Embers of War becomes a bestseller

I am hugely pleased to see Embers of War on this month’s Locus Bestseller List.

Competition: Win Some Exclusive WorldCon Swag

Win one of these!

My publisher, Titan Books, produced these paperback samplers exclusively for WorldCon, but now they’ve kindly given me six copies to offer as prizes to my newsletter subscribers.

The samplers include ten tasters from forthcoming books by Charlie Jane Anders, JS Barnes, Agnes Gomillion, Paul Tremblay, Marian Womack, Lois Murphy, Jennifer McMahon, Sarah Maria Griffin, AJ Hackwith, and yours truly.

My contribution is an entire chapter from Light of Impossible Stars, which won’t be published until February next year. So, if you’re dying for a sneak preview of the final Embers of War novel, this is what you need.

In addition, each one comes with a special Dublin 2019 book plate signed by me.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning one is to subscribe to my newsletter by August 31st. I’ll pick six winners at random and announce who they are in the September issue of the newsletter (due Sept 1st).

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WorldCon 2019 Report

I got back from Dublin last night. I am footsore and tired, but really enjoyed myself. If you’ve never been to a WorldCon, it’s difficult for me to convey just how massive they are. 6000 people attended the event over the weekend, spread between various venues and hotel bars around the city.

The great thing for me was that so many of my patrons and Twitter followers were there, and I got to meet people in person who I’d only previously known online. I also got to hang out with authors such as Joe Hill, John Scalzi, Cat Valente, Marina Lostetter, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Amal El-Motar, Jonathan Howard, Emma Newman, Paul Cornell, and many more.

Dublin is also a vibrant city. It feels very European with its trams and grid layout. And the CCD was an amazing venue, with a huge glass frontage that meant you could see the sea from the top floor.

I did a reading on Friday night, which went very well. The audience laughed in all the right places. Then on Saturday, I did two panels, one on Patreon and the other on social media. I said that Patreon makes me feel I have a community of people interested and invested in my work, which is a huge boost. It also lets me afford to go to events like WorldCon, which are so important from a networking and promotional point-of-view.

I came home with some exclusive WorldCon swag, which I’m going to be giving away to subscribers to my newsletter. Stay tuned for details…

Creating Characters

Hello friends. I’m currently in the throes of preparing for WorldCon in Dublin while also acting as an unpaid Uber-style driver for my children, who are on their school summer break and need endless lifts in and out of town.

While sitting in traffic earlier, I started thinking about the way I create characters, and I thought you might find it interesting and useful for me give you an insight.

When starting to plan a novel, I’ll usually have a vague situation or event in mind. With the Embers of War books, it was the idea of a space-going rescue service that first inspired me. But an idea like that isn’t a story; you need characters to inhabit and change it.

So, I started thinking who I’d need. I’m not much insterested in writing stories about emperors or politicians. I’ve always been more drawn to the everyday men and women in the street. The grunts doing their jobs and trying to get by as best they can. Which meant I decided my story would be from the point-of-view of one of the rescuers, rather than the beauracrats directing them. At the same time, I hit upon the idea of setting the story after a cataclysmic war. So, my crew would be a group of veterans from both sides of the conflict.

And that was when I discovered the Trouble Dog. A warship that had accidentally developed a conscience. And suddenly, I had my story. Everyone in the book is acting in reaction to the parts they played in the war; some are trying to hide from their pasts, some trying to come to terms with what they did, and others trying to atone. All their motivations clicked into place and became the heart of the thing, rendering the situation and setting as a backdrop against which they played out their inner struggles.

I chose to write the captain and her ship as female, because I feel more comfortable writing strong female characters than strong male ones. They are more interesting to me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been very aware of my female side, and I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by strong, complex women.

I gave each character a number of defininng incidents in their past. For Sal Konstanz, it was the loss of her parents and the accidental separation from her boyfriend. For Alma Clay, it was her experiences crawling through a sentient jungle. And for the Trouble Dog, it was the loss of her siblings and the horrific nature of the war crime she was ordered to perpetrate.

I didn’t plan how these traumas would affect the characters, I just knew they were there, and let their effects emerge organically as I wrote. I’m not one of these writers that completes a full D&D style character description before starting out. I enjoy writing to discover who these people are. That’s where the creativity comes in, and I love the process of finding out and watching as they come alive on the page.

When writing characters, the old phrase, “Write what you know,” becomes especially important. If you want your creations to live in breathe, you need to write honestly and authentically about what it feels like to be human. You have to know people. Know how they react in certain situations. Know the small gestures and phrases that give away how they really feel inside. If you want to write convincing characters, you need to spend a lot of time observing people in all sorts of situations. Pay attention to what they’re not saying as much as what they are. And look inside yourself. Take a flashlight and explore the murky interior of your own heart and mind. Because authenticity also comes from within.

