William Knight is a British-born journalist and technologist currently living and working in Wellington, New Zealand. He’s chased a varying career starting in acting, progressing to music, enjoyed a brief flirtation with handbag manufacturing and was eventually wired into technology.
In 2003 he published his first feature in Computing magazine and has since written about the many successes and failings of high-tech for the Guardian, Financial Times and BBC Focus among many other publications. He continues to write, and maintains a lively IT consultancy.
If you had to give a very brief synopsis of your book, what might say if you only had 30 seconds to say it?
Journalist Hendrix ‘Aitch’ Harrison links bodies stolen from a renowned forensic research enclosure to an influential drug company specialising in genetic modification. Assisted by Sarah Wallace, a determined and beguiling forensic entomologist, he delves into a grisly world of clinical trials and a viral treatment beyond imagination. But Aitch must battle more than his fear of technology to expose the macabre fate of the drugged bodies donated to scientific research.
Here’s some fun questions, at least they’re fun for me.
What is the most overrated virtue? Crap, that’s hard. Intelligence, probably; Only the really stupid among us have the confidence to ask questions that chase elephants from rooms.
What is the one thing other people always seem to get wrong about you? That I am confident. I’m not, I’m painfully shy with a stomach-squirming ability to act like a confident person. I shudder at the speeches and presentations I have made, and in my own private hideaway am deeply embarrassed at even innocuous mistakes I’ve made in social situations. Even writing these words sends a tingle of pain up my spine in case they are read by anyone.
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be? I would remove all the fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas from the planet. Climate change would be solved, we wouldn’t have noisy polluting cars spoiling our great cities, petro-political wars would end, and the communities would naturally reform around towns and villages. We pay a great cost for fossil fuels and the price is going up all the time.
What pet peeve do you have about other people? My wife always leaves lids un-tightened on the top of bottles, jars, toothpaste tubes and the like. This irritates to distraction. I pick up jam by the lid and it smashes to the floor leaving me holding the lid; I cannot count how many times I have lost a jar of gherkins to the kitchen tiles.
Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie? No, of course not. (err.. just in cast that doesn’t come across in text, that’s a lie). (In any case, fiction is a lie, my book is a lie, it is full of lies from the first page to the last. Isn’t that the point of fiction?)
Now let’s talk about the writing.
What is your philosophy of writing? This question is best served by my favourite writing quote: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. “ When I write, I do a lot of sitting. I mean A LOT. You thought a bus driver does a lot of sitting, but that is nothing compared to the time I spend sitting. I am a king of sitters, and at some point, after sitting for a large part of my life, a book turns up.
What’s the name and genre of you book? The book is called Generation, it is a corporate-crime thriller with an injection of horror. Some have said it’s Science Fiction with a horror garnish, and I’ll happily call it speculative fiction. But it’s meant to be real; so close to possibility you’ll be afraid it just might happen.
Who is the audience for this book? It’s an adult book, a commercial chiller for lovers of crime, science, SF, and did I mention there’s a bit of horror.
Describe your protagonist and describe the challenges the protagonist needs to overcome and the motivation for overcoming them. Hendrix Harrison is a techno-phobic journalist. Approaching middle age, and out of condition since a psychological discharge from the services, he is unable to steer his career in a “worthy” direction. Because its a “bit of fun”, he works for a “conspiracy theorists wank mag” chasing ghosts and mythical-beasts around the English country side, but inside he dreams of breaking a big story.He must overcome his fear of technology and face the reasons for his discharge to prevail. Above all, he must re-visit the bunker in Afghanistan that stole his confidence, but this time he must go back for his colleagues.
Describe your antagonist and talk about motivation. DeBonfort is a lover of fine architecture, fine English shoes and the money that allows him to get them. At first he is motivated only be the wanting to do his job in an effective and professional manner. By the end he is backed into a corner of his own vanity, unable to fact the truth but unable either to back down.
Quote a passage from your book that you love. There’s a quote in writing to “Kill your darlings.” This means that it is quite likely that the passages I personally think are great, are the very passages I should have cut out during the edit. Nonetheless, here’s a hundred words I’ve personally chosen to share with you, cos I love them.
“For fuck’s sake, you’ve got to get over this. Look across the road and you’ll see a retail outlet. It’s called a shop. Buy a new phone. I’ll pay for it. These web-fired meedja grads think it’s the only thing that matters, and we’ve made a commitment to the new owners to modernise. I’m only asking you to send a few texts, and only then when you’re out and about. We’ve got kids queuing up to follow you on Twitter, you’re our star writer, and you’re missing a trick if you don’t give them something on their terms.”
Elaborate on the meaning of the passage. This passage is spoken by to the protagonist, Hendrix Harrison, by his editor attempting to enthuse Hendrix with modern technology. It can be taken at face value, but it also introduces a recurring theme about the duality (good and bad) of technological advances. Hendrix’s dislike of technology prevents him being traced by hi-tech villains later in the novel, but his final embrace of the technological generation not only inspires the novel’s title but also leads to his final victory over the antagonist.
What surprising things did you learn while writing this book? I am a perfectionist. I was always aware I had the capability to care deeply about how things were done, from experiences with decorating and building my own furniture. But when I write — and I enjoy the cutting and editing more than writing the first draft — I will spend days sitting and staring until I find the right set of words, and the perfect rhythm of ideas.
How has your upbringing influenced you writing? Brothers and sisters are very powerful bashers of pretension. I have six siblings. I hope I am a realist, and I hope my work is accessible to all, even if they don’t like zombies.
Where do you live and how does that influence your writing? Each book I write has been set in the last major town I lived in. Generation is set in the North East of England, where I spent a year living in Jesmond and where I met my wife.
Do you prefer fermented or distilled? Fermented.
If you have a career outside of writing how does it fit into your life as a writer? Honestly I don’t think it does fit. I work as a computer consultant, and in as much as I make enough money to spend a month writing the next manuscript every eighteen months or so, it works well, but I’d much rather be writing novels full time. However, I did spend six years working as a technology journalist for various magazines and newspapers including the BBC and The Guardian, but, quite frankly, I found the life as freelance writer very lonely. There’s really not enough press-junkets and trips abroad, most of the work is in front of a desk in an office built for one.
Do you have a special routine you go through before you begin writing? Get up, squeeze a few spots in the mirror and sit at the chair.
Here’s what a couple of reviewers have had to say about Generation:
“The girl with the dragon tattoo meets the x-files”. Rob Svenson.
“Generation deserves to be shelved next to the current breed of really good sci fi. It’s a page turner that presents a horrifying vision of what the advances of science may bring. It’s a page turner with a message.” – BookieMonster.co.nz
Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:
And please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a $50 Amazon gift card. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Generation blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
That’s the interview. Thanks for listening. Subscribe (upper right of the page) and get a free book and stay up to date with your favorite authors.