We are thrilled to be able to reveal the book cover for John P Murphy’s new sci-fi novel Red Noise, as well as an exclusive Q&A interview with the author himself.
Find out more about the book below:
When an asteroid miner comes to Station 35 looking to sell her cargo and get back to the solitude she craves, she gets swept up in a three-way standoff with gangs and crooked cops. Faced with either taking sides or cleaning out the Augean Stables, she breaks out the flamethrower.
About the author
John P. Murphy is an engineer and writer living in New Hampshire with his partner and two ridiculously fluffy cats. His previous work, The Liar, was shortlisted for a Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2016. He was the SFWA Director-at-Large until 2018 and is now the Short Fiction Committee Chair. He has a PhD in Engineering and a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Read the Q&A with John P Murphy now:
This is your first foray into long form fiction – how did you find it differed from writing novellas and short stories?
The biggest difference for me was that it wasn’t possible to tell the whole story from one point of view. No one character ever gets the whole story (except in retrospect), so as the action unfolded, I had to get used to not just figuring out what was happening but also who was the best person to tell it. There’s one chapter in particular where that really was a hard lesson to learn: I kept trying and failing to write it from the protagonist’s perspective and it just didn’t work until I wondered what this felt like from the point of view of one of the people the chapter was happening to. The result – with a trio of security guards loitering in an abandoned barber shop, passing around a bottle of terrible vodka – is one of my favourites.
I should mention, too, that Red Noise started out as a novella! The first draft clocked in at around thirty-seven thousand words. It was entirely from the Miner’s point of view and very focused on only her concerns and plans. Screwball, Ditz, and Mr. Shine were yet to be imagined, and many of the others just inhabited the background. Seeing the story only from her point of view left things a bit flat, though. The final novel is the result of a lot of thinking through life on Station 35, giving the characters room to grow, and telling some of their stories as part of one big happy trash fire.
What was the inspiration for the book?
Believe it or not, this came from a college essay I wrote twenty years ago. I attended Kansai Gaidai, near Osaka, as an exchange student back in 1999, where I took a class in Japanese cinema. We watched and discussed several samurai movies, including Kurosawa’s brilliant film Yojimbo that was loosely based on the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest. I watched the remakes of it: one of Clint Eastwood’s earliest films, Fistful Of Dollars, and Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis. For my paper, I studied how the different directors approached the same core themes and thought a lot about what I felt succeeded and what failed.
I became fascinated by how a very small kernel of story could be strong enough to power many very different books and films over the years, beyond that handful and in its precursors going back to Shakespeare. It wasn’t until the last few years though, when my thinking about current events crystallised with that old kernel, that I finally had a story of my own that I needed to tell.
What was your favourite scene from the book that didn’t make it to the final piece?
Is it too embarrassing to admit that I kept all my favourite scenes? Is that self-indulgent? OK, there is one that I really wanted to include, but I could tell at the time that it just wouldn’t work except in the background: one of Feeney’s goons saved up to 3D print a chainsaw and brought it to a knife fight. It was so fun to picture that scene of lovingly lifting it out of the printer and firing it up for the first time. I kind of pictured a heavenly glow upon it, choirs of angels and so forth. And then, of course, immediate disaster. That was inspired by a true story, even, or as true as these stories ever get: a buddy of mine back home in West Virginia loved telling about That Guy who brought a chainsaw to a bar fight in his hometown. That’s basically the whole story right there, but I always found the idea charming. …OK, maybe that’s the bit that should be embarrassing to admit.
Who are your favourite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?
Right now I can’t get enough of T. Kingfisher and Cassandra Khaw. They’re both so much fun to read. I’m really looking forward to the third book in Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty series, too.
My biggest influencers for this story are probably folks like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Akira Kurosawa, Shinichiro Watanabe, Aliette de Bodard, and Warren Ellis. In general, I’ve been a big fan of Agatha Christie, Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Robert Parker, Rex Stout, and the Studio Ghibli folks – mystery or fantasy with a sense of humour is my usual jam, and they’ve all had a big impact on my shorter work.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
You never learn how to write a book, you only learn how to write this book. Gene Wolfe said that, or something like it, and it was very helpful to me when I started feeling frustrated – why wasn’t this working when that novella came together so smoothly? Why is this dialogue trash when I wrote perfectly lovely dialogue for that one story? Because I was still learning how to write this book! And if I was just patient with myself, it would come together.
Second best advice, was to pick a soundtrack. I write on nights and weekends in short bursts, and having a music playlist was super helpful in getting myself right back on track when I sat down to get a few more words in. (For the curious: lots of Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Joan Jett, and the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack).
Red Noise by John P Murphy is published on 9 June 2020. Get all the latest sci-fi news with every issue of SciFiNow.