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Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep


Please welcome Chana Porter to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Seep was published on January 21, 2020 by Soho Press.



Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Chana:  Happy to be here! Thanks for having me.

I wrote a lot of poetry and stories as a child. I remember my second grade teacher reading a story I had written about pirates out loud to the rest of the class, without asking me. It was a strange feeling. I had just transferred from a modern orthodox Jewish school in Baltimore to a public school in the suburbs and I felt shy about being the new kid. But I liked the feeling of having my imagination acknowledged. The delight won out over the embarrassment.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Chana:  I’m a hybrid! I dream the major plot points before sitting down to write. If I don’t have a clear idea of some major parts of the action, I know I’m not ready. But if I clearly imagine everything too well, I find the process loses its life force. I’ll write juicy scenes out of order, as well, and then fill in the gaps. I also rewrite A LOT. Loads end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Chana:  I love every part of being a writer and I feel extremely lucky to get to do it. That being said— I find generative early drafts very fun. Later on in the process, it can feel almost athletic to go back into a draft and work on the entire book. I eat protein bars and drink lots of water when overhauling a draft.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Chana:  I wouldn’t be the writer I am without Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel Delany, Jeff VanderMeer. Those are the big ones for me. I also love film and theater— could go on and on about my influences there (and you’ll see some shout outs to my favorite filmmakers in The Seep!) And Star Trek.



TQDescribe The Seep using only 5 words.

Chana:  Benevolent aliens, unexpected consequences. Lush!



TQTell us something about The Seep that is not found in the book description.

Chana:  It’s a novel about grief and loss, amongst other things, but it’s actually very funny. I’m not interested in spending time with characters without good senses of humor. Being alive on this tiny spinning planet is often very ridiculous.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Seep?

Chana:  I’m interested in what our world would look like if it was life affirming for its inhabitants. I don’t think it’s our nature to oppress people, to draw these fictitious borders, to poison our ecosystem. So I wanted to create a utopia that gets people thinking about the collective choices we’re making in our current reality. Then I wanted to use this frame of a softer, abundant future to explore complex issues and emotions, like grief and loss, identity and community. Because I don't think we can move towards a more equitable future without acknowledging past oppressions, nor should we gloss over difference in an effort to celebrate oneness. I’ve attempted to create a story which is not didactic, but gives the reader a lot of personal agency and responsibility in answering the questions the novel raises. A reader remarked that I leave about half of the questions I raise unanswered— that balance feels right. I’m asking you to engage with me.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Seep?

Chana:  A lot! I worked on this book for seven years, and researched as I went. I read a lot of science fiction that dealt with utopia (or things that seem like utopia, which is more often the case with the genre.) I read essays about communes and communal living. I went to the Next Systems conference where I attended lectures about permaculture and alternate forms of currency. (I was there teaching a workshop with my summer institute The Octavia Project, so it was a wonderful synchronicity.) I researched different indigenous tribes in the Northeast to narrow down where I though Trina’s ancestry should partially be from— my main character is part Native American, part Jewish. I’m Jewish, so I didn’t research that, but I was reading a lot about Yiddish theater traditions for my own interest, and that certainly influenced the creation of another character, YD. Everything makes its way into the work. So that was the more formal research. And then other specific details about characters and settings are inspired from my own community and mentors, my experiences in cooperatively living and working. Rachel Pollack was my advisor at Goddard College, where I began writing. She was an invaluable mentor for the creation of the world.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Seep.

Chana:  Soho Press (who are so wonderful) asked me for my input. I said I wanted the cover to feel like “lush overgrowth, water, flowering, fruiting -- or anything that alludes to the natural world overtaking the domestic.” The wonderful designer Michael Morris made the most gorgeous cover. Better than I could have dreamed!



TQIn The Seep who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Chana:  When I began The Seep, it was a much longer novel with three shifting points of view— three main characters. Trina pushed out the other two storylines— she took over! She was very easy to write. I didn’t find the other characters particularly challenging, but I do find that writing a group scene is a tight rope balancing act.



TQDoes The Seep touch on any social issues?

Chana:  Quite a few. The main conflict of The Seep explores complex issues around identity and agency, in a future where you can change your appearance at will. I won’t say more than that.

