About Art Imitating Life…
Recently I discussed art imitating life in an interview with M.R. Carey whom, like Tim Lebbon, has a novel recently released about nature revolting on humanity in The Book of Koli. The thought centered on artists reflecting on that, which was on their mind and certainly environmental concerns have been on everyone’s minds. It seems to be certainly coming to a head in recent months. Lebbon’s Eden, which has just been released on April 7th, via Titan books centers around a terrifying revolt of nature. Lebbon was fantastic enough to discuss the research, inspiration and thought that came into play when creating Eden. It was essential not just as the setting of the book but as the antagonist of the story. To make that come alive, Lebbon had to double down on everything that normally comes into world-building in bringing it alive as a character that made readers both enamored and repulsed by it.
Thank You to Titan for an ARC of Eden, which released on April 7th
Guest Post: Author Tim Lebbon
Eden is an action adventure eco-horror thriller. With a bit of love story. And a hint of science fiction thrown in for good measure. Try finding a shelf for that in your local bookstore! But there are two main aspects to the novel which came together to make it the fast-paced story I hope it is, and they both needed a bit of research to make them believable.
The first is something I love––endurance sports.
The second is possibly the most pressing threat to humanity (and I write this during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic) ––climate change.
Researching the endurance sport aspect of the novel was easy, and fun, and something I’ve been doing for a decade. I love mountain running, marathons, and triathlon, and although I’ve done ironman races and an ultra-marathon, I’ve never done a multi-day event. So, the consistent efforts my characters go through, as they’re making their way across Eden day after day, was something I wasn’t so familiar with. What I am familiar with is blisters, chafing, pain, aching muscles, energy drops, and hitting the wall, so I was able to help my characters work their way through exhaustion as I have many times before on long races.
I guess part of the allure of writing Eden was the idea that I’d like to do a similar long-distance multi-day challenge, and it’s something I’ve been working towards over the past couple of years. An old college friend of mine has raced both the Marathon des Sables and the Amazon Marathon, extreme foot races in very challenging conditions. For my first I’d probably choose something a little less taxing. And unlike in Eden, I’d hope that I wasn’t pursued by supernatural forces and attacked by the very landscape I was racing across!
The more intense research I had to undertake for Eden was reserved for the environmental aspect of the novel. It’s set in the near future when we’ve already passed the tipping point and descended into climate chaos––melting glaciers, rising sea levels, dying forests, islands of refuse in the oceans. Over the past few years especially there’s been growing noise about the climate crisis, so there were plenty of sources online to research. But I also love the feel of a good book, and I read two terrific books whilst planning and writing the novel. One was The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, in which the author postulates how the world and our impact up on it would change if humanity were to suddenly disappear. It’s haunting and thought provoking, and the chapter about the future of New York City without humanity will stick with me for a long time.
The second book was Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince, in which the author travels the globe exploring and discovering the effects humanity has had upon the landscape, flora and fauna of our planet, as well as how societies are continuing to adapt to survive the changes we have wrought. It’s an incredibly personal journey, a travelogue through the world we have made, and much of it fed into Eden and the wider world I mention in each chapter’s epigraphs.
I was also interested in discovering places on our planet where humans have left nature to rediscover itself. And two places I found (actually my splendid agent Howard Morhaim mentioned these to me when I was chatting to him about the novel), were Chernobyl and the nearby town of Pripyat, and the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea. These are places where humans hardly ever go, although Pripyat is becoming more frequented now, and animals and plants have been able to experience an untouched and uninterrupted existence. Fascinating places, especially Pripyat, where nature has persisted despite radiation levels.
I wanted Eden’s setting and landscape to be familiar, but also challenging. I’ve never been to a proper jungle, or a desert, or the Arctic, but I have raced through mountains and forests, and my favourite outdoor place is the wonderful, beautiful Snowdonia in Wales. On my first visit to Snowdon I almost died (that’s another story), so for Eden’s landscape I already had much of what I needed. Rolling hills, vast forests, ravines, rivers … beautiful, awe-inspiring. And in Eden, deadly.
I hope you enjoy the novel and remember … be kind to the world. Sometimes it bites back.