Now that I have let you have a little breather between me posting my review of Adrian’s ‘Shards of Earth’ I will share with you my first ever interview!
No, I am joking! I had such fun with this little project. It was great fun researching Adrian and finding unasked questions!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR…
Meet Adrian, if you don’t already know his face…
Adrian, after a little internet stalking I managed to find out a few things about you. You’re a British author, studied Zoology and psychology., then worked as a legal executive before becoming a writer full time. You enjoy the natural world and have trained in various things and have some varied and interesting fighting skills.
So, tell me something about yourself that we don’t already know. Now don’t hold back on me this can be anything, from a random fact to a funny childhood story. Go…
AT: At university and for some years afterwards I was seriously into drama, acting – though not to the extent of actually being very good at it. However I did a lot of middling roles, and even wrote some plays that the local am dram group put on. I even met my wife while doing Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
I can relate to that acting was always of some interest to me to, I think it is the drive to be creative, you know? Keeping on with your varied background, I noticed you studied Zoology and Psychology and then practiced as a legal executive.
How did you go from zoology to working in the legal sector?
AT: When I got out of university the job market (mid 90s UK) was terrible. After a couple of dreadful jobs I ended up at the Legal Aid Board which processed lawyers’ claims for publicly-funded work. They were basically shifting over to a different system and had a huge backlog of paperwork to clear, so they were hiring just about anyone. That introduced me to the idea of the legal profession, but of course I had no legal training. What I did have, because of my writing, was a killer typing speed, so I managed to parlay that into a position as a legal secretary, then trained as a lawyer while working at that.
Blimey! That is quite the change you made there! I note you also said in previous interviews that you have a love for the natural world…
What is your favourite landscape? I love the mountains but something about the rainforest just trumps it for me.
AT: Honestly from my writing you’d think it’d be swamps, as they seem to turn up so often. I like anything that has an interesting biodiversity though. Rainforests are the top for that, but wetlands, reefs, even deserts given the amount of insects and reptiles and the like you can get there. For the purposes of the question below, however, let’s go for wetland/swamps.
Ok, you are stranded in that terrain, which three fictional characters would you want to be stranded with and why?
AT: I’m tempted to say Atreyu from Never-ending Story because he has a useful horse, but it’s probably too soon…
I’d go firstly for the Biologist from Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. I admit it’s a risky choice. You wouldn’t know if you could trust her, or just who was actually looking back at you from moment to moment. If you wanted someone who understood wetlands and how to survive in them, though, there’s nobody better. For a given value of ‘survive’ of course.
Next up let’s go for Patera Silk from Gene Wolfe’s Long Sun books. Partly because he’s somewhat omnicompetent – he has a genetic predisposition to pick up and master skills extremely quickly. Mostly because he’s very good company, one of the few SFF protagonists who would be a genuinely pleasant dinner guest or travelling companion.
Finally, to blow my own trumpet and as I’ve written plenty about horrible swamps, let’s have Mallen from my own Guns of the Dawn, as he’s another born survivor with a keenly enquiring mind and I could probably prevail on him, given I wrote him, to do most of the heavy lifting.
I am still yet to discover the full depth of the world in Shards of Earth, but I did read Doors of Eden and loved it. The detail that went into it was phenomenal. I imagine your research can be quite the rabbit hole as you have to have a wider understanding of it to be able to condense it down for your stories.
When you are researching certain topics, how much of your research would you say goes into your writing and is it hard decided what is crucial to allow the readers an understanding without going it becoming to heavy and problematic to other elements, such as the emotional impacts of certain events and characters.
AT: It’s one of the great writer’s arts to pare what you have learned on a subject down to the bare minimum. The temptation to show off your erudition is always very strong. Certainly it’s something my editors bring me up on quite often. And every reader’s different, and some may prefer more or less visible scaffolding. It’s a real case-by-case exercise, but you get a mental feel for those situations where you just haven’t joined the dots enough, or where readers might get tripped out of the immersion by questions about why or how something happened.
Ok, I love Space as many do, it is so incredibly intriguing and terrifying. So, let’s talk aliens! The idea that we are alone in the universe is equally as terrifying as us not being alone. What is your take on this, do you believe in aliens?
AT: Given the scale of the universe, the idea that we’re the one world with recognizable life is inconceivable. The universe has a common chemistry, the same elements produced from stars, that react together in the same ways. Carbon’s out there and it behaves in certain ways in conjunction with other elements. We know those complex interactions can cross over into becoming self-replicating life (because it did on Earth), and likely that’s just one pathway of many by which life systems could arise. And once even very simple life gets going, it will accelerate and adapt to every niche and environment accessible to it, once you have a self-replicating but fallible system with finite resources. It seems likely that the first alien life we meet – perhaps even within our own solar system – will be the equivalent of prokaryotic microbes, because the majority of the history of life on Earth is single-celled, but that’s still alien life. And, given enough time, there are various pathways that can leave to a higher-energy lifestyle, more complex organisms, larger and more varied life, even sentience.
That is so incredible! I personally agree, I think it is just too big for there not to be anything, as like you said it would stile alien life, just maybe not as we think of it.
As a lover of sci-fi I have always watched sci-fi TV shows and movies. Especially when I was younger with my dad, we watched some great sci-fi shows. I always loved Farscape and Stargate SG1.
Did you watch any such shows and if so which one was your favourite?
AT: Farscape remains my favourite TV SF show. Other favourites from back in the day include B5 and Doctor Who, which was my very first fandom. More recently there was the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica (and yes, I was of an age to watch the original as well!), and masterpieces like The Expanse and Discovery, which are my current space-viewing.
Yes! I am so glad you love Farscape! Doctor Who is amazing too. I feel like we are getting more and more sci-fi gems on TV of late, and I for one am here for it!
Moving on, or I will fangirl and not finish this interview!
Now, you’re a full time writer tell us a little about your working day as a full time writer.
AT: Well right now and 18 months ago are a little different. Back before The Thing I tended to go write in coffee shops or the Waterstones café. Since the changes, I’ve adapted well enough to writing at home, up in the attic like the wife in Jane Eyre. I tend to write in a single block in the mornings, and depending on how things are going, possibly more later on. Or I may have edits or something similar to get down to later in the day.
Ah I bet you miss that! Coffee shops are amazing. You are an incredibly quick writer having published several books now, 124 listing works if you ask Goodreads. And you publish them at such a fantastic rate! What is your average turnaround for a book?
AT: I plan a great deal and I think that helps my output. I don’t write more per day than most, I think – at least based on the reports of those of my peers who talk about wordcount. I tend to produce a first draft that doesn’t need much editing before I can submit it, though. The pre-planning means things can fall into place without my going back to retcon and alter earlier chapters most of the time. Now I’m writing full time I would hope to get that first draft done in six months, perhaps, for a full length novel.
Some of Adrians other works…
Keeping in with that vein of questioning, what is you writing process like. Do you plan and allocate time to certain phases such as researching, planning and writing or do you just sit down and let the stay cool out?
AT: I don’t really allocate time, I just do. I always start with the worldbuilding, and any attendant research that might need. Ideally, by the time I actually start on the first chapter, I’ve got a world with all its axioms, histories, factions, species etc, from which have arisen both the characters and the events of the plot. I’ve got a chapter breakdown showing me where the book’s going to go. I hit the ground running, basically. And it doesn’t always work. I’ve had a couple of projects where the plan has fallen apart in the middle and I’ve had to go back and reorder and re-write large sections. And at that point I suspect I’m floundering where a writer more used to writing on the fly would just sail past.
What would you say is your biggest change in the way you write now to the way you wrote early in your writing career?
AT: I think it comes down to a kind of blanket awareness of how it all comes together. Partly a conscious understanding of the mechanics of narrative and language, partly a subconscious feel for what works. Plus, frankly, I’m older and better informed and hopefully have a broader understanding of… just stuff basically. So the decisions I make in the story are hopefully less naïve than they have been.
So a little about your newest book!
Shards of Earth talk to me about that. You have some pretty unique races and politics involved. I loved the Hivers immediately with the whole hive mind concept, who was your favourite race to create and play with.
AT: So Shards of Earth and the Final Architecture series, yes. I had a cracking time putting the universe together for those books – both the human factions and groups and the various alien species that interact with them. It’s hard to choose, but I suspect the Essiel are my favourites, just because they’re so maddeningly obscure. They have a huge space empire, which scared the crap out of the humans who first met them. They have dozens of other species as subject races, and yet they’re not remotely aggressive or interested in invading. They’d just love it if humans joined their collective, but, you know, no pressure. Except the problem with the Essiel is that they’re really not very human at all, and so all negotiations with them go through alien interpreters, and then through the weird human cult that’s decided the Essiel are saviour gods, and couch everything in religious terms. And then you have the human diplomats hearing all this ecumenical business and trying to work out what it is exactly that the Essiel really want. And then of course humans learned what the deal was, a little too late, because the Essiel had already met the world-reshaping Architects a while back, only the translations never quite got to that part.
What were some of your influences for Shards of Earth?
Honestly the biggest influence was all the sublight travel in Children of Ruin. I was very ready to go a bit further from the hard science just so I could have FTL travel. And when I’d made that decision, I had to work up a nice, novel system for how FTL might work in this universe, and that kind of expanded to take over the book, as you’ll see. The lead character, Idris, is an Intermediary, which means among other things that he’s an unspace navigator. And unspace, where you go when you need to get around the universe faster than light does, is a nasty place, and allegedly something even nastier lives in it, and Idris has been living with that for decades. And so the basic SF concepts aren’t just futuristic conveniences for the characters or the plot, they’re shot all the way through the book. And it all kind of flowered out of that. The Architects themselves, of course, are a take on that classic SF staple, the Big Dumb Object, except in this case they’re also a creature, and they kill planets. And the first human contact anyone has with them is when they come and kill Earth.
Well, Adrian, thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions! It has been such fun! I hope we can do it again sometime!
There you have it folks, my first ever interview! I hope you liked it and enjoyed Adrian’s answers I know he had me giggling at a few. I would love to keep doing this as it is to fun, so if you can think of any fun questions I could have asked et me know!
Thank you for reading, feel free to comment or head on over to my Twitter account and we can have a talk all things bookish!