Additionally, my protagonist, Trina, is an older trans lesbian. I wanted to celebrate a trans elder character who is at home in her body and has a loving marriage, a successful career, deep friendships. And then, of course, I had to make her suffer. Because great characters struggle (and I think no beautiful life is without its own intensity.)



TQWhich question about The Seep do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Chana:  I’m SHOCKED no one has asked me “If you had the opportunity, would you be Seeped?”

I think yes! How could I resist? But, you know— in moderation. :)



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Seep.

Chana:  This one always makes me chuckle. It’s from the beginning of the book, as part of a larger catalogue of the changes The Seep has brought to the earth:

“All debts were forgiven. The student loan people threw away their phones.”



TQWhat's next?

Chana:  I have a big novel that’s almost finished, and about 20K of the next one ready to be explored. In my life as a playwright, my play with music WE ARE RADIOS will be workshopped at Shotgun Players in Berkley, CA this August 4th-5th.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chana:  Thank you for the work you do to support debut authors!





The Seep
Soho Press, January 21, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 216 pages

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep
A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado.

Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.

Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.





About Chana

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep
Photo by Stella Kalinina
Chana Porter is a playwright, teacher, MacDowell Colony fellow, and co-founder of the Octavia Project, a STEM and fiction-writing program for girls and gender non-conforming youth from underserved communities. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is currently at work on her next novel.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @PorterChana

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors


Here are some of the upcoming works by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.


Clarissa Goenawan (2018)

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida
Soho Press, March 10, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
From the critically acclaimed author of Rainbirds comes a novel of tragedy and dark histories set in Japan.

University sophomore Miwako Sumida has hanged herself, leaving those closest to her reeling. In the months before her suicide, she was hiding away in a remote mountainside village, but what, or whom, was she running from?

To Ryusei, a fellow student at Waseda; Chie, Miwako’s best friend; and Fumi, Ryusei’s older sister, Miwako was more than the blunt, no-nonsense person she projected to the world. Heartbroken, Ryusei begs Chie to take him to the village where Miwako spent her final days. While he is away, Fumi receives an unexpected guest at their shared apartment in Tokyo, distracting her from her fear that Miwako’s death may ruin what is left of her brother’s life.

Expanding on the beautifully crafted world of Rainbirds, Clarissa Goenawan gradually pierces through a young woman’s careful façade, unmasking her most painful secrets.





Ken Liu (2015)

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
Gallery / Saga Press, February 25, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
From award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years—sixteen of his best—plus a new novelette.

In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.





Adrian J. Walker (2017)

The Human Son
Solaris, April 28, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 380 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
Solaris Spring 2020 Lead Title from critically acclaimed author, Adrian J. Walker

A startling, emotional, beautiful (and at times funny) book – one that feels like the best sort of science fiction, a book that should be enjoyed widely, a book that speaks of what it is to be human, a parent, and a child.

It is 500 years in the future and Earth is no longer populated by humans.

The new guardians of Earth, the genetically engineered Erta, have reversed climate change. They are now faced with a dilemma; if they reintroduce the rebellious and violent Homo Sapiens, all of their work will be undone.

They decide to raise one final child; a sole human to help decide if humanity should again inherit the Earth.

But the quiet and clinical Ima finds that there is more to raising a human than she had expected; and there is more to humanity’s history than she has been told.

Interview with Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds


Please welcome Clarissa Goenawan to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Rainbirds is published on March 6th by Soho Press.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Clarissa a very Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Clarissa:  When I was still in elementary school, I wrote a horror short story about a group of kids who ventured into a haunted house. I sent the handwritten manuscript to a daily newspaper based in Surabaya, my hometown. Needless to say, my amateurish attempt never made it into the paper, but I fondly remember standing in front of a mailbox by the main road, praying intently, before dropping my envelope in.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Clarissa:  A pantser! I usually have a clear idea of a beginning, a sense of ending, and some sort of key scenes I’d like to include—but nothing in-between. I just write and write and write, hoping that eventually, they’ll turn into something.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Clarissa:  Proofreading, especially after I’ve grown too close to my work. Reading from print-outs usually helps, so does taking a couple of weeks’ break.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Clarissa:  My mother tongue is Indonesian, and I think being a non-native writer influences my writing. Some people told me there is a translation quality in my writing style, which suits the kind of story I’m writing. I’m also a huge fan of contemporary Japanese literature and manga (Japanese comics), which plays a huge part in why I chose to set Rainbirds in Japan.



