Author Richard Wright kindly sat down and answered some questions I had about his book, Thy
Fearful Symmetry. Which is, no lie, totally awesomesauce.
1. What is it about writing about the Apocalypse that draws you? Is there a particular
type of apocalypse that draws you?
2. There are several points of view this story is written in. Do you have a favorite character you enjoyed voicing? What about the flip side – did you struggle with any?
Although he doesn’t appear until several chapters in, I think Detective Inspector James Gemmell was probably the easiest to jump into when he turned up. Of the main cast, he’s closest to an Everyman character than the others. He hasn’t caused the end of the world, he doesn’t have the faintest idea what’s going on, and he’s forced to deal with what’s in front of him on its own terms. His own faith is in a view of right and wrong that persists even when laws become meaningless, and gives him something solid against which to process the madness around him. He’s also an irascible git, which is fun, and will default to shouting at things much bigger than he is if they offend his sense of order.
The hardest was Calum, a priest at the centre of events. Calum’s own faith, prior to what we see in the book, has always been centred on his religion. The apocalypse shatters that, by presenting hard evidence of the existence of God, the afterlife, and more. When you can see that a thing exists – in Calum’s case, it moves in and starts bossing him about – the need to believe or have faith in it vanishes completely. Believing in God when he turns up and starts blaming you for you mistakes is no more useful than believing in your furniture. It’s right there in front of you, and you can’t anchor your view of the world to the existence of your furniture. You could worship it if you wanted, but it’s not quite the same thing. Calum’s a hollow man, desperately trying to work out who he is now that the faith that always defined him is meaningless. Calum was always slippery to write, in that sense. When, at the end of the book, he stops reacting and chooses to take control of something, it was a huge relief. Those last chapters where much easier.
3. What is your favorite moment in the story?
Deep into the book, there’s a sequence where Gemmell’s trapped with a group of civilians, surrounded by creatures from the pit. Because there’s nobody else there to do it, he’s forced to negotiate with a Lord of Hell who for various reasons thinks the group has something valuable. Faced with a creature of vast malice and impossible evil, Gemmell finds himself swapping insults and driving it into a frenzy. That’s the effect he has on most people who annoy him, and watching him default to the same mode in front of a creature that could gobble his soul was a lot of fun.
4. Did you come across any interesting or strange research you really wanted to use, but couldn’t? Or perhaps a scene you had to delete?
The whole novel actually span off from a short story I wrote many years ago, called When The Stars Threw Down Their Spears. That tale is set a few weeks before the novel, and basically shows the event that kicks off the whole apocalypse. For a long time, the story was included in the book as a prologue, but it threw off the pace of the opening, and when I did the final edits on the novel I chose to cut it back out.
Instead of getting rid of it completely, I published it digitally as a separate chapbook called His Work To See in the run up to releasing TFS last year. It’s free, and available at the same online bookstores as the novel. Nobody NEEDS to read this to understand the novel, as the events are referenced and explained in the book itself, but anybody wanting to view them first hand (or who just wants to spend a little extra time with Ambrose and Pandora) should check it out.
5. Is there a future story about Calum and the others forthcoming? Or did you want this to be a standalone?
That’s a good question, and the answer’s evolving. When I wrote the book, it was as a standalone, and it’s published in that spirit. That said, the ending definitely leaves the door open if I want to go back, and a lot of readers have asked whether I’m going to. That’s got to be a good sign.
In fact, so many people asked that I nearly decided to leap into a second book this year. In the end, I aborted. I don’t know the story yet. I have a vague notion of what happens to some of the survivors in the post-apocalyptic new world they’re left with, and there are four notable apocalypse archetypes I wanted to use in TFS but didn’t have room for, but it’s not a novel yet. I’m also pretty booked up with long projects through 2013, so don’t have a realistic window to write it in.
Um. Watch this space?
Thank you for your insights, Richard. I look forward to seeing your future work.
Richard Wright has been writing strange, dark fictions for over a decade. Currently living with his wife and daughter in New Delhi, India, his stories have been widely published in the United Kingdom and USA. Most recently, his tales have been found in magazines and anthologies including World’s Collider, Dark Faith: Invocations, Choices, Dark Faith, the Doctor Who collection Short Trips: Re:Collections, and the Iris Wildthyme anthology Wildthyme in Purple. He is the author of the novel Cuckoo, and the novella Hiram Grange and the Nymphs of Krakow. His apocalyptic new novel Thy Fearful Symmetry, bringing the end of the world to Glasgow, was released in 2012.
Thy Fearful Symmetry can be found at: