Author interview: CJ Moseley (The Paradox War)

The Paradox War Trilogy

CJ Moseley has written many novels which cover a number of genres – fantasy, horror, steampunk and science fiction. “The Paradox War Trilogy” combines many of these genres as well as introducing myriad ideas in science fiction and embedding them in a solid foundation – which is hardly surprising if you’ve read CJ’s science in science fiction series!


The Paradox War Omnibus was one of the first time travel novels that I read as a publicly self-confessed time travel enthusiast, and I should add that it’s undoubtedly one of the select few which I would identify as being truly a mind-blowing novel!

Be warned though – as I mention in my review (link at the bottom of this post) The Paradox War Omnibus has cost me a phone, made me miss a train and caused me to oversleep. What effect will it have on you? 😉

Author interview CJ Moseley

In this author interview CJ gives us a much deeper understanding behind some of the ideas with The Paradox War, his writing strategy and why he hasn’t exploded yet.

There are 3 major threads within The Paradox War, one following Desi, another Garner (half fey, half human) and finally one which follows Teucoi (a shape shifter). They’re very different characters (even species…) and they’re very different story lines from each other, yet they come together beautifully. Do you have a favourite out of those characters, or a story line which was most fun to write?

CJ: They are really one story that loops back upon itself, but each Character was different to write: Teucoi practically wrote himself at every stage, he was a wonderful character, really laid back and easy. If all my writing came as easily as Teucoi did I would have seven or eight books out by now. Garner was harder work to write, his story was trickier to make sympathetic, as he is somewhat the bad guy of Desi’s story. However, Desi was easily the hardest and most rewarding to write, not just because of the character (more on that later) and that she has to act as her own comic relief, but also because she is the Narrator of the books (even of the other threads). That meant I had to consciously consider her thoughts and feelings separately from my own to try and make her believable, something I didn’t have to do with the more unbelievable characters.

The number of scifi ideas you throw at the reader in The Paradox War is incredible! Did you create these specifically for the novel, or were they in your head beforehand and they finally found a home in The Paradox War?

T13 role playing game by CJ Moseley
Terminal Thirteen (T13) my free table-top roleplaying game.

CJ: I had been building the Omniverse of my T13 roleplaying game for decades. The Paradox War started out as a scenario for that, so a lot of the Omniverse was pre-built, however some parts were created later to modify the original game’s story and novelise it. What would probably shock you is how much of the original story’s background I cut away to streamline the novels. So both, I guess.

Why did you reference your scientific ideas only in passing in the novel rather than developing each of them further into their own scifi novel?

CJ: It’s funny you should ask that, as I actually think that the Paradox War is based on a single scientific question, developed into a story (admittedly with more than a couple of philosophical questions thrown into the mix along the way). The original premise of the game scenario in the 1990s was trying to rationally explain the UFO phenomena. I essentially asked what if all the anecdotes and sighting reports were true? What could that mean? Who were these visitors? Why are they some so human-like in appearance and others similar to terrestrial species, but few are truly alien? Why does their technology appear to always be only a little ahead of ours, and yet we haven’t got deep space travel yet? What logic could be behind their bizarre behaviours and patterns? Why do sightings happen in waves, and window areas? Why would they be interested in specific families? What could implants be for? Why would they choose not to reveal themselves openly for decades? Why are witness stories so similar in some ways, yet so different in others? Why do the aliens rarely speak anything other than the language of the abductee?

Some scientific ideas in the story mainly came from that premise and those questions, and wouldn’t have existed without them, but aren’t actually important to this story. Some were included just as a setup to a joke… or act as exposition for something else later (or earlier). Who knows I might revisit and expand on some of those asides in later books.

I found one of the greatest aspects of The Paradox War is how multi-universes are key to, well…everything! In reality though, I have trouble seeing where the extra mass and energy comes from in creating parallel worlds and multiverses. Can you explain again your justification for them?

CJ: Gosh, that’s a big question hiding there. I presume your problem lies in an interpretation of the law of conservation of energy, namely that energy (or mass) cannot be created or destroyed only changed in form.

Well, firstly there is an important caveat in the law, it must be an isolated system (so the moment that a wormhole breaches a universe all bets are off anyway), and Quantum events (especially those involving Blackholes and Hawking Radiation) and Dark Energy appear to break these ‘laws’ as we understand them anyway. Such conservation can only take place and make sense within the confines and measurements made in a single instance of space-time though.

My concepts of parallel universes extend out of the Many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Quantum events are said to spawn near duplicate universes, that are close enough that interference can pass between alternate versions of Quantum particles, but what is important to these duplicates is not the energy or mass of these universes, but the information in the universe. The ‘new’ universe’s energy and mass comes from their own — parallel up until that moment — history, and not from any of the alternative universes that might be said to spawn it.

It might help you to think of the alternates as having already existed (since they are spawned independently of Time as you are thinking of it, Time is part of what is duplicated inside that universe).

A better analogy is to think of the two universes as a single box holding the same matter and energy (let’s call them building blocks), but having a little booklet, full of instructions telling us many different ways that the blocks could be put together.

