We have been all about Adrian Tchaikovsky recently. If you missed our recent reviews of Redemption’s Blade, which can be be found here, or Children of Time, which can be found here, you should check them out. Both of these books are worth your time and Adrian has about 20 others you can check out. We wanted to find out more about Adrian to better understand how he makes such great stuff, and managed to get a hold of him to ask some questions. For your reading pleasure we have written them up and added them below, enjoy:
You are a really prolific author with multiple series in both the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Do you have a preference for a genre and do you think there are any major differences in writing for one vs. the other? If so, what are those differences?
Fantasy and SF are very different writing experiences for me. With SF I generally want to make the science as sound as possible, and so it’s often a slower process involving lots of research and consultation with people better informed than I am. With fantasy, as the pressure is for internal consistency rather than external, the writing process can be a lot freer.
In addition, do you have a favorite series among the many that you have written?
I think the Shadows of the Apt world is still my favourite to dabble in, just because I know it so well.
What are some of your favorite sci-fi and fantasy books? What are you reading right now?
I am just finishing off Jeff Noon’s The Body Library, which is something of a mind-bending read. Before that was the wonderfully poetic and brutal Tower of Living and Dying by Anne Smith-Sparkes. Amongst my other favourites are Mary Gentle’s Ash and Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of Arete.
What is one fact about yourself that your readers would be surprised to know?
I still (as of this moment at least) have a day job, albeit a part time one.
Redemption’s Blade is a tragic tale about… well… redemption (unsurprisingly). What made you want to tell a story about the after affects of a war? Do you think this kind of story is something that the fantasy genre is missing – or were you feeling particularly passionate about this specific war?
The post-war setup was in the brief I received from Rebellion, so the credit is theirs for that. It’s certainly not the first time the topic has been touched, but stories about martial triumph are commonplace enough that it seems there’s more unexplored space if you pick up a narrative after the dust settles.
I noticed that the sequel to Redemption’s Blade, Salvation’s Fire, just came out and was written by Justina Robson. What is going on with the writing? Is it a joint project and will you be writing in this world more? How many novels are planned?
The series is envisaged as multi-author, and Justina had the unenviable task of picking up my toys when I’d finished using them. As for the future, that’s in Rebellion’s hands, but I’d certainly like to see more of the world.
Following up on the last question, the world of Redemption is incredible. The original races, power, and locations that you explored in the book really captured my imagination. Did you have any particular inspiration for the various races (or the torments visited on them, which were equally creative in a different sadder way)? Was the world build collectively with other authors?
I got a very loose brief, and then a very free hand, and in fact the sheer untrammelled creation I got to put into the project made writing it an absolute joy. I wanted to set up a complex world with a lot of areas left to be explored, a lot of hints and hooks for writers who might come after me. In that, it was a lot like setting up a campaign for a role-playing game – you need room to expand into.
There was a lot to like in Redemption’s Blade, but I particularly loved the ideas of the guardians – demigods sent to watch over life in the world. In many ways, the novel feels like it really revolves around them and their choices. What was your inspiration for these divine characters?
They were part of the brief, so again a tip of the hat to Rebellion. My own touch came mostly in the way that the guardians had already become mostly surplus to requirements before the war broke out – living alongside mortals meant that they were learning as much as they taught, including self interest.
I also really enjoyed the magical artifacts that litter the world in Redemption’s Blade. Were there any artifacts (or species of people) that you came up with that didn’t quite make it into the book?
Because of the nature of the project I got to shoehorn in a lot of things that I didn’t need to explore, just to flesh out the world. There were a few things I’d like to have played more with, though – there’s a bronze army mentioned early on, that apparently wasn’t much use against the Kinslayer and his legions, and one wonders what might be left over of *that* and precisely what it thinks about things.
What was your favorite thing to write in Children of Time? Was there a particular evolution you liked most?
I think the big war between the spiders and the ants was fun, and also the stealing of the sacred eye of the ant god, because it let me do something I love to read – writing hard SF in the style of epic fantasy (like Gene Wolfe does so well, or M John Harrison). Also, it’s nice to write a genuine heroic narrative where the protagonist is a spider.
How did you land on spiders as the species the humans would face?
It happened the other way round. I came across Portia labiata in my researches and knew that I needed to find a way of writing a book about them. The humans came later.
Children of Time has a lot of tangible themes that rarely get the treatment you gave them (such as evolution and the passage of time). What inspired you to write the book in the way that you did?
The focus of the book was always the evolutionary process, so the narrative would always be a longitudinal one. I wanted to show just how the society might change and adapt through the generations.
I was very impressed with your ability to control tone through the book, going from wonder to anxiety to horror fairly quickly without dissonance. How did you manage the tone in your head, while also making sure it translated to the page?
I think Children of Time is now pretty much the benchmark for my style now – Serious Narrative with a bit of nastiness sugar coated with a big of humour. I have never been a strictly technical writer, and the writing comes out as it comes out – the evolution of my style is an entirely subconscious process.
I just recently found out that there will be a sequel, Children of Ruin. While I felt CoT worked amazingly as a standalone, I’m incredibly excited about the sequel. What to you felt unfinished about Children of Time that led to Children of Ruin?
Well there’s that last sequence, the epilogue, where they’re setting off on a voyage of discovery. Children of Ruin is the story of What They Find There, and as the title suggests it’s not necessarily pretty.
How much research went into creating the insect led ecosystem upon the planet?
Well, to a certain extent it’s an extrapolation of Earth ecosystems, so there was a lot less work than trying to create a genuine alien world from first principles. The major work was the logistics of increasing arthropod size, and in how spider senses might work, in which I was ably assisted by the entomology department at the Natural History Museum.
-Thank you for your time Adrian, and everyone should check out one of his various books as soon as possible!