Please describe BRNK?
It’s a geopolitical thriller told in instalments – fiction shadowing real international events each month as they unfold.
I knew I wanted to write something that reacted to the other things people might be seeing on TV and reading about in newspapers whenever they opened the latest episode of BRNK.
If you publish fresh material every month you can draw from an incredibly diverse range of shared experiences that can be written-in and read while they’re still only days or weeks old. Because of TV and social media we’re instantly aware of so much – often human-scale – drama and experience from around the world. So you could theoretically take a show like Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom and shorten the time from headlines to airing… I got hooked on the idea of trying to write super-contemporary fiction like that – characters that are always responding to real things bigger than themselves as well as the fictitious characters around them.
Then there’s being forced to go at a certain pace. If you watched True Detective as it was broadcast, the way Nic Pizzolatto unpacks it only gradually each week made it for me. Of course there’s all that brilliant, extended dialogue too but the way anticipation, incremental reveal and delayed gratification worked made me wonder about written-word crime and suspense. I only read Mark Z. Danielewski’s stunning House of Leaves after it became a novel but you can see how it’s serial origins shaped the pace and structure of it. That’s another inspirational piece of work.
TV series are also typically about an ensemble cast – Dennis Kelly’s Utopia is a particularly brilliant example – rather than the predominantly single POV narratives of a lot of crime sub-genres in literature. Soaps are really ‘episodes of an ensemble piece’ if you boil them right down. You can pull this off in a novel of course (Ian McDonald is a genius at it) but it becomes almost essential if you need the flexibility to react internationally and keep reconfiguring things in new ways each month. You need a full cast, scattered around the world, coming back together, calling each other up on the phone, telling a story in threads and fragments. Max Brooks, Eli Horrowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett have taken that idea to new places in literature recently with World War Z and The Silent History. That’s the emergence of something new and incredibly exciting.
If you were told that you could live any day without repercussions for your actions, what would you do and why?
It’s frighteningly easy to live your whole life without there being any repercussions for your actions! It’s tempting to have a ‘butterfly flaps its wings’ view of our own consequences but I think the reality of influencing the natural order of things in any lasting way with those knock-on, network-order type effects is actually that it’s incredibly rare.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
The Arctic – there are new shipping lanes opening up because of the ice mass that’s been lost recently. It’s horribly voyeuristic but imagine being in the middle of that landscape even as we are, perhaps irrevocably, transforming it. Somewhere that didn’t exist months ago and that won’t exist in the same way in a few more. There’s something utterly terrifying about both poles anyway – remote, apparently limitless places merging with the sky at the ends of the world. What must go through your mind actually being somewhere like that?
What can we expect next, any future books in the pipeline?
Episode 4 of BRNK! But I hope you’ll start to see more titles on Serially too – if people like the format and keep reading, I’ll keep using BRNK as a crash test dummy for what might be possible for a digital serial.