An Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky - The Fantasy Review

An Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

I am delighted to introduce my interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, the prolific science fiction and fantasy author.

He has won many awards for his work, including the Arthur C. Clark Award for Children of Time in 2016.

Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Interview

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

AT: When I have the freedom to do so, I’ll get out of the house to a coffee shop or similar, to minimise temptation just to furtle around on the internet. I tend to write in the morning, and edit, admin and whatever else needs doing in the afternoons. I find there’s a limit to how much I can write before I need to recharge mentally.

You are really prolific, so you have a bank of half-fleshed out ideas that you draw on, or do you come up with new things consistently?

AT: I’m constantly working with ideas in the back of my head, and keep notes on useful snippets that might be incorporated into future projects. Generally I have a couple of decently thought-through projects waiting in the wings at any given time.

What makes a great character?

AT: Number of legs. Seriously, I’d love to be able to answer that question, but it’s something that tends to emerge in the writing. I suspect that the author’s investment in them helps, but that doesn’t always play through. Sometimes readers surprise you with their favourites.

When worldbuilding, which aspects are the most fun and which are the most important for the stories you want to tell?

AT: The worlds themselves are the key element of my writing, for me. The stories arise out of them. I like to have worlds where something entirely fantastical is commonplace to its inhabitants (like the shapeshifting in The Tiger and the Wolf, or the Art in Shadows of the Apt). Having an element that by its widespread nature changes everything about the way people live is more interesting to me than having, say, a standard medieval-style world where there just happens to be some hidden magic kicking around, except nobody really knows about it. I like including elements that go against trope, too (such as spider-as-hero!).

You recently returned to the fantasy genre with City of Last Chances. Is your writing process hugely different for fantasy and science fiction?

AT: It’s really a matter of how much of a setting is already determined. For harder science books like Children of Time, I have to map out where our current understanding sits, as regards the areas of science the book is interested in, then create around that. The less I’m bound to existing science, history or the like, the more I can invent. Secondary world fantasy is a special prize because I can set whatever parameters I like.

interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

Also, the cover for City of Last Chances is incredible! Do you have much of a say with regards to cover art?

AT: They usually talk to me about it, and we’ve gone back and forth a few times. I think there have been only two books where we’ve had a serious disagreement about covers. The publisher always gets the last say, and you’re always bound to the style of cover they prefer.

Do you think you will ever return to the Lowlands and write more in the Shadows of the Apt world?

AT: I’d love to. It’s a setting I still have a great fondness for. If I felt there was the demand I’d probably give it a shot. I’d need to find a new entrypoint that didn’t rely on people having read the previous books though.

When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?

AT: I’ve always been a keen reader. I spent half my childhood at the local library. The Target Dr Who novelisations were my first love, along with a book called The Seven Times Search by Paul Biegel, which (oddly enough) features the protagonist getting shrunk down and sent to live with the insects (who teach him maths for some reason).

What are some of your favourite recent reads?

AT: Babel, by RF Kuang, blew my mind. It’s an incredible book. Similarly Piranesi by Susanna Clark, which feels like the best parts of Mythago Wood and Gormenghast. I also enjoyed Andrew Knighton’s Ashes of Our Ancestors, a novella that’s just out now, but that I got an advance copy of.

What do you enjoy doing outside of writing and reading?

AT: I play a lot of tabletop games (some online via Zoom et al these days) – board and role-playing. I sketch and I paint miniatures, which are useful de-stressing hobbies as they give me something to look at afterwards.

If you only had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would it be?

AT: I get asked that a lot and, honesty, writers and writing styles vary so much, and publishing is so turbulent, that I’m not sure any single piece of advice would hold. Get stuff finished, maybe. Because even if you need to rewrite it after, knowing that you can finish something is an enormous psychological boost.

Are you working on any new books or other projects at the moment?

AT: Always. At the moment I’m working on a standalone followup to City of Last Chances, but there are several other books in the works, either completed and submitted, or in the planning stages. I’m also doing a little freelance tabletop game writing, which I can’t otherwise talk about yet.

Related to our Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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