TQDescribe Rainbirds in 140 characters or less.

ClarissaRainbirds follows a young man’s path to self-discovery as he struggles with his sister’s unsolved murder. It’s a literary mystery with elements of magical realism.



TQTell us something about Rainbirds that is not found in the book description.

ClarissaRainbirds features a lot of my favorite things: classic books, great songs, delicious foods (Japanese staples, desserts and chocolates, my usual picks from the convenience stores), beautiful sports cars from the nineties, and of course, my favorite type of weather—rainy days!



TQWhat inspired you to write Rainbirds?

Clarissa:  Sometime in 2011, a question came into my mind one afternoon: “What if one day someone I cared about suddenly passed away, and I realized too late I never got to know them well?” The idea struck me strongly, and I knew I had to write this story.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Rainbirds?

Clarissa:  A huge manga fan, I studied Japanese language and was part of the Japanese culture club in high school, so the Japanese culture wasn’t something totally new, but I wanted all the details to be as accurate as possible. I consulted a number of books and article on customs I wasn’t familiar with, for example, the funeral ceremony. As Rainbirds is set in 1994, I also studied what happened during that year. I have print-outs of the historical weather report and the moon phase data in my research folder.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Rainbirds.

Clarissa:  As a lover of beautiful covers, I do judge a book by its cover.

In the early stages, my editor asked if I had an idea of what kind of cover might be suitable. I came up with an embarrassingly long and detailed answer. But in the end, I did say something along the lines of, “You know what, just surprise me.”

Indeed, the cover wasn’t like anything I had in mind—but it’s stunning! Look at those gorgeous colors! Obviously, I’m biased, but I really love the end result. The cover is so beautiful, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is the kind of book I would buy just because it looks so pretty.”

As for the image: dream plays a big part in Rainbirds, and the goldfish is featured in one the dream scenes.



TQIn Rainbirds who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Clarissa:  I enjoyed writing Rio Nakajima, a young girl the narrator affectionately called ‘Seven Stars’, after the brand of cigarettes she smoked. She’s smart, bold, and at times—extremely rash. I love how her personality clashes with the narrator’s. I had a lot of fun writing her scenes.

The most challenging character to write is Keiko Ishida, the narrator’s seemingly perfect older sister whose death is the catalyst for the story. It took me multiple drafts over the years to figure out what kind of person she really was, why she did what she did, and all the secrets she took along with her the night she was murdered.



TQCan you talk about the magical realism elements in Rainbirds? What draws you into it?

Clarissa:  In Rainbirds, the dream world often merges into reality.

I’m always intrigued by the concept of a dream and how we perceive it. In my experience, a dream comes in various forms—sometimes it’s crystal clear, sometimes it’s muddy and confusing. A few times I dreamt of something I thought had happened, and other times something happened and I remembered I’d dreamt about it.

I’m fascinated by how dreams can seamlessly blend into real life. It’s surreal, yet also, completely natural.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Rainbirds.

Clarissa:

“Most of the noises around us are unnecessary. My ears block that noise.”

“The trouble with emotional pain is, you can’t see the wound. But it’s still there. It’s real.”



TQWhat's next?

Clarissa:  I’m currently working on two novels. One of them is literary suspense, while the other is a literary mystery. Just like Rainbirds, both of them are set in Japan. The three novels are not in a series, but they are interrelated. Characters in one book will make appearances in the others. I hope readers of Rainbirds will have fun guessing who they are.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Clarissa:  Thank you for having me ☺





Rainbirds
Soho Press, March 6, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds
Set in an imagined town outside Tokyo, Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut follows a young man’s path to self-discovery in the wake of his sister’s murder.

Ren Ishida has nearly completed his graduate degree at Keio University when he receives news of his sister’s violent death. Keiko was stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why she chose to turn her back on the family and Tokyo for this desolate place years ago.

