Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the 10-part epic Shadows of the Apt. I read the first, Empire in Black and Gold, after much hesitation due to the strange concept. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised, as the book and its followup, Dragonfly Falling, were both fantastic.
Pat: Hello Adrian and welcome to A Bitter Draft! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a writer?
Adrian: I got to be a writer the old school way, by submitting manuscripts to publishers and agents over and over until at last one of them stuck. It took 15 years to get that far, and it was a very dispiriting and miserable business throughout. In the end I got an agent first, and it was that agent’s sterling work that shoehorned me onto Tor UK’s lists despite their not really having a vacancy. I’m currently straddling that halfway line where I’m both a working author, which has pros and cons. Other than that, I read a lot of genre books, and play a lot of games (tabletop, online and live), and have an interest in the biological sciences and historical re-enactment. I’m currently training in late medieval German longsword techniques.
Pat: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Who are some of your influences as an author?
Adrian: I am one of the plottier writers I know. I have a chapter-level breakdown before I start a book, and although it doesn’t always survive intact, I do my best to ensure that I know what’s about to happen next, so that changes to the plan happen ahead of time, rather than causing sudden derailments.
As for influences, I read widely enough that I’m probably getting little sparks of it from all over. My influences are basically an amalgam of everything I’ve ever read, watched or head, I guess.
Adrian: This was originally an RPG setting that I ran as a campaign back at University. There are some refinements to the setting that have happened since, but the key concepts – the kinden, the Art, the diverging magic and technology, were there from the start. I have in the past tried to pass off the insect-kinden as a terribly clever literary device, drawing on the shades of Kafka and Capek and Pelevin (there is a surprisingly amount of insect-related social commentary from central/eastern Europe) but the basic fact is that I just like insects, and always have. At school I would doodle insects in the margins of books and work them into every academic subject I could, and they told me I’d make nothing of myself. Just goes to show…
Beyond the original setting, what’s chiefly concerned me in developing the world of the kinden is for the setting to have a sense of dynamic change, of a march of history and progress – for better or for worse. With that in mind, a great deal of the overall plot has almost written itself, as characters and factions react organically to previous developments.
Pat: Did you know from the start you wanted a 10-piece epic?
Adrian: The first four books form a unit, a complete plot arc, and that’s what I had ready when I first submitted Empire in Black and Gold. I knew there was more to come, though, and that it was probably going to hit 9 or 10 books if anyone was mad enough to let me go on that long.
Pat: Have you found it easier to write as Shadows of the Apt moves along, or was Empire in Black and Gold the easiest?
Adrian: Actually it was one of the hardest, because I was breaking new ground. It also required a fair amount of patching and rearranging, which my agent helped me with, prior to submission. After that everything flowed on very nicely for the next few books. Book 6 was trickier because it involves some very different concepts, and in essence a lot of it plays far more like a SF novel than a fantasy one (it is really a first contact novel in a fantasy setting). Then I hit Heirs of the Blade, book 7, which was a nightmare. That turned out to be the fulcrum of the entire series, and as well as that book’s own plot, I had to balance tying up loose ends from the previous books, and foreshadowing the next ones. I’ve never had to do so much rewriting as on that book.
Pat: What are some of your favorite recent releases by other authors?
Adrian: I was very glad to see that Chris Beckett won the Clarke Award for his Dark Eden, which was the book I read last year that most impressed me – absolutely tip top intelligent SF. Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls is also an excellent read, and I can highly recommend Paul Cornell’s London Falling which is a superb piece of urban horror/fantasy.
Pat: Do you have plans for after the completion of Shadows of the Apt? Are they in the same world or a new one?
Adrian: The last book in the series comes out next year (the penultimate one, War Master’s Gate, is out beginning August 2013). After that, I should be bringing out a stand-alone fantasy called Guns of the Dawn, which is best described as Jane Austen meets Bernard Cornwell with a dash of Ursula le Guin – think ‘Eliza Bennett gets drafted’ and you’ll see where it’s going. After that, there is a new series coming out, and I’m about 2/3 of the way through the first book of it right now. It should have a very different setting to Shadows of the Apt. I’ve also got a few other projects floating about, not currently under contract, which I am trying to make happen.
Pat: I’m already excited for Guns of the Dawn! Do you have anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Adrian: Every book of mine you buy gives you a 2% greater chance of survival when the Insect Overlords rise up from the segmented dimensions and take over the world. It’s not much, but every little helps.
I want to thank Adrian for both participating in this interview as well as telling great stories. Check out Adrian’s website to find a huge amount of info on the series, including a detailed map, more than a dozen short stories (free I might add), and more.
I highly, highly recommend you check out his books if you haven’t yet and if you’re up to date on the series, don’t miss War Master’s Gate when it hits shelves on August 1st!