Saturday, 21 November 2015

An interview with David Wailing and his auto - Katherine Roberts

Don't panic, I'm not author David Wailing's auto... so far autos haven't been invented (or so he assures me), which is probably just as well because I'd be a rather scatter-brained one. However, I'm delighted to bring you this interview with the man himself, author of the fascinating Auto series of books set in London in 2022, when everyone has a digital personal assistant app known as an auto that handles all their online business and social activities... you know you want one!

David Wailing (not an auto)
Hello David, thank you for joining us today. How many books have you written/published? And which is your favourite to date?

DW: In total I’ve written nine novels, not counting a few that were started then abandoned. But only five of them have been published as eBooks. The others remain safely incarcerated in the attic like deranged family members we prefer not to discuss.

As for my favourite, right now I think the book I haven’t started writing yet will be the best thing I’ve ever done. And I suspect that will always be my answer!

Ah yes, it's the same for me too... the next book is always perfect until I start the messy process of actually writing it! Your Auto books deal with a scary future... how much is fact, and how much fiction?

DW: It’s interesting that some readers do find the Auto Series scary. I think a lot of us have a real love/fear relationship with technology!

There are many elements in the books based on fact or technologies currently being developed – things like self-driving cars. I’ve tried to extrapolate a lot from the present day, not just gadgets but also attitudes and social conventions. When we see a group of friends sitting together, all silently staring at their smartphones, it’s easy to imagine a future where people’s focus is entirely on their own private digital worlds. Maybe that’s what readers find scary?

Obviously autos themselves are still fictional, but you can see their roots in Siri or Cortana, and in virtual avatars that pretend to be real people. Also fictional are international laws which forbid all internet access unless via your auto, which identifies you no matter what you do. That sounds draconian, but already UK legislation is heading in that direction, insisting we all give up some privacy for the greater good. I’m finding that much of the Auto Series is gradually coming true in some way or another!

I've noticed social conventions changing too. It used to be terribly bad manners to answer a call or text when meeting people face to face, yet now this is so acceptable that friends sitting together even text each other across the table. Of course many 'meetings' take place online now. We met on a Kindle forum, where most of the discussion naturally concerns ebooks. Considering your subject matter, are you a confirmed ebook author and reader? Or do you have a secret paper habit?

DW: Mostly I read using my Kindle, as it’s especially good for new books and for sampling. I am still happy to read paperbacks, although it’s rare that I buy them any more. For books you already know and love, paperbacks are ideal as they allow you to skip back and forth to read your favourite bits, which is tricky to do on a Kindle.

Speaking of skipping back and forth through the book, I know that you also offer editing and proofreading services. Do you do all your own editing? And is this easier or harder than editing someone else's story? 

DW: I do self-edit but it’s much harder for me to edit my own work than someone else’s. My author brain and editor brain can’t really co-exist, it’s one or the other. So like every writer, I rely on others to check my work and help me polish it. If you want to produce anything to a high standard, you really do need other pairs of eyes to look over it, no matter how experienced you are.

I agree two pairs of eyes are better than one, especially for proofreading, though I find cover design the most challenging part of publishing indie. Who does your covers?

DW: I do! With the help of some pre-purchased imagery. I’m no graphic designer but I can just about put together something effective, as long as the design is fairly simplistic.

I'm impressed! Apart from getting to design your own covers, what's the best thing and the worst thing about being an indie author?

DW: There are lots of wonderful things about being an indie author, but the best is that it’s even possible. The simple fact that there are now platforms for writers to directly reach an audience is something I still find staggering. We all tend to take this for granted, and give Amazon and the rest a hard time when they’re not perfect. But I spent two decades submitting my work to publishers and amassing piles of rejection letters, despite hearing horror stories from authors who did get a publishing deal, only to find they were treated terribly and hardly made any money. There was no choice, it was the only game in town. But now we make the rules ourselves, and that’s something we should always be grateful for.

