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My Interview with Peter J. West
What was the inspiration for this book? Which character and scene are the authorís favorite? Which ones are his least favorite?
What was your inspiration for this book?
Information Cloud was a combination of several separate ideas. Initially I had the idea of the action packed battle with droids and soldiers on an alien world. The idea was simple and it was intended to be a short novella. Later I had a separate idea about the technology of the Information Cloud and the hacker character Riser Trent trying to work out how to use it. Later still I decided to combine these two ideas together and make them part of a bigger concept, based in place called Cinnamon City. There was at least six years in between these ideas so it was by no means spontaneous. Only when I had combined these three ideas did the book really take shape.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
Information Cloud was originally an idea that I put together in novella form in 2004. It took around four months to come up with the basic battle of Havers Compound story line, but back then it was very brief, and lacked most of the scenes that it now contains. At the time I thought it was a good idea and it seemed to have energy and drive within it, something that I wanted to nurture, but I didn't consider it to be an end product. It was more of a proof of concept and an attempt at shaping an idea.
I kept the story on a shelf for several years, and occasionally dusted it off and expanded it a little. In the meantime, I went on to work on another full length novel called The Octopus Tree. It was a thriller and it took just over a year to complete. The Octopus Tree had good characters and it was the first full length novel that I had worked on. It was challenging to scale up from short stories and novellas to a full length novel over 100,000 words. It was an interesting process trying to manage all the plot threads and build them into a coherent whole. I learnt a great deal in the process of writing The Octopus Tree, but what I didn't like about it was that it lacked the drive and energy of Information Cloud. I was more than tempted to take my newfound experience and apply it to that novella I'd placed on the shelf.
I dusted off Information Cloud once more, and took a long look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of it. There were certainly many things that I could now see were wrong with it, but it still had a freshness about it and an energy that I now appreciated even more. I knew that converting a short novella into a full length novel would not be easy. I wanted to avoid any kind of padding, and make sure that the finished product maintained the pace and energy levels of the original. I spent some time considering whether to make it into a novel at all. In the end I realised that there is one way to turn a novella into a novel without adding any unnecessary padding, and that is by combining it with new, relevant and exciting content, and by fleshing out the existing concepts to give them more depth and background.
I introduced Riser Trent, the Information Cloud itself, Cinnamon City and the Orange Zone, and generally expanded outwards from the original battle scene to create the world and people around it. The new characters, chapters and scenes gave the book more depth and made it more clear, and meaningful. I integrated the new story threads tightly with those that already existed, strengthening both in the process. This combing process was gradual and the novel took shape over an additional year and a half.
From start to finish, Information Cloud took from 2004 to 2012 (8 years) but during that time perhaps 2 years were solid writing on this project and one year was background thinking and organising my thoughts. I worked on various other writing projects during this time also, and there was a lot of rewriting and redrafting due to the steep learning curve that I went through during this period.
I'm still in the early part of my writing career so I've learnt a great deal in the process of writing Information Cloud.
The sequel, Central Command, should hopefully be complete by the late summer. By then it will have taken around a year and a half to write. The sequel is going to be almost double the length of the first book and I work full time with a day job, so for me, that's as close to a realistic timescale as I can get.
Which character is your favorite?
Riser Trent. I think he is the most distinct character and has the greatest depth.
Which character is your least favorite?
Commander Nick Chambers. He is not as memorable as he should be.
Which scene is your favorite?
Maybe where the Crocs approach Havers Compound through Walstone Forest, or the scenes where Riser Trent is twisting his mind in knots trying to use the Information Cloud.
Which scene is your least favorite?
The scene where Nick tells Rachel that their daughter is in danger. I rewrote that scene a lot of times. Although each iteration has made it better than it was, I still get the feeling that the scene should never have been in the book, and that a better way to achieve the same plot twists is out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Maybe in ten years time I will slap my head and think of how it should have been done. That's what they call experience. It will only come when it's ready.
The interview continues in More of Interview with Peter J. West
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