An Interview with Gareth L Powell, author of Fleet Of Knives

Q. Every series has its own story about how it came to be conceived and written as it did. How did the Embers Of War series evolve?

A. The initial idea came when I was reading an article about the Titanic disaster, and idly started wondering what would happen if a star liner crashed in a distant system. Everything else grew from there.

Q. Fleet Of Knives is a novel that focuses on war and the elimination thereof, bringing to mind various conflicts of our own Earth’s past. Were there any particular ones that you referenced while writing the book?

A. There are some obvious parallels between Alva Clay’s experiences crawling through the sentient jungles and the war in Vietnam. Around the time I was writing the first book, I was re-reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which is a book of extraordinary short stories set during the conflict. Beyond that, I guess my main touchstones were the US bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Can such a monstrous crime really be morally justified because the perpetrators believe it will end the war and save more lives than it takes? And what would the weight of that responsibility do to a person? And what further horrors might they be willing to unleash in order to prevent another war?

Q. Will we see Laura Petrushka in the third novel? Please? Pretty please?

A. I’m afraid Laura’s tale has been told.

Q. Do you write with any particular audience in mind? Are there any particular audiences you hope will
connect with this story?

A. I hope the series will connect with people who enjoy the space opera of Iain M Banks, Becky Chambers, Peter F Hamilton and Ann Leckie.

Q. What is the first book you read that made you think, “I have got to write something like this someday!”

A. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but the first book that made me think I could really do it was William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, which took the action away from the super competent space captains and brought everything down to the level of the street. It made me realise everything didn’t have to be white and shiny like Star Trek, it could be dirty and relatable too.

Q. What made you choose speculative fiction, and particularly military sci-fi, as your means of expression?

A. I’m not sure I would class the Embers series as military sci-fi, as the term seems to come freighted with various expectations. But I’ve wanted to write sci-fi since the first Star Wars movie came out. I was six years old at the time, and there was no going back.

Q. How did you learn to write?

A. I studied English at O Level and A Level, and then studied creative writing as part of my course at university. Then, once I’d been out of academia for seven or eight years, I realised I had to jettison everything I’d learned and start from scratch if I wanted to develop a clean, engaging style of my own.

Q. Do you adhere to any particular writing regimen?

A. I write when I feel like, but as often as possible.

Q. Are you a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a plotter?

A. I usually have a two- or three-page outline covering the general points of the plot. Everything else evolves
organically as I write.

Q. What are you reading at the moment?

A. At the time of writing this, I’m reading Aliette de Bodard’s excellent novella, The Tea Master & The Detective, and I highly recommend it.


Author Links

Gareth L Powell



Fleet Of Knives was published in the US on February 19th 2019 and may be found at all good booksellers. My review of the book itself may be found here.

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