Please welcome Adam Christopher to The Qwillery. Adam is the author of Empire State
, Seven Wonders
, The Age Atomic
, Hang Wire
and the upcoming Cold War
and The Burning Dark
, first in the Spider War Trilogy. Recently Adam announced
that he will be writing The L.A. Trilogy for Tor Books.
TQ: Welcome back to The Qwillery. Since that first interview you have had 4 novels published with 1 more on the way this year. How has becoming an author changed your life? Is there any advice that you'd give debut authors?
Adam: It’s been kinda crazy – three years and, by the end of March this year, I’ll have had five novels published. I remember getting that first phone call back in February 2011 from Lee Harris at Angry Robot, making the offer, and then the seemingly endless wait until Empire State came out.
And now suddenly I’ve got four books out and three book deals from three publishers and the most amazing agent. Where did the time go? Seriously, it’s frightening how fast everything has happened.
But it’s really great too. Getting published was a total dream, and then it happened. It’s easy to get blasé about it, especially when you’re in the middle of a project and every word is pure hell and you’re cursing your impending deadline… but I’m very, very grateful to have this opportunity. I know how difficult it is, and I know not only how lucky I am but how hard I had to work to get here.
Because being an author is hard work – and maybe even more so when you’re a debut author because there’s lots of pressure, most of which comes from yourself, I think. It’s very tempting to say “yes” to everything. You want to get out there, and to be suddenly in demand for things is flattering, but you really have to manage your time. Because as much as you want to sell your book, you also want to sell the next one… and there won’t be a next one if you don’t keep up with the work! So manage your time well. You will need every hour you have available!
TQ: How has your writing process changed (or not) since the publication of your first novel, Empire State?
Adam: That’s really difficult to answer, because writing is a constant learning process – you get better by writing, and writing, and writing, so I think most of what happens is unconscious. You get better with practice.
You also change – you continue to develop your style and your voice. If I were to write Empire State now, it would be a pretty different book, even if it followed the same story.
I certainly write faster now, and I’ve figured out a few things about my own process – how I outline, and how much I need to outline, and what kind of state my drafts are in. For example, I tend to overwrite the first draft by quite a margin, so the second draft is really carving the real novel out of this big pile of words.
But Empire State wasn’t the first novel I’d written, it was the third. The second was Seven Wonders – which was published after Empire State – and the first was a steampunk thing which is firmly locked away in a trunk!
That’s still the way I like to write, if I can – do a draft, then put it away and start the next project. Rinse and repeat. But now with publisher deadlines, I have to condense my schedule down a little and often go from drafts to the edit straight away. That’s another skill I’ve picked up.
So I think it’s all a gradual process – you figure stuff out, you get better, you know what to expect. That makes it all a little easier in terms of getting the required words down by the required date. Of course, writing 100,000 words that are not only logical and coherent but interesting and entertaining is still immensely hard work. But at least I know a little bit more about how publishing works and how to get a book in on time!
TQ: Your most recently published novel is Hang Wire. Tell us something about Hang Wire that is not in the book description.
Adam: It’s a dark urban fantasy based on a true story.
I’m not joking! When I was in San Francisco, I went to dinner in Chinatown, I had an awful lot of prawns, and when we got fortune cookies at the end mine sort of popped and scattered paper everywhere. Due to some factory fault, instead of one fortune I had about twenty paper strips inside mine, all of which said YOU ARE THE MASTER OF EVERY SITUATION.
Which is either a great origin story for a Marvel superhero circa 1967… or the start of an urban fantasy about murdered gods and sleeping evil…
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Hang Wire?
Adam: Hang Wire was quite research-heavy for two reasons. Firstly, as the story is connected to the San Francisco earthquakes of 1906 and 1989, I needed to do a lot of reading on not only the history of the city, but the geology of the region. Fortunately, having done some geology at university AND being a fan of American history, I found it all rather fascinating. There’s not that much in the finished book, but I think it’s important to get it right, even if it’s more in tone and feel than textbook accuracy.
The other big research job was modern-day San Francisco. I’ve never lived there, but I have spent time there and I absolutely love the city – I wouldn’t have chosen it as the setting if I didn’t! So I had my own knowledge of the city, plus the on-tap advice and assistance from a couple of locals I know. They were vital for checking key sequences, especially for the street geography – several sections were reworked based on their suggestions.
It’s always tricky to write about a place that you don’t live in, but I hope my love for the city shows in the book.
TQ: Which character in Hang Wire has surprised you the most? Why?
Adam: Joel Duvall, for sure. He was always in the book, but in a much smaller role, more as a tool used by the real evil in the book. That’s still his role, more or less, but as I wrote his scenes I found them not only really fun to work on, but I could sense there was something else about his character – he had a larger story which needed to be told.
So I wrote a series of interconnected interludes, focused entirely on Joel, to try and figure out what was going on with him. I knew then they had to go into the book, giving a much bigger sense of what is going on in San Francisco now, and the events leading up to the climax of the book.
I’d like to return to Joel at some point – I have no idea how, but he’s one of my favourite characters in anything I’ve written.
TQ: You've written mostly Science Fiction novels. Hang Wire is labeled Urban Fantasy. What appeals to you about Urban Fantasy? Are there any other genres / sub-genres in which you'd like to write?
