Official Interview: Jude Austin

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Official Interview: Jude Austin

Post by kandscreeley » 30 Jan 2019, 09:18

Hello there! It's time for the next installment of interviews with Sarah. Today, I had the privilege of interviewing Jude Austin author of Project Tau.

To view the review, click here.

To view the book on Amazon, click here.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

1. I like to start off the interview by finding out more about how you are. What are your passions and pursuits outside of writing?

I love creating, whether it's art or movies (film school graduate!) or cakes or something else entirely. I'm also a huge fan of scuba diving, but haven't had the chance to go recently. I love gaming, but I'm not a huge fan of FPS games unless the story and world are really engaging, such as Fallout 4. Even then, I have to confess I play on god mode; I've no interest in the combat, only the story. I also love karaoke and singing, although I don't know if I'm any good at it! I also enjoy learning new things – it's kind of a given when you write any genre, but particularly sci-fi/fantasy – and I binge-watch Netflix and Hulu far more than is good for either me or my writing career.

2. How did you get started writing?

I've always written, ever since I could hold a pen. I used to have little notebooks all over the place in my room. My parents always sent me to bed at 7pm, which was far too early and so I'd wake up every night without fail at about 2-3am, my mind buzzing, and reach for the nearest notebook. Of course, getting up at those times meant that when 7pm rolled round again the next night, I really *was* tired, and so the cycle continued!

My biggest piece of work was written between the ages of 11-14. It took up about nine office shorthand notebooks, was entirely handwritten, and was a very long fanfiction featuring most of the characters from the movie Aliens. It began when I was on the train home from a school trip to visit York, and so my teacher Angela Cook and I always referred to it as the “York story,” and that's still how I think of it. (After I left that school, I tried to find Mrs Cook several times online to tell her I finally finished it, but so far no luck!)

My first big break (heh!) came when I was about 12. I was a subscriber to PONY magazine, and they did a serial photostory called Valentine Farm. At the end of the first episode, there was a note inviting readers to submit the next chapter. I wrote one, sent it in and got a letter back a week or so later saying that they “would love me to write Episode 5 for PONY.” I wrote it and later got a check for 30 pounds, which was great but caused a few complications down the bank as, not expecting any kind of money, I'd used a nom-de-plume; Peijazi (which was later misprinted as Peyazi).

After that, I took a bit of a break from serious writing – although I was still scribbling stuff every day – until I was 18. I joined the forum for
an actor, and started posting a story about him and other forum members (since it was me, it was sci-fi). When I finished it, I thought I'd like to keep it and so I copied and pasted it all into Word and ended up with about 65,000 words. I looked at it and thought, “Wow, that's a book!” So I tidied it up, changed the names and it went from there. I also wrote a lot of fanfiction and still dabble in that world occasionally.

3. Inquiring minds want to know' Typewriter, Hand-written, or computer?

I used to use a typewriter when I was a very little girl; my mother had one of those old (new at the time) electric ones, and she passed her old one onto me. These days it's split between computer and hand-written. Most of it's on the computer, but I travel around a lot, so I always carry a notebook and pen with me to continue my writing, and then type it up when I get home. For some reason, writer's block never seems to affect me when I write by hand, so if I'm stuck on a chapter, I just grab a notebook, write past the block and then go back to the keyboard.

4. Let's dive right into your book Project Tau. The book is about a young college student named Kalin Taylor who stumbles on a secret facility that is researching cloning technology. Where did you get your idea for the book?

It's weird, but you know, I never sat down and thought, “Right, I'm going to write a novel about cloning now.” I'm really not big on planning my stories chapter by chapter, and although I had a vague idea of what would happen, I had no idea how it would happen or what kind of book it would turn into. I had a literary agent at the time, who turned out to be lousy at her job, although I didn't know that then. She told me that sci-fi was a very hard sell, because publishers only wanted books that could be made into movies, and sci-fi was impossible to make into movies because you couldn't write any kind of sci-fi novel without aliens and weird planets and very expensive CGI.