Sort of a Quantum-Lego model of the universe where we potentially have all the models built at once, but actually only experience the page of the booklet we are on. Well, mostly, the pages next to us interfere with reading this page in fine detail (the booklet is printed very small, but in bold on very thin paper so the next page always shines through a little), resulting in many of the odd things we see at the Quantum level.

Of course, while there’s no direct evidence of parallel universes there’s a great theory that what we perceive as Dark Matter may be the gravity shadows of other, alternate universes, where galaxies have formed slightly differently, which would imply that no universe is truly an isolated system and therefore that any laws of conservation must be, at best, local approximations.

There are myriad plot lines and sub-plots and threads within and between the three novels which comprise The Paradox War Omnibus (An0maly, Cu1ture B0mb and Chronclysm). How on earth did you manage to keep track of them all as you were writing?

CJ: In one word, planning. Each of the major 3 character’s stories are essentially the same (although you probably won’t believe that unless I point out that in the end, as the different contexts and costumes are stripped away, all the characters become the same).
When I started the books I had only Desi’s story to tell, and nearly wrote just that, but about that time I discovered the concept of the Monomyth or the Hero’s Journey invented (or maybe discovered) by Joseph Campbell. Many epic myths follow the Monomyth structure, as do many epic movies including, famously, Star Wars. In a fit of artistic imprudence (and impudence) I wondered what sort of story would be possible if I had two, or even three characters, each following their own Monomyth, but entwined so that the reader could empathise with each of the characters as they were in turn, the hero (Luke Skywalker), the mentor (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Yoda), and the villain (Darth Vader/Emperor) of each other’s stories.

While planning I modified the individual plots away from that original concept, slightly (although mostly in terms of the intensity of the events rather than the structural changes). Iteratively, I went from broad notes, written on paper, through a number of plans, each time honing in the details, until I had a scene by scene breakdown of the entire story (including notes on the motifs and symbols and even jokes that I might want to include) on computer (and paper). Then I wrote the whole trilogy in first draft (mostly on an iPhone 3GS and Google Docs).

Any juggler can tell you that juggling is simply the act of keeping more balls in motion than you have hands. You think about each ball one at time, but only for a catch and a throw, then on to the next ball. I just did the same thing with characters and my brain one chapter at a time. I knew the pattern the characters had to follow, and how they could interweave, and so I juggled characters through the draft.

It wasn’t until I had finished this that I started making structural changes in second draft. Originally, I had Garner’s chapters preceding Desi’s, don’t ask me why, it just worked out that way, but my early readers didn’t like that opening, and thought it should start with Desi’s chapter. They were right, of course. Changing that around caused several chapters where characters interacted directly to have be re-written as tone and voice change between characters. I also realised that it would work better as a trilogy (because it was so big), and so broke the story down into thirds, (and not the obvious way where each character got their own book). Instead, rearranging the chapters so that each book contained all the elements of the Monomyth, but not expressed through a single character, as I thought it would give each book the emotional impact of individual novel, without ruining sense of the trilogy.

I learned a lot about writing doing that though, and have sworn off trying anything so needlessly complex again, at least until the first direct sequel… If I ever have the nerve.

As a father of daughters I was really happy that the lead character, Desi, is female. My wife described Desi as the ultimate multi-tasker operating in several universes at once! Did you have any specific reason for choosing a female lead character?

CJ: That is a brilliant description of Desi. Here, I think, is the secret to the whole book. I didn’t invent Desi, Desi did. When we played the original Paradox War game one of the players decided she didn’t want to play one of the Eusaiveans, she wanted to play herself. It took a huge Ref crowbar to shoehorn her into the story originally, and changed the whole plot, so when I was writing it later I couldn’t not use her. Desi’s confusion and sense of humour made for many of the best moments of that game, and the books. Fortunately, Desi decided I could use her in the novels, although with the caveat that, should there ever be a movie of the books made, she would get last say in who was cast to play her (assuming I would get any say about it).

You’re a parent, and if that doesn’t keep you busy enough, you’re also a governor on the school board. Have you ever been able to reach out to schools to give pupils a first-hand view on writing?

CJ: I have actually given two writing classes to primary school children, one teaching them how to build their own fantasy worlds and how to structure a “Portal fantasy” story and another on writing better descriptions (that I posted some of the ideas from on my blog). The key to both is of course imagination, but there are some good tricks to help that along.

OK, seriously. How do you find the time to write?

CJ: Well firstly, I have a very loving, and supportive, wife, who lets me stay at home, look after the kids when they aren’t in school, and play with my imaginary friends. I get most of my editing done during the school day. Then, I always have a phone or tablet open to Google Drive or my blog, where I can jot down notes, or add to a 1st draft with whatever time I can find between refereeing sibling fights, cooking meals, and generally Dadding. Although, I still find I don’t have enough time to write. Family comes first, and the writing has to fit into that. That said, I wish I had a Devil Clock I could fire up when I got inspiration though, having an hour or two of NeverTime, while the kids hung silently in the air, would be very handy.

You’ve written a series on world building. Are there any differences in world building and creating a world (or multiverse) in a novel?

