On my last trip to New Zealand, February 2015, I met a couple on day-3 of a walk on The Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds. They were intrigued I just finished my first book and were full of questions I couldn’t answer. Their questions inspired the following explanation of what Project Anan is about, the concept behind the story, and how I am putting it all together.

Without giving away too much of the plot the central theme of the book is a Project the three species embark on, humans, purebreeds from Planet Anan and their Overlord. The Overlord is a powerful entity that lives on energy called “Blue Energy”, their most precious commodity. Blue is threatened by a supply problem that may be fatal to the Overlord.  

davidmitchell_projectanan_web_finalWhat’s the book about?

Abandoning Earth after extracting their precious energy, Aliens left and forgot the human population they changed. Those changes linked the three species across time and the Intergalactic Space that separated their worlds.

Ravaged by sickness and an energy shortage that threatens their very existence, the Aliens return on a clapped out old rust bucket seeking help.

Earth, devastated by climate change, wars and population explosion is not what they expected, radically altering how they make First Contact with humans.

Together, aliens and humans embark on a Project that may give the three species hope for survival. Battling against discovery by evil powers, technology problems, mistrust and war, a Scottish Oil Rigger, an Irish Farm Girl and a Marine from East London, find themselves embroiled in events they could never have imagined.

Led by their Alien Overlord, they have an unenviable task as the Managers of Project Anan. Engulfed by tragedy, drama and romance; events take them and their crew to New Zealand, France, Australia, Switzerland and Space on a journey to a New World in a distance secret Galaxy.

Where did the idea come from?

Working in the Oil business I experienced the roller coaster of supply and demand price swings and the shocks they exert on the industry. In 2014 we saw another one when prices fell dramatically. Energy sources are finite; when one source is exhausted we look for another. The advent of shale oil and fracking processes is testament to that. We went from a hypothetical “Peak Oil,” where we thought world production peaked, to the situation today; there is so much oil produced, traders have nearly filled all the available storage.

The variations in our energy supply gave me the idea for the Energy Exchange. What energy do the aliens need? Where does it come from? How is it controlled and traded? Is there more than one type?  What powers their ships? Those are the questions I asked, and that set the scene for their energy consumption; like on Earth, their civilisation depends on a stable energy supply. I had that concept three years before I finally started to write it down. Part of my initial thoughts, was where do we get our intelligence? How it developed? Why we make great leaps forward at certain times in our evolutionary cycle and how our population exploded in the latter years of our development.  Those thoughts were the inspiration for the underlying story and the tag “Our Ancestors are Back”.

Why New Zealand?

To give real life to a story of how Aliens would return to Earth and renew contact with humans was a challenge. I tried to make it as real as possible; what were their needs and how and where would they land? Why would they come back to Earth and why would they choose their landing site? A visit to my daughter in Christchurch, New Zealand over the December 2013 / January 2014 holidays provided inspiration for that process. Further travels in the South Island provided more inspiration with one destination featuring as the concept design for the book cover. Interestingly, the South Island, which is the larger land mass, has less than a quarter of the New Zealand population. The wide open wildernesses are beautiful. I experienced more of them during my visit this year, when I revisited the landing site and the start of the story. It was important to me to make the opening chapter as real as possible. How would the aliens actually land? What type of a ship would they have? How would they perceive humans and Earth when they arrived? What would they think of our way of life and who would they initially meet? I spent days walking in Christchurch to get it right. My thanks to the staff at “Visualising Future Christchurch at Re:START” for your invaluable help with this.

How do you go from an idea to actually writing the book?

In May 2014 I started the story outline. I laid it out as I would any project concept with an initial start, foreseeable problems and a project goal to achieve at the end. The outline was always my go to place when I finished a chapter. I was still working as a Health and Safety Consultant and slowly wrote the first three chapters when I had available time. As I wrote, the problems of dialogue, dialogue tags, grammar and narrative surfaced. I researched on the Internet. Days were spent tirelessly researching and writing as I also tried to balance the needs of my consultancy work. In August 2014 I finally left the consultancy work and devoted my full time to writing Project Anan. I realised if it were to have any chance of success, I needed to devote all my time to it. From then on, with encouragement from a close friend and my extended family, I continued writing Project Anan.  The plot developed and the characters bounced off each other, dialogue flowed out and the plot changed and twisted as I wrote. I loved every minute of writing, finishing the Beta version in mid-January 2015.

But I still don’t understand how you will produce a legible quality product? 

Yes, that was and still is a problem. My understanding of grammar is poor and so is my spelling. I sometimes don’t see written errors and will mix up words. The Beta copy is full of errors and I am not the smartest at formatting.

Navigating through the deep chasm of information for Indi Authors on the internet, my research finally led me to The Creative Penn the website of Joanna Penn. The information available is free and unbiased, and based on Joanna’s own experiences. Joanna was an inspiration to me and provided a road map of how I should progress my project. Her website gave me all the tools and advice I needed.

One of Joanna’s mantras is to get a professional editor and book designer. Her website led me to two places.

  1. The Scarlett Rugers Book Design Agency.
  2. Bubble Cow High Quality Book Editing and Proofeading for Self-published Writers. (Caroline and Gary Smailes).

Scarlett has completed the book cover design and the website. Her work is outstanding. I am delighted with the cover, the concept behind it and the website. She has achieved all I wanted and more. She has finished the formatting and the book is now available on Amazon.

Project Anan (the beta copy) went through a full edit with BubbleCow. Getting the book back from the editor was daunting. “Where do I start?” was my first question. It seemed like there was a mountain to climb! It required another edit and a re-write by me. Finally, before publishing, Project Anan went back to BubbleCow for the proofread. After the proofread another round of reviews by me and then off to Scarlett for the formatting. More reviews and rounds of edits and changes!!

So writing the book is just not enough, there is so much more to do after writing “The End”.