An Interview with Christopher Nutall

Amazing Stories own Adam Gaffen talks with Christoper G. Nutall

Amazing Stories: Welcome aboard the new incarnation of Amazing Stories! Glad you could be here!

Christopher Nutall: Thank you. Glad to be here <grin>

AS: Let’s jump right in. How did you end up in Malaysia?

Chris Nutall and wife
Chris Nutall and wife

CN: Very long story. The short version is that my wife is from Malaysia and I decided to spend some time living with her in her country rather than in Britain. It gave me time to concentrate on my writing as well as research and exploring the other side of the world.

Travel back and forth is a pain, sadly. It takes 14 hours to fly from Kuala Lumpur to London, and then we have to fly to either Edinburgh or Kota Kinabalu depending on which way we’re flying. In some ways, flying here is better than in the UK – the security officers are less anally-retentive about stuff than the ones in the UK – but it has its problems too. Last time we went to the UK, we ended up having a flight delayed for 14 hours! Luckily we’d built some slack into the planned schedule.

The major downside is that I always catch a cold after getting back to KK…

AS: Your Multiverse War seems to be a sweeping vision of alternate history. How did it come about, and what’s going to happen next?

CN: The Multiverse War grew out of stories like Island in the Sea of Time and 1632, where people and equipment get tossed backwards in time. I had the idea that all of these problems were caused by a war between two different forces – one which would only be known as the Enemy, at least at first. Later on, I pretty much confirmed that they were Alien Space Bats.

Once someone or something got moved in time, the story would flow naturally from there – with the war taking a backdrop. (Obviously, the war is pretty important, but the people in the stories are barely aware of it.) The very first one picked up an American carrier (a direct homage to The Final Countdown) and sent it into a world where the American revolution failed and the British Empire is one of three great powers. What do Americans do if there’s no America?

Later, I tried inverting the whole concept with Graf Zeppelin. Basically, the Germans got the carrier – an advanced carrier from a world where the Nazis won the war – instead of the Allies. This isn’t good news for anyone, least of all the Germans, who are shocked to discover the truth behind the men they were brought up to admire.

I’ve currently got most of the series on hiatus, but I am considering a variant on that concept where a modern-day carrier gets sent back to 1991, just before the Gulf War. I do think that war was the prime chance to prevent the slide towards global disorder that burst into public view in 9/11, so I started to reason out what might have happened if Bush42 and Saddam and everyone else acquired some knowledge of the future. For example, do you just act to restore the Status Quo, or do you dispose Saddam 12 years earlier, with a much larger force?

There are several other concepts based around the 1632 Shards universe, which I may write one day. One would toss Catterick Garrison (home of the British Army’s Infantry Training Centre) into World War Two. Another would go into the English Civil Wars, an area of history that really doesn’t get very much attention. Shame, really, because so much of the future depended upon them.

AS: One of my personal favourites is The Empire’s Corps. Rumour has it there’s a sequel in the works.

NWE image(1)CN: No Worse Enemy, the sequel to The Empire’s Corps, is available now through Amazon! And after that –

Well, I do want to write a short novella covering events on Earth; the irritating thing is that I wrote out half a plotline, and then discovered that it was too close to someone else’s work. So I’ll have to revise it. After that, there will be the shockwaves that will finally shatter the remains of the Empire, leaving Edward Stalker and his men dealing with the fallout.

AS: And you don’t exist solely in eBooks, either. You have a Dead Tree coming out soon?

CN: The Royal Sorceress is out in Dead Tree in February; the electronic version is already out on Kindle and several other formats. After that, Bookworm should be coming out later in the year from the same publisher, followed by two more.

AS: Steampunk, scientific magic and alternate history. A heady combination! Are there more planned?

CN: Well, I have an entire arc planned out for Lady Gwen. Book Two – The Great Game – will see her coming into her own as Royal Sorceress and struggling to overcome the difficulties she will face from stepping into Master Thomas’s shoes. Which would be bad in any case, but Gwen is a girl…ideally, the book will also get into the alternate politics of this 1830 and just how all the changes caused by magic have affected the rest of the world.

royal sorceress imageAfter that, I intend to write one set in British India, one in Russia and one covering the outbreak of war. Ironically, this world missed out on the Napoleonic Wars – which served to teach European statesmen a lesson they largely kept for 40 years – so they won’t really appreciate the true nature of such wars. By the time they realise the truth, it will be too late.

