Author Interview with Adam Christopher

Author interview with Adam Christopher

Adam Christopher is an author that has gotten some very rave reviews from both the press and bloggers, his books haven't by far escaped my notice but I just hadn't gotten the time to read any. Yet. I got a copy of Hang Wire from Angry Robot and well I can now safely say that his praise is well founded. I thoroughly enjoyed Hang Wire, I had some thoughts about how the story would go but Adam Christopher shows an great feat in story telling and throws more than a few twists and turns along the way. Furthermore I like it when authors go out there and do something new to a genre and really leave their own mark and that is precisely what Adam Christopher does.

Author bio: 
ADAM 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.


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

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Adam Christopher is? What are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
AC: Hello, my name is Adam. I’m from New Zealand, but I’ve lived in the UK since 2006. I collect Lego, I’m a little bit obsessed with comics (my specialist subject for Mastermind would be Hawkgirl), and I drink a lot of tea. I also watch a lot of TV – my favourite shows are Person of Interest, Elementary, Justified, Homicide: Life on the Street), I play guitar and am teaching myself the banjo. I’m interested in American history – particularly New York City history. I’ve won a Sir Julius Vogel Award (as an editor), I don’t like olives, I do like cake.

I’m also a writer, and am published by Angry Robot, Titan, and Tor – all variously science fiction/fantasy. So far, anyway. I’m a fan of Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Lawrence Block, Greg Rucka and Lauren Beukes.

BP: Your debut was Empire State, since then you have written quite a few more, do you still remember when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
AC: There’s two parts to this answer. I’ve written properly (as in, actually sat down to write my stories) since I was about 5 or 6, as it was part of the regular schedule at school. There have been periods where it took a bit of a backseat – while I was at university, for instance – but it’s always been there.

Deciding to become an author – that is, deciding that this was actually something I wanted to do professionally – was a bit of an epiphany I had around 2005 or 2006. Writing is one thing, but taking writing seriously – even if you are already writing every day – was something I had to figure out, that moment when I realized that writing was the most important thing I was doing, and to “make it” I had to work a hell of lot harder than I was. I suspect that’s an important moment for every writer – and for everyone trying to figure out not what they want to be doing, but what they need to be doing.

BP: Hang Wire, your latest books that is set to be released by Angry Robots in January, the theme is different from Empire State and Seven Wonders. What gave you the idea to write Hang Wire.
AC:  Hang Wire is actually based on a true story. I’m serious!

I was in San Francisco in 2009, and one night went out to dinner in Chinatown. At the end of the meal we all got fortune cookies, and as you expect, the fortunes inside were a mix of old proverbs and half-hearted words of wisdom. I was the last person to open my cookie, and the thing sort of shattered when I pressed it. While all the other fortune cookies had a single strip of paper in them, mine was packed with fortunes which spilled out across the table – all of which said “You are the master of every situation”. Which seemed fairly profound for a fortune cookie, so I kept a bunch of the strips. I still have them somewhere.

It occurred to me on the way back to the hotel that that would make a great secret origin for a superhero – someone hides their power in a magic fortune cookie, which explodes in the face of the unlikely recipient. Recalling the fortune cookie later, I decided to see where the story took me. It turns out it wasn’t a superhero story at all, but one involving old gods, the last of their kind, wandering around San Francisco in search of an awakening power.

BP: Having written several other books prior to Hang Wire, were you able to use any experience gained from your earlier books when you were writing Hang Wire.
AC: The process of writing is all about learning, and certainly the way I write a book now is different to how I did three or four years ago. Some things get easier – plotting, the nuts and bolts of writing, how to manage time and deadlines. With these things taken care of you start to find other, more nebulous things coming out – things like voice and theme. Which is why Stephen King is absolutely correct when he says you have to write one million words before you get to the good stuff.

BP: Hang Wire will be published in January, here is your chance to sell you book with one sentence. How would it go?
AC: A Hawaiian God of Death and a warrior-king from ancient Korean legend team up to stop a circus possessed by an evil cold darkness that fell from a passing comet from waking up the primal evil wrapped around the tectonic plates beneath San Francisco, while a serial killer stalks the city at night.

And… breathe…

BP: If you would be given the chance to retract your book from publishing to make one final adjustment, would you do so? And if yes which part and why?
AC: Art is never finished, only abandoned. So the saying goes, anyway. Which makes this a dangerous question to ask a writer!

BP: The Urban Fantasy genre market is competitive, where do you think Hang Wire sets itself apart with, what are its strengths?
AC: I can see the argument, but I’m not sure I buy it – all genre markets are competitive, whether it’s urban fantasy, or space opera, or crime. I can see that the term “urban fantasy” conjures up a certain kind of book, or story, or characters, but if you break it down it’s really a very broad definition. Hang Wire is urban fantasy in that it features fantastical elements in a real world setting – magic, ancient gods, and supernatural space weirdness in the middle of San Francisco. But like most of what I write, it’s more a blend of genres – there’s some crime, some horror, some fantasy, and even, if you squint a bit, a tiny bit of science fiction. It’s also hard to look at it objectively, because whenever I write I don’t sit down and say “I am going to write an urban fantasy” or “I’m going to start a new space opera.” I write the idea I want to write. Genre is largely irrelevant.

