Interviewing James S.A. Corey

In today’s issue of PW, you’ll find a 500-word Q&A with Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, who collaborate under the name James S.A. Corey. Their first book together, Leviathan Wakes, got a rave review from PW last month. When we interviewed them, Ty and Daniel gave us a lot more than 500 words of interesting information about their work together, so here’s the rest for your enjoyment.

How did you tackle the creation of such an enormous project?

DA: Ty did about a decade of background work. That helped. The first thing we did together was build an outline of the whole book. It didn’t look much like the book we ended up with, but it was a good road map. Then on Wednesdays, I’d go over to Ty’s house, he’d write one chapter, I’d write another. We’d switch, edit and polish what the other guy did, and stick it on the back of the master document. That winds up being six or seven thousand words a week.

How much of the whole tale is already mapped out? Are you hoping to expand the Expanse into more than three volumes?

TF: We know where this is all going, and what the next two books are about in the broad strokes. The details will get filled in as we write them. But our mandate is to make an enjoyable reading experience no matter how many books we wind up writing, or how many the reader winds up reading. We hope Leviathan Wakes is satisfying as a standalone, but also satisfying as part of the trilogy. And if we wind up writing more than three, that each book will stand up as a solo novel, and also as part of the larger story we want to tell. And the story we ultimately want to tell is very large.

DA: We named it the Expanse partly because we wanted to signal that it’s a big, big story. And the variety of stories that are available to tell in this setting, even with what we’re planning to do with it, leaves me pretty excited about the possibilities.

This is one of the most genre-busting series openers in a long time: there are elements of mystery, political thriller, hard and soft SF, horror, espionage. Are we going to see more of the same mix in future volumes? And will we be following the same characters?

TF: Yes and yes. We plan to keep throwing the kitchen sink into this series. And the crew of the Rocinante have a lot more adventures ahead of them.

DA: There are other characters coming up too. One of the things that’s been really enjoyable for me is planning out how the things that happen in the first book shape and create all the setup for the third book. And we definitely meant to have the book—and the series—be that kind of stew of genres.

What was the biggest surprise for each of you?

DA: Every week, we’d come up with some moment or a line or an image that we hadn’t been particularly aiming for. Those are all through the book. And for me, at least, watching the two protagonists come together and make each other’s stories make sense was fascinating. Outside of the project itself, though, it’s been interesting to see how the book discusses things happening in the world now that hadn’t happened when we wrote it. If there is a philosophical conversation in the book, it’s about whether information should be openly shared or controlled and what it does to a government or social order when you strip away the bodyguard of lies. And then along came Wikileaks, and Ty and I were sitting there going, “Well, yeah, just like that.  And on the other hand, like that over there too.”

TF: Yeah, social relevance wasn’t something I expected from my space opera. And honestly, I went into this as a writing exercise, leveraging my friendship with Daniel to get some lessons on how to write a novel, so I was actually surprised by how much I liked the book and was proud of it when we were done.

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