Kaliane Bradley

Kaliane Bradley is a British-Cambodian writer and editor based in London. Her short fiction has appeared in Somesuch Stories,The Willowherb Review, Electric Literature, Catapult, and Extra Teeth, among others. She was the winner of the 2022 Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Prize and the 2022 V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize.

Q&A With Kaliane Bradley

 

What does your writing day look like?

I wake up at 9.29am and am immediately late for everything. I spend the working day doing absolutely anything except writing – either my job, or, if it’s the weekend, a series of tasks, chores and treats to fill my time. Sometimes, when I’m running low on tasks, chores and treats, I will decide to e.g. read Moby-Dick, Anna Karenina or Ulysses. As the evening draws in I begin asking my partner inane questions, e.g., what if you were a cat and I were a cat but we were enemy cats with overlapping territories, do
you think you would still love me? Yes darling, he says, so I have to find a new inane question. We will either go out – thus making it SIMPLY IMPOSSIBLE for me to do any writing, tant pis – or we will stay in, so I will have to read more Ulysses or whatever. At around 9pm, with much groaning and lamenting, I will lugubriously drag myself to my computer and open up a document (at the moment, the one I’m working on is called
lighthousekeeping.docx, and is not about lighthouse keeping). I will read the last paragraph I’ve written, and either drop dead of shame or think, “Okay, I know what comes next.” Then, perhaps an hour, an hour and a half of the most sublime feeling in the world: the words just come, the story just flows. I am a genius, I think, James Joyce eat your heart out, I will not be attempting to read Ulysses tomorrow, this is the only thing I love doing, I can’t wait to do it again. Once the fugue state clears, I read back what I’ve written, I think, Oh I’m God’s greatest clown, this is all horrible, I’ll never write again. Then I go to bed. The next morning, I wake up at 9.29am,
etc.

 

Time travel can be particularly difficult to write, how
do you keep track of timelines, the eras every character is from etc.?

Well, for this book, I cheated. Although it’s ostensibly about time-travel, with the exception of Graham Gore’s expatriation to the 21st century, no actual time-travel takes place on the page. I wasn’t all that interested in time-travel qua time-travel – I was more curious about the notion of history as a narrative which informs national and cultural identity, the ways that might be manipulated by a government who literally controls the
narrative, and what you do when you’re confronted by a figure from history whose ideals conflict (or mesh) with your own.

I was reluctant to give time-travel too much power in the book, because it’s the choices people make and the responsibilities they are willing to shoulder that will make a serious difference to our future. There are some characters who want to use time-travel to manipulate future outcomes, but, without spoilers, I would say it doesn’t really go all that well for them…

 

You provide in the afterword a bit about why you chose
Graham Gore as figure to feature in your book. Were any of the other characters
historical figures you came across while planning the book, or where they more
‘organically’ formed?

All of the other characters are completely fictional! For Margaret Kemble (1665, Great Plague of London) and Arthur Reginald-Smyth (1916, Battle of the Somme) specifically, I chose eras or events that loom large in the British cultural imagination. They are representatives of ‘turning-point’ moments in our history – and yet, they completely defy expectations and represent nothing but themselves. 

 

Open endings with books can be great for readers to
discuss & debate ‘what happens next’ but was there any particular reason
why you chose this kind of ending? (If you feel this is a spoiler in any way
feel free to omit).

I would say half of the reason is that I didn’t want an ending with a foregone conclusion. Our future is still mutable, changeable and even hopeful – in spite of the climate crisis – and I hope that signalling the possibility of a continued narrative also signals that there is so much potential for change, both for the bridge and in the broader narrative
of our future.

The other half of the reason is that I originally wrote the story to amuse some friends. I had no particular plans to stop writing and could have cheerfully carried on. That plan changed once I worked on The Ministry of Time as a proper novel, of course!

 

Production companies are lining up for the film rights.
Who do you envision playing the Bridge and Graham Gore?

