Tube Dwellers is a fun sci-fi novel following an average couple that are the unlikely heroes of an intergalactic space adventure. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from the preceding novel?
Tube Dwellers will be the fourth book in the Master Defiance series when Martian Hermitage is published (shortly?). The first three books in the series are set on Earth, Moon and Mars, and trace the demise and resurrection of human civilization, in spite of natural and man-made calamities, and an attempted invasion by an alien race, the evil Masters. The last three books in the series, starting with Tube Dwellers, trace the migration of some brave human beings to New Earth, where a new civilization emerges in spite of many challenges, and again, an attack by those nasty old Masters. New Earth is 106.6 light years from Earth, so the adventures are interstellar in breadth, not intergalactic. Still, the book does not indulge in the fantasy of faster-than-light travel. The 84-generation journey to New Earth takes 2538 years at 4.2% light speed.
I enjoyed how authentic Smitty and Tara were. What were some ideas that guided you while creating their relationship?
I took a bit of inspiration from a 1973 Canadian sci-fi series, The Starlost. It was low budget, and poorly crafted, but the setting was a generation spaceship, lost in space. The characters are naïve and Amish-like, and discover to their horror that they live on a spaceship that is headed for a star and total destruction. While not Amish-like, Smitty and Tara are everyday working-class people, who transition by necessity from doubting conformists to inspirational leaders. Tube World provided people like Smitty and Tara with pioneering skills so they could have the best chance for survival in the wilderness of New Earth. A basic problem with interstellar travel at sub-light speed is how do you deliver people with pioneering skills to another world? Frozen embryos ain’t going to cut it. Suspended animation or hibernation for 84-generations? Doubtful, without genetic modification like the tri-variant Masters engage in.
I appreciated the technical explanations of different complex concepts throughout the book. How much of it was made up and how much of it was derived from your career as a Canadian oil and gas engineer?
I worked in harsh, remote areas during my oil and gas career with lots of interesting, hardy people. I lean on that experience, and my engineering knowledge, when I write. Many aspects of the Second Chance generation spaceship are within the realm of possibility. The sheer size of the beast is a stretch, but necessary to sustain a healthy gene pool of 10,000 people for 84-generations. Building it in only 100 years or so is a stretch. A ‘magnetoplasmadynamic drive’ (massive ion propulsion system) has been theorized but is definitely a stretch. Building a spaceship that still works after 2538 years is a stretch. Travelling through space at ‘only’ 4.2% light speed is risky business. Space is not as empty as we once thought. You can run into rocks out there! The Oumuamua interstellar asteroid that just visited our solar system is proof of that.
What can readers expect in book five, Tube Survivors?
The pioneers on New Earth are determined not to repeat the mistakes made on Earth. They are naïve in many ways, but they stay true to their principles. They do some exploring by circumnavigating their continent in a catamaran sailboat. They discover to their horror that New Earth is not the pristine wilderness they were anticipating. It has been visited before by other alien races. And then those darn Masters show up again…
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn spins several yarns into a mythical story that combines many different genres. What was the initial idea behind this book and how did it change as you wrote?
When I started writing The Mermaids Melt at Dawn, I was inspired to begin the story like an old fairy tale. I also wanted the story to be somewhat tethered to reality, especially in the beginning, so I combined my passion for vintage fairy tales and historical fiction. Rok, a Cajun boy growing up on the bayou in the 1800s, was the first character to enter my imagination, and from there, the story transformed into a nautical adventure to Barbiche Island. I have always been fascinated by mermaids and Greek Mythology, so I decided to add a flair of mythology as well.
I am drawn to stories where humans, gods, and creatures coexist. I think there is something incredible about Rok, a real human, witnessing the mermaids of Barbiche Island. Rok lifted the veil between reality and fantasy and tasted the magic that humans so often dream about. As I wrote The Mermaids Melt at Dawn, I tried to capture the magic sensation we feel when we see the first snowflakes of winter or when we catch the first wave in the ocean.
Yarn 8 is my favorite from the book. Do you have a favorite yarn?
As I created different yarns and characters, I was curious to see which ones readers would enjoy the most. Based on the feedback I’ve received so far, Yarn 8/The Curse of Rhodanthea is a fan favorite and the most treasured yarn. Yarn 8 happens to be my favorite yarn as well. Of all the characters, I think Rhodanthea embodies a beautiful brokenness and a humble strength. For me, she is the perfect blend of human, god, and creature features. My second favorite yarns are Yarn 7/The Maiden and The Lyre and Yarn 9/The Rot Spine Monster. I had so much fun writing them, and they brought back fond memories of reading Greek Mythology as a child.
