Interview: Author Daniel Price
When I first read The Flight of the Silvers it was a borrowed copy from the library. I had read a glowing review about the new book in Entertainment Weekly, and while I didn’t necessarily read a lot of science fiction, I was intrigued primarily by the idea of an alternative Earth.
I was living in New York City at the time, a location that plays an important role in the books, and despite my meager shelf space I had to get my own copy of the book after thoroughly enjoying the crazy ride I had just been on.
Not too long after my reading experience the universe smiled upon me, and when I followed Daniel Price on Twitter, he followed me back.
This proved to be incredibly helpful this spring as I geared up to read an advanced ebook copy of The Song of the Orphans thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.
I mentioned my excitement in a tweet, but mentioned that I was worried that I needed to reread the first book in order to fully enjoy the second. Price was ready with a helpful response!
Seriously, the content on the website is exceptionally helpful, and I recommend checking it out if you read The Flight of the Silvers and want to read The Song of the Orphans.
After I read the book I was pleased to discover that I enjoyed the second book as much as the first, maybe even more so as now I knew these characters, I understood in most cases what motivated them, and what the world we were exploring looked like. I like the Silvers, I like this ragtag family and root for them through every twist and turn, and there are plenty of twists in the second book. I don’t want to say too much more since I greatly want to avoid spoilers, but also because I’d rather let Daniel Price do some of the talking.
I’m very grateful that Daniel agreed to do an interview with me, mostly because I had some burning questions from both the first book and the amazing second book.
What inspired these books? Was there a single flash of a scene that appeared in your mind’s eye, or maybe one of the silvers strolled into your consciousness and demanded their story be told?
The story came to me in dribs and drabs. I’d see a scene here, a character there, a flash of an idea about a parallel Earth. It was all a jumble in my brain for at least ten years, and it wasn’t entirely working for me. As much as I liked the individual elements, I couldn’t get them to fit together.
Then in 2006, I had a prolonged cancer crisis that shook me to the core. Everything came to a crashing halt. By the time by brain rebooted again, I was seeing everything differently.
It was just a few days after my last chemotherapy treatment that I came up with the temporal aspects of the Silvers series. That was the piece that was missing. After that, everything started falling into place. It wasn’t just a story about superpowered people on an alternate Earth. It was a story about time and the many different ways we handle our limited amount of it.
From that point on, the books became an obsession with me. I knew they were the next thing I had to write.
I happened to be living in New York City when TFotS came out, and had recently been to San Francisco for my honeymoon so it was a real thrill to experience an alt-universe for cities with which I was familiar. Why did these feel like good settings? The placement of the Cataclysm in NYC felt particularly interesting given the way that the culture and political landscape changed across America post 9/11, was the part of your inspiration?
I chose New York City because, love it or hate it, it’s a pressure point for the entire nation. You squeeze that city and everyone feels it. It seemed the most profound and sensible place for a world-shaking Cataclysm.
Also, having been born and raised in New York, I really welcomed the chance to rebuild the city from the ground up and put my own crazy spin on it.
I did live in San Francisco for two years, and I have my own special love for that place. You’ll see a hell of a lot of it in the third and final book of my series. It plays a major role in the conclusion of the story.
This is the question I’ve pondered the most when reading your books, partly as a writer, and partly as a human being who has had to come to terms with the relativity of time and my own inescapable mortality- how do you write about so many different iterations of time?! As English and Art were more my speed, I never made it very far into the world of physics so to write about time in such and engaging and coherent way is like pure magic for me. Where do all these creative explorations of time come from?
I’m definitely not a science guy, but I’m a lifelong consumer of science fiction and comic books, and I’ve always been left wanting when it comes to stories about temporal manipulation. It seems like ninety-nine percent of it revolves around physical time travel, when there’s so much more to explore. What if you could only send information back in time? What if you could only advance or reverse time in a localized area? What if the past could be displayed as three-dimensional holograms? And most important of all, what if there was technology that let anyone do these things?
As you can see from the first two books in my series, I’m much more interested in the societal effects of these abilities than the scientific explanations. It was only when I was writing the Pelletiers that I really got into research. In order to understand their four-dimensional perceptions, I had to wrap my head around the more advanced concepts of time. So I read a couple of physics books, most of which melted my brain. By the end of it, however, I felt I had better grasp on the rules of my fictional universe. I don’t need to explain them all, but I do have to understand them and I definitely have to keep them consistent.
