Book Nerd Interview
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
When I read Asimov’s ‘Nightfall’ collection of short stories. He included autobiographical squibs about how he started out, trying to sell stories as a teenager… I’d never met a writer, but this made me realise that it was people like me who wrote these great stories. So I began to try.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
We need to make sense of the world, to see the world through others’ eyes. Goes back to when we were helpless animals on the savannah I suspect, trying to guess where the leopard might come from… and trying to imagine the weapon inside the stone.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Genre: Clarke, Childhood’s End. Distils the cosmic fate of the universe down to the fractured relationship between a mother and her son.
Non-genre: Nevil Shute, The Chequer Board. Emotional wartime drama and my father’s favourite novel.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
A teacher at my school wrote radio plays. When I showed him my early hand-scrawled stories, he didn’t say anything about the content. He simply said: 1) type the stories up properly 2) submit them to a magazine or an anthology 3) keep on writing and keep on submitting. As simple as that.
In your book; PROXIMA, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Think Avatar, or maybe Interstellar. It’s a saga of interstellar colonization, the discovery of an alien life system – and the unraveling of a deeper cosmic mystery. All of which is wrapped up in ULTIMA, the sequel.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m continuing to work on the Long Earth sequence with Terry Pratchett. Book 3. THE LONG MARS, is out; there will be five in all and we’re working towards a fantastic cosmic climax.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Reid Malenfant from TIME and other books – tough space entrepreneur – to Yuri Eden from PROXIMA, dogged character forced to be an interstellar colonist. Having them argue about the human cost of space exploration would be fun.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Yuri?
How self-destructive he is. I meant him to be marginalized – he’s excluded from his own time, his own world – and he’s resilient, he survives. But he has a black core that I kind of discovered, that keeps on leading him into attacking authority figures around him. Characters always come alive and develop their own logic.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Concentrate on character, conflict, climax, on telling a good story. Just keep writing, story after story. You’ll find your voice if you keep at it.
Where can readers stalk you?
Mankind’s future in this galaxy could be all but infinite....
There are hundreds of billions of red dwarf stars, lasting trillions of years—and their planets can be habitable for humans. Such is the world of Proxima Centauri. And its promise could mean the never-ending existence of humanity.
But first it must be colonized, and no one wants to be a settler. There is no glamor that accompanies it, like being the first man on the moon, nor is there the ease of becoming a citizen of an already-tamed world. There is only hardship...loneliness...emptiness.
But that’s where Yuri comes in. Because sometimes exploration isn’t voluntary. It must be coerced....