Author interview with Neal Asher



Author interview with Neal Asher

Author bio:
I’ve been an engineer, barman, skip lorry driver, coalman, boat window manufacturer, contract grass cutter and builder. Now I write science fiction books, and am slowly getting over the feeling that someone is going to find me out, and can call myself a writer without wincing and ducking my head. As professions go, I prefer this one: I don’t have to clock-in, change my clothes after work, nor scrub sensitive parts of my body with detergent. I think I’ll hang around. 



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Hi Neal, welcome over at 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 Neal Asher is? What are you likes, dislikes and hobbies besides writing?
NA: Well I guess I can be defined as Neal Asher the SF writer now. As for likes, dislikes and hobbies they are all in a state of flux at the moment since I’ve gone through a life-changing event. This January’s release of Dark Intelligence also marks one year since I watched my wife die of bowel cancer. A lot of the things I used to like I just haven’t got back into e.g. I haven’t read a book for a year. A lot of the things I disliked no longer bother me much. Also my hobbies have changed. I do a lot of walking now. I spend my life divided between England and Crete so additional hobbies here are spending far too much time on Facebook and Twitter – that hasn’t changed. Out there, as well as tramping round the mountains, I swim, kayak, repair my house and grow all sorts of stuff in my garden there, but mainly chillies. I like chillies.

BP: You have been writing for quite a while now do you still know when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
NA: Sort of. My standard answer to is that when I was in my teens I was a Jack of all trades but master of none – I had many interests including writing. By my early to mid twenties I decided to concentrate on one of them if I was to make anything of it. I chose writing because in writing an interest in and knowledge of other stuff can be incorporated.

BP: You are one of the leading Science Fiction authors of Britain. Have you ever thought your books would be turned into such a success?
NA: I of course hoped for that but while spending 20 years running at the publishing brick wall with my head I had my doubts. By the time Macmillan took me on I’d decided that I’d been on that course for so long that it was too late to give up and try something else.  

BP: The book you wrote, Gridlinked, started off the Polity universe. What gave you the idea behind the Polity universe?
NA: It grew out of the short stories I was writing before Macmillan took me on. Some of the same elements would appear in different stories, like the Runcibles, U-space, Polity AIs, the alien enemy the Prador, the Golem androids and so forth. I naturally came to the decision that I wanted everything in (kitchen sink and all) so I could have a big enough canvas on which to sketch out any story I cared to tell.

BP: In the last couple of years you have written a trilogy featuring a different universe, The Owner Trilogy. With Dark Intelligence you return back to the Polity universe. What was the thought behind this?
NA: The Owner universe is not new. I wrote a number of stories featuring this character that appeared in my collection called The Engineer (later updated to The Engineer ReConditioned). However, those stories where set far in the future, while the Owner books tell the story of his genesis. I wanted to do something different because I was aware that how by sticking to what I was doing I could become stale. I was also aware that by doing something different I could end up being pilloried by the fans. I went with it because I would rather have people complaining about the lack of a Polity book than them saying my latest Polity book is shite, because I’ve become stale. I returned to the Polity with Dark Intelligence happily, feeling refreshed.

BP: Dark Intelligence is to be published this February, if you would have to sell the book with a single sentence how would it go?
NA: What you expect from the Polity and more.

BP: Writing a story within an already established universe must have been difficult, how did you go about planning to write Dark Intelligence.
NA: I did have to do some rereading of The Technician and some other books to check detail, also a short story called Alien Archaeology that features that Dark Intelligence – the black AI Penny Royal. But beyond that I planned it like I plan all my books, which is to say not at all. For me it all happens at the keyboard.

BP: Did you encounter any difficulties when you were writing Dark Intelligence?
NA: Nothing beyond the usual i.e. occasionally having to strip out a proliferation of plot lines or remove the odd character. A story published in Asimov’s called The Other Gun was the result of that. I cut out a couple of characters and the plotline involving them and turned them into that story. I have another chunk of text like that on file which I’ll also turn into a short story too, or maybe even something longer. But overall I wrote Dark Intelligence, and the ensuing two books, very quickly. In fact I’d written the entire trilogy to first draft well before the first book of it was due for delivery to Macmillan.

BP: What was the hardest part in writing Dark Intelligence?
NA: The same as it is with any book or series of books: writing a satisfying ending. I have to tie off all my plot threads and avoid like the plague a deus ex machina. In this case I had to write such endings for each of the three books and the trilogy as a whole.  

BP: Besides the hardest part, which scene, chapter or happening did you like writing about the most?
NA: Well that would be telling too much! But being vague I guess I can say the last section of the very last book…

BP: Gridlinked was published back in 2001 for the first time, do you think the vision of Science Fiction has changed in any way when you look at it now?
NA: Only in that it has continued changing as it has always changed by incorporating new technologies.

BP: Dark Intelligence marks a new series, do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?
NA: I am setting forth on writing a follow up to the Owner books.

BP: Science Fiction is a very broad genre everything and much more is possible. What do you like most about the Science Fiction genre?
NA: Sensawunda.

BP: If you would have to give your top five favorite books, which would they be?
NA: I’m guessing you want SF books here so, off the top of my head: Half-Past Human – T J Bass, Use of Weapons – Ian M Banks, Blindsight – Peter Watts, Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan and Wyrms – Orson Scott Card. But those are just the ones that came into my mind just now. Ask me again in a few days and you’ll probably get a completely different list.

BP: and last, can you tell us a bit more about what is in store for the readers of Dark Intelligence?
NA: An intricate story concerning transformation, the effects of memory editing and war time atrocities, and the redefinition of death. All liberally spiced with far future technology, grotesque alien life, violence and exploding spaceships. As ever. 

BP: Thank you very much for your time Neal and good luck with your future writing!

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