Today I am interviewing Andy Lane and Nigel Foster, authors of the new fantasy novel, Netherspace, first book in the Netherspace series.
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DJ: Hey Andy and Nigel! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourselves?
Andy Lane: I took a degree in Physics and spent twenty seven long years working for the British Ministry of Defence, largely providing scientific advice and analysis to the Army and the Air Force and working on predicting the shape of future warfare. In my spare time I’d been building up a parallel career as a writer, given my life-long love of writing science fiction. A few years back I left the Civil Service and went freelance, which was (next to asking my then-girlfriend to marry me) the best decision I’ve ever made.
Nigel Foster: Former soldier, Intelligence Corps, then advertising, PR, tv and radio all over the world, then journalist and author. So your average media gypsy. Wrote a best-seller about the Royal Marines Commandos, also developed and launched OK! Magazine. Weird combination, I know.
DJ: What is Netherspace about?
Andy: It’s about 90,000 words. No, I kid. It’s about a universe where communication between races is impossible – we’re all just too different. It’s about the various accommodations that have to be made in order for us all just to get along, and what happens when we reach the limits of those accommodations. It’s also about the J.B.S.Haldane quote: “It is my supposition that the Universe in not only queerer than we imagine, is queerer than we can imagine.” How do we, how can we, live in a universe that we don’t, can’t, understand?
Nigel: What happens when we can’t communicate with aliens; and Earth gets colonised by their technology, curiously exchanged for common household items. It’s about what lies and what lives beneath the space-time continuum. It’s the story of three humans reluctantly sent to discover how Earth can regain control
DJ: What were some of your influences for Netherspace?
Andy: I’ve only begun to realise my influences after finishing the book, looking back and recognising the shapes of things. I grew up reading science fiction in the 1970s, and I loved (and still love) obscure writers like John Rankine and E.C.Tubb. They wrote short books that got to the point quickly, rather than mucking around. Characterisation was as sparse as possible, dialogue was terse and description was telling. It occurred to me that SF these days is becoming more and more bloated, and I wanted to somehow get back to the days when every word contributed to moving the story forward. To what extent we’re managed that I don’t know, but we’ve tried, and I think that in doing that we’ve also got back to a wider style of the 1960s and early 1970s as typified by writers such as John Le Carre (in his first few novels) and Len Deighton.
Nigel: Andy Lane was a major one. . . Oh, writers like Jack Vance and Ian M Banks and especially M John Harrison’s Light series, Scarlett Thomas’ End of Mr Y and Justina Robson’s Quantum series, the only fantasy I can read because it has a sciencey base. Plus a more than respectful nod to Richard Morgan and John Courtney Grimwood. All the greats like Bradbury, Kuttner, Kornbluth and John Wyndam. And I have to mention Octavia Butler, quite brilliant.
DJ: Actually, where did the idea to co-author this book from? Have you done this before or had you two been joking around with the idea and finally decide to give a go for real?
Andy: I’ve co-written novels with two other writers – both times on tie-in novels set in the universe of BBC TV’s Doctor Who. The problem with co-writing, I discovered, is that you start off thinking that you’ll both have to do half the work, but it ends up with you both doing 70% of the work. It’s not cost-effective in that sense, but it does mean you’ve got someone to share the pain with when ideas that seemed so great to begin with start going wrong, or when you start getting over-familiar with the material and want to be surprised by something. The great thing about working with Nigel is the constant element of surprise (even shock).
Nigel: Never co-authored before, although I have ghost written a few. We decided about an hour after first met and realised we both had problems with a specific trope: that humans and aliens would be able to communicate. Andy’s right that with us it can lead to overwriting, but that’s no bad thing. It’s the old ad copywriting adage: you want a thousand words, you write three thousand. The trick is to remember the book comes first.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Andy: Marc Keislack is an artist who gets dragged, kicking and screaming, into a having to help resolve an alien hostage situation. He’s very self-absorbed, as most artists are, and verges on the psychopathic at times (but in a good way). He has a need to understand what’s going on around him and place it in a wider context – a need that’s increasingly frustrated by the tendency of the universe not to want to be understood or catalogued.
Nigel: Kara Jones is a former special operations soldier with a near-psychic natural empathy, useful in her past role as a sniper. She’s subtle, lethal, ruthless but with a sense of humour and questions about the universe and her life that need to be answered. Do not bet against her getting them. She’s sexual with a fascination for the pre-alien Earth.
DJ: What is the world and for the Netherspace series like? (the environment, weather, people, religion, technology, architecture, government, etc; is it violent, peaceful, patriarch/matriarch, etc.)
Nigel: The biggest shock to Earth was and is the inability to communicate with aliens except in a very primitive point-and-swop type of trade. Aliens do not recognise human politics, religion, science or even celebrity, shock horror. . . and if such advanced beings don’t, why should we? So there are no countries or hierarchical religions any more. Instead high-tech city states, essentially tribal; and what lies between called the Wild, essentially pan-human and ungovernable.
There’s an organisation called GalDiv evolved out of the old United Nations that tries to regulate human/alien transactions, throughout the city-states. Also the various colony worlds settled by using alien technology which humans do not understand. How to operate it, yes. Why it does what it does, no. Incidentally, the trade for star-drives is the only consistent – and essentially shameful – human/alien trade. Architecture ranges from the spectacular to the sordid, often within a few blocks. The city-states are violent, often feuding with each other. Corporations and people are the same. Extreme differences may be settled by government licensed assassins, like Kara Jones. Family life still exists, as it always will. But the ideas of straight, gay, bi-sexual, pan sexual, probably omni-sexual no longer exist. People just do whatever: no shame, no shrink. Science in the city-states is dominated by alien tech. There is very little human R&D anymore.
