It’s a busy book. How long did it take?
I started in October 2008, and was correcting proofs by March 2011.
How did the desert get such a big part?
I took a road trip from LA to Joshua Tree with some friends. I was amazed by the landscape, and the weird quality of the light. I was writing a completely different book at the time. It wasn’t working out. I started writing a short story, which then metastasised.
Technology takes on a strong presence in it.
I think it’s important for all culturally literate people to understand the technological substrate of new developments.
Your novel references chaos and patterns. What do patterns mean to you?
I’m interested in complexity, in the mathematical sense, as well as the idiomatic sense. The idea of emergence—that it’s possible for complex patterns to arise out of many simple interactions—is fascinating.
Did David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas inspire you?
It’s a much less neat book than Cloud Atlas, which I admire. It’s interested in gaps, in allowing the reader to fall off the world’s edge.
What kind of research went into the book?
I made seven or eight trips through the US Southwest—Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. I also read widely, everything from Mormon history to ufo cult books.
Your book shifts between periods of time.
I enjoy thinking myself into other times and places. I don’t like some of the conventions of the ‘historical novel’, but I think there’s a way of doing it that has a lot of merit.
Is it unsatisfactory to be wholly in the now?
No. We’re always completely in the present.
The last book you read?
GwupyGrubyNudnyLand by Ben Hopkins, which is a sort of satirical fable.
Thoughts on contemporary Indian novels?
There’s an explosion of Indian fiction of all kinds, from military thrillers to chicklit. I think that’s exciting.