top of page
  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Interview: Alexander Fisher Author Of Delirium

What inspired you to write a novel centred around a pandemic, particularly in a time when the world has recently experienced one?

I began the first draft before the pandemic began so it was either good or bad timing depending on your point of view. I wanted to write a book about a catastrophe that would have worldwide impact and it seemed to me of all the possibilities, a contagious virus was the most likely. More so than a nuclear blowup, climatic disaster, war, asteroid, etc.

The setting of Prague is unique for an apocalyptic tale. Why did you choose this city as the backdrop for “Delirium"?

It’s in central Europe and so it represents the heart of civilisation. But even here, in a city of rich culture, democracy and progress, people will end up as desperate as anywhere. It’s also city of rich beauty juxtaposed against disaster. All that wonder becomes a graveyard.

Your protagonist, Doctor Eliška Korbova, has a complex relationship with the antagonist, her half-sister. Can you shed light on the genesis of their relationship dynamics?

They are estranged, partly because they have different mothers. But mostly because the colonel was in prison when they were both younger. They then went separate ways. Though they met again as adults they always distrusted each other. The pandemic forced them to rely on each other. But that ended up in disaster.

How did your experience as a film and TV editor influence the pacing and narrative style of “Delirium"?

It probably gets in the way. Having a cinematic eye likely makes the storytelling more concise and faster paced. On the other hand, it might suffer from not always going deeper into the character’s thoughts. The problem is that it’s not a like for like comparison. What’s fast in novels can be slow in film, and vice versa.

Your transition from film and TV to teaching English and then writing novels is fascinating. How did these shifts in professions contribute to your storytelling approach?

Not in any direct sense, but perhaps in terms of life experience. There’s an old latin saying that one teaches in order to learn. And teaching English has certainly given me a deeper understanding of the language. Funnily enough, teaching and storytelling are almost the same thing. Parts are used in a sequence to make a whole, and they are both means to get understanding from chaos. It was Aristophanes who said that children have schoolmasters who teach them, adults have the poets.

"Delirium" deals with the theme of power and its potential misuse. Do you believe people, when granted power, are inherently more likely to use it for ill rather than good?

Perhaps it’s a bit like alcohol, it amplifies what’s already there. It would be a surprise if a bully given the throne would reign as an angel. On the other hand, someone who’s well meaning, given power, can still wreak havoc from mere incompetence. A person in a position of power in a desperate situation where they are trying to protect a village from a destruction might be forgiven for acting harshly. They would not be looked on kindly, either, if they failed to act decisively and it brought on ruin. But we could say that in general, most people tend towards the good. However, pure power is a corrupting force. This is why in our institutions we put strict limits on the exercise of power.

The concept of a river-borne virus from South America is intriguing. How did you go about researching and conceptualizing this disease for your story?

From my research I discovered that our knowledge of pathogens from the Amazon is somewhat limited. But even the of the known virus, the dangers of endemic virus spilling over into human hosts as a consequence of deforestation is great. When land is felled, bacteria and viruses need to seek out new hosts. These could be humans or intermediary host like rodents. The metaphor is that if you mess with nature in an extreme way, viruses that are contained can be spread. But the flip side is the answer is in the problem. That’s to say, as a good deal of our medicines are derived from plant species, the rainforest also offers the cure.

Amidst the chaos and despair in "Delirium," hope is a prevalent theme. Why was it important for you to intertwine hope within the narrative?

Despair is self-fulfilling. In a desperate situation people need something to believe in, to hold onto to keep body and soul together. For some, it might be a conviction in an ideal or myth; legends that present a path towards salvation. Still in others it might be community. But in the absence of all else, there’s only hope, like a guiding light in the chaos.

Are there any authors or works that particularly influenced your writing style or the themes explored in “Delirium"?


The title "Delirium" suggests a state of intense excitement or emotion. How does this tie into the broader narrative and themes of the book?

Both the people and the world fall into a delirious state, as they struggle to survive while the madness of destruction blows like a west wind. In this frenzied state it’s easy if not inevitable that the village slides into tyranny. All of the certainties of old, all the things that were taken for granted disappear. Even if a person survives, even if they accept the new reality, even if they manage to keep themselves together somehow, they would still be living in a kind of fever.

The descent into madness and barbarism as a result of societal collapse is a strong theme in the book. How did you approach writing these challenging and potentially distressing sequences?

As authentically as I could. I tried to stick as close as I could to what I thought it would really be like in a village that’s in a real sense surrounded by danger. But I think the main point is that they’re cut off from nation, history, convention. This frees them to do whatever they want, which is both an opportunity but also a temptation.

Can you talk about any challenges you faced while writing "Delirium" and how you overcame them?

The main problem was that the first draft proved to be utterly useless. Effectively I had to write another first draft and use that in the process of getting a final draft. The whole thing was itself a struggle from end to end, and a few times I wanted to give it up. But it’s an odd thing, how sometimes though you want to give up on something, it won’t let you.

Alexander Fisher

Your previous works, including your novels, novellas, and short stories, do they share thematic or stylistic similarities with “Delirium"?

The character of the violinist, Anton. His dialogue is that of a free wheeler or drunken fool. If one can’t be deep at least then one could be charming. This is something I’ve used before. The other theme that recurs is that of power and more specifically the abuse of power. Another theme is that of the distance between what people think is good and what actually is good.

How do you envision the future of the world you've created in "Delirium"? Are there plans for a sequel or spin-off?

As to the future, or the ‘beginning’ as one of the villagers says at the end, I’ll leave that to the reader. On the one hand it could be happy ever after, so to speak or another tyrant could rise or the whole community could collapse. In any event I’d like to think there’d always be hope whatever happens. As for a sequel or spin off, no. I’ve just finished a comedy and there are no plans to write a second part. But you can never say never.

Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from "Delirium", especially in the context of our current global situation?

That wisdom is hard. That do govern well requires truth and humility. That relying on ideology or platitude only will in the end bring you to the thing you least want. That moral conflict is not easy to judge and that it’s generally difficult to know what is the right thing to do. That people in positions of power who repeat lies, cliché and appear virtuous are the least likely to be wise judges.

You can purchase Delirium by Alexander Fisher over at Waterstones, Amazon & Cranthorpe Millner

bottom of page