If you have any good character tips, leave them in the comments below. Also, any requests for topics to be covered in future blog posts.

Right, now where did I leave my suitcase…?


I get lots of questions about the software I use to write my novels, but very few about the hardware.

Most of my writing is done using MS Word on a Mac desktop, to which I’ve added a second screen. Adding this screen, which was from an old Dell PC, was really easy. I just needed to buy a connector from Amazon, which only cost a couple of pounds, and I was able to double the size of my desktop. Now I can have my notes or emails displayed on one screen while working on my main manuscript on the other. I can also have two different versions of the same file open side-by-side when editing, which is really useful.

When I’m on the go, I use a Hewlett-Packard Stream laptop that I picked up cheap from Tescos a couple of years ago. It runs Windows 10 and, annoyingly for a laptop that’s only a year old, it doesn’t have enough capacity to run Word, or even download updates to Windows 10. At some point, I’m going to have to investigate ways to add some more memory.

What this means is that if I’m going to be away from my desk, I have to save the document I’m working on on my Mac as a RTF file on OneDrive so I can access it on my laptop. This is a bit of a bodge and less than ideal, but I simply can’t afford an Apple laptop.

And just to throw a third OS into the mix, my phone is Android. But if I use Google Keep to take notes, I can access them on my desktop or laptop easily enough. This is handy, because I often wake up in the night with an idea, so I can type it into my phone and know it’ll be there when I log onto Google in the morning.

Of course, all of this is a bit of a jury-rigged workaround. Ideally, I’d have three devices that all ran on the same operating system. But money and convenience mean I’ve had to use what was affordable and available.

My WorldCon Schedule

For those of you attending Dublin 2019, here’s what I’ll be up to:


Format: Reading
16 Aug 2019, Friday 20:30 – 20:50, Liffey Room-3 (Readings) (CCD)


Patreon: the evolution of supporting the arts

Format: Panel
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Wicklow Hall 2A (Dances) (CCD)

Serialised fiction, topical articles, featured interviews, and more! Patreon provides a new way for authors to generate income and for fans to support creators. But what is Patreon? How does it work and can you really make money? What expectations do people bring with them? And is there a dark side to publishing on the platform? Who owns the published material, and what part does copyright play?

Gareth Powell, Nicolette Stewart (Crytek), Jaine Fenn (M), Legendgerry


Authors and social media: friends or foes?

Format: Panel
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 20:00 – 20:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)

Join us as we explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of the relationship between authors and social media. Where should you be? What should you do? And how much is too much? From Twitter to Facebook, via Instagram:  how to make social media work for you and avoid digging your own digital grave in the process.

Francesca T Barbini (Luna Press Publishing) (M), Gareth Powell, Georgina Kamsika, Amal El-Mohtar


Autographs: Sunday at 12:00

Format: Autographing
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Carrie Vaughn, Amal El-Mohtar, Dr Anna Smith Spark, Professor Fiona Moore, Gareth L. Powell, Paul Anthony Shortt

New Book Deal!



July 8, 2019 ― London & New York.  Titan Books are delighted to announce the acquisition for World English rights of two stand-alone space-opera novels, currently titled Stars and Bonesand Stars and Minds, set in a brand-new universe from award-winning author Gareth L. Powell. 

For fans of Iain M. Banks, Ann Leckie, and Peter F. Hamilton, these thoughtful, character-driven literary space operas will sit prominently alongside Powell’s critically acclaimed previous series Embers of War[Titan Books].

When a curious and malevolent alien intelligence starts replacing members of the human race with malign doppelgangers, pilot Eryn King is charged with searching the Thousand Arks of Humanity’s migration for Hank Tucker, the reclusive genius who might hold the key to our species’ survival.

Gareth L. Powell is the author of the space opera epic series Embers of War, winner of the BSFA Award (2018) and shortlisted for the Locus Award (2019); the cult-favourite SF series Ack-Ack Macaque which won the 2013 BSFA Award and was shortlisted for the 2016 Seiun Awards in Japan; and his previous space opera The Recollection.  Powell has garnered extensive critical praise for his previous titles, with Booklist describing Fleet of Knives: Embers of Waras “in a league with Iain Banks and Ann Leckie”, and The Guardianpraising The Recollectionas “beautifully balanced between big ideas and the smaller-scale human story,” adding “if you read only one space opera this year, it’s got to be [this]” and Adam Roberts, author of The Thing Itself, describing the Ack-Ack Macaqueseries as “genius.”

The two-book deal was struck between Alexander Cochran of Conville & Walsh Ltd and Titan Books Editor at Large Cath Trechman.  The first of the two books, Stars and Bones, is due to be published in Spring 2021.

“Gareth writes beautifully, he has an incredible ability to bring a kind of poetry to space opera, whilst also weaving in thrilling action and humour,” says Trechman.  “I am so excited about Stars and Bones, once again Gareth has delivered a masterclass in world building, charactertisation and gripping action.”