As soon as she said that, the first thought that went through my mind was, “Oh yeah? Wanna bet?” So, I had the low-budget setting – hospital, gym, nondescript room – and the book's opening sentence - “Project Tau has escaped.” - came into my head, so I just wrote it and let the story flow from there until it was done. Then I cut a bunch of stuff at the beginning, rewrote chunks and added a whole lot more stuff to the middle and end ;)

5. Having read the book myself, I know that this is one of those books that is shocking almost because, with the world today, you could
picture something like this happening. It's a book that will stick with you long after you finish. What did you want readers to take away
from the story?


For one thing, it's really *not* a dystopian setting (laughs) I was reading some of the comments made on the review, and some people seem to think that Bad Things Happening To Main Character + Futuristic Setting = Dystopian/Bleak Future.

I think the future is going to be a pretty cool place. As one character points out, wars and terrorism are a thing of the past, plus gender
equality and LGBT rights are a given and we've got a whole bunch of new planets to explore and play with. It only sucks if you're a clone, much like it sucks to live in this day and age if you're a battery hen.

That doesn't mean the future's going to be perfect, and if we're going to do these experiments and try and push the scientific bar further and further, we need to consider the long-term ramifications of not just failure, but also success.

6. One major theme in the book is human cloning. Do you believe that we will see human clones in our lifetime? What is your stance on the rights of clones?

If you mean like in the book, where you can grow a human clone from skin cells in a day or so, I don't think that'll happen in our lifetime, but I do think it'll happen. Cloning more along the lines of Dolly the sheep...yes, I think that's a real possibility.

I hope this doesn't sound too much like praising my own work here, but I do think that clone rights will end up more or less like they're depicted in the novel. It's all very well to clone a human, but what do you do with your clone once you've succeeded? The first human clone will probably end up as a lab rat, as the scientists will want to know how successful they were (and how to fix mistakes in future clones).

Clones are created, not born, so that opens up a whole new can of worms regarding nationality. If the clone is cloned from an American citizen, in an American lab staffed by American scientists, then the nationality is pretty cut-and-dry. However, if it's cloned from a French citizen in an American lab by Japanese scientists, what then? Is the clone French, because the DNA came from a French person? Is the clone Japanese, because the people who actually created the clone and brought it to life were Japanese? Or is it American, because it was created in a lab on American soil, built by and funded by the American government?

However it pans out, no birth means no family or childhood friends who are likely to kick up a stink if something bad happens. I think clones will initially be very popular in the medical industry, most likely for drugs testing (for example, give a clone Alzheimer's and try to cure it). The adult industry will probably be next in line. After that, anyone with enough money can have one, regardless of the reason. Want to replace your little one who tragically died in a car crash? Okay, no problem. Want a lookalike who can go to work for you, while you kick back and spend the salary? Sure. Do you believe that people of a certain gender/race are no better than slaves? Got you covered there too; you can have your very own (Insert-Race/Gender/Both-Here) to treat the way you think they should be treated. Want revenge on your childhood bully who made you or your child's life a living hell? Go right ahead; we can create a clone at any age for you and/or your little darling to chain up and torture just the way you like! All nice and therapeutic.

So although I think clones *should *have equal rights with 'natural' humans, I don't think they ever *will*. As one of the scientists points out
in the novel, creating and training a clone just to wave goodbye as he/she walks off into the sunset would be a pretty big waste of time, effort and money. I think the best that will happen would be an SPCA equivalent for clones, so at least they'd have some recourse. I also think that there will be a kind of “Free the Clones” movement and radicals who believe that human cloning is a crime against nature and clones themselves are abominations that need to be slaughtered.

7. While the major plot arc was wrapped up, some of the story was still open ended. Is there a sequel on the horizon?

There are several; I have five more books currently planned, and there may be more coming later. The next book in the series is called Homecoming and picks up more or less where this one finished. There are more details on my website if anybody's interested.

8. Is this your first book or do you have other stories under your belt? What is next on the agenda?

Not quite. My first published book was a terrorist thriller called Tsunami. It's since gone out of print, but I plan to re-release it as an ebook at some point.

I also have a completed sci-fi/fantasy trilogy and the first two books in a YA sci-fi series (think Lord of the Flies in space, only not as
depressing; like I said, I don't understand the obsession some writers have with the dystopian/bleak future style!), and I'm hard at work on a new comic fantasy series. Next to be released will either be the YA sci-fi, or the sequel to Project Tau. The cover for that last one has already been finalized and approved; I just have to finish writing it!

For the fun questions.

