Novelist Bridget Whelan and poet Sarah Hymas have both invited me to join ‘The Next Big Thing’, a game of blog-tag in which I interview myself about my next book, and introduce my readers to five more writer friends. Well, the next big thing for me (after my Christmas card list) is the Feb 2013 publication of my first novel, Seoul Survivors!
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started writing Seoul Survivors in 1997. I was living in Seoul, teaching English and dancing the weekends away, but the presence of American soldiers, the sad history of a divided country, and the hyped-up military threat from a famine-stricken North Korea were now part of my daily reality. I was also immersed in a fast-paced, hi-tech pop-culture that seemed years ahead of the West: Korean scientists were making headlines for their advances in cloning technology, and while no-one I knew in the UK or Canada had a mobile, here everyone was connected on-the-go. If people didn’t have ‘handy phones’ (as the Koreans call mobiles), they had a ‘beepie’ pager to alert them to voicemail they could pick up from a payphone while they were out clubbing. I soon had a beepie, and even dressed as one for Hallowe’en one year. I also got my first email account in Seoul, which I accessed from a rented desktop computer, until a monsoon washed in through my window and the monitor blew up . . . I was reading William Gibson and Haruki Murakami and started thinking about the future. What would happen, I wondered, if a Korean bioengineering corporation turned the tables on Western colonialism, and started to trade in Caucasian DNA for fun, games and big profits? Naturally, I thought, the Yanks would be listening in . . .
What genre does your book fall under?
SF – specifically, it’s a cyber-thriller, with a lashing of horror for good measure.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm. To be honest, I don’t want to put faces on the characters, as I’d rather readers brought them to life in their own imaginations. There is a walk-on part for Hugh Grant though, playing himself, if he wants it.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
As the long-prophesied meteor Lucifer’s Hammer rockets toward Earth, three troubled young people take refuge in glitzy, hi-tech Seoul – but when they find themselves drawn into a visionary scheme to survive the coming eco-apocalypse, Sydney, Damien and Mee Hee realise that salvation comes at a price . . .
How will your book be published?
Seoul Survivors is represented by Zeno Agency and will be published on Feb 28th 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took a couple of years to write the first draft – I remember my flatmate Simon Kemp reading it around 1999. When I returned to the UK I kept working on it intermittantly over the next decade, and the end result is a very different beast in many respects.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
While I hope the book has found its own voice, it began as an attempt to literary-engineer the unashamed love-child of William Gibson and Anaïs Nin, and I would still say it is an homage to both great writers. It also shares classic SF themes and plot-kickers with Atomised by Michel Houellebecq, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Korean and Japanese novels fed my imagination, in particular House of the Spirits by Mia Yun, Our Twisted Hero by Yi Mun Yol, and Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami and Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami. Kathy Acker’s blood and guts underwrite the book’s vision, and along the way I couldn’t resist adding my own twist of Alice in Wonderland.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Thanks to a question from blogger Alan Kelly of Hell’s Shelves, I have soundtracked the novel. Readers who listen to music while they read might like to create a playlist drawn from the following:
Genres: Deep House, Acid Jazz, Electronica, Britpop, Korean folk music, Korean pansori music – traditionally one singer and a drummer, though I have also heard it with flute, and Japanese Noise music,
Artists: Garbage, Deep Forest, Grandaddy, Einsturzende Neubauten, Placebo, Kim Min Gee (the Korean Leonard Cohen), Lee Sang Eun (the Korean Joni Mitchell), Edith Piaf, Nico, Diamanda Galas, Underworld, Spiritualised, Sonic Youth, Crime and the City Solution, Meshmass (Brighton-based ambient loopwork), Frank Sinatra, the LA Confidential soundtrack, David Lynch (Crazy Clown Time),
Tracks: Thomas Dolby – ‘Europa and the Pirate Twins’; Blur – ‘Girls and Boys’; Oasis – ‘Champagne Supernova’. Boy George, ‘The Crying Game’. Perhaps you could call the book eighties steampunk!
Five More Big Things
I’m supposed to link here to other writers, but perhaps this game has reached its limits of eager players – I did ask five friends, but four haven’t replied and one politely demurred. So if anyone reading this wants to participate, just let me know in the comments thread!