“I’m absolutely delighted that Gareth will continue to be published by Cath and the fantastic team at Titan,” says Cochran, “and particularly excited to see his brilliant new series in the hands of his many and growing fans.”

About Titan Publishing Group

Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981, operating worldwide with offices based in London and sales and distribution in the U.S. and Canada handled by Random House.  TPG is comprised of three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise.  Titan Books, nominated as Independent Publisher of the Year 2011, has a rapidly growing fiction list encompassing original fiction and reissues, primarily in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk and crime.  Titan Books also has an extensive line of media- and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, and art and music books. 

Embers wins BSFA Award

I am absolutely delighted that Embers of War has won the 2018 BSFA Award for Best Novel.

It is particularly gratifying, as this award is voted for by readers and fans–the people for whom I’m writing. So, it’s great to know they appreciate my work.

Thank you to everyone who bought, borrowed, read, reviewed or recommended the book, and special thanks to those of you who cast a vote.

Also, huge thanks to my agent, Alexander Cochran at C+W; the cover artist, Julia Lloyd; my editors, Cath Trechman and Miranda Jewess; publicists, Lydia Gittins and Poly Grice; and everyone else at Titan Books.

Embers of War on shortlist for BSFA Award

The British Science Fiction Association has released its shortlist for the 2018 BSFA Awards, and I’m delighted to see Embers of Warin the running for Best Novel, alongside books by my friends Emma Newman, Dave Hutchinson and Tade Thompson.

Here’s the full list:

Best Novel

  • Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Dawn (Solaris)
  • Yoon Ha Lee – Revenant Gun (Solaris)
  • Emma Newman – Before Mars (Ace Books)
  • Gareth L Powell – Embers of War (Titan Books)
  • Tade Thompson – Rosewater (Orbit)

Also, myself, Dave Hutchinson and Tade Thompson all share the same agent: Alexander Cochran at C+W. So, I guess this shows Alexander must be doing something right 🙂

If you are a BSFA member or are registered to attend this year’s Eastercon,you can vote here.

Please do!


2018 in Review

As December drags itself one-handed towards the finish line, I’ve decided to join everyone else in looking back over the year.

The big news for me was the publication in February of my novel Embers of War. This was my first published novel in three years, following 2015’s Macaque Attack, and I’ve been delighted with the reception it’s received.

While the Ack-Ack Macaque books were generally well-received, Embers of War feels almost like a new start for me. The beginning of a new phase in my career. It’s already sold more copies than all my other books, and readers and critics alike seem to be taking me more seriously as a writer–even going so far as to compare Embers to the works of Iain M Banks, which as a huge IMB fan, feels deeply surreal and more than I could ever have hoped.

This year, I also wrote and sold Ragged Alice and About Writing, both of which will be published in the New Year, as well as finishing the Embers trilogy with the final edits on Fleet of Knives, and the completion of the first draft of Light of Impossible Stars.

At the beginning of 2018, I had my first proper interview with SFX Magazine. This involved a rather nice lunch with one of their journalists, and a woodland photoshoot with one of their photographers, which saw me balancing twenty-odd feet up a slippery, muddy slope at sundown.

Partly as a result of those photographs, 2018 was also the year I decided to re-grow my beard. I’d grown beards before, but they’d only been temporary things. This year, I decided I wanted to have one permanently. And as soon as I grew it, I knew I’d made the right decision. I felt as if I’d recovered a missing part of myself–a part I never realised was missing until I grew it back.

Other work-related highlights have included interviewing Peter F Hamilton at Foyles in Bristol, appearing at Stroud Book Festival and Bristol Literature Festival, and running day-long creative writing workshops at Bucks New University.

On a personal level, 2018 has been extremely stressful and emotionally exhausting. As a parent, I’ve a had a lot to cope with. But I’ve also learned that when it comes to my children, I have vast and hitherto unsuspected reserves of strength and compassion.

One of the ways I’ve coped with all this personal turmoil has been to focus on helping other people, especially on Twitter, where I’ve been offering encouragement and advice to aspiring authors, and building a community of writers and readers. Putting positivity out into the world helps me deal with my own problems, and makes Twitter a better place to be. And as a result, I’ve received a huge amount of goodwill and support from readers and other tweeters, for which I’m thankful.

I’m also extremely grateful to my real life friends for their company and kindness, which has kept me sane this year. And to my supporters on Patreon, whose continued faith has kept me afloat both creatively and financially.

Looking ahead, 2019 promises to be a very busy year. I have three books scheduled to be published, from three diffferent publishers; I’m planning to attend WorldCon in Dublin; and I will be a guest-of-honour at BristolCon. And on top of all that, I have to decide what I’m going to write next–and then write it!

Happy New Year!