Today I am really pleased to welcome Rob Boffard, the author of the fantastic sci-fi book, Tracer, which has also been named as one of Amazon’s Rising Stars of 2015.
Can you tell us in your own words, what is Tracer all about?
Tracer is about a courier on a city sized space station. Her name is Riley, and she’s fast, agile, and good in a fight. But when she gets ambushed on a routine run, she discovers that she’s transporting something really gruesome, and uncovers a conspiracy which could destroy the human race.
Tracer is the first book in the trilogy. Did you always plan to have the series as a Trilogy or did you originally visualise it as the first in a series?
It’s the first novel I ever wrote. I started it with no expectation of how it would turn out, or even what I would do with it when I finished. But when I got to the end, I realised that I wasn’t done telling Riley’s story – not even close. I decided to write at least two more books with her as the hero. Fortunately, Orbit Books felt the same way.
Was there any plot lines or characters that changed, or developed beyond what you had originally envisioned?
If I compare the first draft to the published book, what blows my mind is that the plot line and larger themes have remained the same, as have the scenes that moved the plot along. Obviously things changed and were moved around as I battled logical inconsistencies and slow parts in the story, but the blueprint is still the same. The character arcs didn’t change too much, either; what I found I had to do was accentuate certain parts of their personalities or emphasise things which were getting lost in the shuffle. Their big developments and surprises happened when I was writing the first draft, when I let them figure out the plot for me.
Which character was the most difficult to write and why?
That’s a tough question. Oren Darnell took a lot of passes, mainly because I was trying to move him away from a cackling super villain into someone properly scary.
Which character do you empathise with the most?
That’s like picking your favourite child. Each of the characters (even Darnell) have a little bit of me inside them. While I was writing the story, I got genuinely scared for a few of them, because I didn’t know if they were going to make it out alive.
It is slightly unusual to have a female character take on this type of leading role in this genre. (Riley being the main character and the heroine of the book) Was this a conscious decision or did it just happen by chance? (ME:- Loving the diversity of the book FYI. Have images of Riley, Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road and Ripley from the Aliens movie sitting at a bar, trading war stories)
Thank you! That’s a big compliment. It’s both enormously gratifying to hear and completely terrifying, because I feel like she’s walking in the footsteps of giants here. (For what it’s worth, I would pay a lot of money to sit at the bar with them, and I’m the first to say that Furiosa would drink both Riley and Ellen under the table).
In terms of making Riley a female character, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. She came to me more or less fully formed, and it would have felt really, really weird to change her gender at that point. I didn’t think too hard about it; I just jumped in and wrote the story, doing my best to make a believable character with the hope that the rest would follow.
You are also a journalist, how was writing a novel different from writing a factual piece?
It was liberating. Like breathing fresh air after being cooped up inside all day. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a journalist, but writing stories in that field comes with its own set of restrictions. You cannot, absolutely cannot, make things up. It means you have to be extremely creative to turn an often prosaic reality into a readable story. That’s a real skill, and one which I’ve worked quite hard to master, but writing fiction is so much more fun.
Can you tell us anything about what you are working on just now?
The next two books in the Outer Earth series! I’m knee deep in editing right now. After that, I’ve got a whole new series planned, although I don’t want to talk about that before I’ve actually written it down.
If the series were to be made into a film or TV series, who would be your choice in casting for Janice, Riley, Darnell and Prakesh?
I would love it if an unknown actress could play Riley. My top choice is Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games. Either her, or I’ll pick between Jennifer Lawrence and Olivia Thirlby. The other three are easy: I see their faces pretty clearly in my mind. Javier Bardem is Oren Darnell. Dev Patel is Prakesh Kumar. And Jada Pinkett-Smith ABSOLUTELY IS Janice Okwembu. That last one is ironclad – she’d be perfect.
Do you have any writing rituals/ places to write?
I like to think I can write anywhere, but I discovered that I write a lot better if the circumstances are as I like them. I write in the morning, after a workout, coffee, a smoothie, a shower and lots of loud hip-hop. I’ve got my desk perfectly set up how I want it. I do have one slightly strange requirement to be able to write, which is city noise. I have to have that in the background. If it’s too cold to have the balcony door open, I often queue up a YouTube video with a city soundtrack.
Which TV shows are currently on your must watch list? (If you have time)
Everybody keeps telling me that Tracer resembles The 100. I really didn’t like that show when I first saw it, but I think I need to give it another chance. I’ve just finished Sense8, which was incredible. I also really want to watch Killjoys, and The Expanse. How’s this for a first world problem: I struggle to balance watching TV series with playing video games, which is the other thing I’m obsessed with.
Many thanks to Rob for taking the time out to answer these questions and be sure to check out my review that will be up later today
ABOUT THE BOOK
A huge space station orbits Earth, holding the last of humanity. It’s broken, rusted, falling apart. We’ve wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: an overcrowded, dirty, inescapable space station. And now the race is on to save it from destruction.
ABOUT ROB BOFFARD
Rob Boffard is a South African author who splits his time between London, Vancouver and Johannesburg. He has worked as a journalist for over a decade, and has written articles for publications in more than a dozen countries, including the Guardian and Wired in the UK. Tracer is his first novel.