Q. With Jupiter War set to release in the US in just a few days, what can we as readers expect?
A. If you are a reader of Jupiter War then I guess you would already have read The Departure and Zero Point. What you can expect is a ramping up of the action and the danger that were steadily growing in those two books. You can also expect further questions of what it means to be human when the human brain is being linked up with computers, and where humans fit in the kind of highly technological society where this is possible – questions we are already facing in some respects now. And you can expect a resolution with this being the last book of this trilogy.
Q. What did your writing process look like, writing Jupiter War?
A. My writing process with Jupiter War was much the same as it is for all my books. I’m not one of these writers who has to plan out a book beforehand and plaster his office with post-it notes. All my plotting happens at the keyboard. You could say I write by the seat of my pants if that wasn’t a physical impossibility, or that I make it all up as I go along, which is what writers do. I sit down at my computer at maybe 8.00AM and edit through whatever I wrote on the previous day. I then simply continue and aim for 2,000 words by the end of my writing day, 10,000 words by the end of a five day week. I of course have to keep checking the previous books for details but don’t let that get too much in the way during the first draft. Once that is finished I then do a lot of editing, checking, deleting and rewriting. I even read the book back from the end a paragraph at a time so as to pick up errors (this method prevents too much involvement with the story). I finally send it off to the publisher when I’m so bored with editing I find myself making alterations just for a bit of excitement.
Q. If you could cast your characters in Jupiter War – The Movie, who would play your characters?
A. This is a question best left to my fans who often discuss such things on Twitter or Facebook. I simply don’t know the names of enough actors to make a selection. However, in the end it has to be who plays the roles the best. Sure, it would be great to have someone like Tom Cruise in a staring role to raise the profile of the film, but he’s always Tom Cruise and not Alan Saul. Some highly enthusiastic unknown might be a better choice. Same applies to directors and producers.
Q. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Whats your advice on how to deal with the bad?
A. I often respond with a thank you to good reviews and I never make the mistake of arguing with a bad review. I’ve written enough books now to have see how heavily subjective it all is. With all my books now I could point to reviews of each saying it is my best book ever or saying it is my worst ever. The way to deal with the bad? Read it an learn something if you can, otherwise ignore it and move on – your book is already out there and there is nothing you can do.
Q. Out of all of your books, which book (or series) is your most favorite?
A. Difficult call since I have many favorites for different reason. Of my past books they would be The Skinner and Brass Man, of the three coming out it’s The Departure, but now of course, my favorite is what I’m now working on…
Q. What is your inspiration behind the Owner Series?
A. I wanted to try something different from my usual Polity stories and, just like my Spatterjay series, found inspiration from a few of my previous short stories. These appeared in my collection The Engineer and its second version The Engineer ReConditioned and are Proctors, The Owner and Tiger Tiger. I’ve since done a few more set in this ‘Owner’ universe with Owner Space, which appeared in a Gardner Dozois collection and Memories of Earth which appeared in a recent issue of Asimov’s. In these stories Earth was often a distant Malthusian and oppressive nightmare, and the way the Owner behaved in controlling the worlds he ‘owned’ often related to that with ruthlessly-enforced population restrictions and humanity confined to certain areas. In fact, I wrote those stories when I still believed the messages of doom promoted by various green NGOs. When it came to the books I didn’t have to go with such a dystopian scenario because the Owner of the stories was truly ancient – 10,000 years old – and there was no real indication of the Earth he came from, just that it was out there and some bad things had happened there at some point in the past. However, because I hadn’t written one before, I decided to set the rise of the Owner in a near-future dystopia.
Q. What is your favorite SF TV show?
A. Babylon 5 because it’s one of the few that has a satisfying story arc that completes, rather than being an extended franchise that ends up being cancelled.
Q. As a man of many traits, what do you say to those aspiring writers who are afraid to take a chance as you did, when you decided to solely focus on writing?
A. I have to be honest here. I spent 25 years running at the publishing wall with my head. Initial success was in publishing short stories, then some novellas and a collection. When I was finally taken on by a big publishing company I carried on doing the day-job for a couple of years to ensure I had enough money coming in to live on. I focused solely on writing only when I knew I could survive on it.
Q . Other than the release of Jupiter War, what’s next for you?
A. Well, I’ve already written another 3 books to first draft and handed the first of these into Macmillan. They concern an artificial intelligence, whose body form is similar to that of a giant black sea urchin, who first put in an appearance in the short story Alien Archaeology and then appeared in The Technician. The overall title of the trilogy is Penny Royal (the name of that AI), while the names of the books are: Isobel, Room 101 and Spear & spine.
This epic begins shortly after the events in The Technician, with the quest for vengeance of a bio-espionage officer resurrected from mem-crystal a century after the war between the Polity and the prador. It concerns the transformation (another of my favourite themes) of Isobel Satomi, Graveyard crime lord. Renegade prador abound, one of whom is undergoing his own grotesque transformation, and there might be some upsets involving the odd giant dreadnought or state-of-the-art Polity attack ship. It concerns the Weaver, a gabbleduck and only sentient example of the Atheter – a race that committed a form of suicide two million years ago. And it concerns Penny Royal, of course, who is once again on the move and might not be quite as ‘safe’ now as people had supposed, who in fact might be the most dangerous AI in existence…