Interview with Ted Cross

Interview time!

I am very happy to have had the chance to talk to Ted Cross, author of The Immortality Game.


I first met Ted through the website, Authonomy. I think he’s an excellent writer, as well as being a thoroughly-nice person!

His debut novel, The Immortality Game, is an excellent read and one I highly recommend.

Anyway, on with the interview!

1. You have traveled to many countries in your time, and lived in a fair few too! What inspired you to set TIG in Russia?
Russia was the first country I lived in outside of the US. I spent four years there during the crazy 90’s, and it was an intense and incredible time of life for me. It certainly had the largest impact on my life of any place I have been, so that is one factor. Plus I majored in Russian Studies in college, so I’ve long had a fascination with that country; it’s just that living in Moscow showed me what a fascinating city it is. When I needed ideas about a group of scientists while building the back story of the first novel I wrote (a fantasy coming out later this year), it felt natural to have the scientists be mostly Russian, especially once I realized I needed to have the Russian mafia play a role in the story.


2. The main character in TIG is Zoya. That’s a cool name. How did you choose it and does it have any meaning?
One thing I noticed while living in Russia is that there seem to be very few names. There are actually many Russian names, but everyone you meet there seems to actually use one of only about a dozen or so names each for males and females. We even numbered people at work, so for example in the carpentry shop at the embassy we had Boris 1, Boris 2, and Boris 3. In the paint shop we had a big Dima and a little Dima (which I used in the story!). So I wanted a name that was different from the standard set, but would also be easy for Western audiences. I looked up a list of Russian names and combed through it looking for the most suitable one for my purposes, and Zoya is the one that stood out.

3. TIG shows the future to be quite grim. However, is there something in your book that you hope may come to pass?
Immortality! I know many people, like my wife, have no interest in this, but personally I am extremely curious about what the future holds and I hate the fact that I won’t get to see it. I’d love to have some form of immortality that would let me be a part of the future. And I loved the fact that my idea for immortality approached it very differently from what I’ve seen in the past, not extending the life of the original body but having life go on in a separate one.
I agree with you, Immortality would be jolly nice! Let’s move onto the next question…

4. If your book were to have a soundtrack, who would it be composed and/or performed by? 
My favorite sci-fi music by far is Vangelis’s work on Blade Runner, so I could imagine him being good for the movie. And I did write this book with a movie in mind–each scene was imagined in my head visually and I tried to write it in a way that would feel like a cinematic experience. But I always imagined the movie being co-directed by Quentin Tarantino (for his dialogue and violence) and Tumur Bakmambetov (see his amazing cinematography in the Night Watch/Day Watch movies, plus his knowledge of Moscow and Russia), so I imagine the music would work out better with those directors doing the choosing!
I haven’t met a sci-fi fan yet who hasn’t mentioned Vangelis when talking about Blade Runner. Amazing music for an amazing film.

5. The cover of your book is amazing. What do you like the most about it?
Thank goodness for Stephan Martiniere! I’ve loved his work for many years and have some of his prints on my walls at home, so he was a natural for me to pick to do the cover. I really hope the Hugo Award voters will think of him this year, because his work on my cover and on the cover of Shield and Crocus is truly deserving of attention. I love that the cover stands out in a good way, and most of all I love that Stephan got the images right. I explained to him how I saw the mafia base (the pyramid and the twin curving hotel towers) and gave him a sample text, and he was spot on in his depiction. Then he even added things that are big parts of the book, such as the flurries of poplar seeds.
Cover Illustration © Stephan Martiniere

6. Continuing with the cover theme, what are your favorite book covers, and why?
As a kid my favorite covers were Frazetta’s Conan covers. Amazing, and they stood out far above just about anything else being done back then. So Frazetta was a big early influence on my artistic tastes. The Hildebrandt brothers work on The Sword of Shannara were also great. Later I fell in love with Alan Lee’s work on various Tolkien works and of course Stephan Martiniere’s work. I’ve always preferred covers that realistically depict a scene from the story, and it’s so seldom that we see that these days. I’m not a big fan of most book covers done today, and that was one reason I was happy to get to do the cover myself rather than have a big publisher decide on some mediocre one for me.
Yep, some of the Shannara covers are very good. I also agree that Alan Lee’s work is wonderful.

7. If you could recommend one book that everyone should read, what would it be?
Tough question, since I love so many! I won’t go with the standard obvious ones like Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and so forth, but I’ll pick a few great books that a good number of readers may not have tried. Ursula Le Guin’s novels set in Earthsea are amazing and lovely, and I think a lot of younger readers haven’t given them a try. Also, Colleen McCulloughs series about ancient Rome (The Grass Crown, The First Man in Rome, etc.) is sadly overlooked by many readers, and they are a true learning experience that is also just gorgeous.

8. If TIG was a computer game, what kind would it be?
It should be a completely immersive virtual reality game, just like I depict in the story!

9. What is your motivation to write?
I love reading and there are so many books that I enjoy. But there are areas that are being overlooked by publishers, so I’ve felt the need to write my own since I can’t find them to read. A lot of folks are tired of Tolkienesque fantasy and they are very vocal about it, yet I love Tolkienesque fantasy so much that I can’t see getting tired of it. I want more. Frankly, I have never found one that took the style of world found in Tolkienesqeu fantasy and added the darker fantasy elements we see today, and that is what appeals to me most. As if George R.R. Martin were writing about trolls, elves, and dwarves! I’d love that, but no one is doing it. So I did it even though I know the audience will be limited. That one I’ll publish later this year. It was the back story of that novel that led to me writing The Immortality Game. Part of my motivation for writing is the limited sense of immortality it brings. I don’t get millions of readers, but it’s nice to think that even after I’m gone my books may still be out there.

10. What next from Ted Cross?
I’m finishing up final edits on the fantasy novel to be published this year, and I have an entire new story plotted out and ready to go. It’s set in the same universe as the first two books, but it’s in the far future, and I think people will really get a kick out the idea I have. There is also another story set 800 years prior to the fantasy story, and I have that partially written already. I’d work on that if I weren’t so excited about the idea I have for the far future novel. Too many ideas and not enough time to write them all!
I’m looking forward to reading more of your work! Thanks for taking time out to chat today.
Thank you for having me here, Simon!
My pleasure. Here comes the bio and links!
Bio: Ted Cross has spent the past two decades traveling the world as a diplomat, all the time dreaming about writing fantasy and science fiction. He’s visited nearly forty countries and lived in seven, including the U.S., Russia, China, Croatia, Iceland, Hungary, and Azerbaijan. He’s witnessed coup attempts, mafia and terrorist attacks, played chess with several world champions, and had bit parts in a couple of movies. He currently lives in Baku, Azerbaijan with his lovely wife and two teenage sons.

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