Author interview with Aidan Harte

Author interview with Aidan Harte

Last year Aidan Harte's debut was published by Jo Fletcher Books, I only read it recently but let a great impression in terms of character development, world building and the story overall. Aidan Harte introduced the reader to interesting and engaging alternate version of Europe in Irenicon, in The Warring States this world is even more broadened and for it's these kind of sequel that really make a series, taking the story further. The third and final book of The Wave Trilogy, Spira Mirablis, will be published next year

Author Bio: 
Aidan Harte (b 1979) is a writer and sculptor.

His fantasy novels Irenicon and The Warring States are published by Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus. Spira Mirabilis, the conclusion of the trilogy, will be out in 2014.

He studied in the Florence Academy of Art. His sculpture can be seen in Sol Art Gallery in Dublin and The sculpture Company in London. He works in the classical tradition informed by the early 20th century expressionists.

He directed the IFTA winning, BAFTA nominated kids’ TV show, Skunk Fu, seen on BBC and Cartoon Network.

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Hi Aidan, welcome to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us

BP: First off, could you tell us a bit more about who Aidan is; what are your likes and dislikes, hobbies?
AH: My background is in visual art. My first job was in animation. In 2007 I decided the first TV series I directed was going to my last, and fled to Italy to learn classical sculpting. That’s where I begin writing Irenicon.



BP: Last year saw the release of you debut Irenicon, it was an impressive and ambitious debut. What gave you the idea behind to write the book.
AH: We have a fixed idea of scientists and artists as two distinct and hostile species, the former precise and detached, the latter scatterbrained and passionate. The schism occurred after the Renaissance. Before it, ingenious men had to be multi-disciplined: Donatello built towers; Brunelleschi sculpted saints. In times of war, these savants were expected to fight for their city states. They answered the call with an alacrity that makes nonsense of modern notions that pacifism and creativity must march in lockstep. One of these would-be warmongers was Leonardo da Vinci. Charged by Niccolo Machiavelli with destroying Pisa, da Vinci planned to ruin Florence’s rival by diverting the River Arno.  A high risk strategy, it failed spectacularly. Remarkably, it was just one of many attempts to harness water for warfare – some seventy years before, Brunelleschi had tried to flood Lucca.
Irenicon is set in Rasenna, a small town divided by the River Irenicon, a river that does not belong there. The river was sent by Concord, a city state ruled by engineers who have mastered Hydro-Warfare. Irenicon is the story of Sofia Scaligeri, the Contessa of Rasenna, and a young Concordian engineer who comes to build a bridge in the town shattered by his countrymen.

BP: Just recently you have been shortlisted for the David Gemmell “Morningstar” award. How did this make you feel? Do you think the pressure is on for book three?
AH: The work in hand becomes ones sole obsession so the nomination for Best Debut was unexpected and welcome, not least because David Gemmell’s Legend is one of the reasons I write Fantasy. Tolkien is like a great bloody Ent, such a huge presence in the forest of Fantasy that it’s hard to see alternatives to Jacobean syntax, invented languages, orcs and dragons. David Gemmell didn’t write Fantasy with a quill. I picture him hammering it out on a rickety old Remington with a bottle of Jack to hand. His barbarians and magicians are regular guys with chronic arthritis and performance anxiety. He’s funny, honest, and impatient to cut to the chase. Good company in other words.
The nomination doesn’t bring additional pressure for book three (for me anyway) but I hope it brings new readers. I think it’s my best so far in terms of execution. I should say it’s a daunting shortlist too: Saladin Ahmed, Miles Cameron, John Gwynne and Jay Kristoff are all powerful new voices.

BP: Writing your first novel can be daunting task. Did you manage to use things you learned in writing Irenicon for The Warring States?
AH: Oh my yes.

BP: What would you think are the key features that your series draws it strength from?
AH: I’ve always been attracted to speculative societies, utopias, dystopia and everything in between. The great strength of Fantasy and SF is that they allow us to take a walk around these never lands, see if we might like to live there or just rent. Etruria is a land of rival states and the trilogy drags Sofia from top to bottom (and beyond) so readers get to spend time in many different cities: austere Concord, luxurious Ariminum, corrupt Veii, bucolic Salerno and more. It’s a slow burn but the ambition of Concord finally forces all these states into a total war.

