Please welcome Adrian Barnes to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Nod was published on September 1st by Titan Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Adrian: When I was a kid, books made me feel alive--and amazed. Each new book was-and is--like that. I guess I sort of cried, ‘Me too! Me too!’ and so I did my best to join in!
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Adrian: A bit of both, I guess. I tend to have a master plan and character or two, but after that I keep adding ‘stuff’ to make the stories cooler, funnier, and weird. My idea has always been to create novels as jammed full of...stuff! This includes stories, philosophy, and description.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Adrian: I love the thought before I write and I adore endless editing, so I suppose it’s the actual writing that gets in the way as a necessity between the two!
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Adrian: Invariably I give credit to Lewis Carroll, a man who blew the entire world up for me...something for which I eternally adore and respect. His two Alice books are more real than the world we see around us.
I have also always loved Harlan Ellison, the SF man who also loved Alice and who also blew our visions of life apart, replacing it with something bigger and truer. He never tried to copy life as ‘real’. Rather he would take us take us beyond ‘normal’ to something much larger. When I was a teen I had read one of his stories but wanted more! He wasn’t in the library or books near me, so I took the bus downtown and searched the stores of old books for weeks. Eventually I found six or seven of his!
TQ: Describe Nod.
Adrian: Paul wakes up one morning only to discover that no one in the world has slept in the last 8 hours. Well, a few dozen people around the world had slept--and no one knows why they were left alone. That day the newspapers blabbed that science says that we all go insane after two weeks awake. And after four weeks, we’ll all die--or be killed. Theories spread like cancers as to what brought this to our world: disease, poison, drugs, aliens, and even God. And Paul? He watches it all happen and writes it down. A book he calls NOD.
TQ: Tell us something about Nod that is not found in the book description.
Adrian: Paul’s book, called NOD, is about the history of ancient words. The book is stolen by a local man, who sees it as a vision of the future and begins to start a new vision of life. All around Paul, a version of NOD begins to appear, even as the world begins to die.
TQ: What inspired you to write Nod? Did you set out to write a dystopian SF novel? Why apocalypse via sleep deprivation?
I suppose I find the world sort of crazy and doomed given the way we all act and I wanted to come up with a metaphor for what I see each day. We all act as though ‘life goes on’. But it just doesn’t. Not really. And we don’t want to face that. Why? Big stuff!
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Nod?
Adrian: I read up on the basic knowledge about human insomnia, of course. Sadly, there are some people who fail to sleep for two weeks and it’s horrible, but we study them and try to learn more about how our brains, under massive pain, cope. In fact, the ‘death at thirty days’ is a guess from doctors. No one has lived longer than two weeks. But in our crazy busy world, I’m sure we’ll get there one day...
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Adrian: The easiest character to write was Paul because, ahem, he’s a lot like me. He thinks and writes a lot! The worst? Paul’s partner, Tanya. I knew I would have to make her suffer and I felt guilty the whole time. The good news is, if I finish NOD 2...Tanya will get a second chance at life, despite her death.
TQ: Which question about Nod do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Adrian: Everyone asks me, ‘why couldn’t they sleep?’ and were sort of angry about that. I guess I wish someone would ask the questions ‘why can’t we sleep’ in a way. If that makes sense...
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Nod.
Adrian: “She turned and walked out of the room. I watched her go with a miser’s attention. Each remembered detail of her face was precious to me.” These words, I suppose, apologize to Tanya in all her pain...
TQ: What's next?
Adrian: Next for me is my new novel, Satan A La Mode, which comes out in December 2015. It’s my attempt to write a modern version of Alice in Wonderland: I aspire to create whimsy, seriousness, humour, poetry, politics, and so on. This new book is illustrated by the amazing artist Yuliya Kashapova. She is my partner on this project and has provided 75 pieces of art that go as far as, well, Alice in Wonderland.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Titan Books, September 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages
Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no-one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no-one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand can still sleep, and they've all shared the same golden dream. A handful of children still sleep as well, but what they're dreaming remains a mystery. After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead. One couple experience a lifetime in a week as he continues to sleep, she begins to disintegrate before him, and the new world swallows the old one whole...
Adrian Barnes was born in Blackpool, England but moved to Canada in 1969. He teaches English at Selkirk College, British Columbia. He is married with two children. He received an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and Nod is his first published novel.