Genesis is certainly the best known of my novels, and those who come across it first often assume I’m a sci-fi writer. Genesis is a book that took both a long and short time to write. Although the actual manuscript was written in 2005, while I was on a study year working in a genetics lab, it was an idea I’d been kicking around for the three years prior.
The initial concept, a man and a machine trapped together in a prison cell, came to me early on in the process, on the back of reading a large number of popular science and philosophy books, things like The Blind Watchmaker and Consciousness Explained. I hadn’t studied much science at school, and had the predictable zealotry of a late convert. I became eager to find a story that would deliver up some of the key concepts to a teenage audience.
Unfortunately, all my early attempts to craft the story failed quite quickly, usually within the first ten thousand words, and were abandoned. In 2004 I wrote a play, Afterlife, which was close to the core scenario on the novel, with the man and machine in a cell (in the stage version the machine was chained to the wall). My trouble, when it came to writing the novel, was finding a way of getting to this key relationship quickly. I found I was spending far too much time developing the world and its rules, a result of being inexperienced in the genre.
I returned to the novel in 2005 only because the book I was trying to write at that time stalled, and I was killing time. I tried using an oral examination as the set-up, with the candidate looking back on the events in the book and answering questions on them. Immediately I realised this technique was going to give me the relatively rapid entry into the world of Adam and Art that I was after. I also saw it offered up another layer of revelation and twist at the end, and I’m sure it’s precisely this twist that propelled the novel out of the regional market and into the world. Having spent a great deal of time writing and directing plays, the essentially theatrical device allowed me to write the whole thing as dialogue, which is the style of writing I’m most comfortable with.
Consequently the novel, in its final incarnation, came together very quickly, I think in about three months. After publication I was happily surprised to see it caught up in the cresting wave of dystopian fiction, evidence again of how little control we have over the twists and turns of our careers. In fact, the dystopian element of Genesis is incidental, serving only to ground the technological change I needed to set up the central conflict, but I’m not complaining.
Genesis essay download: Level 2 Essay notes for Genesis