“When people ask I say ‘I just wrote a book about spaceships…”
Thomas Heasman-Hunt might well minimise the achievement of his debut novel “Legacy”. A mere fraction of the 50,000 words he wrote each month over a prolifictwo years, working by the mantra: “I just put one word in front of the other and see what happens”, Legacy is just a fragment in a universe of imagination
Cutting his teeth online, first in the gaming community before establishing his own original writing and developing a blog to showcase short stories, the novel has been a natural progression for Thomas’s work. But the author isn’t blasé about his “book about spaceships” out of arrogance, rather out of the world in which he moves.
“A lot of people are writing books,” he adds. “But also there’s a lot of people who aren’t. Because everyone seems to have a novel out it seems like it’s not a remarkable thing to do – but it is still a notable thing to do. My family and friends have been impressed – it will be interesting to see what they make of it.”
Despite his drive to create a huge body of work, which he plans to mine and massage into further books, Thomas does not create prose simply for the sake of it. Each and every word has to work for its place in his stories and his novel.
“You have got to do right by your characters and have to have them be familiar in their own worlds,” he elaborates. “But you have to pick and choose what you share in the story. There has to be a conservation of detail – if it isn’t important to the narrative then I don’t go into it.”
Born out of a need for an exclusive fresh tale for a self-published collection of short stories from his blog, Legacy ultimately took on a life of its own. It sprung from a Twitter discussion with Emily Benet, starting life as a short story with the heroine of Legacy, Emily Ajax, named for her.
Thomas, 32, describes Legacy as “a fun to read swashbuckling adventure” but the work offers so much more – a heady mixture of strong female leads, with explosive action and human drama in a plausible backdrop of deep space.
“I write in a very visual way,” he explains. “I have a very clear idea of the scene as it sits but I have no idea of what the characters are going to say in the situation until they say it. It is like I have them in front of a camera and I ask them to do that part of the story. It means there is a natural progression through the scene rather than a pre-meditated decision as to how it will unfold. I don’t do any writing until I come to do the writing – if I plan and write backs stories I will just kill it.”
The technology and science woven into the story carries a heavy sense of plausibility and insight into the physics at work. Thomas attributes this to his year-and-a-half of Physics study completed at Aberystwyth, before he switched his degree to English, as well as drawing on inspiration from “hard” science fiction writers including Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke.
Thomas says: “A lot is made of in Legacy about how counter intuitive space is,” Thomas adds. “Although these are people whose civilisation revolves around space travel there is still some sort of primal part of them who can’t get their head around the realities of space – they are still human no matter however long they have been in space. When they are not jetting between stars they are still beholden to physical realities of the universe.”
Legacy has a cast of heavyweight female characters – from Captain Emily Ajax to the earnest Jilly to the darker Reeve. Thomas found these women, not by a conscious decision to emphasise on female empowerment, rather through the narrative possibilities presented by avoiding clichéd male-centred storylines.
Thomas explains: “The Father-Son trope has been resolved in story telling and to me the idea of a woman inheriting the legacy of her father was much more interesting.”
He adds: “The characters are not drawn from anywhere or from anyone. They very much exist on their own terms. Writing is to a certain extent putting yourself on a page, but these characters are very much who they are.”
The Legacy universe isn’t just bound by a single book and the fierce characters and stunning worlds are already lined up for future novels – the sequel is already finished and ready for publication.
Thomas is tight-lipped about where the story goes from Legacy but lets slip with a smile: “There’s more about politics and more strangeness. Things get much more serious and the stakes get ratcheted up a notch.”
Five per cent of all profits from the sale of “LEGACY” will be donated to Cambridge Women’s Aid, which supports women and children affected by Domestic Abuse and offers refuge places to women and children fleeing domestic violence.