Interview with Adam Christopher, Author of HANG WIRE

AdamChristopher-500x439ADAM CHRISTOPHER is a novelist and comic writer. In 2010, as an editor, Christopher won a Sir Julius Vogel award, New Zealand’s highest science fiction honour. His debut novel, Empire State, was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. In 2013, he was nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent, with Empire State shortlisted for Best Novel. Born in New Zealand, he has lived in Great Britain since 2006.

Visit him at

Read our review of Hang Wire.


Tim Ward: What new type of challenge did writing Hang Wire present and what excites you about how you overcame that?

Adam Christopher: Hang Wire certainly was a different kind of book for me – my first one set in a real-life, present-day location (Empire State and The Age Atomic having been set in an alt-universe version of New York City of the 1930s and 1950s; Seven Wonders set in the present-day but fictional city of San Ventura; and The Burning Dark set in deep space in the far future). This presented some real challenges with regards to not just the geography and history of the place, but the feel of it too. Fortunately, I’ve spent time in San Francisco – and completely fell in love with it – so I was writing from experience and also with a real desire to present the city as accurately as possible.

When the setting isn’t within easy reach, this is a challenge! But I had help from some locals as well, who were happy to be my eyes and ears on the ground, fact-checking the manuscript and offering suggestions or alternatives to various locations or scenes. It can be surprising what you find yourself researching – I had to read-up on the local and state laws regarding open fires in public parks. I had to figure out the best hillside vantage point to look down into the city in the middle of the 1906 earthquake. And which beach did Bob live on? It’s attention to detail that makes it work – a lot of readers will never have been to San Francisco, but if I get the city right in the book, then it will feel right to the reader, regardless.

TW: With ARB’s 100 book milestone, how has working with them shaped your career?

AC: What can I say? Angry Robot is where it all started for me! They were my first exposure to the publishing industry, and I learned a whole lot about how it all works. With my first Angry Robot deal I got my dream agent (I did the whole thing a little backwards), and then deals with Tor and Titan. So they’ve been vital, and I dare say we’ll be keeping in touch about projects for the foreseeable future!

Peter Snede: Hang Wire is being billed as an Urban Fantasy, but it also has some clear elements of horror fiction. Was this intentional? Do you read any horror? If so, what authors do you like?

AC: Genre is not something I really think much about when writing – sure, something like The Burning Dark, which is set 1,000 years in the future on a remote space station, is obviously science fiction. But I didn’t sit down and decide to write a science fiction story. For The Burning Dark, I asked myself what would happen if, instead of an old house being haunted, it was an old space station. Then I wrote the book.

Hang Wire is definitely urban fantasy, which I just take to mean the fantastical in an urban setting. In this book there are three main sources of the fantastic – ancient gods and their magic; a fuzzy, ill-defined something-something that’s sleeping under San Francisco; and an evil power from the stars.

I’m not entirely sure anything in the book is horrific – there’s some scary bits, there’s some weird bits, there is a fair amount of death and destruction, and there are certainly some monsters. But to me that’s just part of the story – if the purpose of horror fiction is to scare, then I didn’t set out to do that. If it is horror because the victims of the Hang Wire Killer are murdered in a rather graphic and bloody way, then a lot of crime fiction must therefore be horrific as well.

I personally find horror to be a problematic genre – I don’t think it works well when it stands alone. It’s far better to use horror to “flavor” another genre. Stephen King, for example – one of my favourite authors – is often labeled as a horror writer, but to me most of his books are science fiction or urban fantasy, with the added bonus of having scary stuff in them. Going buy neurontin online overnight back to The Burning Dark – the “haunted space station” idea is scary and there is a lot of unsettling stuff in the book, but it’s not a horror novel. It’s science fiction – or, more specifically, space opera – that happens to have some scary bits in it. You can qualify this by saying it’s “dark space opera”, perhaps, which indicates the flavour.

PS: You developed a multi-cultural mythology in Hang Wire. Was this done for this novel alone or is this a theme that you plan to explore deeper in the future?

AC: This was created just for Hang Wire – I wanted to push the idea of an urban fantasy as wide as possible, so created a version of the Earth where all of the world’s various ancient mythologies and pantheons are real. The only thing is, all the deities have had enough and cleared off, leaving behind just a couple of beings who have tried to settle into a normal life.

The result of which, almost incidentally, was to create a very broad canvas for stories, of which Hang Wire is just one. But certainly it’s a world I could return to at some point, should the right story come along.

PS: Several viewpoints were used in Hang Wire, combining both past tense and present tense. What were the biggest challenges in balancing these viewpoints? What do you think the use of present tense adds to a story?

Hang Wire CoverAC: Shifting viewpoint is something I do quite a lot in my work – I think it’s more a standard of British fiction than American fiction. When you have a story as large as Hang Wire, having different POVs is quite handy!

I tend to write in third person, past tense, which is more or less a default standard for most fiction. But in Hang Wire I wanted to give the sections with the mystery acrobat, High Wire, a different feeling, so I went with present tense. That goes with the character, because High Wire is very much centered in the present – he doesn’t remember much of his past, even anything before he mysteriously showed up in San Francisco. He’s focused on his self-appointed task of tracking down the Hang Wire Killer, so his scenes had to be in the “now”.

Mixing tenses is technically a challenge and requires careful editing to make sure everything is consistent. But when used wisely it can be pretty interesting.

PS: Several characters in Hang Wire are local bloggers. Is there a reason why you chose this particular profession? Do you see blogging growing in popularity as a news source?

AC: The bloggers started out as standard newspaper reporters, but with the Hang Wire Killer on the loose and the city descending more and more into a panic, I realised I needed to distance them from current events, making them frightened spectators like most other people in the city. If they worked in a more traditional news setting, it became clear they would get more heavily involved with the investigation, and the book would get tangled up with the police, which I had to avoid.

San Francisco is famously a very techy city, so it made sense to make Ted, Alison and Benny work for a cultural events blog, funded by some kind of start-up project (with the editor, Mazzy, being away from the office, trying to drum up some more money). This gave those characters the required separation from the serial killer, so they could observe, but not interact so much with the police investigation – something which, I felt, would be a completely different book.

Blogging is certainly more a part of news coverage now than it was – not so much the reporting of current events, but certainly opinion and analysis. If anything, Twitter is the place where news really breaks – and, with increasing regularity, is where major news outlets go to collect coverage.


HANG WIRE is Adam Christopher’s fourth novel and it has already received a starred review from Booklist. It will be released in the US on January 28th and in the UK on February 6th. And there’s better news yet — if you preorder HANG WIRE, you are eligible to win thirteen signed books by some of Adam’s favorite authors and creators.
peter 100x100Peter Snede – AISFP Contributor

Peter is a husband, father of twin boys, and an engineer who grew up on a steady diet of Narnia and Dragonlance books. When he’s not working, wrestling his toddlers, or writing fiction, he often can be found blogging about books and life. He also can be found on Twitter.

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