9. Since Yoda was brought out in Project Tau, I think I can guess the answer, but Star Wars or Star Trek?


Yeah, you got me. It's Star Wars. At least, it is if we're talking about the original trilogy; I'm not a fan of the Anakin Skywalker movies, and the newer movies even less so. I did think about watching Star Trek, but it's been going on for so long with so many remakes and reboots that, for a complete newbie like me, it's impossible to know where to start. I saw the 2009 Star Trek movie when on a plane, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't spark my interest enough to make me want to go and check out the rest of the franchise.

10. What kid's movie (or part of a kid's movie) scarred you when you were young?

To be honest, none of them. I saw all the typical Disney movies at the theater – Little Mermaid, Aladdin etc – and the classics on VHS (showing my age here!) and they were alright, but I found them very bland. I never really got into a movie until I saw Terminator at age eight or nine. Up until then, I didn't know there even were movies that could make you root for the characters or have you on the edge of your seat. Although I'm female, even as a young child, I was the definitive Anti-Princess. I thought Cinderella was a boring little drip who did nothing but sit and weep while the mice and fairy godmother did all the hard work. Most of the time, I was rooting for the villains, because at least they *did* something.

That said, there was one thing that really left a bad impact on me. I grew up in the UK, and there was a TV show there called 999 (number for emergency services). They used to reenact accidents and incidents as drama shorts, then replay them step by step to show what the person should have done in that situation, and what would happen if you didn't.

It must have been coming up to November 5 (Bonfire Night), because the school – for reasons best known to themselves – thought it would be a good idea to show the fire safety version. Cue a nice family with children and pets, just like mine and that of every other kid, eating dinner while blissfully unaware that a fire had just started in their living room...and cue the panicked rush for their lives, the mother running back into the house to save the dog and screaming as she burned, people choking to death on the smoke; basically, if it was a fire-related death, it was depicted there in all its technicolor glory.

Of course, what none of the teachers thought to tell us was that all the people there were actors. I mean, I think we kind of understood when we saw them in the “good” ending, but that's the only thing I've ever watched that gave me nightmares. It also had a pretty lasting effect on me; to this day, I'm really not comfortable handling fire. Lighting the Bunsen burners for science class at school was always a special kind of hell for me.

11. Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?

*gasp* You mean there are people who *don't *put pineapple on pizza?

12. What's your favorite amusement park or fair ride?

When I was a kid, it was definitely the Vampire Bat Ride at Chessington World of Adventures in the UK. Even queuing up for it was fun; I still remember the gothic castle with its chandeliers and creepy organ player. Sadly, I injured my back and legs in a horse-riding accident when I was 12 and I've had constant pain in various parts of that area ever since, so I can't ride the roller coasters anymore. These days, I stick to water rides.

My thanks goes to Jude Austin for the interesting answers and a different take on the future in the book Project Tau. I encourage everyone to check it out! Until next time...
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway

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Post by Espie » 06 Feb 2019, 01:15

What an interview! It's quite interesting to know more about authors and how their lives, thoughts, experiences, and circumstances have led them to their masterpieces. It's good that I've found this thread. Thank you for sharing and for bringing out the best out of our featured wordsmith, @kandscreeley.

Jude, congratulations! I haven't made significant headway on my plan to write my own book. Although I still have more than six years left before my personal deadline is up, I still can't help but admire those who have already materialised their thoughts and ideas. Despite the technical flaws I've spotted in my pdf version of your piece, which I reckon would've already been sorted for the final published copy, I also think your book deserves a perfect score.

I believe I could go as outlandish as could be with my questions. (I'm also curious to know how an author responds to candid and even seemingly outrageous ones.) Thus, here they go.

1. You made me think of my two sons' writing history. They both came up with remarkable pieces when they were around eleven like you, too. (My first major writing accomplishment was when I won a school poetry writing contest around that age as well.) Do you think it's a mere coincidence? I've come across various sources regarding numbers and their significance in real life; do you think there's any truth in those?

2. What influence did your parents have in your accomplishments? Should they have done more, or less?

3. What would you say to an aspiring book writer?

4. Do you think one needs a scientific background to come up with a good sci-fi work? What encouraged you to choose this book's topic?

