Geoff Hall is drawn to write dystopian stories. Despite this, his stories are hope-filled. Across his work are common themes, not only of resistance and the ‘quiet’ revolution, but also non-violence and the possibility of change.
Born in the late fifties in the North-East of England, he draws from his traditional working-class background, life experiences and rebellion (both religious and political) to invite the disenchanted, the disenfranchised and the jaded on to a journey of hope with him.
Geoff is also an activist, arts mentor, ex ‘sparky’ and filmmaker (“My Name is Sorrow” & “Mehr Zavot Skorb”), and also the writer of the book series ‘Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape’.
He spoke to News World Inc about his dystopian political horror novel, inspiration for World of Owl books, and much more.
NWI: How was writing a dystopian novel different from writing some other genre books such as romance, adventure, and so on?
GH: Well, I’ve never wanted to write either of those genres, because they say you should write about where your passions lay. Romance it seems to me is a kind of anaesthetic and adventure a means of escape from reality. And so, the difference between those genres and “0wl:believe” is that whilst being a mash-up of genres; including apocalyptical, political dystopian, supernatural and horror, my intent follows Karen Armstrong’s insight in that – “Story…is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.”
My view of a writer, is someone who should help people to live more intensely in this world and to question the authority of the Nation-State, considering all the damage it has done to the planet and humanity. In terms of this novel, the apocalyptic strain is not about the ending of the world, but the word apocalypse means unveiling, in other words helping us see the true nature of the State. It’s like a modern-day Book of Revelation!
NWI: How did the idea for this book come to you? How did it evolve as you were writing?
GH: the 0w1 series of books was given to me in a lucid dream, which is a dream in which you participate or ‘direct’. In this case, I saw a man wandering a desert, struggling against the driven sand, biting into his skin and just before he can quench his thirst at a waterhole, he dies. I am sat on a rocky outcrop watching all of this unfold. His body begins to move, his stomach bulges and his ribs crack open through his flesh. It was a very gory scene! Out of his carcass comes a woman, who crawls across his body and head towards the waterhole. She washes herself and then looks up at me and starts to fly towards me. I can see her face, her dark eyes staring at me, getting bigger and bigger. I panic. Who wouldn’t? And then wake up with a shock,breathless, in my bed.
This was the seed for everything else that follows, by working out who they were, how they were related and what kind of a world was this strange Red Desert in? This dream became a chapter in the book, called Red Desert, Red Man, Red Woman.
Like a seed in nature, it carries the story’s DNA within it. As a writer, it is just a case of being open to this sharing of the Cosmos and seeing what kind of awareness it wants to raise in the world; in our political reality.
NWI: Would you like to throw some lights on the upcoming books in the trilogy?
GH: Oh, okay. Without giving away any spoilers, Kevin! 0w1:2 will get darker, as in all good trilogies. (Like the first three Star Wars movies, I suppose). The State in the first story is kind of abstract and anonymous, we see none of the State hierarchy, it is simply an atmosphere that everyone lives and breaths in.
In the second book we will meet some of the leaders – I guess you could call them despots – who maintain the oppressive status quo. This leads to more personal confrontations and increases the sense of terror in the world of our group of political dissidents. Particularly Zip in this story, as we get to see a little of her backstory, but she will be helped through the trauma by Jack, Strix’s father.
I’ve written all the action scenes for 0w1:2, bar one, the final act of defiance in this story. We are also – okay so this is one spoiler – introduced to a character called Port Mort, or ‘Death’s Door’. But then, I did say it was a darker story!
In the third book, we enter a cold state of affairs, but eventual we see cracks develop in the State and its control of society. And that’s all I can say about it at the moment. However, it is not a straight-line, linear kind of narrative, so there will be twists and turns along with tragedy.
NWI: What is the World of Owl? What is the inspiration behind it?
GH: The World of 0w1 is my website and it as designed by Colse Leung of Colse Creative. He was also the designer of the “0w1: believe” book cover, which I think is amazing.
I wanted a place where we could delve deeper into the issues raised in the novels: political dissidence, non-violent social change, civil disobedience, mystical spirituality and the writing and creating of dystopian novels.
It is important to me to connect with people who read the novels, but want to discuss more about those issues with the author. Later we’ll be offering conversations with the author via Zoom.
The novel is also an immersive story and helps the readers connect with other elements of it, like the music. So, within the book you can go to a playlist on Spotify, to share the music that the characters listen and dance to.
Here’s the LINK
NWI: What books or authors have been your greatest influence?
GH: Oh, there’s a lot, but the ones that stick out as an influence on my writing and the worlds I create, are authors like Philip K Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, Time out of Joint). George Orwell (Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four) and Rob Bell (Everything is Spiritual).
NWI: What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?
I’m reading a book by David Hinton, about the Classical Chinese Poet, Tu Fu and it’s called ‘Awakened Cosmos’. Any book that starts off by stating that, “Poetry is the Cosmos awakened to Itself.” has already got my attention and the book is worth the price I paid for it with just that one line. Thank you, David Hinton! I hope one day to meet him and have a conversation with him about his writing. That would be bliss.
NWI: What are you working on next?
“0w1:2” I’ll not give away the title away here, that will all be a part of the publicity drive for the book’s release. As I stated above, the action scenes for the novel have been written and I have pages of notes, both paper and digital, to work through and bring it all together. Exciting times.
And then we have to consider producing an audio book for “0w1: believe”.
I’m also attempting to write an essay a week for the Stage 32 website, where I am a member. See the LINK below. It’s an online community of writers and filmmakers. I’m just wanting to share my thoughts about writing and world-building and hoping to connect with other writers and Producers too.
Connect with Geoff Hall:
Stage 32: https://www.stage32.com/GeoffHall