Chronicle Book Box Interview

This one is from 2018 after publication of The Soldier.


What do you read for pleasure and what are you currently reading?

My preference is for science fiction and fantasy books, but I do read other stuff. Having gone through a bit of a hiatus in my reading I’m easing myself back in with some Terry Pratchett books. I’ve just finished The Hogfather and have Sourcery lined up next.

Where is your favourite place to read?

Sprawled on my sofa with my feet up on my table. Location is irrelevant, beyond it being comfortable, since I am in the book.

When and where do you do your best writing?

I have a small bedroom converted into an office where I work on a pc, in England, while in Crete I use a laptop – in both places at a desk. However, just like with reading, location is unimportant beyond it being comfortable and without distraction. That being said, I do work better in the latter location when it is without an internet connection.

This is the start of a new trilogy but not a new universe for you, what inspired these new novels?

With book upon book I’ve steadily been filling in the detail of my Polity universe. One item in this universe I wanted to expand on is something called Jain technology. In this future a hostile civilization-destroying alien technology has wiped out other alien races and threatens the Polity. I wanted to say something about this and the Jain themselves. To this end I picked up a loose thread at the end of my Cormac series concerning two characters – an enhanced human called Orlandine and an alien entity (like a small organic moon) called Dragon – and ran with it. But inspiration? There is a quote by Peter De Vries that covers this: ‘I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.’

Can you tell us a bit more about the Polity universe for anyone not familiar with it?

Humanity expanded out into the Solar System, and began expanding out into the galaxy using generation ships, when the Artificial Intelligences took power in an all but bloodless conflict called the Quiet War. Under their benevolent dictatorship, and with the development of a U-space drive for ships (faster-than-light travel) and runcible gates (instantaneous matter transmission between worlds), humanity has expanded massively into the galaxy. The Polity is a nominally utopian society in which all ills have been cured and all citizens can potentially live forever. It is packed with glittering futuristic technology that should pave the way to technological singularity, but does not. Giant ships roam between worlds and there are even those who have embarked on a million-year project to build a Dyson sphere. But the universe is a dangerous place. The Polity has survived a massive interstellar war against hostile crablike aliens called prador and is now in uneasy truce with them. AIs go rogue and can be incredibly dangerous. Separatist terrorists work against AI rule. And of course there is that Jain technology too . . .

How far are you into writing the next two novels? Can you give us any hints as what we can look forward to?

I have the next book in the trilogy, called The Warship, and am now finishing off with the edited typescript. I have also written to first draft the final book, tentatively called The Human, and am leaving that alone for a while so I can cast a new eye over it later.

How would you describe your writing process?

Ideally, when I start out on a new book, I sit down at my desk at about 8AM, read through and edit what I wrote the day before, then write 2,000 words – I do this five days a week. In reality it is not as neat as that. I sit and read science articles, I get distracted by the social media, I procrastinate, sometimes I’m too tired to work, sometimes I get bored with what I’m doing etc. Still, I do manage to stay one or two books ahead of the publisher.

How would you describe The Soldier in only 3 words?

Sensawunda and action.

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