But then Ren is offered Keiko’s newly vacant teaching position at a prestigious local cram school and her bizarre former arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s ailing wife. He accepts both, abandoning Tokyo and his crumbling relationship there in order to better understand his sister’s life and what took place the night of her death.

As Ren comes to know the eccentric local figures, from the enigmatic politician who’s boarding him to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, captivating young female student, he delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren realizes that Keiko Ishida kept many secrets, even from him.





About Clarissa

Interview with Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds
Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her debut novel, Rainbirds, is the winner of the 2015 Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have won several awards and been published in various literary magazines and anthologies, such as The MacGuffin, Your Impossible Voice, Esquire, Monsoon Book, Writing The City, Needle in the Hay, and many others. She loves rainy days, pretty books, and hot green tea.


Website  ~  Twitter @ClaireClaire05  ~  Facebook

Interview with Steve Toutonghi, author of Join


Please welcome Steve Toutonghi to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Join is published on April 19th by Soho Press.



Interview with Steve Toutonghi, author of Join




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Steve:  I started thinking seriously about writing in high school, inspired by two things. First was a love of comic books that started in elementary school. I was the kid in junior high who knew the history of every Marvel character. The second was a couple of books, probably published in the twenties or thirties that I found when I was about eleven in the basement of a relative's house. They were of the "Comprehensive History of Western Civilization" genre--which at that time meant that they had stories of Kings, great battles, and significant advances in arms and occasionally in infrastructure. They also had beautiful maps showing the growth and contraction of the great empires of Europe. The writers sounded very self-assured and wise and those were both qualities that I felt I could use more of in my life. I tried to find the emperors and kings who had reigned for a long time, hoping that since they had survived to a ripe old age, their eras were examples that proved that I might do the same (survive). Poring over those books also taught me that books that appeared to be thick and complex could sometimes be sources of great pleasure. I had a very rich life in fiction for many years after that. In high school, after learning from D&D that I enjoyed spending time building stories, I decided to try writing my own.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Steve:  Probably a hybrid. Right now, my method is to outline stories by writing a full first-draft. That lets the characters make decisions and lets the story surprise me. Then I explore the story, work on character backstory, revise a great deal, and write a more deliberate expression of the story's motivating energy.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Steve:  The freedom. That's also the most enjoyable thing. It can be disconcerting, but also strangely reassuring because it asks a question very similar to what seems to be a fundamental question in life: what is the most important/interesting/valuable thing you can write (or do) right now?



TQWho or what has influenced/influences your writing?

Steve:  The comic books led me toward pulp paperbacks and writers like Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury, Piers Anthony, Robert Heinlein, and Robert E Howard. Those history books I found led me to multi-generational sagas by writers like James Michener, and long adventures by writers like James Clavell and Tolkien. War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Douglass Hofstadter’s book—Godel, Escher, Bach—were all very important books for me in high school and have all had a presence in my life since. I read the Gulag Archipelago in the summer after high school and am still traumatized by it. Other writers I think about fairly often are Charles Dickens, Carl Jung, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Cormac McCarthy.

In university I dove into poetry. I still love the work of Denise Levertov and Adrienne Rich who were both very active at Stanford when I attended. Exploring their work and listening to them led me to Charles Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Marianne Moore, Gary Snyder, WH Auden, William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell and many, many others. Poetry was a detonation in my life that hasn't really stopped exploding.

In the mid 90's, the originality of Jeff Noon's vision in Vurt made a big impression on me. While writing Join, I was also thinking at various times about The Power Broker by Robert Caro, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, Charles Johnston's work on Cultural Maturity and Creative Systems Theory, the Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett, and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. During revisions, I thought about the Borg.



TQDescribe Join in 140 characters or less.

Steve:  When individual minds unite, families, friendships and identity are transformed, and Chance and Leap fight for each other and for the future



TQPlease tell us something about Join that is not found in the book description.

Steve:  I think Join is about the potential for hope -- hope for a fulfilling life and for loving companionship -- to survive in a fragmented world that bristles with fear and danger.



