You have written a number of books by now...
When I started writing books, I didn't know it would come to that, but when I from book number two invented the frame title 'Between Life and Death', I got hold of something inspiring. From then it became a series, but only thematically, for most books have different cast.
However, there is a fantasy dragon figure, Paragon, in several of them, including this title.
That's true. I have held on to him. He is inspiring, or rather the Seventh Sky with the Soul Service and Limbo.
What have you going this time?
It's a Major structure, where I try to make a thriller with a cosmic perspective.
As in 'Amelia and the Guardian Spirit'?
In a way, but here it develops into an action thriller or pure adventure. I have not previously been endeavoring that to the same extent.
Because I might not have needed it or because detached from a meaningful setting, it may appear superficial and hollow when you put the book down after reading. However, this story leads to recognizable moral vision with the climax having a worthy purpose, and one should not forget that the audience wants to read an exciting story that is still entertaining.
Can the ultimate climax carry the expectation you want?
I hope indeed. I must also be surprising as to the consequences, but I don't think the readers will guess where we land, so to speak.
No, you have never had so many means of transport in one story.
That's a fact! The setting is highly budgeted. I don't have to hold myself back because I exceed a budget ceiling, but it was exciting to try settling an action plot that stretches across most of the book and grow in size and perspective as the storyline develops.
Information gets delivered in small portions.
It is standard principles in this genre. We should always carry wood to the fire, fan the flames and then let the intrigue simmer a bit and finally burst into heavy cooking. I hope it is successful. We get far around. Longer than in any other of the titles in the series.
Why have you kept back from releasing a thriller fantasy story like this earlier?
Because things are so easily derailed. If you introduce a gallery of characters and involve many changing locations, in most cases you lose closeness to the individuals and their emotions, easily risking being swept along by the broad storytelling mechanisms and thus become passive pawns in an extravaganza where exotic action determines terms and development. The ultimate peak must match the climax in the story concerning people's involvement.
Is it difficult to get to fit?
No, fortunately not in this case. The things I gradually bring into the story seems logical and necessary and we must accept it as steps on the road towards the desirable conclusion. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive towards the end, because I have a group of thirteen people, not all allowed to express their opinion on what is happening. Fortunately, they are included in subgroups of four people each, so in reality I only have three groups, acting as a whole, and then a few main characters. Therefore, it could work.
You have no first-person narrator this time?
That's right, and no ongoing parallel action either. Only right at the beginning the story shifts between two threads, but quickly joined I stick to a unified storyline. It's also necessary since this story requires so much attention to the action-packed development. There's no need for scene changes for variation. The variation is going on in the main story, where there are many shifts in location.
You do have a start on a realistic level, being quite serious.
I usually have. We need to let attention be grounded in something real on which the fantasy part can manage and provide a broader perspective later. Here it's a question of consumption of stimulants and its consequences.
Because it's a reasonably manageable form of abuse, where for a long time the user can still function normally in society. Had I chosen drugs, the consequences would be more severe and it would be difficult to postulate the mother could continue to hide her addiction and pretend parenting with the required responsibility.
The son's role made it more probable?
Precisely, and in families with alcohol abuse one of the children often assume the adult role that parents cannot cope. These children deprived of their natural childhood will too early have to act as adults. It's a problem I often have thought about, and now there was a natural opportunity to bring it into a story of sibling relationships.
Is the adventure not being an escapist diversion of attention that should have maintained focus at the serious reality part?
No, it would be too unbearable. I would not offer my readers that. I have the responsibility, after all, to be entertaining in my presentation, but the symbolism established it doesn't take much imagination to see the relationship with my frame story. That's what I do when I tell my stories which can be seen as adventures, too.
Yes, you even have a reference to Pinocchio also including symbolism.
It is obviously no coincidence. Pinocchio is about maturing through developing accountability and the consequences if you don't.
It sounds very moral.
All good fairytales are like that. The question is just whether you can avoid being moralistic, since that can be boring, but Pinocchio's not boring, and I hope that goes for my story as well.
The original book, Pinocchio, is indeed a heavy brick of a book with many side actions. Were you not tempted to create a broader intrigue now you were at it?
I was not. I had to make an effort to reach this level of scope in the description. In fact, I am in favor of simple stories, and to paint a large and detailed image for effect's sake, I was not tempted to do. The basic flow of the story must still appear logical and inevitable.
You did take the opportunity to return to places you have been before. The space station and the people there and Limbo with the Heavenly Express and the dimension elevator...
It was tempting. I didn't only have to introduce new things, I could give old items a new feature, but it's quite normal when you write a new book with an established gallery of characters. Then the readers will like to meet them again.
What were you first inspired to do this time? The reality part or the fantasy part of the book?
I think it came almost simultaneously. In any case, I only went on elaborating the details when I had a connection between the themes of the two parts so they could work together and strengthen each other. I have that feeling by intuition. The first loose idea for the book came already at the writing of 'Amelia and Guardian Spirit' where I thought 'Now, there is a trade of souls transferred between the galaxies, but perhaps we could also imagine that souls could be abducted?'
So the fantasy part did come first?
You cannot say, because things only develop, when you find a good motivation for what is happening or will happen. If the motivation or justification is not high ranking, the rest is love's labor lost. That's the difference between run of the mill products in the fantasy genre and good science fiction.
