Readers, it is with great pleasure that I can say that best-selling Australian author John Birmingham agreed to do a mini written interview about his latest novel, The Cruel Stars. This book will be available on the 20th of August, it’s a great read and I plan to review it soon. Without further ado, I’ll turn things over to Mr. Birmingham.
- What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I’ve always been a huge fan of space opera and classic sci-fi, but I’ve never had the guts to write my own. I’m not sure why. But if you are asking straight up what inspired me to write The Cruel Stars, it’s the novels of Peter F Hamilton, and John Scalzi and C. J. Cherryh and Isaac Asimov and Iain M Banks. I could go on. I’m deeply invested in James SA Corey in the Expanse series, and that’s before we get anywhere near other media like TV and film. It’s just a great, almost infinite field in which to tell stories. I’ve always wanted to go there.
What specifically inspired me to write this series? To be brutally honest, failure. The last series I did, my Dave Hooper novels, failed for a whole bunch of reasons. I loved them as books. I worked hard on them. And I’m happy with them as creative works. But for a bunch of reasons I won’t go into here, they just didn’t work as well as they should have on the shelf. So I was looking for something else. Something very different.
2. The Cruel Stars was in development for a long time. What was your greatest challenge with creating it?
I really worried, to the point of obsession at times, about getting things right. And I shouldn’t have. It’s fiction. I remember interviewing Lee Child on stage in Melbourne once about how he put his Jack Reacher novels together. I assumed they were intricately plotted and massively researched. Well there is some research, but plotting? No. That jammy bastard just drops into it and gets going. Me, I spent about two weeks try to figure out how a spiral staircase in a micro gravity environment might work. In the end I had to remind myself this was a traditional military thriller, in a science-fiction setting. I’ve written a lot of military thrillers. I just had to relax into what I already knew. Finding a way to do that, to let go of my anxiety and relax, that was the biggest challenge.
3. As the writing unfolded, which character became your favorite, if any?
I had always assumed that Lucinda was the main character of this story. I like strong female leads and I was very much looking forward to learning about her as I wrote the book. But strangely enough it was the foulmouthed, irascible 700 year old Scotsman, McClennan, who was the most fun to write. His relationship with the advanced combat intellect, Hero, was like a marriage. Not so much a marriage gone bad, as one gone deeply, deeply strange. They were both enormous fun to write and I always looked forward to getting back to their storyline. A lesser character, Jaddi Coto, was also a heap of fun to write.
4. You use the beta reading technique to help develop the raw manuscript. How useful is this?
I love my beta readers. It’s a process I tend to use a lot more in my independently published works rather than by trade published books, because trade publishers can be a little nervous about letting the intellectual property out into the wild with so many unvetted readers. But all of my betas are longtime readers and trustworthy with it. A lot of them have some pretty arcane specialised knowledge that they bring to the gig too. Not the sort of thing that some editor in a publishing house is going to know. It’s such a useful process that I really wish I could make more use of it for my trade work.
5. Finally, having received the final proof, what are your thoughts regarding the completed work?
I am very, very happy with this book. I love these characters and I can’t wait to get back into harness with them.
Thus concludes the short interview. I’d like to thank JB for his time, and I’d like to encourage my readers to check out The Cruel Stars. I’ve been waiting for this launch for a long time, I even ordered two hardcopies of this work.
When that plain brown box from Barnes and Noble shows up, don’t bother to contact me for a day or so.
Do check it out.