placing it in real, familiar settings; he has a great talent for coming up with fresh, new ideas (dare I say, new recipes); and, best of all, he creates credible, well-rounded characters that you, the reader, really care about.

In sci-fi/fantasy, I’d say Russell T. Davies for his work on Doctor Who and Torchwood. He has that same ability to make the unbelievable seem believable by bringing in real-life stories and mixing them in with the fantastic. Torchwood is a strong competitor for my favourite TV series of all time and I loved the variety he brought to his characters: different genders, ethnicities, and sexualities, but all working together as a team.

(Doctor Who is a recurring theme for Carl; photo at left) by Charlie Seaman on Unsplash)

Your work

You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.

Based on the premise of reincarnation, Trinity of Souls is about three souls bound together by love, hate, fear, and destiny across all of time.

While there’s a fantasy element, it is also grounded in reality, starting in the present day with familiar, credible characters facing the challenges of everyday life in the real world. That modern-day story acts as a framework for a series of inter-connected stories spread throughout human history.

The same sense of reality meeting fantasy runs through all the books in the Souls Series as we explore human tragedies and triumphs across multiple eras, from the end of the last ice age, through all of recorded history, to the present day, and, in later books, on to a future filled with new horrors as yet unseen, but also wonders like travelling to the stars and discovering new worlds.

In the Souls Series, the past is always present, and we must heed its lessons to survive. If you like fantasy that has its head in the clouds, gazing at the future, its feet firmly on the ground, standing on the past, and its heart ever present, this is the series for you.

What are you working on right now?

I always have a ‘day project’, for when I’m fresh and focussed; and an ‘evening project’ writing first drafts while I’m at my most creative, sometimes until well into the early hours. My current day project is working on the final draft of Destiny of Souls, the second book in the Souls Series, which I hope to publish soon.

Having recently completed the first draft of the sixth book in the Souls Series, I decided to take a short break from the series in my evening work. Just before Christmas, I wrote a short story about a woman who is turned into a vampire on millennium night. But Miranda the reluctant vampire told me she was worthy of a novel, so her story of trying to cope with this unwelcome, dramatic change of lifestyle while struggling to maintain a normal life is my current evening project: I’m having a lot of fun with it!

Thinking about all the stories/work you’ve done, what sticks out most in your mind? Why?

I went through a phase of setting up characters who, initially, I had planned to kill off, but in the end, I liked them too much. Fearing I was becoming predictable, I set myself a challenge to create the dearest, sweetest, loveliest character you could imagine and then have her fall victim to a vicious, cruel murder, which the reader would not see coming. When I read the story to my partner, then turned around to see the tears streaming down her face, I knew I’d cracked it.

Where and when do you create/are you at your most creative?

In terms of initial ideas, it’s completely unpredictable, but a lot of ideas tend to come to me while I’m out walking in the countryside. The writing itself is done at my desk at home. While editing, admin, and the day job (I also write tax guides) all happen in the day, the most creative part of my work takes place in the evening, sometimes until well into the early hours.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?

A teacher at primary school told me to let my imagination run wild.

What’s your writing soundtrack?

While I love music and usually have it on in the background for any other activity, I tend to write in silence to avoid distractions. I do occasionally put on some Pink Floyd though.

Carl does a reading at his book launch

The quickfire round

Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?
All of them

Quiet or loud?
Loud, but with some quiet moments

Dark or light?
Dark

Strict lines or genre blend?
Totally blended: I don’t believe genres should place restrictions on creativity.

Awards or bestseller?
Bestseller: not for the money, but because the most important award is acceptance by the reading public.

Fiction or non-fiction?
As a writer, both, but I generally read fiction

Poetry or prose?
As a writer, both, but I only read prose

Plotter or pantser?
Some of both; I think I’m what they call a plantser.

Reading or listening?
Reading

Notebook or computer?
Computer; my handwriting is so bad even I can’t read it.

Favourite SFFH book of all time?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Last book you read?
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

Any SFFH author on auto-buy?
No, my buying is more erratic

Favourite podcast?
Sorry, don’t have one

The home stretch

What’s the best thing about being a SFFH writer/reader/fan?

Total creative freedom.

Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space.

My website has opening chapters from eight novels, lots more information about me and the Souls Series, and some samples of my other writing.

Trinity of Souls, my first published novel is available in paperback at troubador.co.uk, amazon.co.uk, and other online retailers, as well as selected bookstores. The ebook edition is also available at amazon.co.uk and will appear on other online retailers, like troubador.co.uk in March.

(Pictured right: scenes from the launch event for Trinity of Souls, book one of the Souls Series, on 1 February 2024)

Coming up, I’m planning to publish Destiny of Souls, the second book in the Souls Series, later this year, with another book in the series following each year thereafter: I’ve already written six of them, and you can get an early glimpse of these on my website.

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