Europe at Midnight, the followup to Dave Hutchinson’s Europe in Autumn, just came out yesterday, and Dave answered a few of my questions about the book, and more! Please welcome him back to the blog!
What can readers look forward to in Europe at Midnight?
Without being too spoilery, I hope they can look forward to an expansion of some of the themes and locations established in Europe in Autumn. It occurred to me, as I completed the first book, that there was some unfinished business, in particular a colossal elephant in the room, and hopefully I’ve been able to redress that in Midnight. Also, there are more trains. I didn’t put enough trains in Autumn.
Will you tell us more about Jim? What makes him a compelling character?
Jim has some things in common with Rudi – he’s young and he’s completely lost in the middle of a huge narrative that’s being controlled by other people – but in other ways he’s completely different. He’s professional, capable, possibly not as ruthless as Rudi. His conscience about something he sets in motion tortures him, and that in turn sets in motion something else. I wanted to write about an essentially decent man working in a world which is not.
Did you do any specific research for this installment in the Fractured Europe Sequence?
There was, as with Autumn, a lot of location research. One of the things I wanted to examine was the Xian Flu and its impact, so I did a lot of reading about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, which may have killed as many as a hundred million people.
When you started writing the series, did you already know how many books you wanted to write?
No, I didn’t. I only intended to write Autumn, but as I said, as I got to the end of writing it I realised there was stuff which needed to be looked at. Also, I had some bits of chapters and characters left over which didn’t fit into the first book for various reasons, and I was able to expand them and fit them into Midnight. Once Midnight was under way, it seemed a no-brainer to leave it at two books, so I decided to do a third, Europe in Winter. And now I’m facing the probability that there will be a fourth, Europe at Dawn.
Is it easier to write a book in a “world” that’s already been established?
Absolutely. It’s like drawing a map; once you have the broad strokes down on paper, you can indulge yourself adding smaller and smaller details. Worldbuilding – coming up with something internally consistent – takes an awful lot of work, so it’s much easier to take something that already exists down from the shelf than come up with something brand new and bespoke. I suspect this is one of the reasons for many multi-volume series, which I appear to have added to.
Speaking of worlds… What are a few of your favorite fictional worlds?
In any situation asking about my favourite fictional things, I’ll always default to Keith Roberts’s Pavane first. The alternate England in that book is one of the most haunting I’ve ever read. The world – worlds, I suppose I should say – of Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space novels is a fabulous achievement.
It’s been a while since we’ve caught up. Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’d recommend?
Two books I’ve read recently come to mind. Paul Meloy’s The Night Clock is a wonderful thing, it really is. I read a proof earlier this year and it utterly transfixed me. Nina Allan’s The Race was the best book I read this year by quite a distance; it’s an extraordinary feat of imagination and writing and it needs to be far more widely recognised.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently one of the judges for the Creasey Silver Dagger Award for best first crime novel, so at the moment I’m reading a lot of crime fiction, but I’m not allowed to tell you which novels.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Well, Europe in Winter is finished, after quite a struggle. I will, I hope, come back to Europe at Dawn, but I’d like to take a break from Europe for a while – I’ve been playing in that world for three or four years now. I’ve kind of got an idea for a space opera. What I don’t want to do is take a break from writing – well, not for too long, anyway.
I’m terrified that if I stop writing I’ll dry up.
About Europe at Midnight:
In a fractured Europe, new nations are springing up everywhere, some literally overnight.
For an intelligence officer like Jim, it’s a nightmare. Every week or so a friendly power spawns a new and unknown national entity which may or may not be friendly to England’s interests. It’s hard to keep on top of it all. But things are about to get worse for Jim.
A stabbing on a London bus pitches him into a world where his intelligence service is preparing for war with another universe, and a man has come who may hold the key to unlocking Europe’s most jealously-guarded secret…