Adrian Tchaikovsky is the prolific author behind the long-running, epic fantasy series, Shadows of the Apt. The Air War is his eighth novel, publishing this month, featuring his imaginative and original insect Kinden. We caught up with him to ask him a few questions about how he goes about writing such an intricate storyline, and you can also get a free extract of The Air War here.
The Air War is the eighth novel in your Shadows of the Apt series – how do you keep all the plot lines straight in your head?
Although part of an ongoing series, I work hard to make sure that each book has its own discrete plot, including an end where at least some things are resolved, even though wider issues of the series arc continue. I think breaking down the overall development like this makes keeping track of things considerably easier. I also doing quite a lot of structural planning before I write, so that I have a good idea of where each book should leave me. Not that it always works out as planned, of course.
In all your novels there have been a fair few casualties, are there any you wished hadn’t been written out of the storyline?
There have been some casualties who managed to cheat death despite my best attempts to kill them off, and at least one lead character who died unexpectedly in a second draft. In general, though, I think that I stand by my decisions (or at least the end results, whether they came about by my decision or otherwise). Frequently, the deaths of major characters have been the springboard for future plot. It might be an interesting question to ask if there have been characters left alive who I feel I should have killed off . . .
How many books are you planning to write in the Shadows of the Apt series? And did you think the story would last as long as it has?
Shadows of the Apt will be a ten book series. War Master’s Gate, book nine, comes out in August of this year, with Seal of the Worm in 2014. When I started on Empire in Black and Gold, the plot I envisaged went as far as book four, Salute the Dark, and you can see that those books make a relatively self-contained unit. However at the end of Salute there were obvious loose ends that would lead to the world of the insect-kinden being further troubled by war, and war of an increasingly advanced nature, and by that time I pretty much knew there would be nine or ten books to complete the wider story. And of course, the world retains a great deal of promise for future kinden stories. There’s a lot of it that just hasn’t been explored.
Which character from the novels would you most closely relate to?
It would be grand to say that flashing, doomed Tisamon was plainly my Mary Sue. Grand, and also untrue. Even Thalric, the duplicitous survivor, has a certain glamour to him. I think I am closest to Stenwold, though. Compared to many fantasy heroes he has a hard time of it: he’s too old for the hero business, and he spends most of the later books trying to wrench the unwieldly blocks of Lowlander politics into place to make a coherent whole, and he’s constantly subject to dozens of conflicting demands, of compromises to his morality, or having to choose between the good of the whole and the good of his friends. And he has to face some truly horrible decisisons, especially from The Air War onwards. He’s not the most heroic of my characters, but he works hardest.
Once the Shadows of the Apt world is finished with – what next?
I’ve already got mostly finished a stand-alone fantasy going by the title The Guns of Dawn, which is set in a sort of fantasy 1800s, with elements of both the wars of Napoleon and of US Independence. My tag-line is “Jane Austen meets Bernard Cornwell by way of Ursula K. le Guin” – Eliza Bennett-style heroine gets drafted, essentially, into a brutal brother-on-brother war run by incompetents on one side and a monstrous torturer on the other. Beyond that, I’ve started on a new fantasy series, my current work in progress, which is going to be quite a distance from the technological and societal scope of Shadows of the Apt, something dark and bronze age and magical. All still very much under wraps at the moment.