Good morning, and welcome to Day 4 of Angry Robot Week here at Beauty in Ruins, this time featuring Adam Christopher. We're kicking the day off with an interview, before getting onto a review of Seven Wonders later this afternoon.
Read along, and when you're done, don't forget to check out the giveaway below and enter for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of Seven Wonders.
BOB: Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Adam. With the release of Seven Wonders just weeks away, I know you must be busy. Before we get started, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
ADAM: Thanks for having me here, Bob! My name is Adam Christopher, and I’m a writer! I’m the author of Empire State and Seven Wonders, both from Angry Robot, who are also publishing two more books over the next two years – The Age Atomic (a sequel to Empire State), and Hang Wire, an urban fantasy set in San Francisco. I’m also an author over at Tor Books, and my first novel for them, a dark space opera called Shadow’s Call, is out in 2014.
I’m from New Zealand originally, and moved to the UK in 2006. I’m a fan of superhero comics, tea, Lego, and The Cure.
BOB: Wow, thanks for getting Lovecats stuck in my head for the rest of the day! The journey to publication can be a long one, even with the rise of small presses and indie publishing. How has the experience of brining Seven Wonders to print differed from that of Empire State?
ADAM: I initially signed a two-book deal with Angry Robot – Empire State was the novel I pitched to the editor, Lee Harris, and publishing director Marc Gascoigne, over lunch when I went to visit their office back in August 2010. I’d met them both on Twitter a couple of years before, and we became friends thanks to a shared interest in books, comics, films, that kind of thing. I was working on my writing, and while I blogged about it now and again we never really talked about it, even after I met Lee in person at a few UK science fiction conventions. When I dropped Lee a line to say I’d be in the area and suggested we meet up for lunch, I didn’t intend to pitch anything and I certainly hadn’t prepared, so when Marc asked about the book I was currently working on I sort of rambled for about an hour, making a real mess of it. But Marc invited me to send it in when it was done, and I did, and then I got that magic phone call a few months later.
Angry Robot wanted two books – Empire State and something else. Empire State was actually the third novel I’d written (and at that stage I’d written a fourth as well), so a few days after they made their offer I met Lee at the SFX Weekender, a big multimedia SF convention, and we sat down to talk about the other books. I expected them to go with that fourth book, but to my surprise Lee asked to see Seven Wonders, and that was the second book they bought.
Getting Empire State to print – the first time I’d even seen this side of the publishing industry – was a learning curve, but an enjoyable one. I’d written Seven Wonders before even starting Empire State, and when it came time to look at it again it had been maybe two years since completion and I’d written two more full novels. So I took the opportunity to revise it extensively – my style and voice had developed in the interim, so Seven Wonders needed a bit of TLC. Having learned a great deal during the edit of Empire State for Angry Robot, I was able to pre-empt a lot of the work on Seven Wonders that I knew they’d ask for, so overall I think the process was smoother.
Looking at Seven Wonders on the shelf in my office, next to Empire State, I have a weird sort of feeling – the book was written before Empire State, but is being published after it. From my point of view it’s an older story… but it feels fresher because it had that big reworking once everything on Empire State was done and dusted!
BOB: It's fascinating (and a little dizzying) to look at the chain of events that bring a work into print. Given the subject matter of Seven Wonders, I have to ask where your geek alliances lie – Marvel, DC, or one of the newer kids on the block (Dark Horse, Image, IDW)?
I’m also really getting into Monkeybrain Comics – they’re a new digital indie publisher, run by Chris Roberson. They only launched in July this year, but already they’re one of the most exciting players.
BOB: Reading a superhero novel is undeniably a different experience than that of a comic book or graphic novel. What advantages/disadvantages do you feel the novel format offers?
ADAM: I agree – comics and graphic novels are visual as well as textual, and superhero comics rely even more on the artwork. That’s why superheroes work so well in films, because you can translate the spectacle and grandeur of a comic page onto the big screen easily if you have enough money!
Novels are completely different, and putting superheroes into prose is definitely a difficult thing. I think it helps that I’m a total superhero comics fanatic, and Seven Wonders is my big epic superhero adventure, so when I was writing it I was pretty much visualizing it panel-by-panel, shot-by-shot – a mash-up of a graphic novel and a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Getting that visual aspect of superheroes across was vital.
Novels have a lot of advantages too – you can do into as much depth and backstory as you like, you can see into a character’s mind and see their point of view. You can really do anything you like, and you’ve got the space to explore it all. Of course, you can do that in comics as well, but it’s a different form that has different rules and different techniques.
BOB: Assuming you were offered the opportunity to adapt Seven Wonders as a graphic novel, who would you insist upon as the illustrator?
