Please welcome Nick Clark Windo
to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. The Feed
was published on March 13th by William Morrow.
In addition, Amazon and Liberty Global have announced
that they have ordered a ten-episode adaption of The Feed
from The Walking Dead
executive producer Channing Powell and British producer Studio Lambert.
Congratulation to Nick on both the publication of The Feed
and the upcoming TV adaption!
The Qwillery: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?
Nick Clark Windo: Thank you very much – it’s lovely to be here.
I can’t remember much about them, but I remember writing short stories at school as part of English class. There was one in particular written when I must have been seven or so, and some kids had discovered a portal to another world that was ruled by an evil goblin. They swore to defeat this evil goblin and then, when they got home, the evil goblin came to their house to try to kill them, but they dodged him and he burned to death on a heated towel rail. The teacher wrote in the margin ‘How did the goblin know where they live?’ I don’t think this was the only flaw in the story, but it got me thinking about plotting.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
NCW: I love the term ‘pantser’! For The Feed I was a hybrid. I knew quite a lot about the novel – the midpoint, for example, and the last line – so I had a very good idea where the characters needed to go emotionally, and that worked as a compass point for pantsing their ways there. I like getting lost in a world, and there are certainly lots of things in the novel that wouldn’t have been there if I’d sat down and planned it all. At the same time, I reckon I could have shaved about five drafts off the process if I’d planned a little more.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
NCW: At the moment, finding the time. Who knew that babies warp time like black holes do? It’s really quite distracting. That aside, it’s re-reading with an eye to delete as much as possible; trying to have no more words than is necessary. Because reading your own work like that requires your brain to be operating on many different levels simultaneously it’s draining: it’s not just about the words that are in front of you, it’s how they relate to all the other words in the book. It requires stamina. It’s very easy to realise you’ve read ten pages and not deleted anything, and it’s very unlikely that there’s nothing delete-worthy in ten pages.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
NCW: I’ve always read irrespective of genre. In fact, I find pigeon holing books can be quite detrimental – I don’t think it’s necessarily good for them or for our imaginations. Same with TV and film, too: as a viewer, I’m happy to swallow anything – as long as nothing ‘catches’ me. Reading or viewing (and I hope this doesn’t sound too weird) I’m looking for a smooth experience: an overwritten sentence, a jarring edit, an intrusive soundtrack, a character whose actions are driven by plot necessity rather than their established ‘reality’…all of these things catch like a splinter on a piece of furniture and bring you out of the story. I’m very magpie-ish when I’m writing. Books, films, TV, music, overheard conversations, it all gets filtered and what feels interesting gets jotted down in the notebook and then, hopefully, worked and smoothed into place in the story.
TQ: Describe The Feed in 140 characters or less.
NCW: The Feed is about two parents searching for their abducted daughter in an era when technology has collapsed.
TQ: Tell us something about The Feed that is not found in the book description.
NCW: It’s not all doom and gloom! I actually think that a post-apocalyptic world could be very beautiful. There’s loads of nature, for example. Granted, it’s dangerous, but it’s beautiful too. And there’s something very beautiful about the relationships that need to develop across the story – people go on some big emotional journeys, and I think there’s a lot of hope therein, and some lovely moments between people.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Feed? What appeals to you about writing an SF thriller and in particular, a post-apocalyptic thriller?
NCW: I’d had the idea for the ‘Taken’ a while ago, and how terrifying that would be: people being ‘taken’ in their sleep. They’d look like themselves, they’d sound like themselves…but they wouldn’t be. But I wasn’t sure about the world at that time, but a year or so later I had some Twitter-induced insomnia. I was basically checking it up until the second before I went to sleep and the rhythm of the technology – refresh, refresh, refresh – infected the speed of my dreams. There was one night where I was trapped in my sleep, refreshing my dreams all night. It was exhausting. So the next morning, I knew the world I wanted to investigate: one where technology is part of us, where we’re directly linked to each other. So, yes, it is a bit of a sci-fi concept in that this technology doesn’t exist. But it only doesn’t exist quite yet. To explore this aspect of our society I had to image how the way we’re currently living might look in a few years’ time – and that happened to be a post-apocalyptic world. My next book’s not post-apocalyptic.
TQ: Do you use social media?
NCW: Yes, though with added caution now! I love Twitter. But I can feel it fusing my thoughts. So I try to be strict with myself: no emails or Twitter after 7pm or before breakfast. Or at weekends. So if anything urgent happens outside those times, or if the apocalypse hits, please phone me!
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Feed?