TQWhat inspired you to write Join? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Steve:  I was inspired by what I see as growing pressures on the sense of individual identity, and by a fear that our current understanding of ourselves may not be adequate to meet the challenges we're creating, but that changes in any direction will inevitably provoke a backlash.

As for science fiction, the potential scope of expression is very appealing. Change is the defining sensation of our era, and science fiction is about change. Technology itself is a modern vernacular whose forms reach to the wellsprings of our hopes, fears and desires.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Join?

Steve:  I read a lot about the potential for faster-than-light communication, about patterns of environmental threat resulting from human activity, about the concept of an observer in quantum phenomena, and about the limits and biases of human cognition.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Steve:  Leap was the easiest. Leap is wary of the world and fundamentally inclined to appreciate solitude. Those are both characteristics I identify with.

Chance was the most difficult. The way I thought about Chance changed during revisions. I had originally thought Chance was rational and data driven, but came to view it as optimistic and in-love.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Join?

Steve:  When writing the first draft/outline, I followed the story, so that really determined the relationship of the work to social issues. But I was also originally inspired to begin writing the story--at least in part--by concern over what I was seeing in the world.



TQWhich question about Join do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Steve:  What is the relationship between Hamish Lyons and Forest Whitaker?

I loved Forest Whitaker's performance in The Last King of Scotland. When the character of Hamish Lyons first started talking to me, I saw him as a black man with a Scottish first name, and decided that would be a tribute to Forest Whitaker's performance. Hamish isn't anything like Idi Amin (whom Whitaker played in the movie), but I would sometimes imagine him having the intelligence and grace of Forest Whitaker.



TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Join.

Steve:  Here are three:

1. "You know, for a long time, I thought I could just think of you as a married couple with very eerie telepathy." -- Josette
2. "We're us," says Jackson, slightly affronted, "like I said, the humans."
3. "What you do with technology, nature has done through love since the mind began."
-- Joseph Rex, Poe's Mission, Book I



TQWhat's next?

Steve:  I'm working on new projects that are thematically related to Join but don't happen in the same world. Hoping there'll be enough interest in Join to justify revisiting that world at some time in the future.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steve:  Thank you! It was a pleasure!





Join
Soho Press, April 19, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Steve Toutonghi, author of Join
What if you could live multiple lives simultaneously, have constant, perfect companionship, and never die? That’s the promise of Join, a revolutionary technology that allows small groups of minds to unite, forming a single consciousness that experiences the world through multiple bodies. But as two best friends discover, the light of that miracle may be blinding the world to its horrors.

Chance and Leap are jolted out of their professional routines by a terrifying stranger—a remorseless killer who freely manipulates the networks that regulate life in the post-Join world. Their quest for answers—and survival—brings them from the networks and spire communities they’ve known to the scarred heart of an environmentally ravaged North American continent and an underground community of the “ferals” left behind by the rush of technology.

In the storytelling tradition of classic speculative fiction from writers like David Mitchell and Michael Chabon, Join offers a pulse-pounding story that poses the largest possible questions: How long can human life be sustained on our planet in the face of environmental catastrophe? What does it mean to be human, and what happens when humanity takes the next step in its evolution? If the individual mind becomes obsolete, what have we lost and gained, and what is still worth fighting for?





About Steve

Interview with Steve Toutonghi, author of Join
Photo by David Hiller
A native of Seattle and Soldotna, Alaska, Steve Toutonghi studied fiction and poetry while completing a BA in Anthropology at Stanford. After pursuing a variety of interests including an acting internship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, work as an IT systems manager, and teaching English in a public school in Japan, he began a career in technology that led him from Silicon Valley back to Seattle. Join is his first novel.








Website  ~   Twitter @SteveToutonghi


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Join by Steve Toutonghi


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Join by Steve Toutonghi


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Steve Toutonghi

Join
Soho Press, April 19, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Join by Steve Toutonghi
What if you could live multiple lives simultaneously, have constant, perfect companionship, and never die? That’s the promise of Join, a revolutionary technology that allows small groups of minds to unite, forming a single consciousness that experiences the world through multiple bodies. But as two best friends discover, the light of that miracle may be blinding the world to its horrors.

Chance and Leap are jolted out of their professional routines by a terrifying stranger—a remorseless killer who freely manipulates the networks that regulate life in the post-Join world. Their quest for answers—and survival—brings them from the networks and spire communities they’ve known to the scarred heart of an environmentally ravaged North American continent and an underground community of the “ferals” left behind by the rush of technology.

In the storytelling tradition of classic speculative fiction from writers like David Mitchell and Michael Chabon, Join offers a pulse-pounding story that poses the largest possible questions: How long can human life be sustained on our planet in the face of environmental catastrophe? What does it mean to be human, and what happens when humanity takes the next step in its evolution? If the individual mind becomes obsolete, what have we lost and gained, and what is still worth fighting for?

Interview with Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) - January 20, 2015


Please welcome Robert Repino to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Mort(e) is published by Soho Press on January 20, 2015. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Robert a Happy Publication Day.



Interview with Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) - January 20, 2015




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Robert:  I started writing for fun in grade school. Often I would take English class assignments and expand on them. Some of the plotlines included a superhero in the Middle Ages, a turkey uprising on the eve of Thanksgiving (I was mad when South Park did the same thing), a UFO abduction, a kid transforming into an ape, and a smuggling ring on a lunar colony. I also kept a journal, chronicling every day for over four years at one point. But then I stopped both the journaling and the fiction writing, and I really have no idea why. I genuinely liked writing, but perhaps I thought it was one of many uncool things I had to give up on the road to adulthood.

About halfway through college, I got the idea for a novel, and in the summer of 1998 I began plodding through it. I don’t recommend using the novel as a means of teaching yourself to write. Short stories are better for that, as evidenced by the fact that I made it 50,000 words into my novel and quit. I estimated I had completed only part one of a five-part book! But from then on, I knew I could write a novel if I planned it better and stuck to it. When I was in the Peace Corps, I finished a book that eventually became my MFA thesis. I wrote two more before Mort(e), and they both went through the literary agent runaround before I shelved them. Still, after all of that, I had learned the basics of the craft.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Robert:  A plotter, and even more so after revising Mort(e) for several years. At the very least, I always have a list of the forthcoming chapters along with what needs to happen in each. That’s usually enough, and it makes it so that I at least know what I have to accomplish in a sitting, even if I don’t yet know how I’ll do it.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Robert:  It’s always character development, especially since I write stories that have a plot. I thus have to make some hard choices and compromises in order to keep things moving, and I get very paranoid about leaving something out. And really, it’s finding the right balance between exposition versus action, and staying in a person’s head versus letting the plot unfold. I always feel I’m summarizing when I should be exploring, or that I’m giving backstory when it’s time to get on with the main story. I never feel I’m getting it right.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Robert:  I wish I had a more exciting and less predictable answer, but Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, and Cormac McCarthy all come to mind. Orwell is especially important to me, not simply because he wrote about talking animals, but also because I identify with his philosophy of writing, which emphasized clarity over all else. There are other authors I encountered at just the right time in my life. I came across The Dark Tower during a terrible blizzard and spent the next few days in near total isolation reading it. I read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as part of a history class on European imperialism. I read The Plague by Camus in college, and I find its discussion of the problem of evil to be among the most profound I have ever encountered.



TQ:  Describe Mort(e) in 140 characters or less.

Robert:  After the war between animals and humans, a sentient warrior cat searches for a lost friend, with the future of all life in the balance.



TQ:  Tell us something about Mort(e) that is not in the book description.

Robert:  There’s a giant, solar-powered zeppelin that looks a little like that metallic bean sculpture in Chicago.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Mort(e)? What appealed to you about writing a post-apocalyptic novel?

Robert:  The idea came to me in a dream, in which I saw animals walking on two feet and hunting humans. Over the next few months, I refined the idea, putting a vengeful ant queen in charge of the uprising. Eventually, I added other themes that had been brewing in my mind for years, from the long-term effects of war to interspecies relations to the births and deaths of religions.

Really, I’ve always wanted to write a post-apocalyptic story. I realize they are having a moment in both literature and film. For me, that moment has been going on for the last thirty years. All stories involve some change to the status quo that sets the events in motion; with this genre, the status quo gets completely overturned, and peoples lives are overturned with it.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Mort(e)?

