And today’s Urban Mythic author dragged kicking and screaming into the light… The one, the only, Adrian Tchaikovsky!
Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.
I’m mostly an author of epic fantasy, as far as long form fiction goes. So far that’s manifested in the story of the Insect-kinden, the Shadows of the Apt series, the 9th and penultimate book of which has just come out as War Master’s Gate. The world of the kinden is some way from a traditional fantasy setting – the kinden themselves are humans who take their powers and natures from various types of insect, and the series charts their rise into a sort of 20th century of technology and realpolitik. I put a lot of work into my worlds, the variety and the originality, and it seems to be something that my readers really respond to.
What was it that inspired “Family Business”?
Um, well. This is one of those questions writers get all the time – “where do your ideas come from?” – and normally it’s essentially impossible to point at any given thing and say “This! This was what made the story happen.” Except in this case, when it was absolutely the Scissor Sisters’ Return to Oz. I’m quite serious. I heard the song the first time while coming back from a wedding, I think it was, and was absolutely inspired by the weird imagery and emotional tone of it. And from that came “Family Business,” I kid you not. Of course that song is actually telling another completely different story, but when I hear songs full of odd metaphor and meaning I tend to translate them literally first, and get some very bizarre images.
How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?
My favourite fantasy is secondary-world fantasy, and as most urban fantasy is real-world set, I’m fairly selective with what I pick up. I love Paul Cornell’s London Falling, though, and Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London and its sequels. And I’ve just discovered Emma Newman’s Split World series, which is excellent. And, lord, there’s Gaiman, who kind of invented the whole business about ten years too early with Neverwhere, and then retook it with American Gods. Beyond that, there is a whole neighbourhood of what was also called urban fantasy at one time, because it is generally city-based, but also usually in a secondary world. This is stuff like The Lies of Locke Lamora (one of the best fantasy books every written, IMHO) and there’s Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, Hulick’s Among Thieves and Hardinge’s Mosca books like Twilight Robbery.
Has your enthusiasm for larping and other gaming influenced what you write?
I suppose it’s given me an expanded toolkit. Pen and paper RPGs are very good for the creative side – making worlds and making characters, both. You often need to work at a level of detail a book might not demand, which then lends you a comfortable familiarity with the world that hopefully comes over on the page. Larp itself is a source of new experience, especially massed battles. And fun, of course.
What are you up to next?
My convention calendar is very full this year and next. I’ve been to Nine Worlds, which is a new convention of astonishing scope and variety that I enjoyed immensely, and then I had Andromeda One in Birmingham, then the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. And of course there’s Worldcon coming to London next year … and as Nine Worlds 2014 is the weekend before I think there will be a whole “week of geek” in the London area strung between the two.
As for writing, I’m about to get the last Shadows of the Apt book back for edits, while tinkering with my standalone novel Guns of the Dawn which comes next, and I’m also finishing off the first book of a new series as well. It’s all go, basically.
[Adrian Tchaikovsky was born in Lincolnshire, studied and trained in Reading and now lives in Leeds. He is known for the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series starting with Empire in Black and Gold, and currently up to book nine, The War Master’s Gate. His hobbies include stage-fighting, and tabletop, live and online role-playing.]