Category Archives: Osiris Project

In conversation with Speculative Fiction Author Anne Charnock

ACharnockPortrait

Anne Charnock

I met Anne Charnock (@annecharnock) last summer when we shared a panel at LonCon 3, with David Hebblethwaite and Adam Roberts, discussing writers who cross the boundary between mainstream fiction and science fiction.

Since then, I’ve completed my trilogy, The Osiris Project, and Anne has finished her second novel, Sleeping Embers Of An Ordinary Mind. Anne’s debut novel, A Calculated Life, was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award 2013 and The Kitschies Golden Tentacle 2013.

We felt it was time for a catch-up chat—about past writing and future plans.


Anne—
So, E.J., we’ve both written fiction in which climate change is part of our world-building. Tell me how you became interested in this subject and the part it plays in your trilogy The Osiris Project.

E.J.—Climate change was something I’d had a growing interest and awareness of for a few years, and then I read Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, and that was really a game-changer for me. The geo-political scenarios it hypothesizes were at once utterly horrifying but also, from a fiction writer’s point of view, fascinating. I’ve always been drawn to isolated landscapes – the bleak but beautiful. When it came to writing The Osiris Project, I had the world map in mind very early on – a world radically altered by climate change, with borders redrawn and civilization shifted towards the poles. And that underpinned so much of the trilogy, in terms of character, society, political agendas, particularly in the second novel, Cataveiro.

Anne, how important was climate change as you were developing the world of A Calculated Life? Because as a reader, it feels like a noticeable but very subtle element, which I loved – for example, the vineyards, olive and citrus groves surrounding Greater Manchester.

ACalculatedLifeAnne—In any dystopia there are winners and losers—in terms of wealth and freedom—and it’s the same with climate change. I felt it would be interesting to locate my dystopian world in a region benefiting overall from climate change. In my imagined future world, Manchester and the north west of England become the new Tuscany of Europe. I’ve been tuned into climate issues for many years because I studied environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia, home of the Climatic Research Unit. I remember ice-cores being delivered to the department for historical climate analysis. And in 2006, I helped launch the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project in the community where I live. It’s now an exemplar for grassroots action thanks to the community’s enthusiasm. So far we’ve cut our carbon emissions by 25% through behaviour change and we’ve set up a Community Energy Company to generate power from solar energy. Our primary school now has free electricity!

Now that I’ve written two standalone novels, E.J., I’d love to know how you approached writing a trilogy. When did you realize your subject was too big for a standalone novel? And was it instantly clear to you how to break the narrative into three books?  

E.J.—I actually wrote Osiris as a standalone novel in the first instance, but when it came to submitting to agents I had a feeling I’d be asked about plans for sequels, and I left the story deliberately open-ended. The only thing I knew about the second book was that the location would move to outside Osiris, with an almost entirely new cast – I didn’t want to end up writing three variations of the same book, but rather to expand the canvas and the narrative points-of-view with each installment. But then I had so much fun with Cataveiro, the challenge in the third book was pulling everything back together, when my mind wanted to be off exploring an entirely different story! I think if I ever did another trilogy (and it’s definitely not on the cards anytime soon) I’d approach it quite differently. I love those trilogies where you might have hundreds, even thousands of years between books. And hopefully I’d be more organized too…

By contrast, I think you’re doing almost the opposite with your current novel, in terms of structure? Can you tell me a bit about the approach you’ve chosen, and why?

Anne—I spent several years mulling over this novel—Sleeping Embers Of An Ordinary Mind—before I settled on the structure. One of my main themes is the nature of success including, more specifically, how women’s achievements have tended to be overlooked. I decided to write three inter-weaving storylines set several hundreds of years apart. A trilogy of sorts!

I hoped this fractured structure would create a sense of immediacy. It’s proved both a challenge and immense fun to write. The settings are Renaissance Florence, present-day China and a future London in which The Academy of Restitutions is attempting to lift women out of undeserved obscurity.

My first novel, A Calculated Life, is dystopian science fiction so, as you can see, I’m now moving into new writing territories—that of contemporary and historical fiction. How do you feel about entering new territory—switching to standalone novels following the success of your trilogy? Do you feel it’s a risk?

E.J.—I’m really looking forward to the era of standalones, I like the containment of the single novel. Of course you can’t guarantee readers who liked one book will automatically be interested in the next, but that goes for series too. I think perhaps the greater risk is moving around genres – the book I’m currently writing has a contemporary setting, and it’s quite different in tone to The Osiris Project books, though it also contains speculative elements. One writer I really admire for this versatility is Genevieve Valentine, whose novels aren’t constrained to any one genre – she’s gone from steampunk circus to 1920s prohibition to future eco-thriller, and seems to be able to turn her hand to any subject material.

I should say I’m a big fan of multilayered and intersecting narratives (writers like David Mitchell, to cite an obvious example) and I absolutely love the sound of Sleeping Embers of an Ordinary Mind. Both of your novels have explored future projections – would you say you’re naturally drawn to the speculative in writing (and in art!), or is this just coincidence?