The worst thing is that because we can all now publish our own books, it’s even harder to get noticed. The flipside of that great freedom is that everyone else has it too!

Also, as with any new industry, a number of middlemen (promoters, advertisers, social media sites) have sprung up to make money out of authors’ desperation to reach a wide audience. Unfortunately it’s becoming the case that authors with the highest disposable income enjoy the greatest success, as they can afford the high promotional costs. Just like with traditional publishing, many people make a living out of books – but it’s rarely those who actually write them.

Sadly true. Finally, if you were marooned on an alien planet with your Kindle and had forgotten to pack your charger, how would you use your last few precious minutes of battery life...?

DW: I would turn on my Kindle’s wi-fi, log into the nearest interstellar sub-etha network, type a message (very slowly, using the Kindle 4’s painful keyboard) to flag down a passing spaceship, and hitch-hike back to the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy. No prizes for guessing which book inspired that!

Thank you very much, David... oh, and don't forget to pack your towel!


Find out more about David Wailing and his books at

The Auto series is available for Kindle with some great promotions coming up in the next few days...

AUTO 1 (FREE download between 23rd and 27th November.) 

AUTO 2  (available from Monday 23rd November)

Or try the separate stories in the Auto series for 99p each.

Katherine Roberts (not an auto) is a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre and writes books for younger readers. Her backlist is now available as ebooks, and her latest series about King Arthur's daughter is available in both hardcover and paperback, too. Find out more at


Wendy Jones said...

I hadn't heard of this series Katherine. It sounds fascinating. Thanks for introducing me to it and the author

Elizabeth Kay said...

Interesting post. I have frequently set things in the near future. The classic was my book Missing Link, which was about a game show that revealed unpleasant truths about people, long before Jeremy Kyle. It was rejected by publisher after publisher on the grounds that the media would never do something so awful. It only found a publisher fifteen years later, when this sort of voyeurism had become standard practice. It's very annoying to predict something and only have it noticed after it's come true!

Katherine Roberts said...

I know that feeling Liz, and I'm sure many people who write near-future SF have experienced it too. Though it does seem strange to reject fiction purely on the grounds that it would never happen... it's FICTION, right? If it comes true, that's a bonus (or very scary, depending on what you predict!)

Enid Richemont said...

Katherine - I LOVED THIS POST! You and David Wailing (??) are both genii (is that the correct plural?)

I have a very close friend, whose adult daughter has been suffering from schizophrenia for over ten years - yes, this is relevant. She is now shortlisted to go on an experimental scheme in which avatars play the role of the voices she hears. I'm hoping this happens, both in order to help her, but also because of its experimental and scientific value.

Umberto Tosi said...

Thanks for this most informative and useful interview. I went straight to Amazon to get one of Wailing's books. His remarks hit home, being that I'm working on a near-future (or near-ish) scifi opus featuring various intelligent agents myself, which I plan to launch as an e-book (though mine is not a series and doesn't feature a private-eye -- at least none has shown up. I find the near-future a precarious setting, in that the now is fast catching up as I write. Better to move out further, or even into a parallel universe or other galaxy. But near-future has a gritty relevance for us in the 21st century that fantasy lacks. Anyway, swell post!

David Wailing said...

A big thank you to Katherine for the excellent interview and to everyone for their comments!

Enid, I am fascinated by the experiment you mention. I hope it proves beneficial for your friend's daughter. It's also an amazing idea for a novel!

Elizabeth and Umberto, I agree that writing about the near-future is very tricky and it's annoying when reality catches up! But great to hear you are also both working in that field - the best of luck to you.

Katherine Roberts said...

Good luck on the rest of your blog tour, David!

And as David Wailing departs for other regions of the blogosphere, I see nobody has yet identified the book that inspired his final answer ... come on AE readers, for the sake of non-geeks who might stumble across this post and be slightly confused by the towel, name that book!