I had the opportunity to interview science fiction and fantasy author Chris Nuttall. There are more than a dozen novels in his “Schooled in Magic” series and half a dozen in “The Zero Enigma” series. “The Empire Corps” series is pure military science fiction consisting of more than a dozen novels on its own, and then there are his “Angel in the Whirlwind” novels.

Tamara Wilhite: You’ve had a long love affair with history, including in depth reading about World War 2. How has that affected your writing?

Chris Nuttall: I think it’s helped a lot, both on the small scale – how people react to events – and the large, in what is/was actually possible at the time.  The outcome of many wars, for example, was determined by economic and political factors as well as brave men doing brave things <grin>.  The disparity between America and Japan in World War Two was so big – one estimate said it was nine-to-one – that, absent America giving up for some reason, the Americans simply couldn’t lose the war.  The Japanese couldn’t destroy america’s means to make war before the Americans crushed them.

It’s very interesting to see how society pushes people in different directions.  Richard III really had little choice, but to attempt to take supreme power for himself; first as a protector of his young nephew and then as king himself.  Failure to do so meant that his enemies would start circling, eventually destroying him. Richard had too much at stake to risk leaving anyone in position to destroy him.  His life – and that of his elder brother – was a clear warning of what would happen if he lost. It’s also worth noting that many people in the past thought differently – Richard’s claim that his brother’s sons were illegitimate sounds absurd to us, a transparent fig-leaf for a shameless power grab, but Richard might have taken it seriously.

Tamara Wilhite: You managed to publish at least one story in John Ringo’s Posleen Universe. Have you collaborated with him since then?

Chris Nuttall: No, sadly.  I’ve often thought about rewriting that book, but it would obviously require permission to write it.  I’ve improved a lot since then – I might simply redo it from scratch, if given the chance.

Tamara Wilhite: You write a lot of military science fiction. The Empire’s Corps is described as the one that launched your indie scifi career. But which novel or series do you consider your best, and why?

Chris Nuttall: I think the series I’m most invested in, intellectually speaking, is Schooled in Magic.  A lot of work went into plotting the story arc, then tying it all together. The Empire’s Corps and Ark Royal have arcs too, but they’re much less focused on earlier books.

Tamara Wilhite: How does “A Learning Experience” differ from “Tran” by Jerry Pournelle?

Chris Nuttall: Quite significantly.  Tran follows a group of mercenaries who get dumped on an alien world, A Learning Experience follows a group of ex-military people who gain control of an alien starship and set out to build a whole new society.  They have very little in common.

Tamara Wilhite: You also have a deep fantasy bibliography. What is your most successful fantasy novel?

Chris Nuttall: I think Schooled in Magic is my most successful series, although The Zero Enigma is a close second. Right now, SIM has 18 books (plus one novella) and I have five more books planned.  That should end the overall arc, but I do have ideas for more (and a number of other novellas).

Tamara Wilhite: I have a question for you: Is the Zero Enigma series set in our world with a magical dimension or is it its own fictional world?

Chris Nuttall: It’s very much its own fictional world.  I’ve given some thought to a genuine urban fantasy novel series, but they keep tending to explode into the ‘real’ world.  It would be fun to write a story where we come face to face with a magic society that co-existed with ours until the barriers fell, but it would run into certain trademarks <grin>.

Tamara Wilhite: How would you classify the “Schooled in Magic” Saga?

Chris Nuttall: That’s a bit of a tough question.  There are actually a number of different threads woven into the series.

First, we have the portal fantasy.  A girl from our world – Emily – falls into a very different world, where she goes to magic school.

Second, we have a semi-alternate history, where Emily starts introducing concepts and technologies from our world into theirs.  The printing press, for example, or gunpowder.  A sizable chunk of events in the later novels are triggered by the long-term effects of Emily’s innovations.  She teaches people how to write in the Latin alphabet, which sparks off a boom in printing and political discussion and suchlike.

So really, I’d say it’s part magical adventure and part historical romp.

Tamara Wilhite: You’ve been coming out with half a dozen or more novels a year? How do you sustain the pace?

Chris Nuttall: I always credit it to bloody-mindedness <grin>

Tamara Wilhite: What are you working on now?

Chris Nuttall: Well, I just finished the first draft of Debt of War and I hope to start writing a SIM novella – Gennady’s Tale – at the start of the New Year.  Then I intend to do The King’s Man, which will be book 7 of the zero books.  It’s intended to be stand-alone, but it will draw elements from earlier books.

Tamara Wilhite: Thank you for your time.