Each yarn seemed to focus on a different theme or had its own feeling. What were some emotions or feelings you wanted to capture in your stories?
Each yarn captures different emotions, moods, and personalities. Much like vintage fairy tales, each character can represent the light and dark aspects of ourselves. The Mermaids Melt at Dawn illuminates common archetypal patterns that are shared by all humans. Some of the experiences I tapped into are anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, love, humility, jealousy, joy, revenge, and remorse. I also crafted the story with some moments of surprise and horror as an homage to fairy tales and mythology, which were not rainbow and butterfly stories. They often had grim and shocking endings. Who could forget when Little Red Riding Hood found the granny wolf in bed, or when the old witch planned to stuff Hansel in the oven?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect time of year to write a paranormal romance! My next book is in the early stages of the creative process, but characters and scenes are coming to life more and more every day. I hope to release my newest book within the next 6 months, and maybe it will be in time for Valentine’s Day!
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Master Defiance follows the survivors of a post-apocalyptic earth who must defend themselves against invading aliens. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
I wanted to suggest that human beings can survive a series of natural and man-made disasters. The setting is a dystopian Earth, but humans are still humans. The hunter-gatherers in the remote regions are toughing it out. But they need a little help from the past. Far-thinking ancestors have left behind Mother, a benevolent AI entity, and a vast store of knowledge. Young bow hunters discover and befriend Mother during a desperate quest for help. Mother helps them with advice, and she can defend herself, much to the surprise of the arrogant Masters.
The Masters were intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their development?
While I appreciate that faster-than-light travel sets up amazing sci-fi story possibilities, my books try to stay within the realm of the possible. Master Defiance suggests that intelligent beings can explore (and try to conquer) our galaxy at say 4% of light speed, if they are adapted (or genetically modified) to living for eons in a generation spaceship. This means vast expanses of time are required to move between stars, which could frustrate fans of ‘super warp speed’ using ‘ludicrous drive’ (a Spaceballs invention). The Masters are further developed during the series, as they are vindictive and persistent. They are also a tri-variant species, as revealed in Covert Alliance. And they view human beings as inferior, and only good slave material after gene-splicing. So, they are creatures that readers will love to hate!
I liked the contrast between the advanced aliens and the regressed humans. How did you want to represent this dichotomy?
Yes, the humans are technologically regressed, but they have retained their humanity. Yes, the Masters are technologically advanced, but they are inhuman. They view other worlds as theirs to conquer, and other species as theirs to enslave. Fighting the Masters is about saving our species, and about saving our humanity.
What do you try to do first when you write, inform or entertain?
Entertain a thinking person.
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Panorama: The Missing Chapter is a heartfelt memoir of your journey working and living in South Korea. What inspired you to share your experiences in a book?
In 2019, I wrote and published my first book, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son. The residual effect of publishing the book made me feel at peace with myself and the relationship I had with my father. Readers have also told me that Views from the Cockpit inspired them to take a different approach with their father or become more interested in forgiveness.
As I wrote my first book, I began to comb through my background of relationships. The story of Panorama bubbled up, and the time I spent living abroad in Seoul. I felt that if I shared it, someone could relate and benefit. Perhaps they could relate to escaping from problems, having secret relationships, or figuring out where they belong in the world. Not only was it interesting to reflect on these moments from my life, but in the real-world, a lot of stories surrounding bisexuality are not featured or appropriately categorized.
I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to share in the book?
The hardest thing to share would be my social-political opinions about identity politics in America and how they’ve made me feel. Everyone can criticize anyone for anything, so I knew that I was opening myself up. When it comes to relationships and how people exist outside of heteronormativity – sometimes people just can’t understand anything else outside of that. Panorama not only exists outside of mainstream heteronormativity but also mainstream LGBT culture, which typically spotlights gay male voices. I was terrified to share a story from a minority group and criticize larger socio-political structures and members of those groups.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?
There are a few things – Bi people are real – we exist and not only in a suggestive, explicit connotation. Bi people are a whole demographic of people, mostly invisible, in mainstream media and day-to-day social discourse.
Additionally, I hope people take away the importance of building bridges between communities. At the end of the book, I write about thought islands. We all want to feel safe and protected where we are. We all want to be seen and heard, and have our views get the most clicks and attention.
My goal is to build bridges, lift others, and make sure there are seats at the table for others who share in building. I also hope that people realize that the way people live, think, and behave does not put each of our identities and beliefs at risk. Somehow, if we can all get to a point to coexist, be slow to judge, we will have achieved something. I know that this is very optimistic, but I think bisexuality, in and of itself, focuses on people (men and women) and the things that make them unique.