5. If clones can think and feel, are they still less than human?

6. Dennison was so convinced that his company was able to "solve their society's problems" with what they're doing, and yet he didn't seem to give any plausible explanation. Did I miss anything?

7. Project Tau's personality in the beginning greatly differed from what I could glean in the last chapter of the book, especially in the way he treated Chatton. I presumed that shouldn't be. Was that really intentional?
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Post by JudasFm » 06 Feb 2019, 11:35

Espie wrote:
06 Feb 2019, 01:15
I believe I could go as outlandish as could be with my questions. (I'm also curious to know how an author responds to candid and even seemingly outrageous ones.) Thus, here they go.
Sure, bring them on! Ask me anything you like.

1. You made me think of my two sons' writing history. They both came up with remarkable pieces when they were around eleven like you, too. (My first major writing accomplishment was when I won a school poetry writing contest around that age as well.) Do you think it's a mere coincidence? I've come across various sources regarding numbers and their significance in real life; do you think there's any truth in those?

Some kind of cosmic fate, you mean? I'm not sure that there is, to be honest. I think writing any pieces is a skill that needs honing, regardless of how much raw talent a person has. If someone's been writing since they were very young, then by the time they're 11-12, they've probably got enough experience, honed their skills and developed their vocabulary to the point where, coupled with talent, they can start to actually do things. Though, now that you've said that, I'll be watching to see if my kids do anything spectacular when they hit that age ;)

2. What influence did your parents have in your accomplishments? Should they have done more, or less?

Well, my mom used to write a lot and still does (she's just putting the finishing touches to the first in an epic historical saga). My father can't write to save his life, but he excels at telling stories. Right up until I was all of 18, I used to get him to make up stories (usually centering around my favorite movie characters or my own worlds) and he'd spin them out over several days, always ending on a cliffhanger. So really, I don't think I can complain :P

3. What would you say to an aspiring book writer?

If you don't already, then write fanfiction. Inventing a world - even a company is its own world - and characters and rules and relationships, plus making a solid story arc is a huge challenge. With fanfiction, all the world and its rules are there for you, so you can concentrate on building a story and developing your writing talent.

If you've ever taken a class in watercolor, or sketching, or any artistic medium, you'll know that for the first lesson (and probably all the rest) the teacher gave you a vase or something simple to draw. There's a reason for that; it's hard enough getting to grips with painting techniques as it is, without having to stop and think about where the light would fall or what effects it would have or what kind of shadow it would cast. With the vase in front of you, you already have what you need and you can just concentrate on making your own interpretation of it. Writing is exactly the same.

What you do need to stand out - in any kind of writing - is a very high level of perfectionism. Want to send your main character from New York to Los Angeles? Fine, but you better get onto Google Maps or Expedia and find out just how long it'll take him to get there (Bonus points if he's going by car and you actually plan a route for him). Want to create an archer for a fantasy world? Go right ahead. When you've done that, go research different types of bows and how to care for them, then find an online archery forum and ask questions.

The good news is that most people are usually flattered - and/or sick of seeing their favorite hobby badly misrepresented by lazy authors - and will be only too pleased to help. If you need more specific advice, such as medical, there are online sites where you can chat with doctors and ask questions in exchange for a fee. There are a few of these out there now who have had to answer questions from me like, "Hey, I'm writing a novel and my character just got bitten in the eye by an alien plant that's a bit like a Venus flytrap. Would that leave a scar across his eye? And if it didn't, please tell me what would, as I really need him to have a visibly scarred cornea for story reasons!" (My mother studied nursing at one point, and had to go to hospital to work alongside a far more experienced nurse. My reaction? "Great! Ask her what proportion of drugs would paralyze a person, because Character A needs to do that to Character B! Oh, and see if you can find out what she'd do for a severe burns victim.")

4. Do you think one needs a scientific background to come up with a good sci-fi work? What encouraged you to choose this book's topic?

I hope not, because my background isn't at all scientific! :D

Joking aside, that's actually a really interesting question. I think a lot of it depends on what kind of sci-fi. It's pretty well accepted that humans will colonize our own solar system at some point (prototypes of the technology we need or that could easily be adapted already exist) so most readers are happy to accept concepts like terraforming and space travel without being too picky. So if you want to write about people living on Mars, then the reaction of most readers is likely to be, "Oh, so in the future we'll live on Mars. Cool."

