The following is an interview with Imraan Coovadia regarding his upcoming novel, A Spy in Time, from publisher California Coldblood Books. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Coovadia about the inspiration behind the novel, his creative process in building such an intricate sci-fi world, the applications of Afrofuturism in the book, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your latest novel, A Spy in Time, from California Coldblood Books! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the premise of the book, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Imraan Coovadia: The premise of this book is an agency which watches over time to make sure that the end of the world doesn’t come a second time. The first time it came, in the shape of a supernova, the survivors were almost entirely black men and women who made it to the mines near Johannesburg. Back in time, especially in the twentieth century, they enter situations where they have to be particularly careful because of the colour of their skins. Naturally they are aware of an enemy, somewhere in the pages of time, although they have trouble saying who that enemy is. So, it’s really about being a spy, and in the case of the main character, learning to be a spy, making your heart a spy’s heart and your mind a spy’s mind. By the way, this is one of the few areas of expertise every writer has.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in crafting such intricate world-building for your characters to inhabit, and what have been some of your creative influences?
IC: Like most writers I read all the time, hundreds and thousands of books and stories and articles and works of scientific speculation. I suspect the influences that run the deepest, I suspect, are the secret ones. But the books I was thinking of, while writing Spy in Time, were Treasure Island and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. They’re just gems of storytelling. When you start reading, you’re seized by the dream of the story and never let go. World-building is talked about a lot, but as long as you’re under the compulsion of a dream, and there is some kind of logic to the proceedings, I don’t think you need an entire anthropology and cosmology of the imaginary world.
BD: Given you work as an award-winning journalist and as the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Cape Town, do you find that you must strike a balance between your analytical and creative approaches to writing, or is there a shared process that combines the tools of both styles of writing?
IC: The secret of wisdom is that everything is about striking balances and making trade offs, except writing. The analytical part has to be super-analytical; that’s how you figure out what hasn’t been thought about before. The creative part has to be super-creative (or as super as you can make it).
BD: How would you describe the applications of Afrofuturism in A Spy in Time, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the story narratively and from a philosophical perspective?
IC: Afrofuturism is a kind of imaginative time travel, taking elements of the continent’s arts and culture and juxtaposing them with elements of an imaginary future. It gets us away from the conventional images of Africa, which is great, and pretty much what I’m trying to do in Spy in Time. I also want to imagine a future in which our feelings about race and power are reversed from what they are today, for some obvious reasons.
BD: As A Spy in Time was recently featured in The Hollywood Reporter’s “Rights Available” column, is there another medium of entertainment that you feel the story would best be suited for adaptation?
IC: Television, I guess, or a graphic novel.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
IC: I’m thinking about thinking about clones and reading about slavery.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about A Spy in Time?
IC: More information may be found at the following links: