Harriet Frosh is a current University of Nottingham English student and literary critic who has, more recently, become a published author. Her first novel, Space Taxis, co-written with her father, Adam Frosh, is a science-fiction fantasy tale that traverses different worlds, making for an all-round out-of-this-world reading experience. Captivating, dark, bizarre and oftentimes humorous, there appears to be something for everyone in this debut novel. I was able to interview Harriet on the experience of releasing a new book, her main literary inspirations and what her future intentions are in the world of writing.
Every story has to start somewhere. Space Taxis is a novel that transports the reader out of this world, twisting and turning into improbable directions with every page swipe. What was the inception point of the idea behind this story? In other words, how and when did the very first idea come to mind?
I guess you could say the creation of Space Taxis is a pretty odd story. My dad and I first thought of the idea while at the drive-through for a KFC in Hatfield, when we saw a black London cab. I asked as an offhand comment, “What’s a black cab doing all the way out here?”, to which he followed up with “In space…”, and the rest was history. We often talked about the kind of whacky situations a space taxi driver would get into, imagining them having to tell a slimy alien “I’ve met a lot of slimeballs in my time, but never a real one!” and joking about a passenger so alien not even the language decoder could help him. What started as a running inside joke eventually became a serious idea to us – I mean, it was such a cool concept, what was stopping us actually making this a reality?
Writing a novel can be an arduous and lengthy process, yet also an undeniably rewarding one, once the last few lines of text are laid down, and the writer can look back in pride at what they have just created with nothing more than a laptop and their own imagination. What was the writing process like for this novel? How was writing split between yourself and your father, co-author Mr. Adam Frosh? For instance, did you each take on different parts of the story, or did you both work through it together? Moreover, was the experience of writing always satisfying, or were there moments of frustration?
At first, co-authoring a book seemed a bit improbable, especially for two people in such different stages of life and having such different interests. We actually found it to be a lot simpler than we originally thought, because we would read over each other’s work and offer our own suggestions. As for the actual process, it varied. Sometimes one of us would write an entire passage and the other would look over it later, and sometimes one of us would, as we called it, ‘take the helm’ at the computer and discuss the passage as it was being created. Sometimes we tasked each other to write separate sections.
As much as we loved writing Space Taxis, I think the most frustrating aspect of the experience was the steep learning curve that came with writing
During the writing process, we worked out that we both had separate strengths, so we tried to weave that into the kinds of sections we wrote. As much as we loved writing Space Taxis, I think the most frustrating aspect of the experience was the steep learning curve that came with writing. Going into it, we never considered just how much we had to learn to make it a readable and exciting novel. We both came with preconceptions, many of which had to be broken down, and if you were to read the first draft, you’d find a completely different experience to the final product. The first draft actually only took about six months, but the editing process took us over two years before we were happy with the product.
The novel is set in a wide variety of time periods and locations, taking us from the City of Catuvell on planet Vost to 1940s Nazi Germany. When it came to transporting your characters back in time, to different time periods, what was the research process like? Was there a large amount historical research required in order to make the story more factually accurate (for instance, when describing the uniform of a Nazi officer in such detail)?
Because Space Taxis is a novel that has science-fiction interweaved with real historical events, we wanted to make sure that the history was robust and accurate. We made use of countless websites, journals, autobiographies and biographies. Adam even went to some of the historical locations himself, such as Prague. We were careful to describe the uniforms as accurately as possible. They were such an important part of people’s lives, as just the sight of them could instil terror for the people at the time.
This novel makes great use of a non-conventional narrative structure, with different stories unfolding simultaneously and different characters constantly evolving. The effect is that the reader remains gripped at all times. Was this a deliberate choice on your part (from the beginning), or just how the story’s structure developed once the writing began? In other words, was creating multiple viewpoints and storylines and allowing them to run simultaneously a priority from the start?
We always intended for the story to flip from one storyline to another. We thought it was important that the interlacing of story arcs should be told through alternating timelines. That way, the mysteries would unfold and the connection between the two timelines would eventually be revealed in a spectacular fashion. We intended that the reader would be eager to press on to see their questions from each arc answered.
The science fiction genre has a history of captivating audiences and creating cult-like fan bases globally. There has always been great interest in sci-fi novels, films and, more recently, in games. What were the primary science fiction works that inspired the writing of this novel? Which of these works, in your opinion, had the greatest influence on the kind of story that is told?
Both of us adore the Lilo and Stitch movies, and there’s definitely influence from that in the strange aliens that actually end up making you feel more at home than you did with your earthly companions
Adam has always been a fan of the speculative science-fiction by Philip K. Dick. He’s also a great fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and was influenced by Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man. He was also heavily inspired by the TV drama Goodnight Sweetheart. As for me, I was fascinated by the very visual presentation of the cities in Space Taxis. I took inspiration from the styles of the games Bioshock Infinite and Cyberpunk 2077 in how I tried to imagine and present the settings. I’m sure some of the more madcap scenes in Space Taxis are a little Borderlands inspired. Both of us adore the Lilo and Stitch movies, and there’s definitely influence from that in the strange aliens that actually end up making you feel more at home than you did with your earthly companions. As our binding influence, this probably ended up being the work that inspired us the most.
Staying on the topic of what inspired the writing of Space Taxis, I read about your love for Greek mythology (ancient Greek gods), and the heavy influence this interest has had on much of your writing. Looking back at your novel, following its release, what elements of ancient Greek mythology do you believe are reflected in it throughout (for instance, in the types of characters or the storyline events that occur)?
Mythology is a huge interest and influence for me, though Space Taxis ended up being very inspired by Celtic mythology in both the characters, alien designs and the plot. In particular, I was inspired by depictions of the god Cernunnos. As for the ancient Greek influence, I think that it mostly came through in how I wrote the characters in the novel. The thing I love most about the Greek gods is their flaws which make them seem so human to us – and so fascinating. Just like the gods in the ancient epics, I tried to give each character personal motivations and flaws alongside their more ‘favourable’ qualities.
Having descended from Jewish ancestors who were involved in the Holocaust, it is clear to see that your family history was yet another one of the big inspirations for this story. Was it a priority for you, while writing this novel, to remind readers of the importance of remembering the events of the Holocaust?
We feel the story of the Holocaust can’t be told enough and the lessons learned must never be forgotten
Being descendants of Polish Jews, we feel a particular connection to the events of the Holocaust. Family stories passed down to us are each horrifying, fascinating and real. We feel the story of the Holocaust can’t be told enough and the lessons learned must never be forgotten. Writing and researching some of the historical aspects of the Holocaust was often quite upsetting, but this only made us realise more how important it is to remember it.
In the past, some authors have said that the road to publishing a book is long and often rather frustrating, having to go back and forth to make changes to their work before it is finally complete and ready for release. What was the road to publishing your novel like? Were there many frustrating obstacles faced along the way that slowed down your progress, or was it a relatively easy process?
It’s no secret that it’s extremely difficult for new authors to get a foothold in the world of publishing. We submitted Space Taxis to various agents, some of whom gave us feedback, but most rejected it without any specific information. This was the most frustrating part of the process, but we were careful to take on board the comments of the agents who were kind enough to give us feedback. We were rejected many times, but we stayed optimistic, and most importantly, willing to change and improve upon what we’d written. Receiving negative feedback from agents is never easy, but we saw as an opportunity to improve rather than see it as a roadblock.
Now that Space Taxis has been released, what do you intend to do next in the world of writing? Are there any plans for other novel releases at some point in the near future?
We’ve already started a sequel to Space Taxis, and we’re very excited to pull together some of the threads and themes and return to the planet Vost. Adam has written and published several short stories, many of which relate to the Celtic themes of Space Taxis and the historical elements of World War II. I’m also currently writing a crime novel that features the ancient Greek gods in a modern setting.
Finally, as an aspiring author myself, I am intrigued to know what tips or tricks you may have when it comes to successfully writing and publishing a novel. What advice do you have for writers, of any age group, looking to publish their own novels at some point in the future?
Get as much feedback as you possibly can on your drafts from people who’ll give you an honest opinion on your work
Writing a novel is a much more methodical process than you think. There are a lot of rules to story-writing and character development that you should really look into from an early stage. Get as much feedback as you possibly can on your drafts from people who’ll give you an honest opinion on your work. There’ll be many different points of view given to you, but it’s important to make up your own mind on what feedback is essential and where you need to make changes. Finding an editor is invaluable, whether it’s a friend or family member or even a professional. In order to get published, you can either go to an agent or directly to a publisher. Self-publishing is also an option, but you should remember that if you do this there’ll be a lot of self-marketing work to get the book noticed. Writing a book has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and my advice to any aspiring writers is not to be shy – put your work out there, take in the positive reviews and learn from the negative ones.
Featured image courtesy of Ryan Hutton via unsplash.com. Image licensing can be found here. No changes made to this image.
For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.