Interview with Eden Paradox Author Barry Kirwan
Below is the transcript with some video clips of an interview I conducted with Eden's Endgame author Barry Kirwan. Barry and I go back a few years now, and I was very happy to finally get him to sit down with me (via webcam) and answer a few questions about his life, his writing, and his newly released book, Eden's Endgame. Enjoy!
Interview with Eden Paradox Series author Barry Kirwan
When did you start writing, and by that I mean fiction, because you;ve got a few non-fiction books right?
Yes, okay, so I started writing when I was a teenager for my school buddies, but I took it up as a hobby when I moved to Paris in 2001. In 2005 I wrote a short story called Trouble in Eden, which grew to become a four-book series.
Did you plan it to be a series or a trilogy to begin with, or did it kind of just blossom as you went along?
That’s an interesting question. It started as a short story, and I took it to a writer’s workshop in Paris, there’s quite a good writers’ community here, and the workshop was run by Michael C Curtis who was then editor of Atlantic Fiction. So, I took it there and they really hated it. Michael said, you know, they hate it so much, there’s obviously something good about those characters, you’ve elicited such passion. He said, forget the story, keep those characters and put them in a different story. And that’s what I did. They were the original four characters on the spaceship Ulysses in the Eden Paradox. By the time I got to ten chapters I was in Africa on holiday, lying on a beach, and in the space of about an hour the whole story of all four books just came to me, it was pretty overwhelming.
Who are your top three authors in science fiction?
Am I allowed ten? Okay, so the ones that really kicked me off were Isaac Asimov (Foundation series), quickly followed by Arthur C. Clarke (Rama series) and Frank Herbert (Dune), and I realised early on that I was into series. Today it’s more people like Iain Banks, who unfortunately passed away eighteen months ago, Alistair Reynolds who is really excellent, and Peter F Hamilton – hmm, they’re all British, where’s my flag?
Peter Hamilton is one of my favourites as well, and he was the one who made me not afraid to do multiple perspectives, for example with his book Pandora’s Star.
For me that was David Brin with his Sundiver series, when I read him I was relieved, I thought hey, I can have lots of characters’ points of view. I really wanted to write in multiple perspectives, which works well for Space Opera. I love his work.
Who is your favourite character in the Eden Paradox series, maybe in the first book so we don’t give any spoilers away?
Okay, Micah and Blake are the two main protagonists in the first book, but Gabriel for me is a really strong character in the first book. I also really grew to like Vince towards the end. I had him as a hard-ass character, and in the beginning I didn’t like him much, but now I want Vince on my team.
Someone said the villains make the story, and you have some good villains…
Yeah, Louise is a strong character, she actually started out as a secondary character, but just grew and grew and grew.
She certainly did! I really like reading the chapters when she’s on camera, so to speak, because you know, love her or hate her, she really puts you in that world, she’s fantastic. Why are your favourite characters your favourites?
Well, Vince, for example, has certain characteristics that I don’t have, that I’d like to have (laughs). And Blake, he always makes great decisions fast. One of my fans early on said “Barry, you want to be Blake, but actually you’re Micah,” (laughs) gee thanks…
Brains are good…
You do martial arts as well, Mike, and for Gabriel, and Ramires later on from book 2, I still love writing those martial arts fight scenes, having done a lot of martial arts down the years.
Where did you study?
The UK, then Australia, and I still go to Hong Kong every couple of years, though I’ve slowed down, less of the martial stuff these days, more Taichi these days.
I love your fight scenes, I can tell you know what you’re talking about, as I’m also really critical of fight scenes being a martial artist; you can always tell when a writer hasn’t done it, the description is off, and you think, that wouldn’t work!
Yeah, everything comes from stuff I know how to do, except when they’re spinning in the air (laughs).
I guess, kind of related, how much of yourself is in the characters, and did you borrow from any real people for your characters?
For a couple of characters I borrowed from two people I know, mixing their traits with fictional ones, and in one case in the second book, Eden’s Trial, I made a villain (Shakirvasta) out of someone I used to loathe. It worked really well! Jen and Zack are based on people I know; I modify them, and I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best not to tell people when you do it…
In terms of your fan base, are you more popular in Europe or in the US?
It’s kind of a balance between the UK and the US, when one slows down the other seems to pick up. I had a fantastic sales spike in the US a couple of years back, and sold 2000 copies in one week, and was getting ready to give up my day job, but it only lasted a week… I have fans in Germany, France, and other places as well, and a lot of people in Ukraine reading my blogs every day, no idea why, but I’m happy about it.
Is it translated into any other languages?
Not yet, I’d love to see it translated, but I think I’d need a bigger publisher, as it’s quite expensive to get it translated. One day, maybe.
There’s a project called Mars One, to move people to Mars. Would you sign up for such a trip if you could?
Yeah, I would – let me check my wife’s not listening – yeah, I would. I think, like you, I would really love to do something like that, I couldn’t say no. I’m a psychologist, and having read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, I think that’s one of the biggest challenges for a trip to Mars, just staying sane and not tearing each other to pieces.
And how about the International Space Station?
Hmm. I’m a Big Bang Thoery fan, and in that series they sent Howard up there and he didn’t have such a great time. But I’d love to be in space, to do a spacewalk. I’m a scuba diver, and that‘s the closest I can get. So I’d love to be in space, but living on the ISS, I don’t know, I’d probably get bored and start doing martial arts with my sword, cutting people’s airlines and getting myself into trouble…
A lot of people have said to me that the books read like a film, the books are very visual, they can see it. So sure, I would love to see that happen.
Do you have any ideas who might play any of the characters in a film/tv series version?
I think the actress Charlize Theron, who was in the film Prometheus, would make a great Louise. Ed Harris was my original idea for Vince, and John Savage would have made a good Blake. For Micah, I don’t know, I’m still looking…
Do you have any more plans for scifi in the future, now that you’ve finished the last book in the Eden Paradox series?
Yes, I do. There’s a book I want to write called Last Human, about someone who survives the culling of Earth and is literally the last human. He’s been shot in the head and can’t remember who he is, then finds out he used to be President, and decides he was not such a nice guy. But he’s determined to bring those who betrayed Earth to justice, in a galaxy that’s not very hospitable, and he’s going to have a very rough ride… There are also a few short stories I want to get done, in my Hell and Sphericon short story settings (available on his website, www.barrykirwan.com).
Well, Barry, thanks very much, and I can whole-heartedly recommend Eden’s Endgame, the final book in the Eden Paradox series, just released, to lovers of science fiction. I hope it does really well.