Former Lehman employee creates new galaxy

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It can often be hard to imagine a world outside the office.

Docklands software engineer Stephen J Sweeney is boldly going even further, by creating an entire galaxy all by himself.

Branch Road resident Stephen, 32, has just released the first part of his self-published Battle for the Solar System series. The Honour of the Knights launches a saga which has been swirling around the former Lehman Brothers employee's head for nearly two decades. It follows a group of pilots who stumble onto a sinister conspiracy while fighting in a devastating galactic war.

He said: "I've always liked the drama, the battles, and a bit of intergalactic romance.

"I was more of a fan of the casual sci-fi rather than the shows in which they always went on about physics. I really liked shows such as Babylon Five and the old version of Battlestar Galactica. I don't really read a great deal of sci-fi."

The seed of the plot first germinated when Stephen was a teenager, although he did not begin writing properly until late 2006.

He said: "The plot was vastly different back then. It was actually just going to be about a war between Earth and Mars. Over the years I thought it was a bit too narrow and there wasn't enough scope, so I branched out to include a whole galaxy."

While working at Lehman Brothers in Bank Street, Stephen would try to set aside at least an hour and a half for writing each working day.

He left the bank for Vodaphone just before it filed for bankruptcy in September, but is continuing to put time aside to adapt the trilogy.

He said: "Right now I come home every day, sit down for up to two hours and just write. I get quite a lot done on weekends.

"I sleep with a pen and paper by my bed so that if I think of something I just turn over and write it down."

While his work on a game to accompany the series is on the back-burner, he does maintain a website on his universe at battleforthesolarsystem.com

He said: "Most people find books to read by way of recommendation and word of mouth, but having a website where potential readers can discover more about the story and the author creates a great platform for the two to connect."

Stephen was drawn to sci-fi writing by a love of space battles, but he found writing them one of his trickiest tasks.

He said: "When I first shipped it off to my editor, he said it read like a video game so I had to scrub a lot of the scenes and start over.

"It's not like writing about horse riding, where you can spend time researching by actually riding a horse.

"The only experience people get of star-fighters is watching it on TV or on a video game. Otherwise, you have to pretty much make up stuff as you go along."

Stephen opted to self-publish his book through Lulu publishing, acquiring an ISBN number and handling the type-setting and cover design himself. Waterstone's branches in Canary Wharf and Brighton have agreed to stock a limited number of copies of his first book, and it is also available online via Amazon.

He said: "If your goal is to just see your book in print, then self publishing is always an option.

"It cost me less than £100. I haven't printed any out. I print copies when people place orders for them.

"It is a lot cheaper now than it used to be, thanks to advances in technology, but keep in mind that you will have to do all the promotion and marketing yourself.

"It is unlikely to sell more than a handful of copies otherwise."

Among Stephen's future projects is a novel loosely based on his boarding school experiences.

He said: "It would potentially be a thriller, set from the point of view of one of the students."

However, his main focus remains on the Solar System trilogy, which will expand on where the pilots fit into the mysterious galactic cover-up.

He said: "I've got the whole thing planned and noted down. I've just finished redrafting the second book, and maybe I'll release it early next year."

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