I should probably take a look at the alternate America too, as I’ve been reading about the Founding Fathers and other historical personages, but I’m still trying to decide who to slot into this 1830.

AS: And there are other books of yours coming out in Dead Tree?

CN: Bookworm, a high fantasy novel, should be coming out in electronic form this February to coincide with the paperback publication of The Royal Sorceress. After that, there will be Sufficiently Advanced Technology, in which I blur the line between fantasy and science-fiction, and Dizzy Spells, an urban fantasy set in Edinburgh.

Bookworm is, in some ways, an inversion of The Royal Sorceress – the hero of the story doesn’t want to be a hero and doesn’t really want to be involved in great events. But life doesn’t really give her a choice in the matter.

Sufficiently Advanced Technology features an ultra-advanced human society coming face to face with a world where magic seems to work. For various reasons, this is something they want desperately, so they start exploring this brave new world. And then things start to go wrong. I used to think of it as the Culture meets a dark version of Harry Potter, but someone on a forum pointed out that there was already a fan-fiction that touched on that. It’s actually pretty good, if abandoned.

Dizzy Spells came from the idea that you can choose to live in the mundane world or the magical world, but not both. The heroine of the story finds her way from one world to the other, only to discover that the magical world is dangerous as well as wonderful.

AS: I understand that you also wrote a pair of Posleen books?

CN: I did – The Yeomen of England and Holy War. The first one is set in the UK during the Posleen landings (roughly the same time period as Watch on the Rhine); the second one is set mainly in the Middle East. It’s up to John Ringo to determine if they’re canon, but as far as I know nothing in the actually published books contradicts them. I’d love to rewrite the British one at some point.

bookworm imageAt the moment, they can be downloaded for free from my site. Comments welcome.

AS: I understand that some of your fans got their first books through a free promotion. Do you do that often?

CN: I’ve pretty much decided to offer any new ebook free for a few days when I finally upload it. As I see it, the promotion should encourage people to write reviews, although it doesn’t always work that way. Nearly 2000 copies of The Empire’s Corps were downloaded during the promotion; I have (as of now) 38 reviews.

I intend to keep doing this indefinitely, so watch my blog or facebook page. I’m also planning to do an Xmas promotion – offer a few of my older books for free on Christmas Day, as a gift to my fans (and to encourage more reviews). Actually, if you want to reward an author, write a review <wink>. Every review is cherished.

AS: That sounds a little over-optimistic…

CN: Umm…I plead the fifth.

Yes, you’re right – negative reviews can really hurt an author. Our books are our babies and they’re always beautiful to us. A slap is remembered longer than a thousand caresses, after all. But I think that authors have to remember that critical feedback is actually very important; someone may be criticising your book, but they’re also helping you to become a better author.

That said, it tends to vary. For example, Invasion takes about four chapters for the alien mothership to arrive and interplanetary war to begin. Outside Context Problem starts slowly and builds up to the collision between human and invader interests. I’ve had people complaining about me taking too long to set up the war AND me not bothering to set up much of the background before the shit hits the fan. At some point, you have to just shape the story as you see fit and the critics can like it (or not) as they please.

The annoying critics, however, are the ones that don’t bother to read the story before they start yapping or the ones who demonstrate their ignorance as they post their reviews. One review wrote, basically, ‘soldiers don’t swear.’

Overall, though, every author should be glad of his constructive critics. And I am very grateful for mine.

AS: What sort of books do you read when you’re not writing?

CN: The truth is that I spend a lot of time – too much time, according to my wife – reading. Right now, I’m reading books on the ancient world, the English Civil Wars, the American Revolution, the War on Terror and several other subjects. Civil wars have always fascinated me, as have the clash of empires and the end of eras. They’re not so pleasant for the people who have to live through them, sadly.

Fiction? I like military SF, plenty of general SF, alternate history and quite a few fantasy books. On the other hand, I can be a harsh critic at times. After becoming a writer I’ve tossed away books I would otherwise have kept.

My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, introduced me to Sherlock Holmes, HG Wells and many others. Quite a bit of my early readings wound up influencing The Royal Sorceress.

AS: Where can we go to read all about you and pick up your books?

CN: Well, my website has plenty of free books, articles and samples of all of my books. I also have a blog and a Facebook Fan Page.

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