Robert:  I just wrote an extended essay for Necessary Fiction (http://necessaryfiction.com/blog/?c=researchnotes) that discusses this in far more detail than I can go into here. The short version is that I had to learn quickly about ant colony behavior, dog fighting techniques, and military lingo. I also read a lot of fiction and watched movies that had sympathetic monsters in them. In my story, even the rebellious ant queen is worthy of our respect.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Robert:  Culdesac, a bobcat who fights for the Queen, was perhaps the easiest to write because he is the most driven and focused. His motivation is clear, and he does not waver. In a way, Culdesac is the most admirable character in the book, someone who stands by his principles no matter what. And because of that, the few times he breaks character and shows tenderness or mercy were fun to write. They provide a convincing way to reveal Culdesac as a person who has suffered a great deal, and who believes that the war is the only way to right the wrongs of the past. He is a victim of the war even as he revels in it.

The most difficult character to write was the pit bull Wawa, Culdesac’s second in command. Wawa also has a traumatic past, having grown up in a dog-fighting ring before the animal uprising. Unlike Culdesac, Wawa transforms a great deal in the story. She not only shifts her allegiance, but also lets her guard down. The challenge was to construct a coherent arc for her, so that she was not simply a means to help the main character to continue on the journey. In other words, I needed to give Wawa a throughline that could be lifted out of the book and given its own novella of sorts. Wawa’s sections were among the last to be written and revised, but the effort turned out to be worth it. To develop her more fully, I gave her some hard choices to make, and then forced her to act on them.



TQ:  Which question about Mort(e) do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Robert:  I like it when people ask me something along the lines of: “What are you trying to say about religious belief with this book?”

Answer: A lot of stuff. I am fascinated by religious belief and practices, as well as their impact on culture and politics. In Mort(e), the animals believe that the human understanding of the gods, the afterlife, and their place in the universe makes them evil. And certainly, from the animals’ perspective, finding out that most humans regard themselves as the chosen species would breed fierce resentment. In that sense, both the protagonist Mort(e) and the Queen can be called atheists, although that word is never used in the book. But even though Mort(e) cannot share the beliefs of the humans he encounters, he recognizes the power of belief to unite people, and to help them make sense of tragedy. Right or wrong, Mort(e)’s rejection of the supernatural comes with a cost.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Mort(e).

Robert:

“You will avenge our people,
by the light of your wisdom
and the darkness of your heart.”



TQ:  What's next?

Robert:  Things are up in the air, but I am in the early stages of a sequel to Mort(e). In addition, I have a novella coming out with Amazon Kindle Singles in the spring titled Leap High Yahoo. I’m calling it an Occupy Wall Street science fiction story, and it centers around a guy hunting a runaway horse in an abandoned city.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Morte
Soho Press, January 20, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) - January 20, 2015
The “war with no name” has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony's watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans' penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony's war effort is transforming the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters.

Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation friend—a dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth's creatures.





About Robert

Interview with Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) - January 20, 2015
Robert Repino grew up in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. After serving in the Peace Corps (Grenada 2000–2002), he earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Emerson College. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize among other awards, and has appeared in The Literary Review, Night Train, Hobart, Juked, Word Riot, The Furnace Review, The Coachella Review, JMWW, and the anthology Brevity and Echo (Rose Metal Press). Repino is the pitcher for the Oxford University Press softball team and quarterback for the flag football team, but his business card says that he’s an Editor. His debut novel Mort(e), a science fiction story about a war between animals and humans, is forthcoming from Soho Press in 2015.

Website  ~   Facebook  ~  Twitter @Repino1

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mort(e) by Robert Repino



2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mort(e) by Robert Repino



The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.



Robert Repino

Mort(e)
Soho Press, January 20, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mort(e) by Robert Repino
The “war with no name” has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony's watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans' penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony's war effort is transforming the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters.

Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation friend—a dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth's creatures.

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The SeepCovers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC AuthorsInterview with Clarissa Goenawan, author of RainbirdsInterview with Steve Toutonghi, author of Join2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Join by Steve ToutonghiInterview with Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) - January 20, 20152015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Mort(e) by Robert Repino

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