Please welcome Justin Woolley to The
was published on June 14, 2021 by Lonely Robot Books.
Welcome to The Qwillery. Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Justin: Ah, the single question capable of causing a room of authors to descend
into hours of argument. It's most likely my engineering background but I am
absolutely a plotter. I plan out my novels in detail before I start writing
them. I know a lot of authors feel like doing this removes some creativity or
discovery in the process of writing the first draft but I find that having a
scaffold in place gives you room to be more creative. It removes the cognitive
load of having to think about plot and gives you freedom to apply your full
creativity in the scene you're currently working on.
What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Justin: Authors always have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the
actual craft of writing but outside of always trying to improve at the craft
itself my biggest challenge when it comes to writing is time. I, like most
writers, still have a job outside of my writing and a family and other
commitments so scraping out more than an hour or two of dedicated writing time
is hard. The upside to this is I've become very good at writing just about
anywhere on just about anything that can make a mark on paper.
What has influenced / influences your writing?
Justin: My writing has many influences but if I had to reduce it down to a few
major influences they would be: my background as an aerospace engineer which
comes in particularly handy when writing science fiction and being exposed to
fantasy and science fiction from a very young age. My biggest author influence
would probably be Terry Pratchett. I absolutely devoured the Discworld series as
a teenager and it changed my view of what fantasy and all genre fiction could
Describe Shakedowners using only 5 words.
Justin: Star Trek crewed by misfits.
Tell us something about Shakedowners that is not found in the book
Justin: It's not explicitly stated in the book description but I hope it comes
across in the book itself - Shakedowners was the most fun I've ever had
writing a book!
What inspired you to write Shakedowners?
Justin: In a lot of ways Shakedowners was inspired by my early exposure
to two things, Star Trek and British comedy. Both thanks to my father. When I
was six or seven my Dad started collecting every episode of Star Trek: The
Original Series on VHS tapes through a subscription service and this was soon
followed by Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched both these shows from
beginning to end more than once growing up and Star Trek became my first
science-fiction love. On top of this Dad had another love he shared with me,
Monty Python and that very British brand of absurdist comedy. Eventually I
discovered Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams and saw that you could combine these two
things into something spectacular. Shakedowners is basically my homage to
What sort of research did you do for Shakedowners?
Justin: Shakedowners is certainly not hard science-fiction but one thing
I pride myself on is using both my aerospace engineering background and research
into the latest science to at least make much of the science plausible. Rather
than just hand-waving problems like faster than light travel and space flight
away I took the time to design technologies that, while fictional, actually
address real issues with the physics of space-travel and communication across
vast interstellar distances. This meant research into cutting-edge science like
quantum entanglement and possible solutions to relativistic effects of space
travel. I also ground the technology in ways that are realistic according to our
current best understanding of physics, no laser-swords here.
What is Captain Iridius B. Franklin's favorite alien bar and favorite alien
Justin: Iridius's favourite bar is a little place on Procyon C called 'Arsonic
Atmospheric' and he's partial to a Grantakian Razor Vodka on hallucinogenic ice.
In Shakedowners who was the easiest character to write and why? The
hardest and why?
Justin: I think the easiest character in Shakedowners to write was
Ensign Benjamin Rangi who is the helmsmen. He's the most outwardly comedic of
the characters and his actions and dialogue just seemed to flow so easily. On
the flip side the most difficult to write was the major antagonist of the story
an alien synthetic lifeform that calls itself the Aegix. The Aegix was difficult
to write because it is an artificially intelligent hive-mind. This meant trying
to write a character that was comprised of a swarm of smaller life-forms and so
had no real sense of singular identity and is also highly intelligent - vastly
more so than a human. This meant trying to give the enemy a motivation that the
reader understands but still doesn't seem to fully grasp - just like the
characters in the story.
Does Shakedowners touch on any social issues?
Justin: Shakedowners is by-and-large written to be an entertaining piece
of science-fiction comedy but it's my view that all fiction touches on social
issues whether the author does so willingly or not. In Shakedowners there is a
subtle undercurrent throughout the piece that I've definitively included on
purpose. It's certainly not front and centre in the narrative but I have
included some discussion for the discerning reader about whether the seeming
utopia of the Galactic Federation is quite as perfect as it seems. There are
also indications that despite advancements in many ways humanity still has a
habit of leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Which question about Shakedowners do you wish someone would ask? Ask
it and answer it!
Justin: Excuse me Justin, would you like to sign this movie option contract for
Shakedowners with a blue pen or a black pen?
I'll take the blue one please.
Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from
Justin: That is such a hard question! I'm going to cheat and say the opening of
the actual story after the captain's log.
"No one in the universe would consider the FSC Diesel Coast an
attractive ship. It was a hauler, a starship built purely for function, with
as much thought put into aesthetics as a sledgehammer puts into the meaning of
I like this line because it is introducing the ship but it is also subtly
telling you about the crew inside too.
TQ: What's next?
Justin: Right now I'm working hard on the sequel to Shakedowners. I'm
hoping to have it completed quite quickly so that readers don't have to wait too
long for the continuing adventures of Captain Iridius Franklin and his crew!
Lonely Robot Books, June 14, 2021
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 298 pages
To boldly go where no losers have gone before...
Some starship captains explore strange new worlds, seeking out new life and
new civilisations. Some lead missions of discovery through wormholes to the
other side of the galaxy. Then there's Captain Iridius B. Franklin, someone
who spent too long seeking out strange new bars and new alien cocktails.
After graduating bottom of his class at Space Command Academy Iridius Franklin
hasn't had the glamorous career he envisioned, instead he hauls cargo ships
full of mining waste, alien land whale dung, and artificially intelligent toy
dogs across the stars.
Iridius does have talent though - he is exceptionally good at breaking
starships. So, when not hauling freight, he is captain of a shakedown crew, a
skeleton crew used to test newly constructed ships for faults before the real
crew takes over.
While on a routine shakedown mission aboard the FSC Gallaway, soon to be pride
of the Federation Fleet, Earth is attacked by an unknown alien life-form. With
the galaxy in chaos, Captain Iridius B. Franklin finds himself, unqualified,
understaffed and completely unprepared, in command of the most advanced
starship in the galaxy.
Justin Woolley has been writing stories since he could first scrawl with a
crayon. When he was six years old he wrote his first book, a 300 word pirate
epic in unreadable handwriting called 'The Ghost Ship'. He promptly declared
that he was now an author and didn't need to go to school. Despite being
informed that this was, in fact, not the case, he continued to make things up
and write them down.
Today Justin is the author of the Australian set dystopian trilogy The Territory
Series consisting of the novels A Town Called Dust, A City Called Smoke and the
recently released finale A World of Ash. He also writes the web serial Listening
to the Other Side, a fictional blog about talking to the dead.
Justin lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two sons. In his other
life he's been an engineer, a teacher and at one stage even a magician. His
handwriting has not improved.