Some of the negative reviews on Goodreads have stemmed from people being unhappy with the way that the women in the book are described/talked about. It seems like the primary concern is that the male gaze is abundant in Flight of the Silvers, a reader observation I don’t necessarily disagree with, but in 90% of the instances I thought it said something about the character in question (who is doing the observing,) rather than about you as the author. Would you care to speak to how you feel about these concerns, and how you addressed them in how your wrote the second book?
Thank you for making that important distinction. Ninety-eight percent of The Flight of the Silvers takes place in an alternate America that’s been stunted by isolationism. Culturally speaking, they’re in the early 1960s, which means misogyny is a lot more overt and socially acceptable than it is here. Worse than that is a character from our world, Evan Rander, who has deep, troubling issues with women. None of these guys are the heroes of the book. In fact, I make it pretty clear that they’re assholes.
Yet there are some people out there who think that portraying sexism in a story is just the same as endorsing it, which is insane. Others have inflated the number of breast references in my book and used it as evidence that I hate women. They’re free to say whatever they want, but when they base their entire review around exaggerations, fabrications, and uncharitable assumptions about my state of mind, there’s no force on Earth that can get me to take them seriously.
But I’ve had a couple of readers offer much smarter critiques of The Flight of the Silvers, enough to make me regret certain decisions about my female protagonists, most especially the sisters. I love flawed characters, men and women both, and I had all my heroes start the story in a very weak place before getting stronger. But with Hannah and Amanda, I veered too close to stereotype in their weaker moments, and I centered their thoughts too much around the men in their lives. That was a big mistake on my part. It was ignorant. If Penguin ever lets me do a special updated edition of The Flight of the Silvers (which isn’t all that likely), that would be the first thing I’d change.
On the upside, I was very aware of the issue while writing The Song of the Orphans, which resulted in some much better decisions regarding the sisters and Mia. They’re all much stronger than they were in the first book, mostly because they’re not amateurs anymore and they’ve had time to recover from the death of their world. But they’re also a lot more nuanced now, and I have my critics to thank for that.
Well, some of them.
There are some mild spoilers in the remaining questions of this interview. If you’d like to keep your reading experience completely unspoiled, stop here and go order yourself a copy of The Song of the Orphans and have a great time!
I have to admit that while reading Orphans I had a pocket of doubt come over me. I loved Silvers, even the action sequences, but in the second book I started to worry that when, where, and why the Pelletiers would step into the fray and help the silvers was really arbitrary. Once I understood the kind of free will that had been afforded to the silvers by the very nature of their “control group” it made a lot of more sense.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the Pelletiers don’t perceive time the way the rest of us do. They see all the strings of the future at once, which gives them a much better sense of what’s possible and what’s probable. They could see the Silvers escape a crashing flying restaurant and know, despite all appearances, that the group will survive without their help. On the other hand, they can watch the Silvers cross the street and think “Great. Trouble’s coming. Now I have to step in.”
So by their reckoning, their interventions aren’t arbitrary at all.
It’s all a moot point, anyway, because the relationship between the Silvers and Pelletiers changes drastically at the end of The Song of the Orphans. They won’t be doing much to help the Silvers in Book 3. Quite the opposite.
You’ve shared that you’re hard at work on the third and final book, and that our main characters will have the opportunity to travel to other countries. If you feel like you can share without giving too much away, why did you want to include these other locations, and will the rest of the alt-world be as startling different as alt-America?
One could argue that America’s fingerprint/Westernization is apparent across huge swaths of the globe and I’m curious to see what a world where that didn’t happen looks like.
In The War of the Givens, the story’s going to expand to England and Japan, with a little bit of Canada, China, and Mexico thrown into the mix. I didn’t want to limit the story to the United States. The world is too rich and diverse to keep it in one setting.
You’ll definitely see how the countries differ from the United States, as well as their real-world counterparts. The advent of temporis has changed every corner of the planet, for better or worse. I can’t wait to finally show some of that through the eyes of our main characters.
Finally- is there a question you’ve always hoped a reader would ask you, but they never have?
Aside from “how did you get so handsome?”, which I never quite hear, I love it when readers pose questions that had never crossed my mind before. One woman asked me what the space program would be like on my alternate Earth, which I’d never even given a moment to thought to. Now, thanks to her, I not only get to think about the question, I get to answer it in The War of the Givens.
Thank you so much, Daniel Price for taking the time to speak with me!
The Song of the Orphans is 752 pages, published by Penguin Publishing Group, and goes on July 4. The book is currently available for pre-order from all of your favorite book vendors online!