DJ: Could you tell more about these aliens?
Nigel: We deal with two main ones: the Gliese, a small pile of rotting leather with
Thin arms and nubby legs, who handle the space-drive trades. And the Cancrii, a symbiotic being of a slug and what looks vaguely like a greyhound. There’s another, anaconda like being with a series of tiny arms and a face like writhing worms, and smell of spaghetti bolognaise. But it doesn’t figure much. And a few others show up at the end of the first book. But since human and alien can’t communicate, there’s no meeting of minds, no swapping recipes and pictures of the kids back home. Okay, a pattern, an inkling does begin to emerge but you’ll have to buy the book. . .
DJ: One thing that has fascinated me is how a book is written by multiple authors. By this, I am referring to the actually process of outlining the story, writing it, and then editing it.
Do you each do your own outline for the whole story? Then look over each others sections/chapters and compare to see how the story fits?
Nigel: There is a plan. A plot of the series. And sometimes we stick to it. Broadly speaking, I do rough drafts of a section/chapter, Andy will re-write/add as he sees fit, we’ll maybe back and forth a bit and then agree on the final draft. Thing is not to be too precious. It’s the book that’s important, not our egos. But sometimes Andy will want to write the first draft and if the stars are right he will.
DJ: Then, how do you break up who writes what? And I’ve also read that some authors who co-write books will edit each other’s chapters, too.
Nigel: Marc is Andy’s character and I wouldn’t dream of writing anything drastic about him without checking with Andy. Similar with Kara, my character. Tatia is anybody’s (but she’s having counselling) and Greenway is a father figure we both revere. We don’t write alternate chapters, as said. I’ve no problem if Andy edits my work if it makes it better. Of the two, I’m more obsessive about copy-editing, will happily play with a paragraph forever. If either of us writes something that the other really does not like. . . but the writer really loves. . . the writee will shrug and let the Editor decide. All praise to the Editor.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Netherspace?
Nigel: Playing with ideas and hanging out with Andy. Writing is a very lonely job.
Plus the usual thrill of realising the story’s already there, all we have to do is uncover it.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Nigel: When the next book in the series is out! No, hopefully how we trashed so many bog-standard sci-fi/weird fiction tropes. And that the series promises to be epic. And that we made people think.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing the Netherspace series? This is only the first book of the series, but if there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when they finish it? Or perhaps a certain theme to the series?
Nigel: Well, of course it has to be set against globalisation and Brexit crisis . . . no, not really although someone will assume it. If anything, this book is partly about colonisation where two nations have no real understanding of each other’s culture, but operate according to their own prejudices and dogma.
A developing theme is the eternal conflict between anarchic creativity on the one hand, and order, organisation on the other. . . and how that works on a human/alien/being scale.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Netherspace that you can share with us?
Nigel: Towards the end, when Kara is leading an escape. She has a spiky relationship with her own AI, who says to her:
‘Oh, it’s a plan now, is it? Not just a vague set of desperate measures and a hope they might lead to a satisfying conclusion?’
Any soldier, or who’s worked in advertising and PR will recognise the sentiment.
DJ: Now that Netherspace is released, what is next for each of you?
Nigel: Writing book 2. Thinking about book 3. And there’s a spin-off series we’re keen about. For me, a weird fiction private eye, contemporary London, I’ve been trying to develop for a year. Also a humour/crime in the Lovecraft genre.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: under construction
Blog: currently changing and updating. Be on-line in a week or so.
Bookbub: not yet
Booktrack: not yet
Facebook: like a rash: Nigel Foster
Google+: yes, but don’t use it much
Website: nigel foster.co.uk. Under construction, ready middle of May.
Also Netherspace.co.uk website.
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Netherspace that we haven’t talked about yet?
Nigel: There no elves or magic swords. But reading it will make you look younger and improve your love life.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Nigel: We do love feedback. All reader questions, comments, complaints and especially fulsome praise will be read and answered. No aliens were harmed in the writing of this book.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of both of your days to answer my questions!
Nigel: Thanks. It made me really htink about the book. This may or may not be a good thing!
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*** Netherspace is published by Titan Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Aliens came to Earth forty years ago. Their anatomy proved unfathomable and all attempts at communication failed. But through trade, humanity gained technology that allowed them to colonise the stars. The price: live humans for every alien faster-than-light drive.
Kara’s sister was one of hundreds exchanged for this technology, and Kara has little love for aliens. So when she is drafted by GalDiv – the organisation that oversees alien trades – it is under duress. A group of colonists have been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an uncharted planet, and an unusual team is to be sent to negotiate. As an ex-army sniper, Kara’s role is clear. But artist Marc has no combat experience, although the team’s pre-cog Tse is adamant that he has a part to play. All three know that success is unlikely. For how will they negotiate with aliens when communication between the species is impossible?
About the Author:
Andrew Lane is the author of twenty-nine books and multiple short stories, television scripts and audio dramas. He is perhaps best known for his Young Sherlock series, which have sold to 42 countries. He has also written three well-reviewed adult crime novels under a pseudonym, the first of which has been optioned as a US TV series. He is currently writing another series featuring Doyle’s Professor Challenger. He lives in Dorset.
Nigel Foster began as an advertising copywriter, first in the UK and then North America. He moved on to television and radio factual programming before co-founding a successful movie magazine. Back in the UK highlights include developing and launching OK! Magazine; an international non-fiction best-seller about the Royal Marines Commandos; and six of the most popular Bluffer’s Guides, world-wide.