Please welcome Eyal Kless to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lost Puzzler was published on January 8, 2019 by Harper Voyager.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece of fiction you remember writing?
Eyal: I was eight or nine years old. I read an Israeli children book called Hasamba. It was about a group of heroic young boys and girls who helped saving our young country from the machinations of its cruel enemies. It was barely diluted propaganda novels (and in its way, very naïve) but I became so excited reading about those kids, I immediately began writing more adventures for them. I believe it is called “fan literature” today.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Eyal: I am definitely a plotter wannabe, but truth to be told, I am a classic pantser. I learned to trust my instinct and write scenes and introductory chapters before I even know what the plot would be. When things begin to get clear I let the plot take me places. I took almost four years out of writing The Lost Puzzler because I was lacking a satisfactory ending. It came to me one day, out of nowhere, as I was walking down the street and I began jumping up and down with excitement…
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Eyal: Writing scenery and interior design. I pretty much hate it. maybe it is the vocabulary that I lack (I am not a native speaker), the fact I usually rush through those descriptions when I read books myself or a philosophical view that the readers should only have an outline of the picture and draw the picture themselves (probably options 1+2 are correct).
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing? How does music influence your writing?
Eyal: That’s a big one. Almost everything and anything could influence on my writing. Film noire, an argument on the bus, a joke I overheard, I always think if I could use this material, mold it to my needs and add it to the novel.
As to music. The long answer could take me a thousand words and more. in short: I see a novel like a piece of music. Each story line and each of the characters is a “voice” in this symphony or opera. A lone voice might be beautiful by itself but dull. When adding more voices together, they create a harmony, and just like in music, their relationship, even if distinctly apart, is the essence of what we hear and read. The moments of discord should have a resolution and the timing of both discord and resolution is crucial to the overall pacing. I also feel that rhythm is important to me when writing words which are spoken by the characters and many times I click my fingers as I read aloud the dialogues.
TQ: Tell us something about The Lost Puzzler that is not found in the book description.
Eyal: I only found out about this when I was writing the sequel, Puzzler’s War, so even I was not aware that this was a “thing” in the Tarakan Chronicles: There is an undercurrent theme in The Lost Puzzler which is about love. Not romantic love between characters but love of a parent to his/her child. Usually we think about parental love as a good and pure thing, but it also might have a darker side. Ask any parent (or yourselves) what would they do for the safety of their child and the answer would most likely be “everything and anything”. This is a natural reaction of a loving parent, but it can also have bad consequences, as in the case of The Lost Puzzler.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Lost Puzzler? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?
Eyal: The inspiration came from my mobile phone. It was old and “stupid” flip phone but I looked at it and realized that if I was stuck on a lonely island with my family and a flip phone, I could teach my kids to use the phone, and they could teach theirs too, but we would not be able to produce or even fix the phone ourselves. This made me think about our society and how much of the technology which surrounds us is now too sophisticated to create and maintain alone.
Science fiction is a true challenge to the imagination but also to logic. What would life be 200 years from now? What would be the challenges we, as a society, will still face? What would seem like “magic” to a 21st century person (think Star Trek’s teleportation device)? The challenge is to create empathy with characters and story lines based on foundations which are alien to the reader. For example: He might be part human part cyborg pilot of a sentient spaceship but he still farts in public like a juvenile college boy. That description created a reaction, positive or negative, and made the alien character relatable in 21st century terms.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Lost Puzzler?
Eyal: Not really research in the classic sense of the word. I read a little about cloning and theories regarding mind copying. The rest I just invented.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Lost Puzzler.
Eyal: I am so lucky to have two covers for The Lost Puzzler which portrays different elements of the novel. The US cover shows the desolation which is left after what is called “the Catastrophe”. Only the small silhouette of the City of Towers hints something was left after the devastation. When you look at it you might feel alone and lost in a lifeless environment. The UK cover depicts the mystery and fantastic elements of the The Lost Puzzler: A hooded figure dressed in dark clothes returns from a long voyage and is facing the swampy entrance of the City of Towers. The dissonance between the unkept vegetation and the modern looking, alien towers creates sublime tension. Something had happened and something is about to happen.