You have another book, Views from the Cockpit. What can readers expect in that book?
Views from the Cockpit is a book born from pain. Father-son memories of plane watching at LAX quickly morph into familial dysfunction that ranges from divorce, resentment, to elder abuse. Views from the Cockpit uses airplane metaphors to tell a boy’s coming of age story into a man by reflecting on the living memory of my father – Claude B. Victory. Panorama is “the missing chapter” of Views from the Cockpit. However, both books can be read separately.
A Quest Called Life is a collection of poems that explore the emotions and moments that shape our lives. What serves as your inspiration while writing poetry?
This was actually my first time writing any form of poetry. I have never attempted to write poetry as I believed that I was not adept at writing it as I was writing maybe, a murder mystery or a detective thriller.
However, with the way the situation has been during lockdown with deaths happening each day and people losing hope to make something out of the opportunities in life, I decided to pen down a collection of poems that would inspire people and help them to look at life from a different perspective during different phases of life.
Hence, the lockdown situation was my inspiration behind penning these poems down.
My favorite poem from the collection is ‘Trust’. Do you have a favorite poem from this anthology?
My favourite poem from this anthology is ‘The First Milestone.’
I have always been a firm believer of ‘A great start is half the battle won.’ Hence, when we do happen to get to that first milestone, we take our first step closer to our eventual goal. That first successful step is enough to charge us up and march on till we get to our eventual goal.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your poetry?
Simply have a different/develop their own perspective of looking at life during its different phases.
I would like my readers to remember that not all days in life are equal. Hence, we must never be too over the moon when we achieve success nor dwell in excessive sorrow when we face failure. The key to happiness is always treating success and failures equally.
Do you plan to publish more collections of poetry?
Another anthology is currently in progress and will soon be out. I will further update my readers when I happen to complete it and I hope that the next one will be loved even more than my debut book.
Undying Sway follows a girl who is looking for her family and finds much more than she expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
The inspiration was a real life person in history who was said to be an immortal. I also thought it would be interesting to involve the recent phenomenon of DNA collection and write about the obvious secrets that this technology must have revealed.
Kara is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
The ideals behind Kara are those of morality v desire, right v wrong. I thought it would be interesting to have a main character faced with ethical dilemmas – weighing up the good and the bad in a situation. Kara is emotional and at times indecisive and yet she is intelligent and has principles too – like all people she is complex.
The book explores morality and family duty. What were some themes that were important for you to focus on?
Life is not just about hedonism, morality and duty do play a part in life. With this book, I wanted to weigh up personal desire and pursuit of love with duty and morals. Kara is often put in a position where she has to decide between the angel and devil that sit on her shoulders.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently brainstorming my next book and even considering writing a non-fiction piece. I am one half of the podcast The Wedge with Sara Cream and Sweet Jenny Sauce and I am also currently enjoying songwriting.
Pandora’s Gardner follows a harmless gardner who finds himself between two deadly factions fighting over a piece of tech in his possession. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
The inspiration is drawn from multiple sources, but the main one is the Alfred Hitchcock film, North by Northwest with Cary Grant as the advertising executive Roger Thornhill, who is inadvertently drawn into a web of intrigue through a case of mistaken identity. Other inspiration was the Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. In both instances, the protagonists are on the run, and getting by on their wits, not knowing who to trust. Other sources were from Saturday morning matinee and the serials from the 1930’s – I always enjoyed the way that at the end of each episode there was a unresolved question or a jeopardy, and you had to come back to find out what happened next.
Concerning the technology, I was reading an article some years ago about someone who, in desperation, waded through the local waste dump looking for a disk drive that he had thrown out. He thought it was worthless, until he realised that it contained a Bitcoin key, apparently worth a fortune. I wondered, what if it had contained something other than a Bitcoin? As technology is ubiquitous and all looks the same, how easy would it be to hide something valuable in plain sight?
Other inspiration was from early childhood and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the “Brave Little Tailor”. The story starts with the tailor, preparing to eat some jam and when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He is so proud of this feat that he makes a belt inscribed with “Seven at One Blow”. This leads to various adventures where people assume the “seven” are men, and he rises to various challenges by using his wits. I liked the idea of this misinterpretation of ability driving events.
