Dispatches from the Empire State. Interview by Alasdair Stuart
Empire State is one of those novels that does six impossible things before breakfast, combining several sub-genres and styles. What attracted you to these particular ideas and character types?
“It was really a happy coincidence; I wanted to write a pulpy detective novel, but somehow keep it SF (Raymond Chandler with robots, basically). I also had an idea for a gloomy alternate universe New York stuck in a forever war with an unknown enemy. Add an idea for period superheroes, and it all sort of came together. So for a pulpy detective story I needed a pulpy detective. I needed some archaic superheroes and some retro-futuristic technology (armoured airships and Art Deco robots). Once the pieces starting slotting together the story could begin!”
What’s the single moment you’re proudest of in the novel?
“That’s difficult to say. Empire State is a very twisty-turny kind of novel, and there are a couple of shock reveals I quite like. I think my favourite bit might be Rad’s surprise visit somewhere, at the end of Chapter 27.”
What didn’t make the cut?
“ Empire State , oddly enough, doesn’t have any deleted scenes as such – my other novels certainly do! There were some things that were in my original outline that didn’t quite happen as they should have, mostly because the characters started doing their own things. That might sound bizarre, but it’s a very good thing when that happens! Carson in particular liked to go off on tangents and pull a few tricks that surprised even me.
“There is a lot of stuff about the nature of the Empire State – the Enemy, and Nimrod’s government agency in 1950s New York – that aren’t in the book... but maybe I’ll get a chance to revisit the world someday”
You’re very active on Twitter in particular. What role do you think social networks play in helping new authors get noticed?
“I think social media is pretty much essential for writers these days. Unless you hit the big time, a writer needs to do most of their own promotion and marketing, or at least take a very active part in it. That’s just the way it works these days!
“But you have to do things like Twitter because you want to, you can never force it. I joined Twitter in 2009 because I thought it would be a neat place to hang out and meet like-minded people. I’ve been involved with internet forums and the like for years, so Twitter was just an obvious extension. It’s often said that the key word in ‘social media’ is ‘social’. There’s nothing worse than endless self-promotion: Twitter is about engagement and conversation. Likewise Facebook – actually, it’s the same for everything a writer does online.
“I got noticed on Twitter and that led to me signing a book deal with Angry Robot. But I didn’t join Twitter in order to get a book deal or promote my work. I joined because it was fun!”
What’s your next project?
“My second novel, a big superhero epic called Seven Wonders , is out from Angry Robot in August/September this year. After that, we’ll have to wait and see. I have a load of other projects on the go at various stages. More information when I have it!”
Empire State is published by Angry Robot Books and is available now.