CJ: Not really, the processes are identical, although you can be more focused during a novel’s world-building. Characters in novels rarely decide to ignore the plot and go explore the universe looking for a get rich scheme. At least mine tend not to…
Although, I tend to do all my world-building for Roleplaying games that later act as source material for my novels, so maybe other authors would notice more differences.

Are there similarities in taking part in role playing games and writing a novel? Do you play ‘dungeon master’ as an author, or do you let your characters shape the novel?

CJ: I think both are just storytelling experiences. With a novel you can plan and have final artistic control, in a game the other players will always surprise you, which can be a great thing, making the story-teller a gestalt entity, greater than the sum of its parts. There are moments in my books that exist purely because of other people, although I suspect all authors draw from other people’s experiences, in my case I can draw directly on the events of a game. When the Eusaiveans and Desi lift their hands and walk like space invaders towards the guards at Roswell that came from the game and the choices the players made in that moment. However, in my experience roleplaying game plots have to hit the player characters with a stick, as well as dangle a gold-plated carrot, whereas novel plots can be a lot more subtle, but your own results may vary.

Do you feel as if you’ve been born too early? And why haven’t you exploded yet?

CJ: Not at all. If I’d been born later I would have missed my birthday. And exploding is on my to-do list, but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

I read on your website about your indirect relationship with Dr Who. Can you tell us more about this?

CJ: Well, I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Who, and watch the show with a near religious fervour. The moment in the last season that Peter Capaldi told the audience to Google ‘Bootstrap Paradox’ I laughed and said, ‘I might see a few hits on my website’. An hour later the stats for the site actually broke, and although the server did manage to keep serving up a cached version of the page, I couldn’t get any access. Over the course of 24 hours my site saw the highest stats it had ever had, and that post on Paradoxes is still one of my most read.

Rumour has it that you nearly joined a circus – can you elaborate?

CJ: Back in the mid-nineties, I worked as a theatre manager, and when the ‘Jim Rose circus side-show’ visited the theatre, Jim was impressed enough with my juggling (that I had taught myself as a form of physical therapy after shattering my right elbow in an accident [long story]) and my working knowledge of magic and illusions [a different story] that he offered me a job in his circus. I very nearly joined up and toured Europe and America, occasionally I wonder how that me might have got on, out there in the Omniverse (along with the Physicist me who wanted to reconcile Quantum mechanics and Relativity, and didn’t get stabbed in the head one night in 1993 [another long story]). I guess it was wondering about those (and other unmentioned) what-ifs that gave me some of the ideas behind T13 and the Paradox War.

What part of joining the Time Travel Nexus team are you most looking forward to?

CJ: I really enjoy trying to scientifically explain impossible things. While some people are innately sceptical, and others tend to be believers, I love to come up with plausible rationales for impossible, ridiculous things.

Back when I was a physics undergraduate I once worked out (with a few friends) how cloaking devices could work in the Star Trek universe (and wrote a pseudo-physics/engineering paper on my theory) and it escaped onto the Internet (way back in 1992). Years later, I discovered that the writers on the shows had unofficially incorporated the theory as canon.

I’ve been thinking that a series of posts that did the same, for Time Travel in shows, films, and books, may be a fun way to contribute to the site.

My goal would be never to say an example of time-travel is impossible, but instead how could the events we read, or saw, be true, what does that data reveal about the universe if it’s true.
For an example, at the end of the 1978 Superman movie Superman appears to wind the Earth backwards, reversing time to save Lois Lane. Which has been derided for its terrible science (and lack of story sense) ever since, but I’ve always seen it as a fairly accurate portrayal of what might be observed if Superman travelled at Superluminal speeds (and why it might be expected that he could).

Another example would be a exploration of the science behind “The Flux Capacitor”, which we all know is the key to time-travel in the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise. It is often completely derided as utter nonsense, but I want to ask, how could it possibly function if it was real? Why might the steel body of the Delorean be important? What’s with that eighty-eight miles an hour thing? What exactly is that one point two one giggawatts doing? What do these ‘facts’ tell us about ‘Doc’ Brown’s method of time-travel?

I think it might be fun to explore these, and a few other “dodgy time-travel science” moments, and examine them scientifically as though they had occurred (and were not ridiculous) and what they would mean if true.

For a series like that to really work though, I need people to point me at their favourite examples, and for that the TT Nexus is perfect, the commenters, other contributors and site partners all bring their own expertise to the discussion and I hope that means I’ll have lots of examples and lots of discussions in the comments.

Review: The Paradox War by CJ Moseley

An0maly by CJ Moseley is Book 1 of The Paradox War Trilogy
An0maly by CJ Moseley
Culture B0mb by CJ Moseley is Book 2 of The Paradox War Trilogy
Culture B0mb by CJ Moseley
Chronoclysm by CJ Moseley is Book 3 of The Paradox War Trilogy
Chronoclysm by CJ Moseley

The Paradox War Omnibus comprises “An0maly”, “Cu1ture B0mb” and “Chronclysm” as well as a bonus 2 short inter-related stories and is available from Amazon. If you’re really keen, take a look at CJ’s website where there are links to buy T-Shirts, mugs and other Paradox War – personalised stuff!

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