Welcome back to CR! Let’s start with an introduction, for new readers: Who is James Lovegrove?
James Lovegrove is, right now, someone struggling to get stuff done during the dog days of the school summer holidays. I’m a writer who likes peace and quiet when working, and my two boys, aged 13 and 10, are very solicitous about that but they’re also just kids and want their dad to play with them whenever possible. It’s tricky, this work/life balance thing. I’m also, incidentally, the author of 50-odd books, a similar number of short stories, and quite a hefty amount of book-related journalism.
Your latest novel, Age of Heroes, will be published by Solaris. How would you introduce the novel and series to a potential reader?
The string of books which has come to be known as the Pantheon series centres around the gods of various ancient religions and their relationship with the mortals who worship them. The novels are largely military SF and each is a standalone tale that can be read independently of the others. The tone differs from one to the next but the core theme is the same: what responsibilities do our deities have towards us, and we towards them, and where do the two dovetail? Age of Heroes continues the trend but this time I’m delving into a slightly lower stratum – demigods. My main characters are the heroes of Ancient Greek myth such as Theseus, Perseus and Heracles. I’ve envisaged them as ageless immortals who continue to walk among us in the twenty-first century, three and a half millennia after their heyday, the proverbial Age of Heroes. Some of them have adapted better to modern life than others, and some are striving to remain heroic in an era that is desperately cynical about such things as self-sacrifice and virtue. And then they start dying…
Age of Heroes is the eighth full-length novel in the Pantheon series. What lessons have you learned over the course of writing them? Anything you wish you’d done differently?
Age of Heroes is actually the seventh in the series, not the eighth. The book Age of Godpunk isn’t a novel but a collection of three novellas (one of which, Age of Satan, I consider to be among the best things I’ve written). Anyway, I shan’t castigate you over that mistake, or suggest you be flogged and hanged, or at the very least made to pay penance by standing in Trafalgar Square for twenty-four hours proclaiming my genius at the top of your voice…
*cough* Much appreciated… *cough*
Instead, I shall glide serenely on and answer your question by saying that I haven’t learned any lessons as such writing the series, but I have come to appreciate the input and support of my fans even more than I ever used to. People have really taken to these books and been publicly enthusiastic about them, and I’ve had a lot of fun discussing the subject matter in various emails, Facebook posts and website threads. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The series has brought me all sorts of personal and professional rewards.
Where are you hoping to take the series next?
I have plans. Such plans. I’m hoping to continue the “secondary tier of divinity” theme begun with Age of Heroes and deal with more characters who straddle the interzone between deity and human. I’m talking about folkloric figures, legendary figures, fairytale figures, individuals who embody godlike attributes but have all-too-human failings. I’ve worked up a couple of story outlines, going under the titles Age of Legends and Age of Warriors. I have no idea when I’ll get round to writing the books. That’s all down to sales, scheduling, commissioning and other eldritch factors beyond my control. But I’m mad keen for the stories to see the light of day.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I don’t write trad SF, I don’t write fantasy, I don’t write space opera, I don’t write urban fantasy. I’m not sure what genre I write, precisely, except in the case of the Pantheon series, which fall into the subgenre we have taken to calling godpunk. I just write what interests or amuses me, whatever catches my fancy, and being able to do that is a nice position to be in. The general state of SF today is healthy, as far as I can tell. Times are tough in the book trade and SF has been a victim of that, but it’s a doughty little genre and it retains its vigorousness through the influx of fresh talent and new perspectives that has infused it over the past few years. We science-fictioneers may not get the massive sales figures, with a few notable exceptions, but we keep chugging along and coming up with varied, fascinating, thought-provoking material. Yay for us.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Not so much pipeline as deerstalker-and-pipeline, since I’m in a very Sherlock Holmesian space at the moment. I’ve nearly finished my fourth “straight” Holmes novel, The Labyrinth of Death, and November sees publication of The Shadwell Shadows, the first volume in my Holmes/Lovecraft mashup trilogy, Cthulhu Casebooks. I have another Holmes novel lined up after that, along with the two further volumes in the trilogy. So, all in all, I’m channeling my inner Victorian consulting detective for the next few months.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m flitting between various books, as is my wont. I’m enjoying Joseph Wallace’s “monster wasps” novel Invasive Species, as well as a collection of the Jack Kirby 1970s comic Machine Man and a lovely book called 100 Things Superman Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. I’ve also got a biography of Beatrix Potter, which I’m reading for journalism purposes, and I’ve just finished Alan Moore’s 1,200-page megamonster of a book Jerusalem, which I’ve reviewed for the Financial Times.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
Tricky one. It’d probably be The Stand, for sheer compelling storytelling verve, although I’d also suggest anything Ray Bradbury wrote before the mid-1980s (not that he was bad after the mid-1980s, simply that his early- and middle-career output is sheer, unadulterated magic). I might throw in Watchmen as well, just because it is the apogee of graphic novels, the peak to which all others aspire.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I have recently got into yoga and Pilates. We writers tend to sit on our behinds a lot – it goes with the job – so it’s crucial to do something that counteracts the effects of that on posture and muscle tone. You’d be amazed what a difference a little regular stretching and bending makes. I’m probably in better physical condition now, at 50 years old, than I was in my twenties. My wife is a yoga instructor and nagged me for about fifteen years to take it up. I’m grateful she persevered.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Seeing The Shadwell Shadows in print, because the publisher, Titan Books, is doing a fantastic production job on it. I can confidently state that it’s going to be the most beautiful-looking book ever to have my name on it. I’m also looking forward to developing further some boardgame concepts which I’ve been working on with a colleague. This is a new venture for me, boardgame creation, and it’s fairly exciting. I’m hopeful that by this time next year we’ll have at least one game, if not two, in production and ready for retail.
James Lovegrove‘s Age of Heroes (and the rest of the Pantheon series) is published by Solaris Books. For more on the author’s writing and novels, be sure to check out his website, and follow him on Goodreads.