Anne—I think I’m naturally drawn to speculative writing because it offers a huge canvas. Having said that, I prefer to create plausible scenarios. In my new novel the main characters are connected to the art world—I’m making use of my background as an artist—and two of the main characters are based on real people in Renaissance Italy. I feel the future storyline in my novel is perfectly plausible.

Your current work-in-progress, E.J., brings to mind Ben H Winters’ novel The Last Policeman in terms of setting because Ben’s premise is science fictional but it’s really a contemporary novel! There’s an asteroid hurtling towards Earth and the story imagines how people react when they know the world will end in a year’s time. I find that combination of contemporary fiction and speculative fiction extremely engaging so I can’t wait to see how you bring them together.

Sometimes I test my ideas in a short story—for example, to try out a different style of writing or to find the voice of a character. Your short story “The Spiders of Stockholm” was long-listed for 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. Many congratulations. What an achievement! Can you describe the attraction of short form for you?

E.J.—Thanks, Anne! That was the loveliest surprise – I’d completely forgotten my editor had even submitted the story. “The Spiders of Stockholm” was part of the Irregularity anthology from Jurassic London, who are a joy to write for because they always put together such thought-provoking briefs (in this case, the tension between order and chaos in the Age of Enlightenment).

I don’t feel that I’m a natural short story writer, so I like having some ideas to springboard from. But one thing I love about the form is the opportunity to hone your language at the editing stage, whereas with a novel it feels like there’s always something that escapes you. Having said that, some of my favourite novels are short story collections in disguise, like Angelica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial, or Rana Dasgupta’s Tokyo Cancelled, and I’d love to write something in that vein one day.

Have you published your short stories, and if so, where can we find them?

Anne—My short story, “The Adoption”, will be published this autumn in Phantasma an anthology of horror, SF, urban fantasy and paranormal fiction, including stories by J.D. Horn, Roberta Trahan, Kate Maruyama and Jodi McIsaac Martens.

Other than that I’m currently hoarding several drafts of short stories—more like vignettes. They’re on a single theme—how human relationships will be affected by advances in human reproduction technologies. I’m a huge fan of fragmented narratives and I’m now inclined to incorporate these vignettes in larger piece of writing, possibly a full-length novel.

One of my favourite examples of fragmented-narrative writing is Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad and I’ll definitely read Angelica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial. Thanks for the recommendation. I do feel that short form and split narratives suit me as a fiction writer. It’s possibly a throw-back to my days of rattling off short pieces of journalistic writing. Having said that, short fiction requires a great deal more honing that journalism deadlines ever allowed.

Let’s have another conversation, E.J., when some of our plans have played out. And good luck with your current writing.

Anne’s new novel, Sleeping Embers Of An Ordinary Mind, is published by 47North in November 2015. You can pre-order it here and find out more about her work at her website.

Cataveiro and Tamaruq: US ebooks now available

I’m very pleased to share that ebook editions of CATAVEIRO and TAMARUQ, Books Two and Three of The Osiris Project trilogy, are now available in the US. The ebooks are published by JABberwocky Literary Agency and are available on Amazon, Kobo and iTunes (Barnes and Noble to follow shortly). My huge thanks to JABberwocky for giving these books a digital home, and especially to Lisa Rodgers for coordinating their production.

You can find the ebooks via the following retailers:

Cataveiro: Amazon // Kobo // iTunes

Tamaruq: Amazon // Kobo // iTunes

OSIRIS, Book One of The Osiris Project, continues to be published by Night Shade Books and you can find it here:

Osiris: Kindle // Kobo // Nook

The beautiful new cover art for the US editions was created by Ben Baldwin, who I can’t recommend highly enough, and you can find out more examples of his work over at his website here.

Cataveirotamaruq

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Ben on the process of creating the artwork:

“For most of my work the image starts off as a combination of hand drawn or painted elements and photography. I scan/import these elements into my computer and then use a lot of Photoshop to assemble and create the final image. I also use a Wacom pen tablet which allows me to do some digital drawing directly in Photoshop. So the images are basically a mix of different layers of traditional and digital techniques.”

And here’s the set together – as you can see, Ben’s done a brilliant job of tying in the new covers with the original US Osiris cover, to create a cohesive set for the trilogy. Enjoy!

Osiris cover

Cataveiro

tamaruq

Tamaruq publication day!

It’s here! Tamaruq, the final volume in The Osiris Project trilogy, is out today. And here it is looking rather lovely alongside Osiris and Cataveiro:

photo (4)

Here’s the cover blurb:

Fleeing from her family and the elitist oppression of the Osiris government, Adelaide Rechnov has become the thing she once feared, a revolutionary.

But with the discovery of a radio signal comes the stark realization that there is life outside their small island existence. Adelaide’s worries are about to become much bigger.

