Friday, August 7, 2015

Interview with historical fiction author Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon

Historical fiction writer Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon is joining us today. Our focus is his newest novel, Life Is Just…  If you have any questions or comments for Nigel, feel free to leave them in the comments. He'll be stopping by throughout the day and over the weekend.

Welcome, Nigel. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I began writing while still a student and subsequently published poems and short stories in the UK, the USA, and in France. I performed at poetry and poetry & jazz readings with the New Departures Group. My interest in film took me to the London Film School in 1965. During that year I made the cult-movie Syd’s First Trip - a film of Syd Barrett (the founder member of Pink Floyd) high on magic mushrooms in the Gog Magog Hills near Cambridge. In the same year I also filmed Pink Floyd sealing their first recording contract with EMI.

From film school I joined the industry as a trainee editor working on TV commercials with Hugh Hudson, then moved to the BBC as an editor, cutting dramas and documentaries.

I formed my first production company, Green Back Films, with the partners of the record sleeve design company Hipgnosis. We worked on music promotions for Donovan, Pink Floyd, 10cc, Squeeze, Rainbow, Joe Cocker, Big Country, Wings and Paul Young, producing ground-breaking and award-winning commercials and pop videos

In the early 90s I made the television documentary The Colours of Infinity, a one-hour film presented by Sir Arthur C. Clarke with original music by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on the discovery of the Mandelbrot Set and the development of Fractal Geometry. This film has thus far been broadcast in over forty territories worldwide and in four languages. It is available on DVD in the UK, the USA, Australia and throughout Europe. Colours was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK.

Following the success of Colours I have since written, produced and directed the broadcast documentary Is God a Number? This science documentary looks at the mystery of consciousness and the relationship between math, the mind and the physical, observable universe.  I then made Clouds are not Spheres, a biographical broadcast documentary on the life and work of the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot.

I have completed directing my first feature film Remember a Day, which is currently making the rounds of the festivals. In this rock pic I play the part of the interviewer and music journalist.

My first book, Introducing Fractals was published by Icon Books in the USA and in the UK. This book has now sold over 16,000 copies and is available in Italian, Croat, Chinese and Korean.

I recently completed a modular DVD called Mandelbrot’s World of Fractals, which I directed, produced and presented for the National Science Foundation in the USA through Yale University.

The short comedy The Mysterious Michael A, starring Nicholas Jones and Joanna Bowen, was written, directed and produced by me in 2007. This film has been shown at over 20 film festivals worldwide thus far and has been very well received. I directed the acclaimed documentary Brixton Beach in 2008. 

My second book, which was based on The Colours of Infinity, was published by Springer in 2010.

Following the death of Benoît Mandelbrot I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Last Word describing my relationship with the great mathematician. I have written a tribute to Mandelbrot for the American Mathematical Society. I also wrote his obituary for The Guardian and The Independent.

In 2012 I presented my science documentaries in Berlin, Kassel, at UCL, Queen Mary College, Imperial College in London, Leeds University and at Waterstones in Cambridge. I wrote the biography of an airline pilot and drummer called Aerodrum in 2013.

Nothing and Everywhere was my first novel. Since the publication of this comic thriller several people have expressed the view that it would make a good film and would translate very well to the big screen so I am now working on a screenplay version of the book. I have also recently my second novel, Life is Just… It has been published by Eventis Press.

I have produced and directed a fund-raising teaser aimed at investors to garner the finance of the production of the screenplay based on my novel Nothing and Everywhere, which can viewed on Vimeo at this link:

Following the worldwide success of The Colours of Infinity on TV and DVD, we are making a new 3D feature film version using existing footage of Arthur C Clarke, Benoît Mandelbrot and Stephen Hawking, new HD 3D fractal computer animations of the Mandelbrot Set, and new HD 3D footage of natural fractals. There will also be a 2D version. The teaser/trailer can be viewed on Vimeo at this link:
Please tell us about your current release.
Life Is Just…is my second novel. The first was a comic thriller with a dash of romance and mathematics called Nothing and Everywhere.

What inspired you to write this book?
My exciting early life in Cambridge in the 60s during the Cultural Revolution. The book is semi-autobiographical.

