The following is an interview with Ben Aaronovitch on Lies Sleeping, the latest novel within the Rivers of London Series. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Aaronovitch about the inspiration behind the story, his creative process in returning to the Rivers of London world, what he hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on today’s release of your novel, Lies Sleeping! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Ben Aaronovitch: Lies Sleeping is the latest book in the Rivers of London series which follow the adventures of Detective Constable Peter Grant who is the junior member of the police department charged with dealing with supernatural crime in London. To this end, he is also being trained in magic by his superior, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale.
In Lies Sleeping, Peter is asked by the goddess of the River Fleet to keep her daughter out of an ongoing police investigation. Needless to say, the case immediately gains a pile of complications, and our hero finds himself hot on the trail of master criminal and ethically challenged magician known only as the Faceless Man.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing the book, and what have been some of your creative influences?
BA: My creative process is the same as most writers—I sit down in front of my computer and bang my head on the keyboard until something coherent appears.
My influences were mostly formed in my youth. Lots and lots of science fiction and crime from the 1960s and ‘70s: Andre Norton, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Ed McBain, and then Anne MacCaffrey, CJ Cherryh, Ian Rankin, Ursula K. LeGuin. Occasionally, some high-class literature would creep in by accident: Toni Cade Bambara, Rupert Graves, and the like.
Prose aside, I was strongly influenced by the weird and wonderful world of British children’s drama such Children of the Stones and Rentaghost. Also, roleplaying games kindled an interest in history and research that has stood me in good stead.
BD: As this is the seventh book in your HUGO Award-nominated Rivers of London series, do you feel that Lies Sleeping would serve as a solid jumping-on point for new readers?
BA: I’ve tried to make each book as standalone as possible, but you will have more fun if you start with the first book—titled Midnight Riot in North America.
BD: Do you have a specific number of subsequent novels planned for the Rivers of London series?
BA: No. The series is designed to be much more like a series of detective novels involving the same central protagonist than an epic Song of Ice and Fire-style narrative with an overarching plot that has a definite middle, beginning and an end.
BD: Given that speculative fiction often serves as a vehicle for writers to hold a mirror to society, what do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
BA: I’m a great believer in the maxim that if you take care of the text, then the subtext will take care of itself. I’ve often looked back over my work and thought they might have some applicability to current social and political concerns, but I prefer to let these emerge naturally. I don’t write allegorical works, but if the reader draws a conclusion from my work that chimes with, or challenges, their own beliefs, then so much the better.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
BA: We’ve been quite successful with a series of Rivers of London spinoff comics/graphic novels so far, and the series has been optioned for TV. TV is always tricky, because not only is the process uncertain, but the chance of disaster is high. We shall see how things turn out.
BD: What makes Penguin Random House the perfect home for Lies Sleeping?
BA: Mainly because I’m published by their legendary SF imprint DAW, run by the irrepressible Betsy Wollheim, so I get all of the advantages of massive multi-national infrastructure combined with the personalized attentions of a skilled editor – who could ask for more?
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
BA: I’m already hard at work on the next Rivers of London novel which, if everything goes to plan, will be out the same time next year.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Lies Sleeping?
BA: I have website at www.benaaronovitch.com, and I can be followed on twitter (@Ben_Aaronovitch) and on Facebook and Instagram. There is a monthly newsletter available here, and the Penguin Random House web page is here.
*Photo credit by Joya Soyinka