A big welcome to author, Shirley Golden, who’s debut science fiction novel, Skyjacked, is published today. Congratulations and happy publication day, Shirley! As well as being a debut novelist, Shirley has been a winner in the Retreat West short story and flash fiction competitions more than once and she is a very impressive and versatile writer. I really enjoyed Skyjacked and I never usually read this kind of science fiction, which is actually rather strange as I watch films like it often, and I think Shirley may have converted me to read more of this genre.
Shirley, your cast of characters are all very distinct and very real, how difficult was it for you to create so many different voices at once?
It wasn’t something I was conscious of doing in the first draft. I was very much led by my main character, Corvus, whose voice was strong in my head. Once the interactions began with the other characters, I went whichever way the dialogue took me. I like to allow the first draft to come out in whatever way it will. Originally, I had three perspectives. But then I spent a great deal of time in later edits, swapping viewpoints and trying first or third person, until I decided to alternate between Corvus and Janelle in close third person viewpoint, as they underwent the most change, and I felt their internal monologues were distinct from each other. I honed the other characters’ ‘voices’ as I developed their backstories, and adjusted the dialogue, highlighting individual nuances. It wasn’t easy, and took many months of editing once the initial draft was written, but it’s the part of writing I enjoy the most.
Your main character Corvus is given a great opportunity to change his selfish ways – do you think he’ll make the most of it?
Mm, well, I think he’ll try. He’s nothing if not a trier! But it’ll perhaps be all too easy to slip into old habits. I think intentions to change are often hard to maintain long-term or when placed under pressure. I have written a first draft of a sequel so have a rough plan as to how far he will transform. But that could change quite dramatically over subsequent edits, so even I’m not sure at the moment.
You explore the concept of AI robots having real human emotions and relationships – do you think this is something that could become a reality?
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of consciousness and how it comes into being. I believe that given the right amount of connections and experience, consciousness has the potential to develop in any living creature. It’s therefore not such a leap to imagine it would be possible for entities that mimic organisms capable of consciousness to develop in similar ways. I’m not so certain it would work if parameters are fixed within the systems, but think it’d be feasible if the systems are able to adapt.
For me, a really strong theme emerged of love and understanding being able to cross divides – is this something you set out to explore or did it just emerge in the writing?
I never set out to explore anything at the start of writing fiction! It always begins with ‘voice’ and a character that won’t go away. Once I’ve written the story, I’ll then go back and sometimes strengthen the themes. Although initially they have to emerge from the interactions, rather than consciously forcing things as I try not to become heavy-handed about it. At an individual level, I like to think that Corvus learns to take more responsibility for his actions and, that after everything, Isidore learns to trust in others a little more. However, Janelle has to let go of her ideals and travels an altogether darker path, and this is something she’s going to have to deal with in the future.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been working on a sequel to ‘Skyjacked’, but unfortunately recent ill health has slowed the editing right down. I’m hoping to get back to it very soon.
Thanks, Amanda, for having me across. Your questions really gave me something to think about.
Thanks for coming, Shirley, and giving us an insight into your writing process. I hope you are on mend.