With the release of The Apollo Murders, Colonel Chris Hadfield makes his much-anticipated fiction debut. The New York Times profiled Chris to explore how he made the leap from astronaut to novelist, calling him “the most famous living astronaut of any nationality in the modern era.”
Chris is already the bestselling author of the non-fiction book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, but for him, fiction was a whole new world to conquer. The Times writes:
In his long and varied career, the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has flown fighter jets, walked in space and orbited the earth for months while commanding the International Space Station. But until earlier this year, he never had to face the stomach-churning professional challenge of turning in a novel and learning that your editors think it is 35,000 words too long.
“They sent me back the first 30 pages, and I thought, ‘You have removed a whole bunch of words and ideas that, I’m pretty sure, are germane to what’s happening,’” Hadfield said in a video interview at the end of August. He sounded cheerful about it, considering. Eventually, he began to trust the process, he said, to internalize the notion that “writers and editors have different skill sets and you need them both,” and even to understand that less can sometimes be more.
After Chris retired in 2013, he wanted to escape the “ennui” that so many ex-astronauts feel, he told The Times.
“We saw too many people who had retired and floundered,” Helene Hadfield (Chris’ wife of 40 years) said in a follow-up interview with The Times. “We’d been talking about it for years, what makes someone happy, and one of the plans for our post-astronaut life was that he would write a book.”
In setting off on this daunting task, Chris drew inspiration from advice he received from Neil Young while commanding the International Space Station. When living on a spaceship, astronauts are asked who they’d like to speak to on Earth to provide psychological support. Neil Young was one of Chris’ requests. They spoke for nearly an hour and this was when Chris received his best creative advice.
“He said, ‘Don’t write the song; write it down,’” Hadfield told The Times. “Sometimes something occurs to you and you go, ‘That’s cool,’ and he said, ‘That’s the way you have to write the song — just write it down as it comes to you.”
The Times revealed that Chris is already 10,000 words into his next novel. Read the whole piece about Chris here.
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