BP: In The Wave Trilogy you introduce us to an alternate version of Europa, did you have to do a lot research to keep certain facts straight while making sure the other alternate history details were build up from the actual events but with your own twist?
AH: Many Fantasies have settings that are thinly disguised history. For example, Dune is very clearly based on the birth of Islam. That’s not criticism: Herbert admitted as much and I love the first book of Dune. I took a different approach: Etruria is not based on Italy, it is Italy – albeit one with a history diverted at certain key junctures. That starting point ensured my speculations did not get, well, too speculative and were always anchored in a certain reality.
I read history constantly so I guess I’m always researching – ideally it’s all absorbed into the silent background of the story, and what keeps people reading is Sofia’s journey.



BP: In writing The Wave Trilogy, what was your biggest challenge so far?
AH: Anyone dolt can cook one ingredient, the art is cooking several dishes simultaneously. After Sofia flees to the Holy Land In book two, Rasenna begins falling apart. It was fun but very tricky to keep the divergent stories paralleling each other in interesting ways, timing it so that they came to the boil together. I marvel at Dickens’ ability to juggle his serialized stories. He couldn’t rewrite earlier chapters because they were already published – the mind boggles.

BP: Have you encountered any specific problems in writing either Irenicon or The Warring States?
AH: See above. Although I didn’t have it as hard as Dickens, there were occasions when I found I had written myself into corners. A trilogy is like a Ponzi scheme: you can make up anything you want but there comes a terrible day when you have to make good on your promises. For the first two books, I was running around town with a stolen credit card having the time of my life, but for third book I had to do a lot of serious thinking to bring all of the crazy notions to fruition. That said if I had to do it over, I’d do it again. That sweaty-palmed scramble is writing. Every author is Scheherazade spinning another yarn to avoid decapitation for just one more hour, one more night.

BP: If you would be given the chance to rewrite any of the scenes from either book, would you do so? And if yes, which ones and why?
AH: No, I wouldn’t. That’s not to say it’s perfect, just that that perfection is not what we’re after with books.
No craftsman ever attains perfection, and if he thinks he does, his standards are too low: the most one can hope, as Beckett says, is to fail better. Short stories and poems need to be cut fine as jewels but books are big baggy things, at least the ones I love. If you can’t find a paragraph that could be cut or rewritten in Moby Dick, you’re just not looking, but why interrupt such a terrific yarn? With any craft – sculpting, writing – you get better by doing. I know lots of sculptors more talented than me that are so terrified by imperfection that they don’t commit to bronze. They never improve because they never risk failure. I don’t want to hide away in an attic. You grow by committing to your work, warts and all.

BP: What do you like most about writing Science Fiction and Fantasy?
AH: The porous borders. Only a few bold authors, like China Mieville and David Mitchell, are exploiting them. Some insist Speculative Fiction begins with Frankenstein. As a distinct publishing phenomenon, that’s probably true but there’s a longer and broader continuum encompassing Kafka and Borges and stretching back from Rabelais to Homer.

BP: The Wave Trilogy will be concluded in the third book, Spira Mirabilis, do you have any other future plans in writing that you would like to pursue?
AH: Something entirely different. I’m beginning to know my way around the book writing gearbox now so I want to go for a spin. History – its inertia, its vagaries – is one of the overarching themes of the Wave Trilogy Orwell said those who don’t know the past are condemned to repeat it. That’s wrong: it doesn’t matter if you’re oblivious or informed, we repeat the past because we’re human. At best, history gives one a sense of proportion. I’m contemplating trying straight Historical Fiction next. It’s a different genre with equally demanding readers and it scares the bejesus out of me. As it should. You must do something that terrifies you every couple of years. At the very least it’ll be interesting experiment – I suspect that even if I begin with something grounded in reality, my penchant for the fantastical will sneak in some fairy folk and bugaloos.

BP: Could you reveal a bit of what we can expect in Spira Mirabilis?
AH: Peace. War. Not necessarily in that order.

BP: and just lastly, if you would have to recommend your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
AH: I could make another list of pure Fantasy but I’ll try for something more ecumenical:
Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and The Trial by Franz Kafka.

BP: Thanks you for your time Aidan and good luck with writing up the conclusion of The Wave Trilogy.
AH: Thank you very much.

Read my thoughts on Aidan Harte's books here
Full review of Irenicon
Full review of The Warring States

To learn more about Aidan Harte visit his website at: www.aidanharte.com/‎ 
The Wave Trilogy is published by Jo Fletcher Books 

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For those who haven't heard the new yet: Irenicon has been shortlisted for The Gemmel Awards in the category of Morningstar for best debut/newcomer to fantasy.

Read all about it on the Jo Fletcher Blog  here. There is also a handy link which allows you to cast your vote! 

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