Meanwhile, as rumour spreads on the mainland, many head to the lost city of Osiris with their own devious objectives. But in a world where war is king and only the most powerful survive, there can only be one victor…

If you’d like to order a copy of Tamaruq, you can find the paperback edition through Amazon, Waterstones, or Foyles, and the ebook via Amazon. Or you can support independent bookshops by ordering through Hive.

TAMARUQ cover

Nothing makes you so happy as a writer as the day you get to see the cover design for a new book, and I’m thrilled to share the artwork for the forthcoming TAMARUQ. Del Rey have produced three beautiful covers for The Osiris Project trilogy and this one might be my favourite yet. A big thank you to the designers for all their work.

tamaruq cover

And here’s the three covers together – I can’t wait to see the set in print!

Osiris UK cover final

cataveiro pb covertamaruq cover

 

 

 

 

TAMARUQ is released on 29 January 2015.

Cataveiro paperback out today!

Cataveiro, Book Two of the Osiris Project, is out in paperback today!

Copies are available through Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones, and The Book Depository, which offers free shipping worldwide.

Here’s the synopsis:

A shipwreck. And one lone survivor.

For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly.

For pilot and cartographer Ramona Callejas, the presence of the mysterious stranger is one more thing in the way of her saving her mother from a deadly disease.

All roads lead to Cataveiro, the city of fate and fortune, where their destinies will become intertwined and their futures cemented for ever…

And a few reviews:

‘… the soulful latest instalment in The Osiris Project and a superior sequel… new lead characters, a fresh story and some real action… CATAVEIRO has a soulful, lonely quality as Taeo and Ramona embark on their solitary missions, haunted by memories of the past and visions of what lies ahead… Their imperfections keep them grounded and likeable, preventing EJ Swift from slipping into predictable and clichéd characterisation… as dystopian fiction goes it is an intriguing world to get lost in.’  –  SciFiNow

… the standard dystopian set-up has given way to a compellingly drawn post-collapse world that feels scorchingly real and virtually limitless in its horizons. This is a very human book, a boldly compassionate book, a novel bulging with important questions about our own world which cannot fail to engage the sympathy and imagination of the reader.’ – Nina Allan

‘The characters within are fully rounded, have some wonderful little quirks and when added to the arc really generate a caring response within the reader. Back this up with great prose, solid pace work and of course some magical twists which, when backed with the authors own identifiable writing style all round, makes this a book that hit the spot for me as a reader. Top notch.’ – Falcata Times

‘Another beautifully-written novel… If you enjoy beautifully-written, literary science fiction, with less focus on being an action-packed blockbuster, then The Osiris Project is a must read.’ – Civilian Reader

And Osiris, the first book in the series, was reviewed over at J for Jetpack earlier this week:

‘Machiavellian politics, city in the sea, allegory for our times, great prose, human characters. An excellent debut novel that deserves to be read.’

Update on The Osiris Project in the US

A few people have asked me what’s happening with the next two books in The Osiris Project trilogy in the US, and I’m now able to give a proper update. Night Shade Books will continue to publish Osiris in print and ebook form, but they will not be publishing Cataveiro (Book 2) or the third installment in the trilogy.

For readers across the pond, if you’d like to get hold of a print copy of the Del Rey UK edition of Cataveiro, I’d recommend ordering from The Book Depository, which offers free delivery worldwide. The trade paperback edition is available now, and the smaller paperback will be published in September.

I’m also hoping to have a US ebook of Cataveiro available soon – more information to follow as I have it.

Publication day: Cataveiro

The UK edition of Cataveiro, second volume in The Osiris Project trilogy, was released this week from Del Rey UK in trade paperback and ebook. Del Rey have done a truly beautiful job with the cover and I’m delighted to see the book out in the world.

Second novels are notoriously tricky and it was important to me to create something that could stand on its own, as well as being a sequel. Here’s a bit more about the book:

A shipwreck. And one lone survivor.

For political exile Taeo Ybanez, this could be his ticket home. Relations between the Antarcticans and the Patagonians are worse than ever, and to be caught on the wrong side could prove deadly. For pilot and cartographer Ramona Callejas, the presence of the mysterious stranger is one more thing in the way of her saving her mother from a deadly disease.

All roads lead to Cataveiro, the city of fate and fortune, where their destinies will become intertwined and their futures cemented for ever…

I was really happy to see Nina Allan’s review of the book over at The Spider’s House. You can read the full review on her blog, but here’s an extract:

“… the standard dystopian set-up has given way to a compellingly drawn post-collapse world that feels scorchingly real and virtually limitless in its horizons. This is a very human book, a boldly compassionate book, a novel bulging with important questions about our own world which cannot fail to engage the sympathy and imagination of the reader. I try to avoid the term worldbuilding wherever possible, but I have to concede that I found the worldbuilding in Cataveiro to be a thing of great beauty: both robust and poetical and – that word again – enviably assured.” 

I’ll be blogging and guest posting more about the book over the next month or so, and Del Rey will be hosting an extract which I’ll link to once it’s up.

You can order a copy of Cataveiro through Random House here, or via your preferred retailer (links for AmazonWaterstones, and Foyles.)