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An email interview with Peter F Hamilton

About you:

Q1 Did you always want to be a writer?

PFH: I always considered it a possibility. I never wrote anything until my mid-twenties.

Q2 Who inspired you to be a writer?

PFH: Classic SF authors, mainly, Niven, Asimov, Clarke, Julian May… many more from that era (the 70’s & 80’s)

Q3 I read somewhere over a decade ago that you became a writer to escape from Rutland. Was this true? And what happened to change that?

PFH: Almost true, I started reading SF to escape from Rutland.

About Writing:

Q4 Do you subscribe to either of the theories about being excellent at writing? The two theories being: To be excellent at writing, you must have written a million words. And the second theory is having spent 10,000 hours writing.

PFH: I don’t know where the figures come from. I certainly collected about five years worth of rejection slips before getting some proper sales and starting to write my first novel. So there has to be some truth in the need to practice. No writer that I’ve ever heard of arrives fully formed on the scene.

Q5 Re character naming. I’ve noticed that as a writer it can be a bit difficult giving characters names. You seem to do this with ease, is it something you are aware of? Or do you have “character sheets”? Also, you have used very similar rare names in different books: For example in Fallen Dragon, one of the main characters, Denise, has a sister, Jacintha. In The Great North Road Sidney’s wife is also named Jacinta; is this something you do deliberately?

PFH: I wouldn’t say it comes with ease. There are baby name books I use, old telephone directories, names I hear or come across in an article that are memorable. The fact that Jacintha is close to Jacinta means I’d forgotten I’d used the first one (it was over ten years apart after all). And sometimes you just know a name is right for a character.

Q6 The Nights Dawn trilogy and Fallen Dragon whilst being completely different stories but have, in part, a similar theme. The theme being that when mankind takes to the stars and colonises other planets, it takes its problems and magnifies them. Do you still think this will be the case? Or do you now think there is an optimism about mankind’s future?

PFH: I’m optimistic in that we will have a future. From an SF point of view I’m always interested how new opportunities and technologies will manage to twist and subvert human behaviour –good and bad.

About your previous books:

Q7 I had the chance to speak to Iain Banks before he passed, and I asked him which of all of his books was his favourite. So, I now ask you, of all of your books, which is your favourite? And why? Out of Interest Iain’s was “The Bridge” and his reason was, “because I like it.”

PFH: Curiously, my answer is always: the latest one. I suppose it’s because I’m closest to it. Then about half way through writing the new one, allegiance starts to shift.

Q8 You have said before a story finds its own length. And knowing some of your tomes are quite large; has there ever been a story/book (apart from The Forever Kitten), which you had to bring in under a certain word count?

PFH: I think Footvote had to be under a certain length to be accepted by Postscripts. But again, the story fitted that requirement.

Q9 I know you have been asked this before; is there any interest in turning any of your books into a film/TV series yet?

PFH: Interest yes. Nothing has reached the screen yet. I’m hopeful, especially post GOT, and people realize a big book does work as a TV show.

About your latest books:

Q10 My son loved Queen of Dreams, do you know when the next part of the trilogy, The Hunting of the Princes, is due out?

PFH: The whole trilogy got caught up in a company merger and didn’t get a lot of support at release, all of which means we took it from one publisher and found another home for it. Macmillan Childrens, who have it now, want a clean start, so it’ll be rejacketed and given new illustrations. Queen of Deams is scheduled to be re-issued summer next year, 2015, with the others coming out a year apart after that.

Q11 You alluded to the story of the Fallers in Void trilogy. Was this deliberate? Did you have an idea for an off-shoot and wanted to return to the same universe? Or was it reader pressure for you to write more books in the same universe?

PFH: It was a very small reference, to the “other human planet” in the Void. It left things open if I wanted to come back, and the whole Fallers idea fitted that universe. I have no plans for anything else in the Commonwealth after this.

Q12 After the Fallers duology, and the remaining two books for your children’s series, what’s next?

PFH: Not sure. Ask me when I’ve finished Night Without Stars.

And finally, has there ever been a question you wish you had been asked?

PFH: Would you like a million pound advance for that next book?