Excerpt from Life Is Just…

Chapter One
The House
Early August 1962. Adams Road, Cambridge.
     The sun dances through the trees, bounces in waves off the lily pond and ripples across the gabled walls of the big house, echoing the sparkling atmosphere within. Two small dogs run in circles round the garden chasing each others' tails. Bella-Blue, a Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Tiger-Lily, a Jack Russell.
     Professor Freddy Wheatcroft has just been appointed Senior Tutor of St. Andrew's College. He shines as he sits at the head of the table, surrounded by his family and closest colleague. He has just turned 50. He is a tall, handsome man, lean but muscular. His thick black hair frames a high forehead above a slightly aquiline nose. There's an innate air of arrogance in his bearing. He is a historian.
     His wife, Mary, sits at the opposite end of the vast oak table. She is a year older than Freddy and even though she has borne their three children she has a trim figure and a youthful face. She's beautiful and elegant yet she radiates a child-like innocence. She shivers as a cloud passes across the sun and the light in the dining room is momentarily dimmed.
     Their twin sons, Mark and Dominic, have benefited from their father's success and position in society. They are nineteen and have both won places at Cambridge University in the college of their choice, not fully aware of just how effectively their father's standing has played its part in their acceptance at St. Andrews. Mark is going to read Physics and Dominic will be taking English Literature.
     Dobbo Finding, their cheery, plump house-keeper and cook, is finalising the starters in the kitchen. She gestures impatiently to Jack Bartlett, the gardener and chauffeur, that he should start serving the first course. Like Dobbo, Jack is devoted to the Wheatcroft family. And although he is particularly attached to and in awe of Freddy the professor is blind to his devotion and treats him like a serf and with heartless contempt. Jack's loyalty knows no bounds.
The phone rings and Dobbo springs across the room with surprising agility. She picks up the receiver. 'Cambridge 55795. Good evening. Can I help you?' Dobbo listens, puzzled. She holds the phone away from her and shakes it. She waves at Jack to hurry him up and puts the phone back to her ear, waiting. She can hear organ music in the background.
     'Hello anyone there?' She hisses her annoyance and replaces the phone on its cradle.
     The Wheatcroft's daughter, Lauren, who is a year younger than her brothers, is standing by a deep bay window which opens onto the garden. She looks out across the lawn then up into the sky as the cloud clears the sun and the light falls on her, illuminating her honey-colored hair. She shares her mother's good looks and charm and something of her father's confident bearing. Paul Bowler-Thompson, the college's obese and balding College Dean, watches her intently. Lauren can feel his eyes on her. She turns to him and smiles. He smiles back and winks at her, which she finds puzzling and unpleasant.
     Jack pushes open the door to the dining-room with his hip and walks to the table. He puts a fine china plate of smoked salmon with iced cucumber in front of Lady Mel Osborne, Mary's sister. She nods her thanks. He goes next to stand behind Paul Bowler-Thompson, waiting while he drinks noisily from his glass. Paul leans back and Jack puts a plate on the table in front of him. He nods his thanks to him as Jack moves towards Mary. She glances across at Lauren as she takes a plate from him.
     'Do come and sit down Lauren.' Mary does her best to keep the impatience out of her voice. She smiles sweetly but falsely.
     Lauren ignores her. Dominic stands and moves over to his sister. He puts his arm round her and leads her to the table. Jack waits until she sits down then serves her food. She looks down at her place without enthusiasm. Freddy smiles at her and glances across at Paul, who is still watching Lauren. Her eyes flick up, meeting Paul's gaze. He smiles again and she looks away and across to Freddy. Jack leaves the room. A breeze ruffles the leaves on the grand old oak tree that dominates the garden, sending patterns of light and shade dancing across the dining room floor.
     The phone rings again in the kitchen as Jack backs out of the room with four more plates on his arm. Dobbo picks up the receiver. 'Good evening.' She waits. Once again there is silence on the line. 'Goodbye.' She slams the phone back on its cradle and moves over to the big Aga stove to work on the main course.
