Heart of Granite

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Barclay is one of our story-telling gems; he's given us a hard-biotech future set in an all-too believable worn out world, where exotic part-alien creatures have replaced military hardware. Intense action scenes with dogfighting dragons flown by elegantly flawed pilots, and manipulated by devious politicians meant I read this in one sitting. And best of all is the Heart of Granite itself, an astonishing battle behemoth that would make Godzilla run away with his tail between his legs. Peter F. Hamilton

Heart of Granite marked a major shift for me. A move from heroic and epic fantasy into what I’d like to think is ‘future fantasy’ but what the genre calls ‘military fantasy’ or ‘military sci-fi’ or, if you’re Peter Hamilton it’s… ‘James, it’s not ‘future fantasy’, it’s science fiction.’ Take your pick. This was a book that has been running round my head, evolving very slowly for six years before it went to the printers. It all came from a game I was playing with my elder son, Oscar, who was then three years old. He’d got up before dawn (bless ‘I’m) and I’d laid out an airport map complete with planes, trucks and all that stuff that he liked to play with. But being a lad always looking for a little more, he soon tired of landing mere aeroplanes on the runway, picked up a dragon figure and landed that instead. ‘Ooo,’ thought I. ‘Commercial dragon flights.’ And so, the first building block was laid.

When you read Heart of Granite, you’ll realise immediately that is has nothing to do with commercial dragon flights but it was the notion of people travelling about inside living reptiles that was the base inspiration. And me being me, what they do it travel to places and have wars with each other.

I can honestly say, I’ve never had as much fun writing a novel. Heart of Granite set me free of swords, magic and elves (things that I love, by the way but I think I needed a change). I could use modern and future technology, I could be free with language and context and I could let the narrative and my main protagonists run amok free of the self-imposed constraints of the worlds I’d written in before. That didn’t mean it was all plain sailing. There were plenty of problems with getting things like technology right and many of the usual issues I love to struggle with – pacing, plotting, character arcs… that sort of thing.

I put the hours in, though, and produced a draft I was very very happy with. And then I went through the EDITING PROCESS. Now my editor, Gillian Redfearn, had played close attention to the book all the way through the drafting period and that gave her proper insight when editing. What that meant for me was a brutal but incredible edit – everything that needed questioning was questioned; everything that needed adjusting, cutting or┬ádeveloping was marked. Together, we made this the best book I’ve written. We managed to sculpt the ideal script without changing its inherent nature or its me-ness.

I love this book. I love that people have been saying wonderful things about it and I love that I have another one to write.

Max Halloran, Risa Kullani, Valera Orin, Alexandra Solomon and the rest of you… thank you for coming so gloriously to life.

Read and extract here.


James Barclay – August 2016

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