ADAM: I’d be hard-pressed to pick just one favourite artist – I love the work of Ivan Reis, Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott, Francis Manipul and Kevin Maguire. Away from that traditional modern superhero style, Alex Ross would be wonderful – his painted art has a real epic, majestic quality. Darwyn Cooke is another favourite, his work is so distinctive.
BOB: Some nice choices! Let’s take the concept of adaptation in a different direction for a moment. With comic book movies dominating the box office, who would you look at for your dream cast in Seven Wonders?
ADAM: I tend to cast most, but not all, of my characters as I write, which is a handy trick – I think that probably comes from the way I visualise the story in my mind, especially something as “graphical” as Seven Wonders.
So Detective Sam Miller is Emily Rose and Joe Milano a somewhere between Idris Elba and Jon Huertas. Tony is Milo Ventimiglia, no doubt about it. Jeannie is harder to cast, but Liv Tyler would be interesting.
The Seven Wonders… hmm, maybe Henry Czerny as Aurora, Erica Durance (with blonde hair!) as Bluebell, an aged-up Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Linear, Brian Blessed as Hephaestus, and Christa B. Allen as The Dragon Star and Patricia Velásquez as Sand Cat. SMART is a robot, and a big one at that, so its more the voice that is critical. How about Kevin Conroy? That would be the icing on the cake!
Although it might seem like a strange choice, I see Nathan Fillion making a good Cowl.
BOB: That is an interesting cast - I can definitely see a few of them, but I'd have to see the others in action to figure out how they mesh with what I imagined. If we can talk the mechanics of writing for a moment, do you have a habit, a trick, or an obsession in how and where you write?
ADAM: Not really – as a born procrastinator I’ve spent years looking for tricks, but have so far failed to find any! Writing is a job, which means you have to treat it like one – sit down and write. I do try and stick to a routine, writing 2-3,000 words a day in 1,000-word chunks. I have two writing spots, upstairs in my office, which is more formal and business-like (which I find best for editing and rewriting, and having a large monitor is handy for comparing documents and cutting/pasting bits in and out and making notes), and downstairs in my library. The library has a big comfy chair and I’m surrounded by books. I tend to start projects here on my laptop, and write maybe 90% of the first draft in this more relaxed environment.
BOB: Damn - I keep hoping somebody will find that procrastination trick for me. I'll have to find it myself . . . one of these days! In terms of story, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?
ADAM: I like to have a title right at the beginning – I don’t know why, but it makes the writing a lot easier! Which is all in my head, of course. I enjoy the opening pages of a new project, before you get to the real meat of the thing. Endings are probably the hardest bit, as I often don’t quite know where to stop!
Cover blurbs and the like are the responsibility of the editor, usually, although it’s usually pretty easy to cribs bits and bobs from the pitches and synopses I’ve already written. I actually love writing these little things – there is something quite satisfying about distilling an entire novel in a couple of paragraphs, or something even shorter, even if it makes you tear you hair out when you’re trying to trim the blurb down word by word.
BOB: When you’re not writing, what authors do you look to for entertainment or inspiration?
ADAM: I read a lot – all writers should, across many different genres. I used to ignore this advice, sticking to my beloved science fiction, but now I read crime, thrillers, even Westerns. It all helps with the writing, too. I always worry when I hear a writer saying they don’t have time to read.
My reading includes, of course, comics. Lots of comics – I probably read on average about four or five issues a day. As well as trying to keep up with new releases, I’m going through a lot of older material, including Daredevil from the 1970s and the terrific runs of Batman and Detective Comics from 2000.
We’re also in this amazing golden age of US TV, so that tends to be about the only stuff I watch these days – Justified, Longmire, Person of Interest, Fringe, Community… some of the best writing around is now in US television. Stephen King used to say that writers should throw out their TVs, but I wonder if he’s changed his view in the last few years!
BOB: I'm partial to our home-grown Canadian shows myself, which means I'm currently mourning the final season of Flashpoint. Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? I know you've mentioned a few projects, but is there another novel in the works, or perhaps a short story to tide the fans over?
ADAM: The next scheduled releases, as I mentioned, are The Age Atomic (Angry Robot, May 2013), Hang Wire (Angry Robot, May 2014), and Shadow’s Call (Tor, early 2014). In the meantime, readers who pick up the limited edition hardcover of Seven Wonders from Forbidden Planet will find a brand new and exclusive short story in the back, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Comic Con. I’ve got another project I’m working on now in a new medium for me, which I’m excited to be part of but which isn’t going to be announced for a while yet.
And then I’ve got four novels to write next year – in first draft, at least! – I’m actually working ahead of my publication schedule by about two books, as Hang Wire and Shadow’s Call are already done, as is the first draft of The Age Atomic.
So, hopefully there’ll be some news to share soon enough. But until then, I’m just going to have to be a big tease and say “watch this space”.
BOB: Well, I’ll let you get back to writing, but thanks again for stopping by.
ADAM: Thanks, Bob!