I have genuinely no idea! I’ve only ever imagined Graham Gore as, well, the actual historical Graham Gore. A young Elliot Gould might have been good, but you’d have to go back in time to nab him off the set of The Long Goodbye and, as we know, time-travel only ever causes problems. For the bridge, I have even fewer ideas. I hope, if a screen adaptation comes to pass, it will be an opportunity to find new talent. I can’t think of many actors of Cambodian heritage – Bérénice Marlohe and Élodie Yung are the two who
spring to mind – so I’d love to see more!

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

There are not enough adjectives in any language to describe how incredible this book is. - Lauren, Subscriptions

In the near future, a disaffected civil servant is offered a lucrative job in a mysterious new government ministry gathering 'expats' from across history to test the limits of time-travel.

Can love triumph over the structures and histories that have shaped them? And how do you defy history when history is living in your house?

Pre-order now and receive an original art card exclusive to Harry Hartog

PRE-ORDER NOW!

Federico Andornino 

Federico Andornino is an Executive Publisher at Sceptre, the literary imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, acquiring literary fiction with an edge, LGBTQ+ literature, graphic novels and fiction in translation.

Q&A With Federico Andornino 

What struck you most about this (marvellous) book when you
first read it?

I have a very vivid memory of reading Ministry for the first time and feeling this sense of pure joy. As a publisher, the books I want to acquire and work on are those with a great, juicy story and something meaningful to say – so imagine my delight when I first came across Kaliane’s work. Here was something with a brilliant story, unforgettable characters, meaty ideas and a huge dose of fun: I quite simply had to publish it. Plus, I pretty much fell in love with Graham Gore on the spot. 

 

How fast did you have to move to secure rights and what got Sceptre over the line? Money, exceptional promotional campaigns offered or pitching to/begging the agent/author?

It was all done extraordinarily quickly. I read it overnight and then tried to get it off the table with a pre-empt – a financial offer with a tight deadline designed to entice the agent to sell it to you without going to auction. Chris – Kaliane’s agent – and I had a few phone conversations and then I had to get the money signed off from my bosses. Fun fact: both the Managing Director and the CEO of Hodder, the two people I report two, were on a business trip to Australia and New Zealand, which meant that while I was frantically trying to get the deal done, they were fast asleep in Auckland. In the end I had to go all the way up to David Shelley – Hachette UK’s CEO – to get the ok… and my two bosses woke up to a done deal (which I think they were happy with!)

 

When an Author like Kaliane Bradley comes across your desk is there a ‘lightning bolt’ moment? How did you know this is the one?

100%. I read hundreds of submissions a year and the vast majority are not right for me, which means that I have trained myself to trust my gut instinct when I start reading something like this. When you turn down lots and lots of novels, the truly exceptional ones will jump out instantly. In this case it was all to do with the voice, the humour, the emotional response I had while reading the novel, and the sheer ambition of the book.  

 

The ‘hype’ around this book from authors and booksellers alike has been unparalleled. Did Sceptre see this coming?

We did. We are still hugely delighted by how buzzy the buzz has been, but to be completely honest we knew from day one that Ministry was going to get this kind of reaction. When I sent the novel round the company after I had bought it, people lost their minds. I had colleagues emailing me saying they hadn’t eaten all day because they were desperate to finish reading and competitors from other publishing companies messaging me to say how devastated they were they hadn’t had the chance to work on the book. It was really special from day one.

 

Kaliane Bradley is a debut author, is the process of working with debuts any different from working with authors who are on their third or fourth title?

Normally yes, primarily because debut authors don’t really know what to expect from the publishing process or what publishing a book really entails, which means I spend a lot of time guiding them through it. There is a real joy in that and it’s one of the parts of my job I like the most. But in this case, the author is also a hugely experienced and successful editor herself, so I didn’t have to worry about that side of things so much. The main thing was making sure Kaliane was kept in the loop with every decision, from the editing process, to the cover and the campaign. I hope she’s had a fun ride – it has certainly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.