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Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. In the coming days I’ll be quizzing Ilana C. Myer, Peter Newman, Michael Fletcher and Tom Lloyd, but first to look frantically for the exit door is Adrian Tchaikovsky, best known for his Shadows of the Apt series that features the kinden – human races that each have a different totem insect.

Hi Adrian, and thanks for doing the interview.

AdrianTchPic1. Let’s start with an easy question. What is the secret to curing the common cold, and why have you been sitting on this information until now?

Robot nose. The reason why I haven’t spread this around is – would *you* admit to having a robot nose?

Only at gunpoint.

2. Your Shadows of the Apt series is an impressively long ten books. How much of the ending of book ten did you know before you started writing book one?

The first four books of SotA form a single plot arc, and it was that I had in mind when I set out. From book 5 onwards the plots arise organically – the logical consequences of things that have gone before, plus other parts of the world I wanted to bring in.The first four books of SotA form a single plot arc, and it was that I had in mind when I set out, From book 5 onwards the plots arise organically - the logical consequences of things that have gone before, plus other parts of the world I wanted to bring in.

3. 2015 saw the publication of your flintlock fantasy, Guns of the Dawn, and your science fiction story, Children of Time. Did you decide you wanted to try out something different from the ‘new heroic’ fantasy of Shadows of the Apt? Or did you simply have story ideas that fitted better into another genre/sub-genre?

During the years I was working on SotA I had a whole load of ideas for stories that were never going to be kinden stories, and other ideas I'd worked with previously got a fresh going over as well. I’d had Guns of the Dawn kicking about my head for a while, and that definitely needed something closer to a historical setting (because female soldiers amongst the kinden, outside the Empire, are common). Children of Time is wholly different – starting with some “what if-ing” regarding the remarkable capabilities of the Portia spider and working up from there.During the years I was working on SotA I had a whole load of ideas for stories that were never going to be kinden stories, and other ideas I'd worked with previously got a fresh going over as well. I'd had Guns of the Dawn kicking about my head for a while, and that definitely needed something closer to a historical setting (because female soldiers amongst the kinden, outside the Empire, are common). Children of Time is wholly different - starting with some "what if-ing" regarding the remarkable capabilities of the Portia spider and working up from there.

I hate spiders, but I still had to look them up. Now I’m desperately searching for the “un-click” button on my mouse.

AdrianTchBook4. Your next novel, The Tiger and the Wolf, is out next year, and has one of the most striking covers I’ve seen for a while. It’s described as “a sweeping fantasy, featuring warfare, shape-shifting, twisted politics and invasion.” Tell us something about the book that is not in that summary.

The world of The Tiger and the Wolf is as high-concept as that of the kinden, but probably in a way that people will “get” more quickly – there’s a lot of front-loading of ideas in SotA and that caused difficulties for some readers. Everyone gets shape-shifting, though, so it's a small step from there to a world where everyone has an animal form as soon as they hit adulthood. Also, the kinden have no real religions of any kind – even their magicians are materialists at heart. With the people of Tiwer & Wolf I wanted to write about societies for whom a numinous, spiritual dimension was enormously important.The world of the Tiger and the Wolf is as high-concept as that of the kinden, but probably in a way that people will "get" more quickly - there's a lot of front-loading of ideas in SotA and that caused difficulties for some readers. Everyone gets shape-shifting, though, so it's a small step from there to a world where everyone has an animal form as soon as they hit adulthood. Also, the kinden have no real religions of any kind - even their magicians are materialists at heart. With the people of Tiwer & Wolf I wanted to write about societies for whom a numinous, spiritual dimension was enormously important.

5. I understand that you have some “real-world” experience of sword fighting. How much of that experience do you bring to your writing, and what are the common mistakes that other authors make in portraying duels? I’m asking for a friend. *Takes out manuscript and red pen*

Knowledge is never wasted. It’s always useful to know the mechanics of something, as it gives you a better toolkit to write about it. As for common mistakes – most often these are mistakes which will set off that portion of your readership that knows about the art – although with fighting arts that’s a fairly large segment. Misuse of armour is a big bete noir – in many books (because, I think, it’s that way in so many films) armour is basically just a cardboard uniform to mark out the bad guys. The Jorah Mormont fight against the Dothrakai in Game of Thrones is very satisfying because he turns up wearing a coat of mail and Martin shows him being very hard to kill because of it. Of course the other common mistake is, when you’ve learned a little swordcraft, to let it get away from you so that the fight scene becomes a dry treatise on swordsmanship. Know a lot, say as little as possible.

Thanks again for the interview!

 

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