Interview: Libby McGugan, author of sci-fi novel The Eidolon
The novel 'explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat storyline'
How would you describe The Eidolon?
A science fiction thriller that explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat storyline featuring dark matter, the CERN laboratory, and the boundary between the living and the dead. That’s my publisher’s description, and it’s better than the one I came up with.
Are there any authors who have particularly influenced you?
I like stories that explore big concepts and tap into the magic of the world, stories that take something ethereal and make it tangible. The End of Mr Y is one of my favourites – Scarlett Thomas explores some intriguing ideas and I like her frank style. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter for creating enticing parallel worlds; Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist for its simplicity and power. If you extend the term author to screenwriter, George Lucas, who took Joseph Campbell’s premise and ran with it! I have stacks of books on conventional science – such as Brian Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos, which I have to reread every so often, as it’s such a head-bender – and beliefs systems; Taoism, Buddhism, philosophy and the like. My current favourite is Rupert Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion, which delves into the philosophy of science and proposes some fascinating concepts.
How much research did you need to do for the book?
It’s tricky to say. I was still researching when it came to the final edit. I visited CERN a few years ago, just as they were preparing for the LHC warm up; that gave me a sense of what an unbelievable endeavour it is, how powerful our drive is to understand things. It’s a huge feat of cooperation crossing political, geographical and specialist boundaries. I spent a bit of time in Geneva to get a feel for writing the scenes that are set there. And I’ve done a fair amount of travelling and trekking, so I drew on those experiences for the Tibetan scenes at the start of the book. The medical scenes were easy to write, as that’s my day job!
As a female author in what could be said to be a male-dominated field, was it a deliberate decision to go with a male, rather than female, protagonist?
It didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t set out to write a science fiction story, so the decision to write as a male character wasn’t calculated on the basis of who might read the story in the future. The story just came and Robert was just there. It didn’t occur to me to write as from a female POV. I did enjoy Robert’s cynical streak, although I had to tone it down.
What did it feel like to see your first novel 'in the flesh', so to speak?
Surreal. It was like meeting an old friend again, someone you used to spend a lot of time with. In a funny way, even though other people can read it now, it’s seems even more personal, like it’s between the story and me. I had a lot of fun writing it. If anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus.
The Eidolon is published by Solaris Books on Thu 7 Nov.