Please welcome Stacey Berg
to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge
was published on 3/15 by Harper Voyager Impulse in digital format and will be published in print on April 12, 2016.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Stacey: Thanks, it’s a pleasure to be here! Like most children, I always made up stories, for myself or with my friends. I suppose what turned me into a writer was that I never stopped making them up. At first I was just writing for myself the kinds of stories I wanted to hear, then 6eventually I decided that I wanted to share them with other people too.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Stacey: Hybrid, but maybe not the way most people think about it. I need to have a strong idea of where the story is going emotionally before I can start writing it. I like to be clear on the major plot points in terms of how the characters feel. I especially need to know the end—not the specific events, but the heart of the main characters’ internal conflict and its resolution. I don’t write that down like a true plotter, but it guides me as I pants my way through the external happenings that I hope are going to make a logical framework for the characters’ emotional progress.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Stacey: Plotting! I’m envious of writers who seem to be able to put together intricate plotlines with multiple subplots and apparently unrelated threads that all come together seamlessly in the end. I suspect that they work very hard to make it look so effortless though. I really agonize over things that just don’t seem like they should be so hard: “What can the bad guys tell her that would make it logical for her to lose her temper when I need her to?” “Why can’t she just phone home?”
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Stacey: Mostly reading. I think every book I’ve loved has influenced my writing in some way. One of the things that’s happened since I started writing seriously is that when I love a story, I try to figure out why—what made it work so well for me, and how can I accomplish the same thing in my own writing. By the same token, whenever I’m stuck on something I’m working on, I think about my favorite books and novelists, and try to imagine how they might handle the problem.
TQ: Describe Dissension in 140 characters or less.
Stacey: A cloned soldier who should only be able to care about duty must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.
TQ: Tell us something about Dissension that is not found in the book description.
Stacey: There is quite a bit of humor in Dissension. Admittedly, most of it is as dry as the desert the story is set in, and it is definitely on the subtle side as opposed to laugh-out-loud jokes, but there are quite a few places I think the reader will smile.
TQ: What inspired you to write Dissension? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular dystopian SF?
Stacey: What inspired me to write Dissension was the desire to create a character who had to face a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between duty and love. That’s a pretty basic conflict in fiction. But the great thing about Science Fiction, or speculative fiction in general, is that you can create circumstances that greatly amplify the themes you want to explore. For example, since Dissension is science fiction, I could take my main character past “she’s not supposed to let feelings get in the way” to “she’s not supposed to be genetically able to let feelings to get in the way.”
I didn’t set out to write dystopian SF at all; that’s just how the story turned out. To be honest, I didn’t even think of it as dystopian until my agent, Mary C. Moore, started to pitch it that way.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Dissension?
Stacey: Even though this is a science fiction story, most of the research I did wasn’t about technology. I’m a medical researcher by day, so much of the science-y part of the fiction was already familiar to me, and besides, this isn’t the kind of story that spends a lot of time discussing the details of how the clones are made, etc. Instead, to make the setting work, I needed to figure out other kinds of details: what would happen to a skyscraper if no one took care of it for 400 years; where would everyone live if a city say the physical size of Chicago suddenly only held 40,000 people; if the diameter of the city is about 8 miles, how long would it take to walk from point A to point B on the perimeter? The results of this kind of research don’t turn up directly in the book, but they helped me build a convincing world.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Stacey: The easiest character to write was Lia. I had a very clear idea of what she was like, the things that mattered most to her, and why she would make the choices she makes. The hardest was Loro. It would have been very easy for him to be a stock bad guy, a hot-headed, jealous ex with an “if I can’t have her, nobody will” role in the plot. But I really wanted him to be more complicated, and for the reader to find him sympathetic in the end even though most of the time he’s enormously irritating—or worse—to Hunter and the other characters on “our” side.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Dissension?
Stacey: Dissension isn’t meant to address any of our social issues directly, but I’m sure that living in our society today influences all of my story choices. A major source of conflict in the plot is disagreement over the role of political authority in people’s day to day lives; at least in the book’s world, there’s no easy solution. Also, the two main characters are women who love each other. In the book, that’s not a social issue at all, which is its own comment on our world.
TQ: Which question about Dissension do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: Why does Echo Hunter 367 call herself “Hunter” when everyone else calls her “Echo”?
A: Names are very important in Dissension. What people call each other, and especially what Hunter calls herself and others, provides critical insight into the things that do and don’t matter to them, as well as their psychological states at various times.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dissension.
Stacey: I really like the way this bit sets the mood of age and decay inside the Church: “She felt the rock ribs pressing close just behind the ancient plastered walls, a bone poking through here and there where repairs had been neglected. Long tubes crossed the ceiling like veins on the back of an old man’s hand.”
And I like this one, because what Hunter observes about another character tells us something about her that she’s not consciously aware of. She’s just given a starving boy some provisions: “He stood, settling the bag on his hip. The slight burden seemed to weigh on him more than the mass of the food accounted for, the drag of responsibility. He seemed awfully young for it.”
TQ: What's next?
Stacey: A sequel! I’m hard at work right now on the second of the “Echo Hunter 367” novels.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Stacey: Thank you so much for having me!
An Echo Hunter 367 Novel 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, March 15, 2016
eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 12, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.
When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.
Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.Website