Author Spotlight – Daniel Rigby (ISAAC STEELE AND THE FOREVER MAN)
Daniel Rigby is a BAFTA-winning actor, comedian and writer who works across theatre, TV and film. He is an acclaimed stand up and live comedy performer. Daniel’s television credits include Undercover, Big School, and Black Mirror: The Waldo Moment. In 2011, he won the Leading Actor BAFTA for his portrayal of Eric Morecambe in BBC2’s Eric and Ernie. Daniel has also worked extensively in the theatre, performing as Alan Dangle in the original cast of the hit stage show One Man, Two Guvnors, and as Ian in Holes. In 2015 Daniel starred in Dave’s first original sitcom ‘Undercover’.
More recently Daniel has starred in the BBC’s ‘Watership Down’, ITV drama ‘Jericho’, and in the critically acclaimed ‘Flowers’ for Channel 4.
Welcome to the Hive, Daniel. Let’s start with the basics: tell us a little about Isaac Steele and the Forever Man.
It’s a comedy sci-fi mystery space adventure that started as a kind of Blade Runner parody and evolved from there. The year is 2842 and we’re in the head of Agent Isaac Steele, Clarifier for the Department of Clarification in the ludicrous dystopia of Greatest Britain. He and his robot partner Dr Timothy Stephens are responsible for clearing up complicated situations in an infinitely chaotic universe. In The Forever Man a series of grisly murders leads Isaac down a dangerous rabbit hole, with very lethal bunnies in it. The case takes him across the cosmos encountering mutants, behemoths, demonic horses and leads him to some truths about his own mysterious origins. It’s very daft.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I’m really sensitive to noise so can’t really have music or anything. I can sometimes work in a café if the hubbub is general, but as soon as I tune into some nearby customer honking on, I can’t tune it out. I tend to work from home and I work in the mornings. In terms of the process of writing I think I’m still finding my way. With The Forever Man, which is the first time I’ve written a whole book, the second draft was a huge job because I hadn’t done enough planning for the first. I think planning is going to be more of a thing in the future.
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding?
The Universe building in RPGs is something I marvel at. I was actually inspired by the example of some long-running TV shows that have “world bibles” created by the show runners that subsequent writers and directors have to work from. Before I tackled the story I created one of these for Isaac Steele and the universe of Greatest Britain and thought about how the mechanics of this ridiculous place would work: the economy, the politics etc. Pretty dry, useless stuff but helped make that world seem more real and adhere to its own warped logic.
Tell us about the process for the audiobook; you narrated it yourself, how was that experience?
Babbling on in a booth for three days about aliens and robots felt a bit similar to having a full-blown psychotic break.
Only a bit?
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
In the first draft Isaac and his inner monologue were way more unhinged and the brilliant editor Julie Crisp warned me that he was “too disgusting to follow.” Given the story is entirely in the first person this meant almost the whole first draft had to be binned. Which was a priceless learning experience, but at the time felt a teeny tiny bit stressful. What emerged from that stress however was something far more coherent as a story and a slightly more palatable protagonist. It was a vast improvement.
Always listen to Julie!
We appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Luckily, Audible really let me in on the process. You want something that genre lovers will immediately recognise, but I was really concerned with communicating a sense of the daftness as well.
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
I’ve had fun with quite a few archetypes of the genres I love and have lovingly screwed with them a little. Isaac is a hard-boiled detective type who drinks until he has to pump his own stomach and carries a heroin pipe. He finds it very hard to connect to living things which might be why his best friend is a robot, Dr Timothy Stephens. Dr Stephens is a C3PO-esque picture of politeness, but who has depths of very complicated feelings owing to his sentience. I love writing the dialogue for the mutants, who Isaac comes across a few times in the book. Their mutations have made them ridiculous in appearance and speech and writing their stupidity was fun.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
I would spend the morning promising myself that I would do yoga, practise piano and cook and then spend the day breaking those promises.
Well no-one can fault your honesty Daniel!
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I’m a huge Rick and Morty fan and having just watched the end of series five, I would say Rick’s mighty Crow Horse when he’s Crow Man seems like a good choice. Sleek, deadly and a craving to make people submit to its will. A fine steed, I reckon.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
My favourite writer of all time is George Saunders and his collections of short stories are worth anyone’s time. They’re hilarious, moving, dystopian, odd and unnerving. Tenth of December, Pastoralia, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, they’re all terrific.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
Current works in progress are mainly acting jobs that are soon to be released. Landscapers will be the next of those which is something for HBO and Sky with Olivia Colman and David Thewlis.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
My main aim was to create a story that people wanted to stick with that made them laugh. If it’s given a few hours of worthwhile diversion, I’ll be very happy.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Thank you for having me.
Isaac Steel and the Forever Man by Daniel Rigby is out exclusively by Audible and available now!