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Author interview with Libby McGugan

Author interview with Libby McGugan

One book that was i was looking forward to this year was The Eidolon. From the first time I read the synopsis I knew that this was a book for me especially the promise of blending science and philosophy. However when I started reading the book, it was different than I had assumed (in a good way!!), the book started of normal showing how the protagonist Robert Strong is coping with a difficult relation and then all of the sudden the story takes a turn into a whole new direction! High tech thriller science fiction, the part is was hoping for! What makes this story powerful is that even though the book is short, 250 pages, the world building is immense and it feels that it doesn't stop in our universe... If you want to read something refreshing make sure you pick-up a copy of The Eidolon.  

Author bio:
Libby McGugan was born 1972 in Airdrie, a small town east of Glasgow in Scotland, to a Catholic mother and a Protestant-turned-atheist father, who loved science. She enjoyed a mixed diet of quantum physics, spiritual instinct, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Her ambition was to grow up and join the Rebel alliance in a galaxy Far, Far away. Instead she went to Glasgow University and studied medicine.

A practising doctor, she has worked in Scotland, in Australia with the Flying Doctors service, and for a few months, in a field hospital in the desert. She loves travelling and the diversity that is the way different people see the world, and has been trekking in the Himalaya of Bhutan, potholing in Sarawak, backpacking in Chile and Europe and diving in Cairns.

Her biggest influences are Joseph Campbell, Lao Tzu, David Bohm, Brian Greene and Yoda.


Hi Libby, Welcome to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions.
Thanks Jasper, a pleasure to be here.

BP: First off could you give us a short introduction as to who Libby McGugan is? What are you hobbies, likes/dislikes?
I like life. I’m essentially an optimist. I’d say I’ve found a richness in life through writing, music (I play the fiddle), travelling, working out my world view and being happy with it, and connecting with people who get that richness. I don’t like intolerance and cynicism. (But is that an intolerance? :o) ) I also love chai tea.

BP: The Eidolon is your debut book, when did you decide that you wanted to become an author?
LMcG: I didn’t really decide to become an author at all. I just had a story that kept nagging me, so I began to write it down. I remember the day I committed to doing it seriously, though – 17th June 2009, on my front doorstep. But I committed to writing the story, rather than being an author, if you see what I mean. I had written a children’s novel before and through that I found that I loved the process of writing. I’m always a little astonished at how plot lines weave together if you give them enough incubation time, and when they do it’s feels like you’ve been handed a present. 

BP: If you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, what would it be? LMcG: A thriller that explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat story line featuring dark matter, the CERN laboratory, and the boundary between the living and the dead.

BP: Writing a debut is a daunting task, how did you go about and tackle it? Did you learn any valuable lessons along the way?
LMcG: I worked for a year with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy who reviewed the early versions of the manuscript. That was a really valuable kind of a crash-course-apprenticeship. I take on board feedback when I get it, and I’ve found that, even if it’s hard to hear, there’s usually something worthwhile in what people are telling you. I rewrote the whole manuscript after some fairly direct feedback from an experienced publisher and agent at a writing festival. I did give up for a week, but then the story was tugging at my sleeve again. I’ve also learned that I write best when I think from the end. So I imagine the satisfaction of completing a scene / chapter or whatever, and feeling really pleased with it – before I begin writing. For me, it’s a fast track and hugely rewarding.

BP: There is a lot of hard science in The Eidolon, in particular several labs like CERN but also a lot gadety stuff, did you have to carry out extra research to get the facts straight?
 LMcG: I grew up with my dad’s passion for quantum physics, so I learned some things about it on the way, and I’d say my medical background helps with some of the science related issues. I’ve accrued a kind of general conceptual understanding of what physicists are discovering, and I enjoyed researching things a bit more thoroughly to get things as straight as I could for the story. I visited CERN a few years ago with this in mind. As for the cyber-attack jargon, I asked a friend ;)

BP: When you were writing The Eidolon did you encounter any problems?
LMcG: I suppose the biggest problem was the feedback I mentioned above, from the writing festival. It seemed harsh at the time, but really that’s because they were right, and I knew it. It just took me a while to admit it. I’d always had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t quite working as it was. Once I let go of the rigid ideas I’d had before and opened up to new possibilities, it flowed much more easily.

BP: What were the most difficult and satisfying parts of The Eidolon to write?
LMcG: The most difficult part was probably the CERN scenes. I’d seen one of the control rooms, and read lots of stuff online. I hope the physicists will forgive me J
The most satisfying part would be taking some big philosophical and scientific concepts and tying them together in an unfolding plot – there’s such a wealth of material there that you can really run off into the horizon. Which I did. Also writing about Michael Casimir, who’s based on my dad.

BP: If you would be given the chance to redo or rewrite any scene of The Eidolon would you do so? And if yes which one?
LMcG: There are a few things I’d rewrite given the chance, but if I told you them all, that wouldn’t help sell the book, right?! I suppose the main thing is the pace. When I first read the advance copy, I was sure the printer had lost some pages – there was so much more to happen and it seemed like not enough pages left!

BP: The story of The Eidolon is a blend of a lot of themes, what gave you the idea to write the story of The Eidolon?
LMcG: It came I think from my upbringing. My mum’s a catholic and my dad was a protestant-turned-atheist who loved science. So I’ve been mulling over the interface between those worldviews for a while now. It made sense to write it from a pragmatic scientist’s viewpoint, to allow him to explore some contradictory ideas through his experiences.

BP: The part of the book that surprised me the most were introduction of the actual Eidolon. In this you added quite a mythical aspect to the book, with this the book steered away from just hard science. But what they can do does link back to hard science - how did you come across the idea to show the story in this way, what were you intentions?
LMcG: I think that relates to the answer above. Science as we understand it, comes from a 17th Century reductionist viewpoint. But, while reductionism has introduced us to some incredible things like the quantum world and cellular function, we lose something of the whole when we take things apart. So the spirit of life – the thing that makes us feel, that qualifies our experience, to me is life. It’s too big to ignore. The Eidolon represent that spirit - to me science and spirit are essentially different versions of the same truth.

BP: The Eidolon is the first in a planned trilogy. Can you tell a bit more about what is in store for the later books?
LMcG: Well … in the following stories, we find out the extent of Amos’s intention and just what he’s planning. There are more characters, different concepts - again some science-based and some mystical. Robert and the Eidolon have some tough times ahead…

BP: Do you have any other project besides The Eidolon trilogy that you are working on or that you wish to pursue in the near future?LMcG: In writing the book, I could see the scenes vividly and hear the music to it, and in fact the same cast have been playing it in my head since the beginning. In effect, to me, it’s a movie. I write to movie soundtracks, from composers like Hans Zimmer and Steve Jablonsky. So I’m writing the screenplay now, and it’s a lot of fun.

BP: And just lastly, if you would have to recommend your 5 favourite books, which would they be?
Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist; Scarlet Thomas –The End of Mr Y; David Mitchell – Ghostwritten; Brian Greene – The Fabric of the Cosmos; Rupert Sheldrake – The Science Delusion;

BP: Thank you for you time Libby and good luck with writing the sequel!
LMcG: You’re welcome – and thank you!

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