Before you ask: I love both covers and can never make up my mind which one I would have chosen if I had to pick only one.
TQ: In The Lost Puzzler who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Eyal: I love all my characters but Galinak is just ‘the guy’ for me. He is tough and simple in his ways, funny and just the right side of the line differentiating between the ‘good guys’ and the bullies. In short, I guess is the kind of a super hero I would have liked to be under these circumstances.
The hardest to write was Rafik. I had to describe the world from the point of view of growing boy just reaching adolescent, whose entire life comes crushing down on him in one of the worst ways possible. I had to describe carefully how this character sees and reacts to technology which he is unfamiliar with, which would be different than an adult. Many of the editorial notes I received began with “Rafik would not…”
TQ: Does The Lost Puzzler touch on any social issues?
Eyal: Absolutely. You cannot ignore what had happened to the world and how the survivors had reacted to the new world around them. Why is it that the more we progress as a race the worst our planet is? And on a more personal dilemma: If you had the only one bottle of water, would you share it with others, give it to your family, drink from it yourself? What if you were the person who was standing next to the man with the bottle of water. Would you haggle, beg, steal, kill? These types of questions are the core of The Lost Puzzler.
TQ: Which question about The Lost Puzzler do you wish someone would ask?
Eyal: “When would they make a movie out of The Lost Puzzler 😊”
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Lost Puzzler.
Galinak: “we could dance for a bit but I’ll only stop if you ask nicely”
Vincha: “I can cut your throat, or I can take out an eye”
And my personal favorite: “Perhaps the Catastrophe was meant to clean the slate and start humanity over, but we managed to screw up even our own destruction.”
TQ: What's next?
Eyal: I am working on Puzzler’s War right now. It took me more than 20 years to finish The Lost Puzzler but the people in Harper Voyager told me they needed the sequel a little faster than that…
Hiding somewhere in my files is a novel even older than The Lost Puzzler. It is a story in a fantasy setting which deals with music and magic. It has been long forgotten but now I can hear it calling me back…
I am also toying with a fantasy adventure novel about a goblin private eye called Grooch, who ends up adventuring with a ninja Weresheep, a substance abuser imp, a feminist succubus and a pacifist fallen Paladin…
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Eyal: It has been an absolute pleasure!
The Lost Puzzler
The Tarakan Chronicles 1
Harper Voyager, January 8, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages
A brilliantly written, page-turning, post-dystopian debut from Eyal Kless, about a society hoping to salvage the technology of a lost generation, a mysterious missing boy who can open doors no one else can, and a scribe who must piece together the past to determine humanity’s future.
More than a hundred years have passed since the Catastrophe brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Those who survived are changed. The Wildeners have reverted to the old ways—but with new Gods—while others place their faith in the technology that once powered their lost civilization.
In the mysterious City of Towers, the center of the destroyed Tarakan empire, a lowly scribe of the Guild of Historians is charged with a dangerous assignment. He must venture into the wilds beyond the glass and steel towers to discover the fate of a child who mysteriously disappeared more than a decade before. Born of a rare breed of marked people, the child, Rafik—known as “The Key”—was one of a special few with the power to restore this lost civilization to glory once again.
In a world riven by fear and violence, where tattooed mutants, manic truckers, warring guilds and greedy mercenaries battle for survival, this one boy may have singlehandedly destroyed humanity’s only chance for salvation—unless the scribe can figure out what happened to him.
Eyal Kless is a classical violinist who enjoys an international career both as a performer and a teacher. Born in Israel, Eyal has travelled the world extensively, living several years in Dublin, London, Manchester, and Vienna, before returning to Tel Aviv. His first novel, Rocca's Violin, was published in Hebrew in 2008 by Korim Publishers. Eyal currently teaches violin in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and performs with the Israel Haydn String Quartet, which he founded.