Adam: I love urban fantasy because it’s the ultimate juxtaposition – the fantastical and the ordinary crashing together. While it is often associated with supernatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves, you can really do anything with it. It’s also a very accessible genre, because the weird stories you tell are all set in a world we instantly recognize – our own. I think urban fantasy offers such a range of types of story, and huge flexibility for tone and flavour – you could write something magical, or romantic, or weird, or supernatural.
One genre I’m really keen to write is in straight crime. I’ve used elements of crime in other things I’ve written, as well as noir and the like, but an actual thriller or procedural would be cool – if I can stop myself putting in anything speculative!
TQ: What's next?
Adam: Next out is The Burning Dark, published by Tor (US) and Titan (UK) on March 25th. This is the first of an ongoing series of loosely connected space opera books collectively called The Spider Wars. In 2969, the human race, and all the colonies thereof, have united into a single military-industrial complex, The Fleet, to wage war against a nameless, gestalt machine intelligence fond of making eight-legged machines that can not only eat spaceships, but whole planets.
In The Burning Dark, we meet Captain Ida Cleveland, a celebrated war hero who finds himself sent to a derelict space station in the middle of nowhere to oversee its demolition. But things on the space station are going wrong in a big way – the crew have cabin fever and are starting to see things, the Commandant is missing, and, more importantly for Ida, nobody knows who he is. Facing the crew’s resentment at playing babysitter, Ida retreats to his cabin and reaches out with an old-fashioned space radio, but instead of making contact with old comrades he picks up a distress call from the early days of space travel. And as he begins to obsess over the ancient signal, the dying female cosmonaut starts talking to him…
Ahead of The Burning Dark, Tor.com are publishing a tie-in novelette called Cold War, which gives a flavour of the universe and the conflict that the Fleet are facing. Books 2 and 3 of the Spider Wars are out in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
I’ve got another big project coming too, which I have to keep under my hat for now! But I’m pretty excited about it. In addition – like I’m not busy enough – I’ve got a comic collaboration with Chuck Wendig on the way. Again, I really hope we can talk about it soon!
And I thought 2013 was a busy year… phew!
Hang WireHang Wire
Angry Robot Books
January 28, 2014 (US/Canada and eBook)
February 6, 2013 (UK)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
Cover Art: Will Staehle
Ted Hall is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer.
Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously, the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, and the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers.
Out in the city there are other new arrivals – immortals searching for an ancient power – a primal evil which, if unopposed, could destroy the world!
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Tensile Strength | Dual Identities | The Greatest Show | Bandits ]
A Tor.com Original
February 25, 2014
Dropped on a frozen planet under suspicious circumstances, a group of marines struggles to discover the true objective of their mission. “Cold War” is set in the same universe as Adam Christopher’s novel The Burning Dark.The Burning Dark
Spider Wars 1
Tor Books, March 25, 2014 (US/Canada)
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
Titan Books, March 25, 2014 (UK)
Cover Art: Will Staehle
Adam Christopher’s dazzling first novel, Empire State, was named the Best Book of 2012 by SciFi Now magazine. Now he explores new dimensions of time and space in The Burning Dark.
Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. But after saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace to oversee the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station well past its use-by date.
But all is not well aboard the U-Star Coast City. The station’s reclusive Commandant is nowhere to be seen, leaving Cleveland to deal with a hostile crew on his own. Persistent malfunctions plague the station’s systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. Alien shadows and whispers seem to haunt the lonely corridors and airlocks, fraying the nerves of everyone aboard.
Isolated and friendless, Cleveland reaches out to the universe via an old-fashioned space radio, only to tune in to a strange, enigmatic signal: a woman’s voice that seems to echo across a thousand light-years of space. But is the transmission just a random bit of static from the past—or a warning of an undying menace beyond mortal comprehension?
Prior NovelsEmpire State
Empire State 1
Angry Robot Books
December 27, 2011 (US/Canada and eBook)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
January 5, 2012 (UK)
Cover Art: Will Staehle
The stunning superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.Seven Wonders
It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State – a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York.
When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist.
Adam Christopher’s stunning debut novel heralds the arrival of an amazing new talent.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Pocket Universe | Heroes or Villains | Speak Easy | Loyalties Divided ]
Angry Robot Books
August 28, 2012 (US/Canada and eBook)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
September 6, 2012 (UK)
Cover Art: Will Staehle
Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling Metropolis of San Ventura – a city gripped in fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl.The Age Atomic
When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team Seven Wonders aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be…
File Under: Science Fiction [ Heroes In Action | A Double Cross | Kapow! | Tables Turned ]
Empire State 2
Angry Robot Book
March 26, 2013 (US/Canada and eBook)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
April 4, 2013 (UK)
Cover Art: Will Staehle
The sequel to Empire State – the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.
The Empire State is dying. The Fissure connecting the pocket universe to New York has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze and the populace are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle.
Meanwhile, in 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed and Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale.
As Rad uncovers a new threat to his city, Atoms For Peace prepare their army for a transdimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Splitting the Atoms | Angry Robots | Crossing | Universal Destruction ]
About AdamADAM CHRISTOPHER
is a novelist and comic writer. In 2010, as an editor, Christopher won a Sir Julius Vogel award, New Zealand’s highest science fiction honour. His debut novel, Empire State
, was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. In 2013, he was nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent, with Empire State
shortlisted for Best Novel. Born in New Zealand, he has lived in Great Britain since 2006.Website