13 Questions with Eric Brown

I reviewed Helix back in June, and recently had the opportunity to interview author Eric Brown!

Check back tomorrow for a giveaway of Helix!

Angela/SciFiChick: For those who haven’t read Helix yet, can you give us a brief synopsis?

Eric Brown: The Earth is failing ecologically and humanity must find another planet to colonise. The European Space Organisation sends a colony ship on a mission to find a suitable Earth-like planet. The ship crash-lands, on what the crew thinks is an uninhabitable, ice-bound planet. However, when the sun comes up, they find they’re on the lowest rung of a vast helix comprising of some ten thousand worlds. To survive they must trek up-spiral to find a clement world. On the way they meet all sorts of alien races, and attempt to discover who built the helix.

Angela: The setting, for the most part, is set on another world(s). Did you have a definite sense of what the Helix looked like when you wrote about it? Or did it reveal itself as you wrote?

EB: The former; it was the first thing that came to me. I was having dinner years ago at a friend’s place, and he had a lamp on the table with a kind of helical beading around a glass cowl. I thought at first it would make a neat space station. Later, it came to me that it would make an interesting planetary setting.

Angela: Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

EB: They’re all based – or the major ones anyway – on myself, what I think and feel. Or what I assume I would think and feel in certain situations.

Angela: Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in the movie adaptation of Helix, if they gave you free reign?

EB: Mmm… that’s an interesting one. Hendry, the Australian forty year-old computer expert would be a younger William Hurt, perhaps; Gina Carrelli would be played by Juliette Binoche. Kaluchek the Inuit… maybe Bjork. As for Olembe, he would be played by the Anglo-Nigerian O.T. Fagbenle.

Angela: How long did it take you to write Helix?

EB: I plotted it in a month or so. The actual writing took around four months; the rewrite another month.

Angela: Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.

EB: I began writing in the seventies, when I was fifteen and living in Melbourne, Australia. When I came across Ace doubles, and thought I’d try writing those, as they were short – little realising that they’d stopped publishing them years ago! I sold my first tale to Interzone in ’87, and soon after a collection of stories to Pan. I’ve been a freelance writer since the early nineties, taking other jobs when things were tight on the writing front. I’m back full-time now.

I write – I like to think – SF for people who don’t read much SF. It’s character-driven, eventful, economical – certainly not hard SF, which I don’t care for. I’m not bothered about explanations of science and technology in SF, nor about predictions; I like to empathise with human beings, and a good story.

Angela: What inspires you?

EB: Reading other writers, writers I enjoy. Orwell, Robert Charles Wilson, Richard Paul Russo, Michael Coney; reading the life of Rupert Croft-Cooke, my favourite writer. He kept going, despite all the knocks – which is the main thing.

Angela: What was your first full length novel?

EB: I wrote something called Turbott, a supposed comedy, when I was sixteen. It was a mainstream cross between Leslie Thomas and Tom Sharpe, and it was appalling. After that I wrote around twenty more, mostly SF, before selling the collection and a novel, Meridian Days, in around 1991.

Angela: Your next Solaris novel, Kéthani, will be released next May. What can you tell us about it? Is it a sequel to Helix?

EB: No, it’s not a sequel. It’s based on the series of short stories I’ve been writing for ten years about a race of aliens – the Kethani – who arrive on Earth and confer immortality on us. We can live for ever if we want to; when we ‘die’ we are taken to the aliens’ homeplanet, resurrected, and given the choice of either returning to Earth or going out among the stars as ambassadors of the Kethani.

The novel is about a group of friends who live in West Yorkshire in the near future, and how they react to the dubious gift of immortality. The stories concentrate on the human predicament, and the aliens, the science and technology, is kept in the background.

The novel is a rewrite of all the tales, with a lot of additional, linking chapters, and a prologue and coda. I think it’s my best book.

Angela: Besides the release of Kéthani, what’s up next for you? What are you working on?

EB: I’m working on the third book of the Bengal Station trilogy, which I’ve just sold to Solaris. The first two books, Psichopath (provisional title) and Xenopath are written, and I’m plotting and making notes on the third, Necropath. They’re about the investigations of a telepathic investigator on a vast spaceport in the middle of the Indian Ocean some time in the next century.

Angela: Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?

EB: Michael Coney, as mentioned above; his Hello Summer, Goodbye is stunning – a gentle love story set on a very alien world. I like James Lovegrove’s work – he writes literary SF and Fantasy, and every book of his is different, and excellent. I’m a big fan of G.K. Chesterton, best known as the creator of the Father Brown detective stories. (I’ve recently sold a novella to PS Publishing featuring Chesterton and Edgar Rice Burroughs meeting on Mars, improbable as that might seem.)

Angela: What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?

EB: I look after my daughter, Freya, and read for review. I do a monthly column for the Guardian, reviewing four SF and Fantasy, which keeps me pretty busy. I love cooking, mainly Thai and Indian, and we’re in the middle of moving house, and this one has a garden, so I’ll be growing vegetables soon, I hope.

Angela: Thanks for your time!

EB: And thank you.

8 thoughts on “13 Questions with Eric Brown”

  1. I know it’s pretty far off for me to be making movies (not done with school yet) but I want to make Helix into a movie.

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