BP: Did you encounter and specific problems when you were writing Hang Wire?
AC:  Every book presents a new challenge – writing a 100,000-word story that is not only logical and consistent but interesting and entertaining is hard work. For Hang Wire, I had to keep a close eye on the geography and history of San Francisco, which required a lot of checking and re-checking references – everything from books about the earthquakes of 1906 and 1989 to Google Maps street view of certain locations.

So any specific problems I encountered – for example, where Mrs Winters would have lived, which bugged me for a couple of weeks – were all solved at some point. There’s nothing that a writer can’t fix!

BP: What was the hardest part in writing Hang Wire?
AC: Writing Hang Wire was actually a fairly complex process. I’d written the first draft of it three years ago, then set it aside, knowing that it needed a lot of work. In the meantime, I’d written a lot of other stuff and had developed and  changed as a writer, so when I unearthed that old manuscript I was a little surprised at the state it was in. So I rewrote it almost from scratch, using the original more like a very detailed outline. That original draft was the main story only, but as I was working on one of Joel’s early scenes at the circus I realised he’d been on his own journey, and that there was a story there to tell as well.

Which meant the new manuscript was really two jobs in one – I was rewriting the main novel, and writing a brand new 20,000-word novella about the villain to interleave with the narrative.

BP: Besides the hardest part, which part/chapter/scene of the book did you enjoy writing the most?
AC: Joel’s interludes are my favourite parts – it was an opportunity to write this little story-within-a-story, and Joel’s voice was so strong for me that he was a joy to write. They say that writing villains is more fun than writing heroes, and I’m not entirely sure I believe that. But, Joel is certainly one of my favourite characters in anything I’ve written, I think. I’m tempted to bring him back for something, somehow. He needs to be the star of his own book.

BP:  A lot of Urban Fantasy stories take place in London or New York, for Hang Wire you chose the premise of San Francisco, why did you choose this spot? And had you considered other cities as well?
AC: I chose San Francisco because that was where my experience with the fortune cookie took place, so there was never any other setting in my mind. San Francisco is one of my favourite cities, and it reminds me a lot of Auckland, where I’m from. Having a deep interest in a location certainly helps with the research – as I don’t actually live in San Francisco, there was a lot of work making sure I got the detail right. Fortunately, as well as the time I spent there, I had some friends in the city who were able to act as my research assistants as needed.

BP: Two books of you will be published in 2014, Hang Wire and The Burning Dark. Do you have other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future? New series to start or continuing with the Empire State series?
AC:  The Burning Dark is the first in an ongoing series called The Spider Wars – that’s not an official subtitle, but a useful catch-all. The books aren’t quite sequels – they are linked, but it’s not one continuous story. Characters will appear and re-appear as the Fleet’s war again the Spiders continues. They’re all space opera-ish, but I can move around within each novel and play with different genres and tropes. The Burning Dark is scary space opera, while the sequel, The Jovian Conspiracy – which I’m writing now – is more like Blake’s 7 meets The Manchurian Candidate. The Jovian Conspiracy is out in 2015, and the third book, tentatively titled The Stars Below (think The Hunt for Red October meets I Am Legend), is out in 2016.

I’ve got a third Empire State novel planned, but we’ll see if I can fit that in – 2014 is looking pretty busy! Once The Jovian Conspiracy is done I’ve got two more novels to write, and there are also a couple of other projects, including collaborations, in another form – I can’t wait to talk about them. But I’m looking forward to 2014 immensely. Should be a fun year.

BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy and science fiction in their own way. What do you like most about reading and writing fantasy and science fiction?
AC: The thing about SFF is that you can do anything – from a story set in the modern day, in the modern world, with only the tiniest hint of the speculative, to all-out secondary-world fantasy or distant space opera. You can also mix in other genres – crime, horror, romance, whatever you like. So it seems to have a huge flexibility that other genres might not have.

When it comes to reading, I probably read as much SFF as I do of other genres, such as crime and mystery. I suspect there is a straight crime novel in me waiting to be written.

BP: And just lastly, if you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
AC: Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin – an insane, epic, magical, doorstopper of a novel. It’s about time travel, cheating death, building rainbow bridges to heaven, parallel worlds… it’s also the hardest novel to try and describe. And it has a flying horse. There is a film version coming in 2014, but they’ve chopped the 800-page epic down to something which looks more like a time-travelling romance story. Which it isn’t. Helprin’s prose is super-dense, and it’s easily the most complex novel I’ve ever read (and probably the most unfilmable).

Veronica, by Nicholas Christopher – like Winter’s Tale, this could be called magical realism. Like Winter’s Tale, it is also set in New York. It’s about a magician returning from the dead, and while completely weird, every single thing locks together by the end in a remarkable feat of plotting.

‘Salem’s Lot – Stephen King. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King – this was a toss-up between ‘Salem’s Lot and The Dead Zone. Let’s face it, they’re both amazing!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams – Possibly the one book I have read and re-read the most. A work of genius.

The Princess Bride, by William Goldsmith – My first encounter with The Princess Bride was, like most people I suspect, the film (which is one of my favourites). I first read the book just a couple of years ago, and was blown away by it. It’s very clever, and quite beautiful.

BP: Thank you for time Adam and good luck with your future writing!
AC: Thank you!

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