Saturday, 3 April 2010

Author Interview! Guy Adams

Sometimes you read a book and by the time you're done you're full of questions that you want to run past the author... That was the case with 'The World House', a book that already has one foot planted firmly in my fledgling 'Best of 2010' list. Luckily for me, Guy was more than happy to answer my questions, thanks Guy! Here's what we had to say for ourselves...

I’ve just found a box with strange looking writing on it, damn thing won’t open though. What should I do with it?

Run. Like hell.

When you started writing ‘The World House’ which came first, the world or the plot?

The world. Whenever I write plot tends to come last. I always start with ideas and flavours, maybe even little scenes -- and I do visualise those in movie terms. For The World House it was the House, it's thick, carpeted corridors, marble busts and the flickering gas lamps. Then there was an image of walking into a room and seeing -- just beyond the persian rug and wing-backed chairs -- a mountain stretch up towards a ceiling obscured by clouds. Then there was a girl finding the box on a cliff top. Then cellars that stretched for miles, old New York docks, all dark, stained bricks and dripping water.

These things build, when I'm writing I'm as much of an explorer as the eventual reader, I get myself in that environment, surround myself with characters and run with it, see where the ideas take me. It's an exciting way to work but a frustrating one at times because you do come up against blank chapters and have no idea where to go from there.

When pitching The World House I pitched an idea (with a lot of trimmings, enough sense of the scope and story that idea offered) but when that was accepted and I sat down to write I realised that an idea is a world away from a plot and it was scary for a while as I waited for it all to come together.

The plot could have worked out quite thin in that situation, surprisingly it didn't. The World House is actually quite a complex book, it just pretends not to be!

Does the World House look anything like your house?

It looks a lot like my ideal house. I adore Victoriana and once had a flat half-decorated in that style, the lounge and my office were dark places. Lost of stained floorboards and deep paint. No mountains though, sadly.

After finishing reading ‘The World House’ I was left wondering whether it was a work of fantasy, sci-fi, horror... or all three. Does the book fall into any one of those categories for you or is it a little bit of everything?

It's a bit everything, my favourite books always are. I wrote a section of the sequel the other day and it's dark as hell, pure horror... let's sneak a chunk in, there are no spoilers in it:

Ryan’s mother walked him in time with the music, his feet stood on hers. Despite his size she managed this just fine, towering above him, a plump giant in pink satin. She swung him around the dance floor, the sprinkled light from the mirrorball above trickling over her grey, loose skin.
“I wish you weren’t dead mum,” said Ryan.
She said nothing. Her jaw hung too low for words, clanking around her chest like dirty pearls. She simply pressed his face into her gaseous belly where it sunk deep, as if there were not flesh beneath the fabric of her dress but rotting leaf mulch.

That's horror. And yet the chapter before had another two characters cracking jokes in a Dunkin' Donuts in preparation for fighting a God.

I like contrasts... I like big ideas, humour, a little bit of noir/pulp (the chapter introducing Tom and Elise in The World House has a real pulp feel I think). They're all good styles, why stick to just one of them? That's like writing an album and only using a single guitar.

How do you write? Was there a map of the World House in your head, right from the start, or were you happy to have your characters open doors and be as surprised as they were with what was on the other side?

A map! Ha! No, nothing so sensible (though I did use maps of St. Pancras a lot for the sequel actually so I'm not that slack). As I say above, it's all about the surprise, walk through your story and see what you can find. Surprise yourself, challenge yourself. Even though you do need some plans with a big book you must always be willing to ditch them. If you pulled up at a crossroads in your car, planning on turning left and heading towards the supermarket, but to your right you saw a tap-dancing Orca offering card tricks to passing penguins you'd turn right and to hell with the supermarket.

You’re recommending ‘The World House’ to that proverbial guy in the bookshop who’s wondering whether to pick it up. What does ‘The World House’ have that no other book on the shelves does?

That no other book offers? Hmm... You don't often read about Whistler's Mother frigging I suppose... (though that is SO out of context now that it makes the book sound far dirtier than it actually is!) In general terms I think it offers scope and a sense of fun but with an idea juicy enough to get your teeth into underneath. I'd say it was an easy read, my style is light and the book never feels dense (does it?) but there's some nice views, monsters and car crashes so you shouldn't get bored.

What are you reading right now and why do you think we should read it too?

I just finished Peter Straub's A Dark Matter and you should read it because Peter Straub wrote it. That is a perfectly adequate reason. If you want more justification then I offer it's sumptuous, rolling prose (literate as hell but smooth, Miles Davis before he went bugshit and incomprehensible in his latter years -- complex but a pleasure to digest). The book folds story in on itself wonderfully. Layer after layer, like a light pizza dough, all mixed up and releasing new details with each mouthful. I'm talking Straub and I've mentioned jazz and food... I think he'd be pleased.

I've got a copy of 'A Dark Matter' waiting on the shelf, I might have to bump it up the list a bit now... Angry Robot is still a relatively new publishing house. Bearing this in mind, what has it been like writing for Angry Robot compared to your experiences with other publishers? Is there more of a buzz about the place?

Yes, they're uncontrollable. It's like Pinky and the Brain have moved into publishing. They love what they do and it's infectious, there's a genuine sense of wanting to smack the marketplace in the mouth with books that matter. Mine was an exception naturally, like a venus flytrap in a field of roses.

You also write tie-in fiction. What has been the world you’ve enjoyed writing in the most and what world would you most like to write for in the future?

I love my own fiction more than any other of course, you can never beat telling your own stories. Having said that I enjoyed Torchwood and am still a bit cross that I haven't written any Doctor Who. Maybe one day they'll give in and stop calling the police when I beg.

Finally, Is there anything that you can tell us about ‘Restoration’ (the sequel to ‘The World House’)? What is the world in store for following the climatic events of ‘The World House’?

Having just finished the initial submitted draft you ask at a good time... The book is suitably different to the first (always my intention, this wasn't one book split in half, they follow on seamlessly from one another but are very different animals).

Restoration is set more in 'our' world than the House, that's the major change I suppose. It opens things up a lot. There are sections in Tibet in the early twentieth century, big chunks in Florida in the seventies, India, Spain, a post-apocalyptic Stratford-upon-Avon... the whole thing opens up.

What it shares with the first book is the structure of several plot threads that come together in the end. There's a lot more character depth in Restoration. There just wasn't space in the first book as everyone was on the run all the time, they barely had time to breathe and I intentionally avoided 'internal monologues' etc.

I can't tell you too much about plot without ruining the climax of The World House but suffice to say the characters pick up the challenge they're left with and deal with the fall-out.

I think its a much better book, but then I should, otherwise I'm doing it wrong!

Great stuff, I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks Guy!

1 comment:

Hagelrat said...

ha, Pinky & the Brain taking over publishing, now there is an image.
Great interview Graeme, was very sorry Guy didn't make it to WHC in the end (sulking).