Blog tour: The Mind's Eye

Welcome to the blog tour for The Mind’s Eye by Miles Hudson. Get yourself comfortable and read on to discover the behind-the-scenes of the sequel to 2089.

Hi Miles! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of The Mind’s Eye! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thanks Silvia, and thanks for inviting me on to your book blog. Hopefully, this will give you some idea about the story, but I didn’t want to give too much away as there are many twists and turns.

The year is 2091, and a universal system for remotely tapping into the optic and auditory nerves of all humans is in place. Everything that people see and hear is detected, and the feeds of this information are published publicly online. Nothing can be secret. It is the ultimate surveillance society but, as everybody’s sights and sounds are publicly viewable, there is a different atmosphere from most fiction concepts of an oppressive, surveillance-based dystopian society. The surviving population chose to be continually watched (!)

The Mind’s Eye is a standalone sequel to 2089. At the end of that book, the rebel, Jack Smith, ended up living on an island in the Bristol Channel. Now, after a number of serious crimes, which witnesses attribute to Jack, he and his friend, Vicky, return to his home town to try to prove that he was not the criminal. They are pursued by a militia posse, which includes Vicky’s brother, Truvan. The subsequent chases and investigations by Jack and Vicky, and the posse, bring to light that … [SPOILERS REMOVED]

Inspired by an interview I saw with Edward Snowden, the story includes many topical allusions to fake news and deep fake videos, as well as consideration of issues surrounding surveillance in society. There were many times during the writing of it when I found the real news seemed to be overtaking the events I was writing from my imagination!

If you want to think about it in comparison with other books, The Mind’s Eye is kinda like 1984 meets Station Eleven meets Minority Report, with maybe a bit of Inception thrown in!

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: I’m very much a planner when it comes to writing. For each of my novels, I have a whole planning notebook with pages of ideas and research notes and character studies and chapter outlines. Nothing large happened in this story that I wasn’t expecting, but it is weird how, once you get into the flow of typing, the characters do start doing their own thing. Only on the details usually, but I often feel like I’m channelling them rather than actively inventing the stuff myself!

What kind of research did you have to carry out while you were writing this novel? In general, is research something you enjoy or merely a means to an end?

A: I don’t live in the region it is set. I chose Gloucestershire because the huge surveillance system is operated out of the old GCHQ building in Cheltenham. At the moment, that is the UK’s main government surveillance centre, but The Mind’s Eye is set in 2091, and by then it is an abandoned building that is repurposed by the remaining townships for their surveillance needs. So, I had to research the region quite a lot as the characters chase around the area a fair bit.  In terms of the imagined future technology, I did have to research that too, but my original career was physics teacher, so I found that side pretty straightforward.

I love the research element of writing anything, and I’ll generally research more than double what I need. Mostly because I just get caught up in amazing new places and ideas, but also because that helps make the things you actually write in the story much more believable. If there’s a lot of research that doesn’t make it into the text but backs up the things that do, I think that makes the descriptions you do give much more realistic.

If this novel was going to be turned into a film, who would you cast in the roles of Jack and Vicky?

A: Ha, I get asked this question a lot, and I’ve never come up with an answer that I really believe in!

I’m going to say James McAvoy for Jack, and Saoirse Ronan for Vicky, but I reserve the right to change my mind at casting!

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?

A: Well, not one particular scene, but the whole relationship between Jack and Vicky was difficult for me. I’m not a very emotional person, and so trying to develop their will-they-won’t-they relationship, in a way that might be convincing to readers, I found that hard. I’m happy with how it’s come out in the end, but I did need quite a bit of editorial advice about this aspect of the story.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?

A: Actually, the very end took a dramatic change of direction very close to publication. I won’t give away any spoilers, but it was that pesky relationship between Jack and Vicky that needed another final tweak!

If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: I have so many writing projects on the go, all the time, this may be quite a long answer! I continue to make most of my living from school textbooks for physics, so I have another small textbook project in the pipeline. My pandemic project postcardsfromspace.co.uk is also ongoing, with more series of postcards coming up very soon. And I write a series of detective mysteries, based in Durham in northern England. I just published The Kidney Killer in November, so the next one of those is at an early stage.

But most relevant to this interview, is the prequel to 2089. That’s the story of Jack’s grandmother and her struggles through the breakdown of society that leads up to the post-apocalyptic setting for The Mind’s Eye. My research planning book for this one is about 60% along the way before I start actual writing. Its provisional title is The Times of Malthus.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I just finished Sunshine Superhighway, which is an anthology of short stories that you might refer to as cli-fi (climate change scifi). I don’t normally go for short stories, but I loved it! I’m going to start next on Andrew Hunter-Murray’s The Last Day. Generally, my TBR pile is incredibly eclectic, so it is a genuine coincidence that these two are in a similar vein to The Mind’s Eye!

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: It really can be a difficult balance to work out. You absolutely need to get involved, but you’re right, the time needed can be really demanding. Especially as more engagement drives the algorithms to make you more visible. But I often wonder if I’m just shouting into a void, so I don’t let it suck up all my time. I follow Cory Doctorow on Twitter and he’s so prolific with tweets that I wonder how he ever gets any work done! My general approach is to keep the socials ticking over, but really focus on my writing. If that’s high quality, the social media folk will talk to each other about it anyway!

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: The standard advice from authors is to write all the time, even if just a tiny bit, write something every day. I generally tweak that advice a bit. I suggest deliberately writing bits and pieces that are related to a project but not needed for it. My planning books have many pages of little vignettes – scenes where I play around with how my characters might react to some situation, but not a situation that is in the story. This way, when I get to actually writing the book, I already know my characters in great depth and so they react much more naturally, realistically. I expect this is some of the reason why it often feels like I’m channelling them and they are deciding what to do or say: I know them so well that I don’t need to think about their reactions, they just do them.

And read a lot too. The more you see words used in different ways and in different contexts, the more you will naturally use them well yourself.

Thank you for your time!

 

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