EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Author of EMPIRE STATE Adam Christopher

The excellent new book by Adam Christopher is out now from Angry Robot and we were lucky enough to join him at the book launch at Forbidden Planet in London last week. The stunning superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.

It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State – a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York.

When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist. Adam Christopher’s stunning debut novel heralds the arrival of an amazing new talent – check out our exclusive interview with him behind the cut!

Geek Syndicate: First of all I have to ask you, where did the inspiration come from for Empire State?

Adam Christopher: I was on a flight from Manchester to San Francisco, which is a long haul flight and I had taken with me some Raymond Chandler and when you are on that kind of flight things get a little bit crazy. It’s long, boring and you don’t get enough sleep and you get a bit dehydrated. I remember going to sleep and thinking, wouldn’t it be amazing if Raymond Chandler had written Science Fiction, with robots that would just be the coolest thing ever. And that was the idea, to write a Science Fiction detective story inspired by the classic pulp? Detectives of the 1930’s. Also I love superheroes and superhero comics and the 1930’s and especially New York  – that was the birthplace of modern superhero comics. So I put the two together and came up with Empire State.

GS: In terms of your original idea, how far did the actual book change from starting it to the finished product?

AC: It probably changed quite a bit. I tend to outline quite heavily but as I write, the characters take on lives of their own and they start doing things which is not expected. As I wrote the first draft it got stranger and stranger and things were happening that I hadn’t really planned on. So I think it stays true to the original idea but I was happy to let it go and evolve as it went.

GS: What is the process you use for building the characters? Where do you start from?

AC: I think I tend to start with a name. Rad Bradley the Detective he actually came to me way before I had the idea for the book or the setting or anything. I actually mistyped the name the search in Amazon looking for Ray Bradbury. I typed Rad Bradbury. And nothing came up. I thought Rad Bradbury was such a cool name. He is a tough Detective with a hat and a trench coat. I changed it to Bradley otherwise it would just be a little bit distracting.

Throughout the book I wanted that pulpy, movie feel so you have names like Sam Saturn and Kane Fortuna, kind of slightly strange names that have that alliteration. I think from the beginning because it was going to be a Science Fiction Detective story I had to have the Detective or Private Eye. I was going to say glamorous, but his showy friend Kane Fortuna.

Captain Carson and Bryon came from another pulp idea. Some friends of mine challenged me to write a pulp story called Captain Carson and the Case of the Robot Zombie. I didn’t do it but that was the start of it. Captain Carson was kind of alliteration. I think that’s the same for everything I write. The characters and plot don’t necessarily evolve at the same time. I can have ideas for both and they come together.

GS: Your writing has a style that I find easy to visualise and bring in to life the world of Empire State, but what do you find hardest about writing a novel?

AC: I think because I am a big fan of comics I do think I can write visually because I can kind of see it, especially with Empire State because it is quite comic like. I find all of it hard. I think so long as the characters work and the characters come to life they kind of do their own thing and they behave in ways they should behave then when that happens it is really cool and writing is really easy and the whole thing flows but really all of it is hard.

GS: Would you want to see the book made into a film and do you have anyone in mind for the key characters?

AC: YES! That’s another thing with characters, I do actually when I am writing I do cast people as I write but Kane Fortuna was based on a ballroom dancer because he had this look that I needed. I saw this image he had the hair and the kind of wide eyes. Captain Carson was based on an actor who died years and years ago. The other thing is what ever I imagine in my own mind is completely different to what anyone else imagines including anyone who would make a movie or a tv series. I am a kind of writer. I am not precious about people changing things so I would leave that to people who know about doing that. People have said they could see it as an HBO tv mini series.

GS: Absolutely when you look at things like Broadwalk Empire and things like that you think they can do that with perfection. Getting the whole Manhattan/Empire State yes you can really see it.

AC: Its funny because after I had written Empire State, long after I had written it, I discovered Fringe. There is an episode of Fringe that is set in the 40’s with Brown Betty and basically that is the cast, that’s the look, that’s everything. It’s got the fedora hat it’s got the private detective, its got the glamorous woman its got everything. It’s got airships as well!

GS: There seems to be a lot of in jokes and references to comics, and you have mentioned a few times that you a big comics fan. How far did you want to go with the comic influence in the book? It’s fairly subtle when you are reading it and I have read a few reviews and other people noticed things that I didn’t notice with some of the names with Kane and things like that.

