Margaret Atwood, Emily St. John Mandel, Ann Leckie, China Miéville. Today I’m overwhelmed to be interviewing an author who ranks among these greats. In 2016 Adrian Tchaikovsky won what is considered to be the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain. The Arthur C. Clarke Award.
In print since 2008, Adrian found this next level of success with his novel, Children of Time.
Firstly Adrian thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me. Can you tell me about your experience of winning such a coveted award?
It was insane, frankly. When I wrote Children of Time I didn’t really think anyone would publish it, let alone that it would do so well. Even getting shortlisted was beyond my wildest hopes, and the actual win was a profoundly unreal experience. This was definitely the level-up point. Things have been very different ever since.
How did your journey start?
I started writing with the intent to get published when I was 18 or so, and then wrote an awful lot of rubbish until finally getting something picked up at the age of 35, 10 years ago now. It was a damn hard game to get into (see the 15 years or so of failing to do so), after which things have rumbled along fairly well.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
As I write, I have a day job, although I’m looking to make the big jump and finally go full time writer shortly. I play a lot of games – board, RPG and a modicum of World of Warcraft. Between all that and family there’s not much room for anything else. In the past I’ve had more time-consuming hobbies like LARP and amateur dramatics, but those have fallen by the wayside somewhat.
I dabbled with D&D, Mage and Vampire The Masquerade at university but since then life has taken over. I even attended a few low key LARP sessions for VTM but it wasn’t for me. What RPGs do you play?
My mainstay was always D&D and I’ve been an enthusiastic adopter of the recent 5th edition rules. I’ve played a fair range of other games in the past, including Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, Lot5R and especially Ars Magica, which gave rise to some of the best campaigns I ever ran. There’s also a recent surge of new games I’m itching to try, like Blades in the Dark, The Spire, Legacy and Overlight.
And all this with a day job?
Yes I am a lawyer, but shortly won’t be. I’ve been part-time for a few years now as the writing has built up speed. I’m right on the cusp, and what that took was the boost my writing career got from the enormous (absurd, even) success of Children of Time, which turned the prospect from a pipe dream to a real possibility.
What area of law do you practice and do you think your training and the work you get involved in has coloured your writing. I understand this question sounds dumb if you mainly do conveyancing!
I’ve worked mostly in civil litigation – money and housing claims. There’s the occasional jibe in my writing about it, mostly for my own amusement. One of the characters in Cage of Souls is a brawling criminal lawyer.
Can you tell me about your writing process?
I tend to get out into town to write, away from distractions (like the aforementioned World of Warcraft). I use Word as my handwriting is incredibly laborious and illegible. I’d not be where I am without word processing software.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Well obviously one starts each session by sacrificing a chicken to the gods of plot continuity, but not other than that.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Take criticism, finish drafts, pick yourself up when they knock you down.
Do you mix in author circles or are you intentionally keeping to yourself?
I am very fond of the company of other authors, and I’ve gained a number of good friends out of the trade. It’s a lonely business by nature and so getting together with people who share your frame of reference is very welcome.
What does the future hold for your work?
I tend to have a lot of irons in the fire. Current upcoming projects are Cage of Souls and Children of Ruin
Can you tell me about these novels?
Children of Ruin is the sequel to Children of Time and follows on from the hook in the final chapter of that book: the spiders and their humans are off into the cosmos following the faint suggestion that someone – or something – else survived old Earth.
Cage of Souls is a book about the end of the world: in the far future under a dying sun the last human city exiles its dissidents to the festering jungles, where they are caught between a brutal prison regime and something else lurking out in the trees.
Do you have an elevator pitch?
It’s a kind of box that takes you from one floor to another of a building. Seriously I hate elevator pitches. Joe Abercrombie’s just posted about back cover copy on Twitter – if our skillset was designed to reduce an idea to 25 words then we wouldn’t be writing 150,000 word novels. However I guess the description above stands in for it.
When are the books due for release?
Cage of Souls is February/March next year, Children of Ruin will be May. Busy busy.
With the crazy success of Children of Time are you worried you just rolled a critical on a D20 and you won’t be able to replicate the magic with Children of Ruin or do you think you’ve matured as a writer and you’re now in your stride?
I hope that my writing is always developing. And I think anyone with a big, unexpected success is going to worry that will be it (and the past landscape is full of supremely talented writers who hit the scene and then faded away without any real explanation). All I can do is keep writing stuff I think is good and interesting, and hope that other people agree enough to buy and read it. It did mean that writing the sequel was a particularly high-stakes game, as I know a lot of people have only read Children of Time, and Children of Ruin would be their next experience of my work, and they’d have high expectations.
What else are you working on?
A new standalone SF book which I am going to try ardently to have titled The Brain Garden although probably I won’t be allowed.
Do you plan any significant publicity for the new releases in the new year, especially as you may be ‘full time’?
This sort of thing is handled by the publisher, and frankly I suspect I’d be terrible at it. I shrink from self-promotion, and it brings out the imposter syndrome in droves. It’s a definite skill in and of itself.
Just before the interview was published the covers for Adrian’s novels Children of Ruin, Cage of Souls and another novel, Walking to Aldebaran, were released and I’m excited to be able to share them with you here.
It just leaves me to thank Adrian for agreeing to this interview and to wish you every success with all your future novels. I’m late to the party and have only just started reading Children of Time, but I’m thrilled to have found such a gem. All Adrian’s novels are available now from Amazon, including pre-orders for his new work. You can follow Adrian through Twitter or via his website.
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews soon. I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I work towards publishing my debut novel, In The End. If you’re an author, or work in the industry and you’ve got an interesting story to tell, drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org