The Story behind ‘Nine Planets’ by Greg Byrne

nine2Nine Planets was the sort of inspiration many authors dream about. I was working on Book Three of a high-fantasy epic several years ago, uninspiringly called ‘Untitled.’ Nine Planets was such a full-on ambush, take-no-prisoners, full body armour attack that Untitled didn’t stand a chance. I abandoned it on the spot and have never gone back, although I may some day.

I was teaching English at the time to a class of adult students and we were talking about Christmas. One of the students, a Korean man, told me that, and I quote, “Santa can’t possibly deliver all the presents the night before Christmas, so he hires a network of retired postmen to help him.” For some reason, all the authorial / mental / spiritual /cognitive parts in my head lined up and something quite miraculous happened. Within ten minutes of that interesting but certainly not revolutionary statement, almost the entire novel was in my head in a wonderfully incandescent blast of images, characters, ideas, tastes, story ideas and feelings. I dismissed the class, grabbed pen and paper and started scribbling notes.

Parts of the novel were whole and complete in that ten minute burst; I knew, for example, the complete ending, where it had to be and who would be in it. I also knew there would be a retired postman called Harker, and with marvelous serendipity, my father-in-law was a newly-retired postman. I knew there would be an internet device that could transmit smell and high-altitude stealth aircraft, that the opening would take place in Turkey and that Boston would figure prominently, and that there would be a disaster in Moscow and a high security underground defence establishment with an area called the Nest. All these motifs and elements just appeared independently of each other; it was the most amazing ten minutes!

Other elements followed naturally and logically in an amazing and almost complete flow, so much so that when the book went to editing, only one scene was deleted.

What is Nine Planets about? It really defies any attempt at genre, which I rather like. You might best call it a thriller with a very unusual secret.



Eight he can see although he does not understand them, but the impenetrable ninth is the secret that two opposing and hidden brotherhoods have been searching for for nearly two millennia. In a time-hidden parallel reality on the edges of our visible world, pursued and betrayed, Blackwell has twelve days to unlock his ninth planet and prevent terminal worldwide suicide. And his only ally is a manic assassin sent out to extract the secret and kill him. Peter Blackwell wakes from a coma into a world he doesn’t recognise or understand, where hopelessness prevails and suicide is normal. Without memory or identity, all he has are nine random images. Nine planets.

From an abandoned, haunted London to an ordinary house in suburban Perth where extraordinary things happen, from snipers on the snowy slopes of northern Finland to a single act in ancient Patara that started history, from hidden places in the Australian desert to a Boston of many secrets, Nine Planets takes the stories of a retired and widowed Australian postman, a conflicted assassin, an autistic child, four Australian farmhands, and a group of volunteers in the most unlikely, desperate, improbable rescue operation in human history, and weaves them into a most unusual thriller. A miraculous thriller. 

All that has kept humanity alive for almost two millennia is a single secret, a secret now locked inside Peter Blackwell’s brain. 

But he can’t remember it.




Greg Byrne loved stories, words and languages as soon as he knew what crayons were for, and was writing with them soon after. 

In between his other duties as a university tutor and lecturer, ESL teacher, grammar consultant and Masters student, he enjoys travelling, exploring ideas, history, languages and science, reading, dinner with friends, wandering purposefully into bookshops, watching his family grow, and living life’s great adventure.

His next projects are a YA thriller and a grammar teaching system for ESL students. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, the most isolated capital city on the face of the planet, with his beloved wife and family and an overweight British Blue, and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Twitter: @GregBByrne   


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