Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
I’ve always been interested in Ecology, even studying it as part of my degree. I found ‘The Message’ to be a brilliant story with very serious ecological ideas running throughout out it, a real message in its own way, a wake up call for humanity. I asked the author, Yan Vana, if he’d mind being interviewed and I’m very happy to say he agreed! Read on to discover his answers to my questions:
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
The idea to try to write something about the dangers of human over population came to me about six years ago. I can’t remember why. I didn’t set out to write a novel and I almost certainly won’t write another one. I just came round to the conclusion that doing it as a sci-fi, fantasy, romantic fiction would help to make an uncomfortable subject a bit easier to digest. Even so I’d be the first to admit that its not always an easy read.
The purpose of the book is simply to get the message across that we have got to face up to the damage human over population is doing both to us and the Planet. David Attenborough says “I meet no-one who privately disagrees that population growth is a problem. So why does hardly anyone say so publicly?”.
What is your writing process? Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
The process of working out in my head what needed to be said and how to do it took about three years – mainly during long lone car journeys. Apart from a few notes I didn’t put anything in writing until 2013 when I wrote out the first introductory pages but then got caught up in other things and they just lay on my desk. It wasn’t until August 2014 that I finally got down to it and completed the first draft from beginning to end in ten weeks.
Whenever I write anything I find getting the first draft down on paper the most difficult and I don’t enjoy it so I try to do it as quickly as possible. I wrote it all by hand, a few pages at a time. My wonderful helper would then input those whilst I wrote the next few pages. I’d then correct what had been printed and pass them back together with the new pages for inputting. It went on like that until the first draft was finished.
I then started the serious business of amending and editing which is what I enjoy more. During the whole process we went through 146 drafts. I know its very wasteful but its the only way I knew. It was finally finished in December 2015.
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
If I was to choose my favourite character it would be the Narrator because we’d all like to be regal, handsome, unruffled and saint like.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
If I was to choose the character I am most like it would be the Inquiry Inspector because, just like any judicial or quasi judicial functionary, he is not allowed to show his personal views or characteristics but it is he who keeps the story line of the Inquiry (which can get pretty heavy) going.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
All the characters are from other Galaxies and I had to spend a lot of time getting their names right. Mainly I just put letters together randomly until they had an authentic sound. I’d then Google them to check there wasn’t any obviously conflict and they weren’t obscene in, say, serbo-croat.
The Message was my original choice of title. Halfway through the editing process I changed it to The Inquiry which I thought more accurately represented the plot – an Official Inquiry into the wanton destruction of a Protected Nature Reserve. However my wife persuaded me to go back to The Message which she thought better conveyed the purpose of the book which is to explain the dangers of human over population.
Two hundred years ago there were just one billion of us. Fifty years ago it was three billion. Now its seven billion. If we go on like this there will be eleven billion of us within fifty years. Man is now the most common mammal on the planet.
Many thanks to Yan for answering my questions – and I really hope he writes more in future as I thoroughly enjoyed this very different novel.
You can read my review of ‘The Message’ here!