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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with S. Harrison, author of Infinity Lost

Please welcome S. Harrison to The Qwillery. Infinity Lost was published on November 1st by Skyscape. Infinity Rises (Infinity Trilogy 2) will be published in January 2016 with Infinity Reborn (Infinity Trilogy 3) to follow in June 2016.

Interview with S. Harrison, author of Infinity Lost

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

S.H.:  Coming from a song writing and copy-writing background I've always been keenly interested in words, but I didn't start thinking seriously about writing a novel until about three years ago. The reason was simple, I just wanted to see if I could. My first attempt was terrible. It was the story of a futuristic alcoholic detective. I buried that one deep in a file somewhere and gave up until six months later when the idea for Infinity Lost began forming. I jotted down notes and eventually shaped the idea into a reasonable concept. Eight months of tapping away later and I had a book.

TQAre you a plotter, pantser or a hybrid?

S.H.:  Undoubtedly both, I'm a plotser. I'll plan out definitive markers along a story path then fill in everything that needs to happen in between. I think of my writing process as a kind of reverse decomposition where I connect the bones into a skeleton then begin pasting the flesh onto it until it comes to life and can walk in the right direction. Sometimes it can start to wander off the path and I have to prod it back on track, but hopefully at the end you have something that can stand on its own.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

S.H.:  The self-discipline is the hardest. Normal life, whether it be at home, school or work is generally about doing what others expect of you. Your Mom or Dad or teacher or boss make your responsibilities clear and sometimes I miss the drive those expectations can provide. But when you're a writer you only have yourself telling you what you should do, and it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of letting yourself off when you fail to hit a word count one day or when you talk yourself into just relaxing on a weekend when you really know you shouldn't.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

S.H.:  My favourite book is "Perfume" by Patrick Suskind. I love the way he describes things and sometimes I try to emulate him, except that where he described smells in vivid detail, I describe the gory deaths of my characters at the hands of heavily armed machines.

TQDescribe Infinity Lost in 140 characters or less.

S.H.:  Haha OK, how about this? "In a future world an extraordinary girl fights to survive inside a shape-shifting labyrinth of cyber ghosts and killer robots." I'd want to read that!

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

S.H.:  One of my favorite things about Infinity Lost is the friendship between the protagonist Finn and her schoolmate Bettina. They're very different characters and they argue and disagree, but they're bound by an unshakable loyalty to each other. Finn is our heroine but Bettina is every bit as heroic as Finn is. To me there are two main characters, two friends that go hand in hand head long into danger, each one needing the other and neither able to survive without the other at their side.

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

S.H.:  My inspiration comes from a life of absorbing pop culture and science fiction is a wide genre that can allow me to be a world creator. But if I had to pick a moment when a kernel of thought eventually sprouted into the idea for Infinity Lost it would have to be when my wife bought me "Tales of the Unexpected" by Roald Dahl. She knew I was a big fan and I hadn't read any of his work since school. Anyway, that book lead me to revisit his other classics and one day I thought-what if Charlie and those other kids never made it out of the Chocolate factory alive? Of course there's a lot more to Infinity Lost than just that one notion but that was an inspirational moment for sure.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Infinity Lost?

S.H.:  I find it funny that a few reviewers have mentioned that they found some of the technology in Infinity Lost to be a little far fetched, when really everything in this book and the subsequent books in the trilogy are merely future conclusions based on technology that exists today. Artificial intelligence, 3-D printed food and organs, self-driving vehicles, thought recorders, memory implantation, information coded on synthetic DNA and even the quantum grain technology, which is modeled on work currently being conducted in the field of molecular manipulation. All these things are real, albeit in their very early stages of development. I'm fascinated by advancements in technology so I researched some of the cutting edge stuff and imagined what it might be like in the world of tomorrow when it's perfected and becomes common place.

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

S.H.:  The easiest has to be Brody because he's not very bright. The hardest? Bettina, for the opposite reason, because she's smarter than I am.

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

S.H.:  A reviewer from North Dakota has actually already asked it! The protagonist is a 17 year old girl. How do you write from a teenaged girl's perspective? The short answer is that I don't. The way I see it, when most girls or women have a conversation or react to something, they have the ability to use the full spectrum of their feelings to guide their words, opinions and actions. Guys are completely capable of doing this too but most of us tend to keep many of our emotions contained, often refusing to share what we really feel for the sake of avoiding being judged by others, being excluded from a group or getting beaten up someone bigger than us. Underneath, (sometimes very deep under for some), all people have access to the same emotions, so while it may seem that I'm writing from a teenaged girl's perspective, I'm actually not. I just cracked through the ice of my stubborn male ego and wrote from a human perspective using all the resources available to me, which I think resulted in a fairly accurate depiction of how I imagine Finn Blackstone to be.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues the Infinity Lost?