If, on the other hand, you want to write about the first group of people terraforming Mars and making it habitable, then you'll need to know a little bit about what you're talking about. That doesn't mean you need a background in it; you just need to do your research to know if your method of solving the problems is scientifically possible. So no, I don't think you need a scientific background to write sci-fi, any more than you need a time machine to write historical fiction. As long as you have enough knowledge and people who can help fill in the gaps (or failing that, Google) I think it's fine.

There's really nothing I can add to the second question short of what I mentioned above; the need to write a very low-budget sci-fi novel to basically stick two fingers up at my too-snooty agent. Honestly, I've never once sat down to write anything and thought, "Okay, this story's topic is going to be..." so like I said, it wasn't a conscious decision on my part. If you're asking why I made Project Tau a human clone as opposed to, say, an alien that the bad guys had captured and were experimenting on, worked on two levels. First, it fit with the low-budget theme; a normal human actor could play the part. Second, if human cloning hadn't been a thing, there's no way Mason would have gotten away with doing what he did to Kalin.

5. If clones can think and feel, are they still less than human?
A bit of context would be helpful here. Are you asking for my opinion, or how society sees them in the novel?

Personally, I don't believe humans are some kind of superior race, so I don't think there's any race that's 'less' than human. I also don't believe that humanity's dominance on Earth is linked to any ability to think and feel. Dogs can do that ;)

It's also not connected in the novel either (although the fact that Kalin considers, "Do you feel pain?" to be a perfectly legit question to ask Tau when they first meet does give some indication of how society views Projects). Humanity is a legal status in the book; basically, if you weren't created in a lab, you're human. If you were, you're not. Kata is something of a very special case ;)

6. Dennison was so convinced that his company was able to "solve their society's problems" with what they're doing, and yet he didn't seem to give any plausible explanation. Did I miss anything?
Probably ;)

Nah, I'm kidding. The thing is, Dennison isn't going to justify himself to Tau any more than he would to a dog. Kalin grew up in a world where cloning was as much a thing as electricity, although Tau is the first Project he's met and he wasn't expecting the result to be quite so advanced. For Dennison to explain the benefits of cloning (such as individual organs for surgery, stillborn/miscarried babies being given another chance, animals being cloned for food or to repopulate endangered species) would fall into an extreme version of the As-You-Know style of exposition. The human cloning is also fairly self-evident; clones may be expensive, but they can be engineered to be stronger and tougher than people. They have no family members and no one to miss them, so it's not a huge deal if they die and there won't be any lawsuits. Plus, they don't require a salary.

One small point: are you sure you're not thinking of Mason? Dennison's just a regular guy doing a regular job that brings with it a certain amount of...rather specific perks. He sees the benefits from an academic point of view, but he's not really passionate about them. Mason's the die-hard company fanatic ;)

7. Project Tau's personality in the beginning greatly differed from what I could glean in the last chapter of the book, especially in the way he treated Chatton. I presumed that shouldn't be. Was that really intentional?
To be honest, with no specific examples from the text (and even after rereading it several times) I'm not entirely sure which parts of the book you were referring to. I guessed you were talking about Tau's behavior toward Chatton in the Prologue vs. in the last chapter? If that's the case, then yes, it was intentional ;)

Prologue: Tau snaps at Chatton, picks him up by the lapels and carries him to where Kata's waiting, then tosses him into the room. (From that particular angle, ie, holding him one-handed by the lapels, the angle is too awkward for even Tau to do any serious damage to Chatton in that way).

Tau's running on a combination of terror and adrenaline; he doesn't know for sure if he and Kata are going to make it out, half his mind is panicking thinking about the likely consequences if they don't, and even though he and Kata did have a silent agreement to spare Chatton, Chatton himself doesn't know that and there's no guarantee that he would help the Projects. He's rougher with Chatton at the start because he wants to make it clear to the man that betraying them would be a very bad idea.

Remember that in Tau's world, physical violence is the only way he knows to make people do what he wants (or stop them doing what he doesn't want), because that's the only way the scientists have interacted with him. That changes once he meets Kata, but in times of stress, we all fall back on what's familiar. It wouldn't occur to him to just ask Chatton to come with him, as: a) asking people nicely has never been a part of his world, and b) experience has taught him that the scientists never listen to his requests and, in some cases, might even punish him for making them.

