Thursday, May 24, 2007

Interview with Chris Dolley

What inspired Resonance?

Several things. One was Rupert Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance. I read his book in the 90s and recognised immediately that - with a little tweaking and artistic license - the idea of resonance would make an excellent backdrop for a story. It took me a few years though to find the right balance. I needed a plot to go with it and a character to take the reader through the story.

In 2000 I found all three.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Making a passive protagonist who didn't speak interesting. It's the one of the first rules of writing - have an active protagonist. And dialogue helps. Or else the reader soon gets bored. But the plot called for not just a passive protagonist but the ultimate passive protagonist. One psychologically incapable of doing anything interesting and who hadn't spoken a word since the age of nine.

So I concentrated on making him interesting - telling the story from his perspective. Using his internal thoughts for dialogue and immersing the reader in the very strange, quirky world of Graham Smith - a man who believes that any change in his daily routine will result in tragedy. He's seen people disappear, office blocks move across town, roads change course - all at night when no one's looking. The world's an unstable place - sloughing off reality like dead skin.

Then as the plot unfolds Graham is coaxed out of his shell and the book gathers pace.

What’s the easiest?

The snappy dialogue scenes for my heroine, Annalise. I blame it on Joss Whedon - I think he has some kind of subliminal message inserted into his programmes. Watch enough Buffy and your characters start talking like her. They're certainly much easier to write.

Was BAEN the first place you submitted?

Yes, I only submitted Resonance to the one publisher. I had an agent at the time for an expat true crime and when I gave him Resonance to look at I found out that he didn't like SF. So I was stuck. What do you do when your agent doesn't like your next book or the genre it's written in? I looked around and saw that Baen accepted email submissions (not the Baen's Bar slush pile) and decided to park the novel there while I worked out what to do next.

Two years passed. My expat true crime didn't sell. I parted ways with my agent. And I assumed Baen had passed on my book. Then I received an email from Jim Baen. Resonance was the first novel he'd picked from the slush for years.

Resonance has started off with rousing success, especially for a first novel—what’s next?

The next novel, Shift, comes out in July. It's actually a greatly re-written version of the first novel I wrote back in '94. It's a faster darker read than Resonance and introduces a protagonist who's the complete opposite of Graham. Nick Stubbs acts first and regrets it three pages later. Which makes him fun to write. If you like unusual mysteries or thrillers then you'll like Shift. Plus it has a 'spiritual' side to it - and a detective who's equally at home out-of-body as he is in-body.

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