The longest two weeks of my life were the two weeks before the release of my debut novel, Night Call.
It’s sort of a surreal feeling as, on one hand, I’m very proud of this accomplishment and all the work it’s taken, and at the same time, I’m stuck between excited and anxious, seeing as this publication coincided with the endgame of my graduate degree in chemistry. This novel is the starting point of a completely new chapter of my life, and I have no idea where it’ll take me.
There are plenty of factors which, together, helped to push me and this project forward. While I would be hard-pressed to itemize them, thankfully the questions below have helped me to surmise my writing and researching process to share with you.
What kind of research was involved in creating the backdrop for this novel?
Most of my efforts dealt with finding technological plausibilities given the constraints of both the time period and the era’s knowledge base. Programming didn't exist until the 1950s, and the term 'computer' wouldn't be invented until at least the 1940s by Turing. Thankfully, Čapek’s RUR (1921) helped to form the basis of both the terminology and scientific concepts explored in this novel and in later books in the series. Not only that, but lesser-known, yet highly influential, figures helped to shape and solidify this 'might-have-been' post-WWI technology in a more plausible light.
How did you find the blending of modern-day technology with 1930s New York City? Did it let you discover new things about technology, or the way technology has grown?
My blending of scientific advancement with a very analog time period taught me less about technology and more about the societies of both the past and the modern age. Just like the 1930s, we find ourselves surrounded by financial inequality, racism, sexism, and judicial corruption, as well as the rise of nationalism and radical white supremacy. The only difference is that the 1930s didn't have sleek smartphones or cutting-edge gaming PCs. Similarly, researching such a time period made me realize that technological advancement happens in short bursts, either catalyzed by war or the need to make a profit.
I am happy to see, however, that unlike in the 1930s, many in this day and age are willing to take a stand against these injustices and learn from history, rather than repeat it.
Did you take inspiration from your degree in any way?
The most important part of my degree was less about the hard skills that I learned and more about discovering how to think like a scientist. Aside from that, I'd say the immense stress helped to push me to write better, as I'm a big believer in 'Art through Adversity,’ and a Master’s in organic chemistry is no walk through the park. Regarding inspiration, I’d say that my degree has taught me that no matter who you are or what you’re doing, you can always find the time and motivation to do what you love, and succeed at it, too.
Brenden Carlson is a chemist and freelance writer. His debut novel and the first in the Walking Shadows Series, Night Call, released in 2020. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario. Read more here.