The Interview: Bookbag Talks To S B Charles

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To S B Charles


Summary: Jill thought that Gliding With Black Swans by S B Charles was a roller coaster of a thriller and she couldn't wait to chat to author S B Charles when he popped in to chat to us.
Date: 24 August 2016
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Jill thought that Gliding With Black Swans by S B Charles was a roller coaster of a thriller and she couldn't wait to chat to author S B Charles when he popped in to chat to us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

S B Charles: A thoughtful person who responds positively to new ideas - someone who likes a challenge. Someone who is concerned about the state of the world at the moment and how we can address the threats in a civilised, nuanced fashion.

  • BB: Gliding With Black Swans is set in a rationalist Britain. Will faith and atheism always be in conflict? Or can they exist together?

SBC: Faith is a human feature like the soul, like love, like beauty. But formalised religions have hijacked the concept and converted it into a war flag to rally troops around. This is religious tribalism. Gliding with Black Swans acknowledges that mankind gained a great deal from religion but that it is now a vestigial response, just like the appendix is a redundant organ, and that by an exercise of freewill we could move away from an imminent disaster.

So yes, faith will co-exist with atheism but not religious faith.

  • BB: The world building in the book is very detailed and thoroughly thought through. What events and situations in the world today did you draw on to help you construct this future Britain?

SBC: To set the scene I’d like to quote Churchill: The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see. Churchill was probably talking about written history but as I see it there can be two other layers to this process.

The first is what you see when you read Jared Diamond’s Collapse in which he shows how many societies caused their own downfall.

And secondly, by using the findings of behavioural scientists. Consider yourself as just another social animal: a co-operative, curious, carnivore. It is these very traits that have lead to our innate tribalism.

It’s probably foolish to resist the physical forces of nature and the same probably holds for resisting human nature. Why resist nature? Glide with it. Don’t build where there’s a flood risk and don’t treat humans as angels, we are innately tribal - accept it and use it. This does not need to lead to a racist society. Take a pack of dogs: they can be almost of all the colours of the rainbow and a mixture of shapes and sizes but they know to which pack they belong.

So how do we bind a fractious, multi-cultural society together? Give it a strong commonality. The one selected in my story is being non-religious and by doing this we reject one of the most divisive elements of the modern world.

  • BB: Will we ever meet any of the characters from Gliding With Black Swans in any future books you write?

SBC: Yes, as I wrote Gliding with Black Swans I realised that the prequel was crying out to be written. This will fill in the background showing how the UK became the UIA. It will involve the grandparents of the characters against the backdrop of a turbulent society in transition.

  • BB: It's an interesting title. How did you come to choose it?

SBC: From Nicholas Taleb: there are black swan events that are damaging and there are others that can have a positive outcome. It is a question of being antifragile, as he would say, of having options ready to benefit from the good black swans.

Almost like an organism throwing out random mutations: one day the environment will change and a mutation will be there that will be a perfect match.

  • BB: What is your writing process?

SBC: Pretty basic: the idea occurs, gather the material, write an outline with chapters, set a date as to when the research stops and the writing starts, start the writing with a strict schedule as to output per week, leave it for two weeks - forget about it, re-read and re-write, copy-edit, submit, hope ...

  • BB:

Is bringing a book all the way to publication a stressful procedure?

SBC: No, if you expect nothing.

  • BB: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

SBC: Become famous before you start writing!

  • BB: Which fellow authors influence you the most?

SBC: George Orwell and Bruce Chatwin from fiction but there are many non-fiction influences: Richard Dawkins (memes), Daniel Dennet (the evolution of freewill), Jared Diamond (the collapse of societies), Martin Jacques (Confucianism), James Lovelock (gaia), Iain McGilchrist (the workings of the brain), Nicholas Taleb (antifragility).

  • BB: What would be your desert island book?

SBC: How to Build a Boat.

  • BB: What's next for SB Charles?

SBC: Family and friends who’ve had a read have said that it would make a superb film. The settings make for dramatic contrasts. The story line unfolds in a way that could be easily adapted to a film. So if this idea developed I would be up for a new adventure ...

  • BB: We can only agree with that and hope that someone makes you an offer soon!

You can read more about S B Charles here.

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