What justifies the action. Do you actually care about it or don't you? In much forgettable fantasy a lot is going on without anything substantial really happening. It might as well be the one or the other. That is not enough for me.
What you are doing is more like science fiction?
In any event, according to the fact that it is something improbable made possible where fantasy is something impossible made probable. I even think my design structure is plausible, but of course also based on the countless irrefutable stories about ghosts and rebirth.
We let the assumption rest there. Why Taurus X?
I had an interesting reference in 'Amelia and Guardian Spirit', which I didn't develop. Then I felt I had to have a larger collection camp for souls kept before the long trip to a distant nebula. It might as well be on the prison planet having a wing to spare after the release of some non-military combatants.
Why the freedom fighters?
They are the naive old entrance to the ideal society. In the past, everything was fine, if you just toppled dictatorships and evil empires. Now we know better. Democracies are not a guarantee of a secure future, for they are subject to financial decisions from a capitalist agenda, which require growth and ever increasing profits. We know that you should strive for sustainability in our consumption and a responsible climate policy, but the quest for short-term profits always win, and it inhibits research and transition to renewable solutions. The latest example is the abominable traffic with the extraction of oil and gas through 'fracking' transferring fossil fuel by pumping toxic chemicals into the ground. Finally, we sit back with a nose longer than Pinocchio's. This is where tragedy shows its naughty face.
That is your real agenda?
No, it is the Earth's agenda, but it cannot speak up. I got a strengthened inspiration from my youngest daughter, Maria, who had to write a New Year's speech in school. She ended up letting Earth hold a New Year's speech, in which it noted its New Year's wishes. It was actually quite original and successful. She may have inherited her father's writing itch.
I come to think of 'Fort Europe'.
I can understand that. It has a similar theme with a civilization that ends up succumbing in civil war. The funny thing is that I wrote this Paragon book before the 'Fort Europe' title, with the idea of a planet's demise well thought out by me on a cosmic fantasy level before I let it hit our own planet.
Do you have other loose speculations about soul handling that you will come back to later?
Actually, I don't know, but it can show up. In any case, I'm not writing a new book in the series until I have a new original and sustainable idea, which contributes with something new, I have not previously used. I see this as an important motive for me. That way I hope to surprise the reader along the way, so I don't deliver something predictable but something I experience as conceptually innovative. Such ideas justify the work.
What if you run out of that kind of new and promising ideas?
Then I stop writing, but every time I have written a new book, I have thought that I probably won't get more good ideas, and that this title is probably the last. Then later there has emerged a new idea. On the other hand, my entire career has confirmed that. I have told stories for forty years now, so I wonder when the well of inspiration runs dry.
At some time, Carl Barks felt that.
He also had to stay within certain limitations. I don't need that. I have often wondered whether Carl Barks could have written letter literature.
You have an opening quotation from Carl Barks...
Yes, and it sums up the reason of it all in a single sentence. I must admit I had to concentrate text from more panels. We humans are like children. We would rather have our needs met right now than wait to get a greater reward later. Therefore, we choose the politicians who put us the immediate fulfillment of needs in view. People are and will continue to be greedy and excessive creatures who only think of themselves. We don't deserve to be godlike administrators of our planet. We cannot possibly live up to that enormous responsibility.
Maybe it will be better when a greater collective responsibility spread worldwide?
It's a sweet but unfortunately naive hope. People as a species are only concerned with the immediate survival. Pure Darwinism. We as a thinking species have been able to make inventions so that we have made it possible for us to ruthlessly exploit our planet. That opportunity other species are left without. We'll happily be running towards the abyss in full speed at first class and only start thinking about the consequences when everyone can see where this is going, but then it's too late. By that time, we fight for the past few resources. The survivors become exasperated and seek refuge in oblivion through drugs.
What will it look like, here on Earth in a hundred years?
I dare hardly think of that, but the survivors of the distribution policy wars will probably be offended by seeing worn copies of American films from our time, which present a luxurious life style with excessive overuse and the fact that because of fads we replace things that work. They will hardly believe the factories inserted consumption lock in smart phones and printer devices only used for a certain time in order to increase demand and therefore production. We are in a downward spiral of inflated consumption, supported by the requirement for growth and maintenance of jobs. Our late capitalist system is rotten and at some point, we have to realize it and change things, with the crisis we have now being followed by more until we change things.
It is a depressing perspective.
Yes, but my story about it on the cosmic level I made sure to make exciting, just as the disaster course here on Earth. However, I am a people-friendly writer, so I keep one trap door open in my story. I will not reveal it here.
Is there any other inspiration?
Overall, confirmed in the entire background of my thought out construction with souls through a long series of TV broadcasts, I was week after week reminded that even people who start to be skeptical about spirits must admit that there are 'more things between Heaven and Earth' when they must have cleaned their houses for ghosts. The extra exciting bit is that they often succeed in finding out who the ghosts are. It is incredible that so many opponents can continue to deny evidence because they just do not understand. It must be because there is not yet tangible scientific evidence of the phenomenon. At the same time, plenty of people believe in something religious not proved, either. This is weird but I am happy to have created a series based on something that has a value of truth or probability to many people.