Last chapter: Tau snaps at Chatton and makes to attack him, only to be stopped by Kata.

At this point, enough time has passed for Tau to have calmed down and gotten a hold of himself. He's come around fully to Kata's way of thinking now, he's more relaxed and he's ready to leave with Kata.
However, Tau's lack of experience in the world outside means that he equates GenTech with the lab, and only the lab, while Kata understands that the lab is just a branch owned by the corporation. When Chatton starts talking about how Tau and Kata are still legally owned by GenTech, Tau interprets that as, "You're not leaving here no matter what you say," and at that point, all bets are off as far as he's concerned.

I also think that his and Kata's recent conversation is still playing on his mind:

Tau: "Even if I do what you ask and that somehow helps you escape, what guarantee do I have that you'll take me with you? How do I know you won't use me to get what you want and then leave me here to go back to your nice, comfortable human life?"

Something I'm not sure even Kata appreciates is that it's a really huge leap of faith for Tau to have followed him this far. Bottom line, Tau still isn't convinced that Kata won't dump him in favor of a better offer, so when Chatton says that they're both GenTech property, Tau's come far enough to fight on his own behalf.

-

So that's that! If there are any more questions, or if my rambling answers were more confusing than enlightening, please do leave a comment ;)

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Post by Espie » 07 Feb 2019, 04:37

Wow! I felt like I just won a raffle to have a rare VIP privilege with a star! It's great to read your author's viewpoints. It makes me feel I'm a notch closer to being one, in a way. The entire experience of what we're currently doing sounds like the manuscript of a nonfiction book featured as one of our previous BOTD pieces here, too. I'm amazed.

Highlighted in blue below are my responses to yours.
JudasFm wrote:
06 Feb 2019, 11:35
Espie wrote:
06 Feb 2019, 01:15
I believe I could go as outlandish as could be with my questions. (I'm also curious to know how an author responds to candid and even seemingly outrageous ones.) Thus, here they go.
Sure, bring them on! Ask me anything you like.

Thank you.

1. You made me think of my two sons' writing history. They both came up with remarkable pieces when they were around eleven like you, too. (My first major writing accomplishment was when I won a school poetry writing contest around that age as well.) Do you think it's a mere coincidence? I've come across various sources regarding numbers and their significance in real life; do you think there's any truth in those?

Some kind of cosmic fate, you mean? I'm not sure that there is, to be honest. I think writing any pieces is a skill that needs honing, regardless of how much raw talent a person has. If someone's been writing since they were very young, then by the time they're 11-12, they've probably got enough experience, honed their skills and developed their vocabulary to the point where, coupled with talent, they can start to actually do things. Though, now that you've said that, I'll be watching to see if my kids do anything spectacular when they hit that age ;)

Numerology is one thing. Some thinkers even came up with scientific facts to back up the theories. Nonetheless, I'm more interested to know your personal viewpoint.

It'll be interesting to know how your kids would turn out to be. I've got enough reason to believe they'll have an edge if they've got a parent who'll nurture their love for reading and learning. (My kids got their dad, so I'm grateful.)


2. What influence did your parents have in your accomplishments? Should they have done more, or less?

Well, my mom used to write a lot and still does (she's just putting the finishing touches to the first in an epic historical saga). My father can't write to save his life, but he excels at telling stories. Right up until I was all of 18, I used to get him to make up stories (usually centering around my favorite movie characters or my own worlds) and he'd spin them out over several days, always ending on a cliffhanger. So really, I don't think I can complain :P

That's good to know. I admire those who look back and appreciate where they came from regardless. They are more likely to succeed in life, as they say.

3. What would you say to an aspiring book writer?

If you don't already, then write fanfiction. Inventing a world - even a company is its own world - and characters and rules and relationships, plus making a solid story arc is a huge challenge. With fanfiction, all the world and its rules are there for you, so you can concentrate on building a story and developing your writing talent.

That's exactly what my oldest son's first major writing pieces had been. Now I know better.

If you've ever taken a class in watercolor, or sketching, or any artistic medium, you'll know that for the first lesson (and probably all the rest) the teacher gave you a vase or something simple to draw. There's a reason for that; it's hard enough getting to grips with painting techniques as it is, without having to stop and think about where the light would fall or what effects it would have or what kind of shadow it would cast. With the vase in front of you, you already have what you need and you can just concentrate on making your own interpretation of it. Writing is exactly the same.

