The Next Big Thing

The next big thing is a series of tag team blog posts by writers about their next novel, whether about to be published or ‘in development’. SF editor and author extraordinaire Kieht Stevenson graciously tagged me, so here’s my contribution to the great Next Big Thing chain letter. My tag will be along shortly.

1) What is the [working] title of your next book?

It’s called Unwrapped Sky, which is a play on a Mayakovsky poem. The stanza goes like this:

Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky
in tribute from the stars,
In hours like this, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.

Past One O’Clock – Vladimir Mayakovsky

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I was about 20 years old, I came up with the idea of magicians who were oppressed and had to carry out a revolt to liberate themselves. But the New Weird hadn’t happened and I didn’t know how to write it and in any case I was busy with other things. So this idea is actually many years in the making.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

New Weird, Steampunk, Fantasy – somewhere there.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, there are three characters. Kata will be played by Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Maximilian by Ben Whishaw (who plays Q in the new Bond movie), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) will play Boris.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An assassin is hired to infiltrate a group of rebels who plan to overthrow an oppressive regime.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s signed with Tor through John Jarrold literary agency. Tor will publish the novel at the start of 2014.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Uh. Erm. Cough. Six years. But with breaks! With other projects in between! Honest….

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s set in the city of Caeli-Amur, so anyone who has read my stories set there will get an idea of what that’s like. “The Passing of the Minotaurs” is still up online and forms an early sequence in Unwrapped Sky, so if anyone wants to read the start, check it out. I think you may like it.

But there are some who say it’s a bit like China Miéville’s Bas Lag stuff, others who say it’s like Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series, though I hadn’t read either when I started work on it.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been interested in political movements against oppressive regimes. And I’ve always been fascinated by stories about those movements: in particular, the way that those involved have quite often been morally compromised themselves. Those in charge have been forced to be hard, to make decisions about life and death, to enact strict discipline in their group. The best – like the various Resistance movements against fascism in World War Two – have been terribly brave. The worst have committed atrocities themselves. I wanted to tell a story about these kinds of people, but set in a fantastic world, a weird world, both like and unlike ours. It’s fantastical – but also, I think, quite modern.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It involves: ancient Minotaurs, philosopher-assassins, hidden hideouts, a cruel and oppressive political system, crushed strikes, a journey to a city submerged beneath the sea, bizarre and creepy creatures hidden away inside a mountain, thaumaturgy which warps its users like radiation, captured Sirens forced to perform at the opera, subterfuge, lying, deceit, betrayal – and love. Sound all right?

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