Christina Sweeney-Baird is the author of The End of Men, her debut novel, which is being published in 18 territories. The film rights have sold to a major TV studio. She graduated from the University of Cambridge with a law degree in 2015 and lives in London. She is working on her second novel.
In this post, Sweeney-Baird shares what inspired her to write her speculative fiction novel The End of Men, how humor links all genres, and more!
Name: Christina Sweeney-Baird
Literary agent: Alexandra Machinist (ICM)/Felicity Blunt (Curtis Brown)
Book title: The End of Men
Publisher: Putnam (US), Doubleday (Canada), Borough (UK)
Release date: April 27, 2021
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: A pandemic to which women are immune kills 90 percent of the world’s men. The End of Men follows a cast of characters around the world as they try to protect their families, find a cure, and rebuild the world.
What prompted you to write this book?
In early 2018, I read The Power and it opened my eyes to using speculative fiction as a way to explore gender dynamics. I remember having the idea not long after and going, "Oh, I want to read that book; hang on, I need to write that book?" I wanted to explore in a hyper-realistic way what the world would look like without the vast majority of men; how would it feel for women keeping their fathers and sons and husbands and friends safe? What industries would change? How would the world react?
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
I had the idea in Spring 2018 and started writing The End of Men on September 1, 2018. I remember the date very clearly because I was working on the first novel I finished (but which was never published—a historical novel) until the end of August. I was determined to finish one manuscript before starting anything new. The first draft took around nine months, finishing in early June. I signed with my agent, Felicity, in August 2019 and then completely rewrote the novel in Autumn 2019 with her edits and careful guidance. The book sold in January 2020 to publishers and is being published in April 2021. From first day of writing to publication, about 21/2 years.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
The editing process with my agent, Felicity, was a huge learning moment. I completely trusted her from our first meeting—she was so positive about the book and also had such great ideas about how we could make it better. The first draft of The End of Men—which she signed me with—had over 40 perspectives and a lot of world-building but not enough character engagement. So throughout the rewrite, we culled the perspectives down to the key characters and created a new character, Catherine, who is now the heart of the book and completely essential to the story. I learned so much about writing something gripping and urgent and emotional in the course of that rewrite, whilst still maintaining a richly drawn world.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I think how important humor is to every genre. It might sound odd to think of that for a speculative novel with a pandemic but especially when you're writing about difficult and challenging topics—like grief, death, and the fear of illness—there have to be bubbles of humor. In real life, that's how people cope and it means the reader can keep reading without the story feeling unremittingly bleak.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope they feel connected to the characters, that it makes them laugh and cry and that they can fully believe the alternative I've built. The End of Men is a dystopian story, not a utopian one, so I think it can also show the importance of men alongside men, whilst shining a light on the changes some areas of society sorely need.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
To be consistent. Consistent with writing and reading. I use a writing tracker which I keep in a bullet journal and it's so important. It wasn't until I started treated writing as a daily, non-negotiable practice that I managed to finish a manuscript. And reading is so essential to allow the writing to develop and, more practically, to be able to pitch your novel to agents. You need to understand the area of the market your book will fit into.