Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interview with David Edison, author of The Waking Engine - February 22, 2014

Please welcome David Edison to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Waking Engine was published on February 11, 2014 by Tor Books.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

David:  First grade, because I loved fairy tales and the D’Aulaires made me super jealous. So many stores! So much bestial adultery and adulterous bestiality! What a business.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

David:  I am a pantser to the core. I can commit to a larger structure if it’s extremely vague, but every time I try to outline something, all I do is succeed in outlining the story I definitely _won’t_ write.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

David:  Plot is harder for me than, say, character, which comes very easily. In general, narrative structure is a challenge for me, and as the number of POV characters in The Waking Engine might suggest, I’m working on maintaining focus. My ADHD is a strength and a weakness.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

David:  Storm Constantine, a British author whose Wraeththu trilogy absolutely changed the way I thought about writing, and the viable possibilities of stories that could be told. The historical fiction of Mary Renault and Dorothy Dunnett, the hard science fiction of Greg Egan, the space operas of Frank Herbert and Norman Spinrad, the weird fantasies of China Mieville and Stephen Hunt. The poetry of Anne Sexton and Wallace Stevens and Dorothy Parker. Ovid and Homer and Kushner. The YA of Lucy Adlington, Delia Sherman and Garth Nix. Gaiman’s Sandman and most of the Vertigo catalog. I want to keep going.

TQ:  Describe The Waking Engine in 140 characters or less.

David:  Queer dude from Earth wakes up in the capital city of death, in a multiverse where death is the way we travel from universe to universe.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Waking Engine that is not in the book description.

David:  Every chapter begins with a fictional epigraph that I wrote in the style of various deceased authors—what would Sylvia Plath have written if she woke from her suicide in the City Unspoken? What gossip would Truman Capote have, out there? What might physicist Michael Faraday think about his (first) life’s work, when the physics of our universe is revealed to be mere local phenomena? I get really excited by these, and they’re easy for a casual reader to mistake for the genuine article - Tor legal asked if I had permission to use all these “real” quotes… my editor and I had a chuckle at that.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Waking Engine? Why did you choose to write Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres?

David:  Quite honestly, I thought The Waking Engine was too weird a tale to tell, and gave up after three chapters. I didn’t know that Weird was a genre, let alone that New Weird existed, and that I was in it! My agent, who is a fabulous, legendary, and intimidating figure, told me she thought she could sell it if I finished it. So I did. I kept hearing RuPaul whisper “Don’t fuck it up!” in my ear.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Waking Engine?

David:  The other day, a childhood friend of mine said, “David’s been researching this book his whole life,” and it really is true. I grew up traveling, and from a very young age was studying the way death is handled by cultures over the world. When you take a kid to Egypt, he learns about tombs and the afterlife. I also grew up between two major religions - Judaism and Catholicism, though I wasn’t really accepted by either, because my mother wasn’t the Jewish one and I never took communion. And this study of death and culture was encouraged by my parents, whom I describe as very lovely necromancers. We’re a bit of a death-obsessed family, but in a pleasant way.

I’ve always been a seeker in that sense, and have studied any spiritual/religious/traditional path I have come across. I wanted to address animism and ritual from a cross-cultural, syncretistic perspective. I don’t know how well I succeeded at that, but the great thing about being a pantser with three books left in a four-book series is that I have pages upon pages upon pages to improve and refine the world and the work I’m trying to do within it. Feedback from my readers is something I’m looking forward to incorporating. A book belongs to its readers, and I’d like to actively practice that theory!

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

David:  Purity Kloo and Sesstri were the easiest. I’m not quite sure why, only that they are both very much alive independently from me, and kind of insist on doing what they want. Sesstri, for instance, uses some words that I, David, the person and the author, am not comfortable using otherwise. She wants to provoke.

Cooper was the hardest character to write, because he was the most personal character, and the one to whom I am the most closely related. I have always been intimidated by the challenge of representing him, and that is probably another reason I deferred working on this book until my agent told me I should finish it.

Nixon is my favorite character, good, bad, and ambiguous.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Waking Engine.

David:  Most of my favorite lines are either spoilers or R-rated, but here are three lines that make me happy every time I read them, because the language makes me happy and conjures an image, for me, that’s so real I could swear I’ve been there:

"The gate swung open with a creak and Osebo ushered Nixon into a little courtyard—the kind of hidden shaft of green that lived behind every apartment building in every world across the cosmoses—a secret emerald gem where mothers grew irises they’d taken from their grandmothers’ flowerbeds back in the old country, the suburbs, the childhood garden. Electric lights shaped like jalapeño peppers or stars, flotsam furniture, a zinc bucket for cigarette butts. You could change bodies, you could live on a floating continent fueled by birdsong or coast between stars on some industry’s freighter, but wherever you found cities, you found these interstitial cloisters, growing windowsill tomatoes and sheltering garden parties."

TQ:  What's next?

David:  The next book! The Waking Engine is the first book in a planned quartet. I was tired of trilogies and decided to use Alphonse Mucha’s “Times of the Day” series of Art Nouveau posters ( as the framing device. So if The Waking Engine is thematically-aligned with the morning, the next books will be aligned with the day, the evening, and the night, respectively. This kinda stuff gets me really excited, so I apologize if it makes no sense at all.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  Thank you, The Qwillery!

The Waking Engine

The Waking Engine
Tor Books, February 11, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Welcome to the City Unspoken, where Gods and Mortals come to die.

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found.

Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker.

Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

Richly imaginative, David Edison's The Waking Engine is a stunning debut by a major new talent.

About David

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, DAVID EDISON grew up reading and traveling, both to excess. David was 15 years old when he began his study of creative writing at the college level at Bennington College under Rick Moody and Helen Schulman. He graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature in 2000. In 2006, he co-founded, the first video game news site and community presence for LGBT gamers—which has been reported upon by everyone from The Advocate to MTV to the Canadian Broadcasting Bureau, and was named one of the video game industry’s top 20 most influential game news sites in 2008 by Official PlayStation Magazine, #20 in a similar ranking by Wikio, and one of 1UP’s top ten favorite game blogs in 2010. He divides his time between New York City and San Francisco. The Waking Engine is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @DavidEdison.


  1. TQ: Are you a plotter or a panther?
    David: I am a pantser to the core.

    ...Autocorrect at its finest? :p

    1. LOL! Fixed. That one never happened before. Thanks for the catch!

  2. I think it would have been cooler if he was a panther. :D
    I enjoyed the interview and I'm very much looking forward to reading The Waking Engine.