Adam Oyebanji works in counter-terrorism by day, and writes by night. His debut science fiction novel Braking Day about everything that could possibly go wrong when a generation space ship slows down to approach its final destination came out from Jo Fletcher Books in April (see our review here) – it is a brilliant addition to the corpus. We’re thrilled that Adam took out the time from his busy life to have a chat with us about Braking Day, writing and dragons (because, yes, there are dragons of a sort in his space opera and yes, that makes us love it even more)!
Can you pitch Braking Day in a one-sentence pitch to our readers?
Politics, mystery and a coming of age drama aboard a miles-long generation ship.
What is it that draws you to space opera specifically?
I hesitate to say this in front of an audience of grimdark aficionados, but I love the optimism of it. Even if the story is dark, the fact that it’s in space, kind of means we made it as a species. We fixed global warming, didn’t nuke ourselves, avoided a return to the Middle Ages, and developed kick-ass tech that got us off the planet. Humanity is going places! What’s an oppressive interstellar empire and ruthless clone army compared to that?
On your website you say that you’d travel into the future rather than the past if given the choice – so a question about the future is in order: where do you hope science fiction will be in a decade? What developments are you hoping for?
I think, as different kinds of people start to slip past the gatekeepers and into publishing, we’ll get a wider, a richer, array of stories to choose from, which will be great for everybody, especially readers. I saw the movie CODA the other day and it was awesome. That movie, that story, would never have had a chance 10 years ago. Now I can go see that and the latest Marvel blockbuster. More CODA doesn’t mean less Marvel. SF will be the same, I hope. More stories. A lot more.
Also, ebook brain implants, so I can download and read without having to bother with hands.
What has been the greatest joy in your journey to publication?
Working with people who want your book to be the best it can be. Joy is absolutely the right word. Writing, for me anyway, is a pretty solitary endeavor. So, when you suddenly find yourself in conversation with people who’ve read what you’ve written, believe in what you’re trying to do, and want to help you do it, it’s an incredible feeling. Like thinking you’re alone in the world and suddenly stumbling into a beautiful city.
How do you plan to celebrate the release of Braking Day?
Because the world is more grimdark than I would like, I don’t think I’ll have time to do much of anything. My day job is financial counter-terrorism, which means, among other things, that I’m one of those people who make the sanctions you hear about on TV actually work. With the situation in Ukraine being as it is, my colleagues and I are working 16/7 right now. On the plus side, no one is trying to drop munitions through the roof of our homes. Hopefully I will get to crack a bottle of champagne with the family before stumbling off to bed!
“Next level” is an overused term, but a good agent and editor can really get you there. I had no idea how much they can help you craft your story. What you submit to the agent and then publisher as your manuscript is not the last word by a long shot. My agent and editor had a ton of great suggestions for tightening things up and diving deeper into certain characters and plotlines. I will be forever grateful to them. The final product is so much better than the original draft.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors to juggle writing with a demanding career?
It’s a cliché, I know, but you have to make the time to write. And time isn’t free. Something else has to give. For me, it’s TV. And admin. Right now, I really should be doing my taxes and getting someone in to fix the washing machine. If you wait until everything else is sorted before hitting the keyboard, you are unlikely to get anything done.
Without going into too much details because spoilers, but I loved that you included dragons of a sort in your book. What are some of your favourite literary dragons?
Smaug from The Hobbit, has to be in there. That book was read to me as a child, and while he wasn’t the first dragon I’d come across, he was the first one who had real character, as opposed to being slain by the charming prince in a couple of paragraphs. Then there’s Saphira from Eragon, where the dragon is not only (shock horror) good, but also a major character in her own right. And lastly, one of the oldest of them all, the unnamed dragon in Beowulf. It terrorizes far and wide because someone stole a cup from its hoard and then takes a mortal chomp out of our hero. It may have been slain in the end, but it got its licks in first!
What are the three items you’d make sure to bring from Earth onto a generation ship?
Ooh, this is like the end of that movie, The Time Machine, where Rod Taylor takes three books back to the future to help him rebuild civilization, but no one sees which ones he picked! Let’s see… This is a serious question. There’d be chocolate. There’d have to be chocolate. And then maybe some more chocolate. And finally, chocolate.
What books or other media have filled your creative well recently?
I’ve been catching up on some military space opera that I missed the first time around. I’ve been reading Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, starting with Dauntless, and I’ve just finished Planetside, the first in a trilogy by Michael Mammay. And right at the moment, for a complete change of pace, I’ve picked up The Gossamer Mage by Julie Czerneda. I fear I’m never going to look at pens in quite the same way again.