S.H.:  First and foremost I wanted to tell an interesting and entertaining story and not get too bogged down with trying to make any heavy-handed social or political statements. That said, Infinity Lost does address the topic of the implications involved with the dehumanizing aspects of technology. What would a world of utter reliance on one corporation be like? The answer is, probably not the utopia you wanted.

TQWhat's next?

S.H.:  Honestly, I'm not sure what's next. I'll have to sit down and look through my stack of notebooks to see if any of my old scribbled down ideas hold water. But one thing is for sure, there are always stories brewing in the corners of my mind and it's just a matter of time before the right one makes itself known.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

S.H.:  You're very welcome.

Infinity Lost
Infinity Trilogy 1
Skyscape, November 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 235 pages

Interview with S. Harrison, author of Infinity Lost
In the near future, one corporation, Blackstone Technologies, has changed the world: no disasters, no poverty, and life-altering technology. Blackstone has the impunity to destroy—or create—as it sees fit.

Infinity “Finn” Blackstone is the seventeen-year-old daughter of Blackstone’s reclusive CEO—but she’s never even met him. When disturbing dreams about a past she doesn’t remember begin to torment her, Finn knows there’s only one person who can provide answers: her father.

After Finn and an elite group of peers are invited to Blackstone’s top-secret HQ, Finn realizes she may have a chance to confront her father. But when a highly sophisticated company AI morphs into a killing machine, the trip descends into chaos. Trapped inside shape-shifting walls, Finn and her friends are at the mercy of an all-seeing intelligence that will destroy everything to get to her.

With no hope of help, Finn’s dream-memories may be the only chance of survival. But will she remember in time to save her own life and the lives of those around her?

About the Author

Interview with S. Harrison, author of Infinity Lost
S. Harrison is from New Zealand, where he often indulges in his love of watching superhero movies and art house films. He frequently escapes to some of the many islands of the South Pacific to focus on his writing. He is the author of Infinity Lost, Infinity Rises, and Infinity Reborn, books one, two and three of the Infinity Trilogy.

Interview with Shari Becker - June 23, 2015

Please welcome Shari Becker to The Qwillery. The Stellow Project is published on June 23rd by Skyscape. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Shari a very Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Shari Becker - June 23, 2015

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser or hybrid?

Shari:  Hi! I’m excited to be here.

The most challenging thing about writing - for me - is getting down that first draft. I’m a much better reviser. I’m almost always inspired by major scenes, relationships and conversations. It’s like a little movie plays in my head, and I’m a total pantser as I write that movie down. But then I slump as I try to connect those scenes together to form a plot. I hit the bag of chocolate chips, and I wander around my home aimlessly, talking to myself like a crazy person, trying to pull it all together.

The Stellow Project forced me to be a plotter because I got stuck - not just once or twice, either. The pieces of the mystery all had to come together, and when (and if) readers go back to look at the story again, all the clues have to be in place. At one point I was so lost in my own plot that my writing group literally sat me down, and we drew a map of the entire town where the book takes place. We plotted how Lilah would get from the house - to the camp - to the boat - to town, etc. So I guess I’m a hybrid out of necessity. I’m drafting a new novel in Scrivener, and I’m finding that it helps the struggling plotter in me get organized.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Shari:  The first book I truly adored was The Secret Garden. I was a shy, anxious, overly-sensitive child, and when I read about Mary Lenox, I just knew that somewhere there was a special place for me. I think I read the book 20 times before I turned 20.

Barbara Kingsolver has been a huge influence on me, too. She’s a longtime favorite of mine. I read The Bean Trees, and was hooked. Her work just oozes with attitude and voice, and her characters practically jump off the page and come to life. Kent Haruf’s novels break my heart. There is a subtle beauty to his writing. I always try to infuse my relationship scenes with precious little touches just like he does. Gary Schmidt has these moments in his writing where it seems like he lets go to some divine, greater power. His sentences are breathtakingly gorgeous and offer so much insight into a character’s mindset. I totally want to be him. I’m also kind of in love with Maggie Stiefvater right now. Scorpio Races is one of my favorite books. It just reads like a gothic fairy tale. Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun has some of the most brilliant voice writing I’ve read, maybe ever.

So he’s not a novelist, but I’m also kind of obsessed with anything by Joss Whedon. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a huge impact on me. There were no creative boundaries in that show. And there was always humor - even in the darkest moments.

TQDescribe The Stellow Project in 140 characters or less.

Shari:  Dependent teen finds inner grit when she becomes a pawn in a mystery involving her family, the government and a top secret lab in the woods.

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

Shari:  At its core The Stellow Project is about family and courage. One pivotal scene was inspired by a good friend of mine who was born with a heart defect. She had to undergo so many surgeries as a young child, and still has at least one more to endure as an adult. Her bravery is remarkable, and her scars are her battle wounds.

I went through some really tough times as a teenager, and my sister really helped me face my fears and deal with my demons. I look at my own daughters, and I hope they will always be there for each other, too. Lilah comes to realize that she is ultimately responsible for her sister, and that the ties that bind her to her parents cannot be broken, no matter how misguided her mother and father may be.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Stellow Project? What appealed to you about writing an SF novel particularly one that is both a thriller and dystopian?

ShariThe Stellow Project came to me after a series of scary weather events on the East Coast. It just seemed to me like the planet was telling us to wake up and change our ways. I just had to write about it. My first seed of an idea came as a vision of a girl stuck inside a skyscraper, breathing only because she was enclosed in this glass jail cell.

This first draft of The Stellow Project was actually a full-fledged dystopian set hundreds of years in the future, but I paralyzed myself with the details of world building. I spent days obsessing over what car windows would look like. After an early read, my agent suggested I strip out the hard-core dystopian world and make it contemporary. That kind of set me free.

I don’t think I was consciously aware that I was writing a SF story or even a dystopian. I’m a bit of a conspiracy theory girl, and I am enthralled by the idea that there are things happening beneath the surface of our everyday world — that there are top secret agencies trying to solve problems in ways that we would dismiss as unethical. I think I channeled the X-Files and Lost more than consciously trying to categorize what I was writing. At the same time, it’s probably no surprise that I landed in this genre. I’m really a closet sci-fi geek. As a kid I loved Star Wars and Bladerunner, and I read books like, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The new Battlestar Gallactica turned me into a TV junkie.

TQDo you have any favorite dystopian novels?

Shari:  Hmmmm …. good question. I really enjoyed Handmaid’s Tale when I read it, something like 20 years ago. I was proud of myself for finishing Cloud Atlas, possibly the hardest book I’ve ever read. From a MG and YA standpoint, I think The Giver is a great beginner dystopian, as is the City of Ember series, which I’m in the middle of reading with my younger daughter. For me, though, the book that really hooked me on the genre was Uglies. Scott Westerfeld’s series came before Hunger Games, before Delirium, Matched, and Divergent, and it was so addictive. Aside from Hunger Games, it’s the only dystopian series I own in its entirety.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Stellow Project?

Shari:  Oh, my goodness, probably not as much as you’d think. A lot of The Stellow Project came from my life experiences and imagination. The town of Silver Lake is based on the town in the Adirondacks where I spent my summers as a child.

I had one friend drive up and down the George Washington Bridge for me, however. She also researched the parks in the area. Another friend of mine is a pulmonary specialist, so he talked with me about how Lilah’s body and scars would look post surgeries. My father-in-law is a former pharmaceutical exec who liaised with the FDA. He read over some critical scenes for me, too. I was able to google many of my questions. There’s a tremendous amount of information online about government organizations, weather patterns, satellites. I took those kernels of truth and let my mind spin and weave.

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

Shari:  Hands down, the easiest character to write was Flori. My older daughter swims like a fish, and my younger daughter is so cuddly and physical. I took elements of both of their personalities and mashed them up into Flori. It was just so much fun to write in a seven-year-old voice. She was likes a breath of fresh air.

The hardest character was Lilah. I knew I wanted her to be sickly and weak in the beginning, and I knew she needed to have emotional growth that brought her to a point of bravery and independence. But there’s always this fine line with YA females. If they are too bold and not endearing enough, they come off as harsh and unlikable. There were scenes that I had to rewrite over and over again until I found that balance between sassy and bitchy, between sickly and whiny.

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

Shari:  It seems like the most controversial part of the book is the ending. Readers and reviewers have commented that the ending is a cliffhanger, and some are pretty miffed. So I guess the question would be: “Why did you end the story where you did?”

I feel like the story ended at a really important spot. Lilah understood exactly how she fit into the mystery, and she understood what her role would be moving forward. She had become the person she needed to be to tackle her “what next?”

There are classic stories that end in a similar way. Lyra in The Golden Compass heads off into another world. Jonas in The Giver sleds off into the snow, and we don’t know if he survives. Tally in Uglies takes a bold leap that leaves readers gripping their fingernails into their chairs. That said, all of these books did eventually have subsequent follow ups in a series, but they stand on their own as great reads.

So I feel badly that some readers are disappointed, but I also think that part of the fun is imagining the “what next” for yourself. Of course if readers spread the good word, and the book does well, I’ll be able to write the next installment. I already know how it will all play out!

TQIn your opinion, should SF novels address big issues or just be entertaining or do both?

Shari:  I’ll be the first to admit, that at the end of a long day, I’m quite happy to sit and watch mindless television. Sometimes I just want to be entertained. But all stories address issues because our protagonists need challenges to overcome. Personally, I like a novel that makes you think. Science fiction lends itself to bigger issues because - at least for me - its fiction that grows from possible truths. But at the same time, if SF is just big issues, then it risks skewing depressing, and that’s not really what I want to do as a writer. So I guess for me, SF really needs to be both entertaining and thought provoking.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Stellow Project.


