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Author Interview with E.J. Swift

Author Interview with E.J. Swift

Author bio:
E. J. (Emma) Swift is an English writer who lives and works in London. Her short fiction has previously been published in Interzone magazine. Osiris is her first novel, and the first in a trilogy: The Osiris Project. When not writing, Emma can usually be found festooned with cats, attempting to grow things in an urban garden, or practising aerial circus skills.


BP: First off could you give us a short introduction as to who E. J. Swift is? What are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
Writing has always been my first love, but if I wasn’t spending most of my free time writing, I’d probably have run away with the circus by now (that still might happen). I’ve always loved dance and in the last few years I’ve become addicted to aerial circus skills. Other than that, home life entails a lot of tea, a lot of coffee, and two very cheeky cats.

BP: When and where did you decide that you wanted to become an author?
I’ve written stories as long as I can remember. So I never really thought about becoming an author as such, I just kept writing - and the things I wrote got progressively longer.

BP: Osiris was your debut and first full length book, how did you go about and plan to write Osiris?
I’d written a few novels before Osiris, and experimented with different forms - short fiction and a couple of plays. Then I wrote a novella called The Last Balloon Flight, about a journey across a flooded world, a sort of fairy tale which was partly inspired by my interest in climate change. From that initial piece the concept for Osiris, an ocean-bound city, evolved.

BP: You have written several short stories prior to Osiris, were you able to use any experience that you gained from those short stories when you were writing Osiris?
I actually started out working on novels rather than short fiction - I feel more at home with the longer form. Short fiction feels like a whole other craft. But hopefully with each project, I’ve developed as a writer. That goes for not only the craft but also for the discipline of writing.

BP: What gave you the idea/inspiration behind The Osiris Project?
I had a very strong visual concept for the first book - a divided city, very cold, very claustrophobic, with these tall glittering towers in the middle of the ocean - whose inhabitants believed they were the last people on earth. The characters of the first novel felt very much a product of their environment. As the trilogy widened, I was asking questions about why the city was there. What was its mysterious history and what would its future hold?

BP: Have you gained valuable experience when you were writing Osiris/Cataveiro that you will be able to use in your future works?
With Osiris I had the leisure of developing the novel at my own pace. With Cataveiro, I think the experience of working to deadline has been very useful (if at times terrifying). It’s also been a challenge expanding the world of Osiris, whilst developing a novel which could stand on its own, which I was keen to do with this one.

BP: Writing a debut can be hard but writing the sequel can sometime be even harder. It can either make or break a series. Did you make a special “game-plan” when you were writing Cataveiro?
I’m not really a planner. Which can get me into trouble half-way through... With Cataveiro it was more about having a sense of how I wanted the book to feel. A sense of the atmosphere. With Osiris, I had a very closed, claustrophobic atmosphere, and that was reflected in the tight two character narrative structure. With Cataveiro, I wanted to break out of that both formally and in terms of location, and produce something a bit different.

BP: What has been so far the hardest part in writing The Osiris Project?
 Probably planning the third book - with Cataveiro I get to explore a whole new landscape, but with book 3, it's pulling all the plot strands together. 

BP: Besides writing the hardest part, which part of The Osiris Project did you enjoy writing about the most?
 There’s a scene where Vikram (one of my main characters in the first book) is trapped in an underwater cell, going slowly mad. Writing that scene definitely appealed to my darker side. And in Cataveiro I loved writing all the fables that are told about the origins of the Patagonian city.

BP: Cataveiro, the second book in the Osiris project will be released late February. If you would be given the chance to rewrite any particular chapter or scene, would you do so? And if yes, which part and why?
At this stage I still feel too close to the book to want to change anything. But ask me in a year’s time and I might have a different answer!

BP: If you would have to sell Cataveiro with a single sentence how would it go?
A shipwreck, a survivor, a pilot, an exile, and a city of festering dreams...

BP: Cataveiro will be the second book in the Osiris Project, have you already mapped out how many books the series will run?
It’s going to be a trilogy, so I’m working on the last one now.

BP: Can you already give a sneak peek as to what the readers might encounter in the third book?
The first book was set entirely in the city of Osiris, and the second book moves outside of it. The third book will bring those worlds together, with potentially devastating consequences...

BP: Do you have any other projects that you would like to pursue besides The Osiris Project?
 I’ve got a novel in the drawer waiting to be reworked; once I’ve finished with the third book I’ll be returning to that. It’s quite a different kind of project, more playful. I think I’ll want to move away from dystopia for a bit after this.

BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy and science fiction in their own way. What do you like most about reading and writing it?
As a writer, I like the freedom it gives you, and I like the way you can use it as a tool to reflect and extrapolate things about the contemporary world. As a reader, I want to be transported and amazed, and speculative fiction does that wonderfully.

BP: And just lastly if you would have to give your top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
It always seems wrong to have favourites... but just a few of the books that have inspired me are David Mitchell’s Number9Dream, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad, Peter_Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, and Angélica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial. All brilliant writers.

BP: Thank you for your time Emma, and good luck with your future writing!
Thank you for having me!

Cataveiro is out now and can be found/ordered from any good book store!


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