John is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
I didn’t want John to be some kind of invincible figure, I had other characters that could fulfil that role, but similarly I didn’t want him to be a wimp who miraculously transforms into a heroic figure as the story continues. He is an everyman, albeit someone who has kept himself in shape and has a sharp brain. I wanted someone who could be put in a situation, and then readers could say, “what would I have done?” rather than thinking, “well – he can do that because he is . I made John a gardener as it was as far as I could get from ex-detective, bodyguard etc A gardener embodies good honest labour, unlike some characters in the book.
The other key thing is that John isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea that some women fancy him, although he always considers women equal, (as it should be). This allowed for interesting dynamics between him and the female leads.
I enjoyed the mix of action and humor in this book. Is this indicative of your normal writing style or something you tried for this novel?
It’s the way I write. Escapism is incredibly important to me, there is more than enough of the real world to go around. When I write I need both action and humour as otherwise I could end up with full on action, (which would wear me out), or a total gag-fest which would end up being forced and not funny. For me humour and action complement each other, it’s like salt and vinegar. Too much of one can leave an overpowering taste in the mouth. I enjoy what I call the “gear change”, to be able to move between serious and humorous prose, and attempting to do it without jarring, although sometimes it’s fun to use that deliberately to keep the story varied.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
It was my intention that Pandora’s Gardener be a standalone adventure. The problem with sequels is “second album syndrome”. How do you follow up, what if the next book is worse than the previous? That said, jotting down idle notes the other day, I realised that there is still more of the story to be told, (without over contriving or forcing it), and I was curious as to how it would end. Therefore, there will be a sequel to Pandora’s Gardener. I’m sketching out the plot at the moment. As to when it will be available, that will be a couple of years I’m afraid. The writing is the relatively quick bit – the time is in the rewrites – I do a lot of them. I’m sure with practice it will improve.
All I can say is that I’ll be expanding some minor characters to cope with an ongoing mystery of Pandora, and John is unwillingly roped in…
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Someone To Kiss My Scars is a wonderful amalgam of coming of age, mystery, science fiction, and love story. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that change as you wrote?
The character of Jazz was the impetus for this story—passionate about science, trying to find a way to deal with her childhood trauma and her ineffectual mother, forced to grow up much too fast in a world where body shaming is the norm. She has every reason to be depressed, to have no interests, to be bored with life and the world. Yet she has an unflappable spirit and a burning need to find some happiness in her life. I have always been fascinated with the nature of memory and consciousness. Where do they exist? How can two people who have experienced the same event remember it differently? Can ions passing across a synaptic gap hold memories? What if they actually exist outside the body and the brain is a receiver? These are all legitimate questions that many respected scientists have pondered. The experiment which Jazz conducts in the story where she trains worms, amputates their heads, and then discovers that the worms still retain their memories is an actual famous experiment performed years ago and redone more recently. So the idea that Hunter can capture the memories of others is a direct result of the ideas behind that experiment.
Hunter is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Hunter lost everything—his mother, his memories, his younger brother, his purpose. He lives with a seemingly disinterested father who offers no emotional support. He writes stories of imaginary worlds until his brain is invaded by salacious, cruel stories about people he’s never met. Where do they come from? Who can he tell? Jazz befriends him, both dying from loneliness, and their relationship grows. Jazz serves as his guide, trying to explain his visions. Once Hunter realizes that he can remove a painful memory and that so many kids have suffered horribly, he grows into a fighter, someone who will accept any burden to relieve others of their pain. He faces his dark past, which would destroy most anyone else, and channels his pain into the desire to rid others of their pain.
This novel explores abuse in many different forms. What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Too many people believe the experiences depicted in this book are rare and should not be depicted. In fact, more kids and teens suffer from abuse than most realize. I have seen the effects of every kind of abuse against a teen and the lingering harm such events cause throughout their lives. In my experience, most kids suffer some kind of abuse from others or themselves. Their stories need to be told. When some complain that such stories should be muted, that writers who use them sensationalize relatively rare events to drive a story, I have trouble stifling my anger. Too many people chose to ignore reality and believe that focusing on stories without sexual content will keep teens from engaging in sex. The most difficult job today is being a teenager.
One of the main themes is the love between Jazz and Hunter. They know EVERYTHING about each other yet they still love. Hunter has seen Jazz’s darkest days and deeds and finds his heart still filled with love for her. As Hunter says, “People start to heal when someone cares enough to accept their suffering. They finish healing when they kiss someone else’s scars.” Redemption comes only when someone tries to help another.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am currently writing the sequel to Some Laneys Died, but I also have plans to write a sequel to Someone To Kiss My Scars. I also have ideas for two other books dealing with racial conflict. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.
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