NCW: Two different types. The first was extrapolating my experience of technology and translating that into the Feed world. The Feed is the Internet directly to our brains: immediate access to unlimited knowledge and instant communication. It's not a paradigm shift from how we live now, but it’s an extreme version. So a lot of my research was sensing out how I feel about technology and how technology makes me feel (which is both very good and very bad – for me, it's all about whether I control it or it’s controlling me). The second was reading a lot around it, especially around neurology and technology. There’s a fantastic book called The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, for example, about how tech is physically rewiring our brains. Absolutely fascinating stuff. And I was really keen to give a balanced view of technology. Obviously, the book has to be dramatic, so things have to go wrong, but there are huge advantages to technological development. It just depends on how we use it.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Feed.
NCW: Well, first of all, I love it! And I love the interior design and the font, too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given what I said earlier about reading irrespective of genre and not always liking books being pigeon holed, I’m also really happy that the cover doesn’t scream ‘Sci-fi’. Just to be clear – I love sci-fi. But the sci-fi element of The Feed is actually relatively small – there’s a lot of other stuff going on. So I love the simple and nature of the cover art: it’s there for interpretation. And the colours! The colours are great.
TQ: In The Feed who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
NCW: The easiest was the Pharmacist, in that he was very clear to me from the start. He’s a dangerous person. What delighted me was when it became clear that his mania and his desire to hurt people comes from how badly he’s been hurt in the past. He’s damaged and wants to damage in return. So I ended up feeling pretty sympathetic towards him.
The hardest was probably Tom. Given that Tom and Kate are our heroes, I wanted them to be sympathetic. I wanted them to be good people, so that the readers would back them and care about them. But I realised a few drafts in that Tom was just so anodyne. Furthermore, that portraying people behaving nicely is really un-dramatic. Further to that, the world of The Feed is not friendly, it's not fair; it's a place where there’s not necessarily a ‘right’ decision. And I’d argue that Tom does some cowardly things and makes bad decisions. So that was a bit heart breaking, putting these nice people in very tough situations.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Feed?
NCW: They’re there at the core of the story: it’s about our relationship with technology, and how technology is slowly (yet in plain sight) changing not just our relationships with each other, but what it means to be human at all.
TQ: Which question about The Feed do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
NCW: Will there be a sequel? Well, I know what would happen in it if there were one; two, in fact. It’s a big world with more to explore, and some things in the first book not being quite what they seem.
TQ: What's next?
NCW: Well I’m writing my next novel. It’s different from The Feed in that it’s not set in a post-apocalyptic world, but it has flavours that people will recognise. It will also, hopefully, appeal to people who like films – so there’s a broad target audience, for you! There’s also the TV adaptation of The Feed, which is due to start shooting soon. Casting for that is happening at the moment. It’s very exciting.
TQ: Congratulations for The Feed TV show! Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
NCW: Thank you very much! It’s been a pleasure to be here.
William Morrow, March 13, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
Set in a post-apocalyptic world as unique and vividly imagined as those of Station Eleven and The Girl with All the Gifts, a startling and timely debut that explores what it is to be human and what it truly means to be connected in the digital age.
IT MAKES US. IT DESTROYS US. NOW WE MUST LEARN TO LIVE WITHOUT IT.
The Feed is accessible everywhere, by everyone, at any time. It instantaneously links us to all information and global events as they break. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it; it is the essential tool everyone relies on to know and understand the thoughts and feelings of partners, parents, friends, children, colleagues, bosses, employees . . . in fact, of anyone and everyone else in the world.
Tom and Kate use the Feed, but Tom has resisted its addiction, which makes him suspect to his family. After all, his father created it. But that opposition to constant connection serves Tom and Kate well when the Feed collapses after a horrific tragedy shatters the world as they know it.
The Feed’s collapse, taking modern society with it, leaves people scavenging to survive. Finding food is truly a matter of life and death. Minor ailments, previously treatable, now kill. And while the collapse has demolished the trappings of the modern world, it has also eroded trust. In a world where survival of the fittest is a way of life, there is no one to depend upon except yourself . . . and maybe even that is no longer true.
Tom and Kate have managed to protect themselves and their family. But then their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing. Who has taken her? How do you begin to look for someone in a world without technology? And what happens when you can no longer even be certain that the people you love are really who they claim to be?
|Photo © James Eckersley|
NICK CLARK WINDO was a student on the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. He studied English Literature at Cambridge and acting at RADA, and he now works as a film producer and communications coach. Inspired by his realisation that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from one another, and questions about identity and memory, The Feed
is his first thriller. He lives in London with his wife.Twitter