Writing on the run – author’s eye view

This page will tell you a bit more about aspects of writing my book Race the Red Horizon.

I wanted Race the Red Horizon to be a very simple book – a hunt, a chase, involving only two characters, the hunted and the hunter. (you could argue for three characters in the collective mass of the Crawler’s drones, four if you want to include the landscape; but those are pushing it). The story itself was going to be as pure and as simple as the dead desert setting: run!

From the very beginning I set myself a challenge: no dialogue (I love dialogue), no references to compass points (handy when you’re navigating a wilderness), or to celestial phenomena (no moon, stars, sun).

The book is also a snapshot of a moment in time. In the very earliest drafts – when the book was still called by its eventual subtitle, The Flight of the Pteronaut – I explained next to nothing. No reason was given for the Pteronaut’s journey, or for the Crawler’s desire to capture him. I also tried to keep the emotional responses of the Pteronaut to a minimum.

By the time the book was published, I’d relented a bit. The Pteronaut’s journey has a purpose which is hinted at, but the purpose is not important. The Crawler’s aims are hinted at too, but they are also not important. I gave the Pteronaut a few more emotions, and (in one of my favourite chapters) added to the few clues in the text to reveal a bit about the history of the dead red deserts. Again, none of that is really important. The book is all about surviving the chase.

I also wanted the writing to reflect the different personalities of the two characters, even without dialogue. The Pteronaut’s sections are all in the present tense, because he lives in the moment. He doesn’t care about the past, or even too much about the future. Like a champion sports-player, the Pteronaut is ultimately focused on one thing: beating the next challenge. The Crawler is different. It’s ancient. It has seen the deserts change. It dwells on the past, and tries to anticipate the future. Yep, the Crawler is a worrier. For this reason, the Crawler’s chapters are all in the past tense, to give a sense of time-depth, but also to make the Crawler seem (slightly) less concerned with what is immediately before it.

I still don’t know whether the setting is a post-apocalyptic Earth or a badly/partly/failed terraformed Mars, or somewhere else. I don’t know whether the Pteronaut is human, though he could be. I don’t know if there are any more Pteronauts, though I’m guessing there are. None of that matters. Well, not until I decide whether to return to the dead red deserts and to reveal a bit more about what goes on there…

Header image: Mars, a place the Pteronaut would probably feel at home (By NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA17944.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)