Interview with Libby McGugan, author of The Eidolon - October 28, 2013
Please welcome Libby McGugan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Eidolon will be published on October 29th in the US and Canada and November 7th in the UK. You may read Libby's Guest Blog - Why I wrote The Eidolon and a few thoughts on why anyone writes anything. - here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Libby: Thanks Sally. It’s a privilege to be here.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Libby: I’ve always dabbled in writing – poetry for a while, and a children’s book about 10 years ago, which was a mishmash of all the stories I’d known growing up. Once I started writing down ideas, the floodgates opened. I found I love the process and the freedom it gives you. Like having a party in your own head.
When I first started The Eidolon, I worked with Cornerstone’s Literary Consultancy, which was a great help in steering me in the right direction.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Libby: I found this technique a couple of years ago, and it’s something I apply to pretty much everything now. The idea is that before you do anything, you spend some time thinking about how it will feel when it’s completed the way you would like it to be. After I went to the Writers’ Festival in York a couple of years ago, and got some direct, painful but extremely valuable feedback from an agent and publisher there, I was faced with a major rewrite. So I tried this technique. Before I wrote anything I’d do something else – go for a run, tidy up, whatever, and spend time imagining how it would feel to have written that particular part and feel really satisfied with it. Scene by scene, chapter by chapter, it all came together. So a story that had taken me three years to write, I rewrote (changing the narrative stance, tense and eighty percent of the plot) in ten weeks. Works for me!
I also write to movie soundtracks.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Libby: Hmmm. A bit of both. A plontser. I plot general goalposts, but I like to let intuition guide me along whatever path it thinks best along the way, usually while I’m doing something else.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Libby: Remembering to eat. My longest stretch was ten hours.
I used to struggle a lot with letting go of scenes I loved. It was like cutting off a finger. But I’ve developed a more ruthless streak now, and it’s funny how often you can incorporate the essence of those scenes in different ways down the line.
TQ: Describe The Eidolon in 140 characters or less.
Libby: A pragmatic physicist, recruited to sabotage the CERN, discovers the secret of dark matter and the boundary between the living and the dead.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Eidolon?
Libby: I started writing The Eidolon in 2007 after my dad died. His death got me thinking about some big questions. I had a great upbringing: my mum is a catholic and my dad was a protestant-turned-atheist who explored science for his own answers, and while each respected the other, we had this dichotomy of worldviews in our house. I guess I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to square it all, and The Eidolon is the product of that. I love science – with its rigor and obsession with facts, but I also love the spirit of life – the thing that makes us feel, love and question. I didn’t actually set out to be a writer, but once the idea for the story came to me, it wouldn’t let go. So I went with it. It’s been a hugely rewarding journey.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Eidolon?
Libby: Most of what I read is non-fiction. I read a lot of layman’s books about physics. Brian Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos is one of my favourites, but don’t ask me to explain it. I also read a lot of books about belief systems, eastern philosophy and the like.
I visited CERN for the purposes of research and saw one of the control rooms in ATLAS. And I have been to the potage mine mentioned at the start of the book, and saw the entrance to the dark matter research facility there. As for what’s inside, I made that bit up.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Libby: The easiest character was probably Arcos Crowley, who appears later in the book. He’s so bad tempered – it was just entertaining to be a grouch the whole time as him.
The hardest character? I can’t say – that will blow the plot. The second hardest was probably the main character, Robert Strong. In the earlier drafts he was far too cynical, so he needed a bit of reworking. I was surprised and a little unsettled by that…
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Eidolon?
Libby: I like the opening scene. It’s set in Tibet and I drew on experiences from a trek I was on in Bhutan, so it was great to have a chance to write about it. Nothing as dramatic as Robert has to endure, but I enjoyed writing about the power of wilderness and the interaction with the Buddhist monk.
Another favourite would be the rooftop scene, on which the cover art is based. As I mentioned, Robert is inherently cynical and has lots of internal dialogue as he tries to make sense of what’s happening to him. That was a lot of fun to write.
TQ: What's next?
Libby: Well, some great news is that there is film interest. Can’t say too much about it at this stage, other than IT’S REALLY EXCITING.
The Eidolon is the first in a trilogy, and I’m working on the sequel at the moment.
I’m looking forward to FantasyCon in October too.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Libby: Thanks so much for the interview - it’s been a real pleasure to be involved.
Solaris Books, October 29, 2013 (US/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
A contemporary SF thriller. The divide between science and the human spirit is the setting for a battle for the future.
When physicist Robert Strong loses his job at the Dark Matter research lab and his relationship falls apart, he returns home to Scotland. Then the dead start appearing to him, and Robert begins to question his own sanity. Victor Amos, an enigmatic businessman, arrives and recruits Robert to sabotage CERN’S Large Hadron Collider, convincing him the next step in the collider’s research will bring about disaster. Everything Robert once understood about reality, and the boundaries between life and death, is about to change forever. And the biggest change will be to Robert himself... Mixing science, philosophy and espionage, Libby McGugan’s stunning debut is a thriller like no other.
A practising doctor, she has worked in Scotland, in Australia with the Flying Doctors service and, for a few months, in a field hospital in the desert. She loves travelling and the diversity that is the way different people see the world, and has been trekking in the Himalaya of Bhutan, potholing in Sarawak, backpacking in Chile and Europe, and diving in Cairns.
Her biggest influences are Joseph Campbell, Lao Tzu, David Bohm, Brian Greene, and Yoda.
Website ~ Twitter @LIBBYMcGUGAN ~ Facebook