     Conversation in the dining room builds to a steady hum as the party start to eat. Jack goes round the table offering to top up the wine glasses. Mary declines his offer as does Lauren. Freddy allows him to fill his glass. He is drinking heavily. Freddy is worried by Dominic, but he takes comfort from his favorite son Mark. He lost his own brother James when he was just 20 in a horrific car crash. James had taken their father's Bugatti without his permission and, mistaking the tightness of a turn on a steep and narrow country road he had driven it straight into a dry stone wall. The car caught fire and the petrol tank exploded. James’ body was incinerated and left unrecognizable. The family never recovered from the loss and Freddy was left confused and scarred. They all were. The memory of James is always with Freddy, lurking like a deep, dark chasm at the edges of his mind.
     'Why isn't Grandma living here?' Lauren's voice cuts abruptly through the conversation.
     'She…has to…stay in hospital, dear', Mary replies with an awkward shift of her shoulders. She's clearly uncomfortable with the direction the conversation is taking.
     'Yes, Lauren. Still.' Freddy snaps back at her, hoping to close that particular issue as quickly as he can.
     'Why do they keep her there?' Lauren is not going to let it go.
     'They have to.' Freddy barks.
Later that night while the family and their guests are sitting on the terrace with coffee and brandy Freddy goes to the kitchen to thank Dobbo for her efforts and as usual ignores Jack. As he is leaving he is struck by a thought and turns back towards her.
     'By the way who was it that called?'
     'Both times I answered the phone, Sir, there was no one there.'
     'It was, Sir.'
     'I could just hear some of that organ music you like so much playing in the background.'
     'The Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor?'
     'Well, I wouldn't know what it's called, Sir. But I recognized it. Many's the time I've heard it coming from your study.'
     'Thank you, Dobbo. Good night.'
     'Good night, Sir."
     Freddy makes his way slowly through the house to join the party on the terrace. He pauses in the dining room. He looks agitated. Lauren appears from out of the shadows, startling him.
     'Are you all right, Daddy?'
     'Ah…Lauren…I didn't see you there.'
     'Just taking a break.'
     'Aren't you enjoying the party?'
     'I was, but what about you? You look…a bit down, Daddy.'
     'I'm OK. Just thinking.
     'About what?'
     'Oh, I don't know. This and that.'
     They stand in silence facing each other. Freddy makes an effort to say something, but seems unable to speak.
     'What is it, Daddy?'
     Freddy pulls back his shoulders and says, 'Why did you ask about Grandma out of the blue like that?'
     'It wasn't out of the blue. I think about her a lot.'
     'Do you?'
     'Yes, I do.
     'Why's that, Lauren?
     'I worry about her. We are - were - very close.'
     'I know you're close. But why d'you worry about her?'
     'I can't bear to think about her imprisoned in that awful hospital.'
     'She's not a prisoner. Well, not exactly…and it's not that awful.'
     'It is, Daddy. You know it is. She can't leave there. They won't let her. But you and Mummy could insist on it.'
     'What good would that do? She can't look after herself.'
     'But you could.'
     'Could what?'
     'Look after her. Bring her here to live with us.'
     Freddy looks cornered and turns away. 'Impossible, Lauren.'
     'She's impossible. Impossible to live with. She'd drive us all mad too.'
     'I could look after her.'
     'No, you couldn't. You have your own life to live. You couldn't be with her night and day…devote your life to caring for her.'
     'I could!' Lauren stamps her foot.
     'No. Enough of this.' Freddy turns his back on her again and leaves the room to join the party on the terrace. Lauren watches him go. She is fuming.

What exciting story are you working on next?
The sequel to Nothing and Everywhere, which is set some 15 years in the future and continues the saga of the hero and heroine of Nothing and Everywhere in their battle against the forces of darkness in the shape of their arch-enemy Tigran Gevorkian and the New World Order. This novel is called A Glass of Two Milks.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In my teens when I was still at school writing poetry and short stories.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write novels when I can, but I am also a film writer, producer and director.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
An ability to tell a good, gripping mystery with humor and a touch of philosophy. My first novel Nothing and Everywhere has proved to be very difficult to assign to any particular genre.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A soldier, then a clergyman and finally a writer and film maker.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Should any reader of this blog wish to contact me directly please feel free to send me an email to this address:

Nothing and Everywhere and Life Is Just… are both available on Amazon as paperbacks and as e-books.


Thank you, Nigel!

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