AC: I didn’t have like a checklist of things I thought would be cool and geeky and jokey to put in. Kane Fortuna and Bob Kane you know Batman. I mean there are other things in there as well but it all just kind of came naturally from the idea I think. There aren’t just comic references, there are other references – references to books, to films and real life people as well.

GS: How long did it take you to write the novel? Did you just sit down and write it or were you working at the time?

AC: I wrote it from 2009 – 2010 so it took me about a year. But that is like 3 months for a draft and then I left it and then had proof readers read it and then another draft. I did it around a day job so mornings and evenings and weekends, getting up at 5 in the morning and do a couple of hours but that’s the whole thing you’ve just got to.

GS: Do you have anywhere in particular that you like to write or doesn’t it matter?

AC: It doesn’t really matter. I work at home anyway so usually just in my office. You can’t wait for the right moment or the right mood. You can’t wait for the muse to arrive or you won’t get anywhere. You get into a routine.

GS: The World Builder (Go here) idea that offers readers to carry on inventing their own part of Empire State sounds really cool . What are your hopes for what is going to happen and what is going to come out of that?

AC: l think you are right. It is really cool and I can’t wait to see what people come up with. I have already seen a few bits and pieces from people who have been commissioned to do stuff. There is a photographer in New York doing stills from a recently discovered 1946 Film Noir production of Empire State which has been lost in time. Its amazing that there are other people out there that are creating stuff based on something that I wrote its amazing. The thing about world builder is that you can do anything – with photography it can be short stories, there is a table top role playing game being made and a puppet show. Someone is doing a radio play – not of Empire State but of something that is in the background in one of the scenes of Empire State. The fact that people can just do anything at all and completely let their imagination go.

GS: When did you start writing?

AC: I have kind of always written. I have got loads of exercise books from school of stories and writing and then I stopped when I went to University and lost interest and then it was really when I rediscovered comics when I was in my early twenties I sort of took it seriously. It’s funny because I moved to the UK in 2006 and at the same time my first novel submission got rejected but that was actually really good because it was kind of like ok I need to work harder and take it more seriously. That was almost the kick I needed to actually do it properly.

GS: What is your favourite genre to read and why?

AC: I tend to read lot of things – Science Fiction, I am a big Stephen King fan. Things I have read recently like Night Circus and I am reading a book called The Professionals which is crime. I tend to mix prose novels with comics or graphic novels in equal numbers. In terms of my favourite writers, I would count comic writers and prose writers on the same level.

GS: Absolutely I agree. Sometimes you have a hard time saying to people that comic writers are just as good as prose writers. Sometimes people can’t seem to get past that. Although these days it seems to be a bit better as graphic novels seem to be coming more in vogue and accepted.

AC: And you have a lot of novelists are moving into comics. People like Greg Rucker he is one of my favourite writers. He is a really good crime writer and he has written superhero comics and crime comics and he has written crime novels. I tend to follow people – I’m not a strictly fantasy or strictly space opera just whatever takes my fancy.

GS: Am I right in thinking you are more DC over the other comics? Why the DC then? I have to ask this because of the DC versus Marvel

AC: I discovered comics through 2000 AD and then from 2000 AD I went to Marvel and Marvel didn’t quite do it.

GS: I noticed on the back of the book it says you are a huge fan of 60’s Who How do you compare that to modern Who?

AC: I used to love the new Series – Christopher Eccleston. I really rated that series but then I kind of lost interest. Old Who and new Who are just completely separate things. I mean obviously it’s a continuous series but just the style and the approach. I’m just not the right audience for it any more, although I love Matt Smith. In fact Matt Smith is one of my favourite doctors, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the stories I could just watch him all day.

GS: He seems to hark back to some of the original first three doctors he’s a bit of a mixture of them.

AC: I think he is like a young version of William Hartnell. If William Hartnell’s doctor was 30 that’s what he would be like.

GS: I agree. He comes across like that. He is like a cranky old man but he is coming across.

AC: Yes I think he really nails it.

Thank you Adam Christopher and best of luck with Empire State

Watch out for our full review of Empire State coming soon and big thanks to Forbidden Planet for hosting another great event.

Empire State is out now!

SOURCE: Angry Robot

GS Reporter: Montoya

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