Alasdair Shaw grew up in Lancashire, within easy reach of the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, Lake District and Snowdonia. After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.
He has been rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, kayaking and skiing as long as he can remember. Growing up he spent most of his spare time in the hills. Recently he has been doing more sea kayaking and swimming.
Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor. A secondary teacher for over fifteen years, he has plenty of experience communicating scientific ideas.
Where was your favourite reading spot as a child? Where is it now?
Then and now it is curled up in bed. Warm, cosy, and immersed in whatever world the book describes.
If you won ten million dollars tonight, what would you do?
Buy land with caves that currently have poor or non-existent access. Manage the land as nature reserves, with access consistent with conservation.
Set up a scholarship for true all-round students – high academic performers across arts and science as well as taking part in outdoor activities, music and sport.
Move somewhere nearer the mountains.
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I have a pretty good idea before starting. However, they do take on lives of their own, especially when they start interacting with other characters and the situations they find themselves in. A recent new character, Alexandra Seivers, was originally written as a man, but by I was halfway through The Perception of Prejudice she just had to become a woman. Hopefully I managed to correct all the ‘he’s and ‘him’s.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I write on a computer. As I have the files on Onedrive they are shared automatically between my PC, two laptops and Surface. Wherever I am when I find I have a little while to write I can access them.
Recently I have been taking a notebook with me when I go out walking. Sitting on mountains jotting down bits of a book is somehow very satisfying, even if my pen hand does get ridiculously cold. I take particular amusement form the fact that the notebook was part of a prize I won for ‘major contributions to A level and GCSE Physics publications’ (the several hundred pound cheque was the more exciting part when I opened the envelope).
Dictation seems to be popular nowadays, especially with the advances in speech recognition on computers. I find I cannot write well without having the text in front of me, and the many inaccuracies of homophones and punctuation seriously bug me. Also, I constantly edit as I go along, and rarely have a whole sentence in my head before it goes down. I have considered dictation might be useful when I am driving, however, so might try that out at some point.
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
Given the two options, I’d say gift. Anything that allows you to communicate and share ideas and passion is a good thing.
The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty and The Perception of Prejudice. His second novel, Equality, will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.