“I have crappy lungs, not a-little-wheeze-here-or-there crappy, but full-blown we’ll-take-you- down-if-you’re-not-paying-attention crappy.” (This is my favorite line in the whole book.)

TQWhat's next?

Shari:  I’m working on a YA paranormal that’s a little like Heroes meets Field of Dreams. I have a contemporary YA that I’m reworking / brainstorming about a teen with helicopter parents who drive her insane, and I’m rooting for a Stellow sequel.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Shari:  Thanks so much for having me! This was a lot of fun!

The Stellow Project
Skyscape, June 23, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 303 pages

Interview with Shari Becker - June 23, 2015
When a killer storm unexpectedly hits Manhattan, seventeen-year-old Lilah Stellow’s dad insists that she and her younger sister, Flori, take refuge at their cabin in the mountains. But instead of joining them with the experimental drug that keeps Lilah alive, he disappears just as news reports name him as a prime suspect in an act of ecoterrorism.

As days pass without her medicine, Lilah finds herself teetering on the edge, caring for her sister, and growing increasingly certain they’re being watched. In her search for answers, Lilah is thrown into the center of a mystery involving an off-the-grid research facility and finds herself drawn in by Daniel, an intriguing boy who is the son of the lead scientist. As she dares to seek answers, Lilah slowly realizes that even the best intentions can go horribly wrong.

About Shari

Interview with Shari Becker - June 23, 2015
Shari Becker was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up speaking both English and French. As a child, she spent her summers in the Adirondack Mountains catching fireflies, minnows, and toads. After completing a master’s degree at New York University, Becker worked for Nickelodeon, Disney-owned companies, and an Emmy Award–winning puppeteer. She is the author of two picture books, including the Charlotte Zolotow Award–honored and Junior Library Guild–selected Maxwell’s Mountain. She now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband, two daughters, and their dog.

Website  ~  Twitter @sharirbecker  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram  ~  Pinterest

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014

Well after the embarrassing events of last week (only having finished one book) I stepped it up a bit this week by reading 2 and one short story. The short story was so short its not worth telling you about so I will focus this week's WIR on full length novels. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014Qwill very kindly pointed out that Engraved, the 5th in the Cherry St Croix series was available on NetGalley. Needless to say I dropped everything else and rushed off to request it. I will be writing a full review of Engraved (Carina Press, 8/11/2014)  so keep your eye out for it. It has already been released so if you are a diehard fan of the series then its available at all good retailers (and perhaps some not so good ones!) - eBook format only. I can't say too much other than I really enjoyed it and, despite all the action, Engraved has some relatively pleasant moments for Cherry who seems to go to hell and back (and then back again) during every book.

Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014Next on my list to read was Blightborn by Chuck Wendig (Skyscape, 7/29/14). This is the 2nd novel in his dystopian YA Heartland Trilogy. Both my husband and I really enjoyed Under The Empyrean Sky. This trilogy is no less harrowing than many of Wendig's other books but he can really write convincingly from a teenager's POV.

Cael is back and still on the run with his friends Rigo and Lane. Cael is determined to rescue his sister Merelda and his girlfriend Gwennie who has found that life as a lottery winner on the flotilla isn't as glamorous as it was made out to be. Chasing Cael are Boyland Jnr, his obligated Wanda, Rigo's father, as well as, a mysterious hobo who is out for revenge. The story is told from several different POVs including those of Cael, Gwennie, Merelda, Cael's friends Rigo and Lane plus a few scenes with the misfit Wanda. This works well as the action occurs both on the flotilla and in the Heartland where Cael and friends have been caught up in a terrorist group called the Sleeping Dogs. Action and different shades of friendship are all mixed together with the folklore, mythology and religion of the Heartland. The Maize Witch is introduced who is the Heartland's version of the bogeyman. She is used to scare young kids into thinking they will be turned into 'the blighted' those poor individuals who are part human and part plant. Is she myth or is she real? Well you will have to read it to find out.

This series is another great example of Wendig's prodigious imagination. In Blightborn we learn more about the engaging characters from book 1 along with some new characters who vacillate between being bad and not so bad or bad and very very bad. You are always kept guessing what will happen next to this plucky group of teenagers who are tied to one another through bonds of love and friendship. This is a great series and even if you aren't a fan of books aimed at younger readers. There is really something in this series for everyone.

Well that is it for me. One more book than last week and hope to keep whittling down my TBR. I wish you all a happy week in reading.

Interview with S. Harrison, author of Infinity LostInterview with Shari Becker - June 23, 2015Melanie's Week in Review - August 17, 2014

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