I like the similes and metaphors.

What you do need to stand out - in any kind of writing - is a very high level of perfectionism. Want to send your main character from New York to Los Angeles? Fine, but you better get onto Google Maps or Expedia and find out just how long it'll take him to get there (Bonus points if he's going by car and you actually plan a route for him). Want to create an archer for a fantasy world? Go right ahead. When you've done that, go research different types of bows and how to care for them, then find an online archery forum and ask questions.

I wonder if that's exactly what Suzanne Collins did for Katniss' character, too.

The good news is that most people are usually flattered - and/or sick of seeing their favorite hobby badly misrepresented by lazy authors - and will be only too pleased to help. If you need more specific advice, such as medical, there are online sites where you can chat with doctors and ask questions in exchange for a fee. There are a few of these out there now who have had to answer questions from me like, "Hey, I'm writing a novel and my character just got bitten in the eye by an alien plant that's a bit like a Venus flytrap. Would that leave a scar across his eye? And if it didn't, please tell me what would, as I really need him to have a visibly scarred cornea for story reasons!" (My mother studied nursing at one point, and had to go to hospital to work alongside a far more experienced nurse. My reaction? "Great! Ask her what proportion of drugs would paralyze a person, because Character A needs to do that to Character B! Oh, and see if you can find out what she'd do for a severe burns victim.")

It's great to know that the best of humanity still remains. People still would like to help and make a difference even if some would think it's merely a minuscule way.

4. Do you think one needs a scientific background to come up with a good sci-fi work? What encouraged you to choose this book's topic?

I hope not, because my background isn't at all scientific! :D

Joking aside, that's actually a really interesting question. I think a lot of it depends on what kind of sci-fi. It's pretty well accepted that humans will colonize our own solar system at some point (prototypes of the technology we need or that could easily be adapted already exist) so most readers are happy to accept concepts like terraforming and space travel without being too picky. So if you want to write about people living on Mars, then the reaction of most readers is likely to be, "Oh, so in the future we'll live on Mars. Cool."

If, on the other hand, you want to write about the first group of people terraforming Mars and making it habitable, then you'll need to know a little bit about what you're talking about. That doesn't mean you need a background in it; you just need to do your research to know if your method of solving the problems is scientifically possible. So no, I don't think you need a scientific background to write sci-fi, any more than you need a time machine to write historical fiction. As long as you have enough knowledge and people who can help fill in the gaps (or failing that, Google) I think it's fine.

There's really nothing I can add to the second question short of what I mentioned above; the need to write a very low-budget sci-fi novel to basically stick two fingers up at my too-snooty agent. Honestly, I've never once sat down to write anything and thought, "Okay, this story's topic is going to be..." so like I said, it wasn't a conscious decision on my part. If you're asking why I made Project Tau a human clone as opposed to, say, an alien that the bad guys had captured and were experimenting on, worked on two levels. First, it fit with the low-budget theme; a normal human actor could play the part. Second, if human cloning hadn't been a thing, there's no way Mason would have gotten away with doing what he did to Kalin.

That's quite forward-looking of you. I bet you've got already enough learning to apply when this book turns into a movie, too. It'll be something I'd be inclined to watch, definitely.

5. If clones can think and feel, are they still less than human?
A bit of context would be helpful here. Are you asking for my opinion, or how society sees them in the novel?

Personally, I don't believe humans are some kind of superior race, so I don't think there's any race that's 'less' than human. I also don't believe that humanity's dominance on Earth is linked to any ability to think and feel. Dogs can do that ;)

It's also not connected in the novel either (although the fact that Kalin considers, "Do you feel pain?" to be a perfectly legit question to ask Tau when they first meet does give some indication of how society views Projects). Humanity is a legal status in the book; basically, if you weren't created in a lab, you're human. If you were, you're not. Kata is something of a very special case ;)

I deliberately left out the context to get your answers as raw and spontaneous as possible regardless of circumstances. Kata is where the line was not just crossed but when everything got grossly messed up.

6. Dennison was so convinced that his company was able to "solve their society's problems" with what they're doing, and yet he didn't seem to give any plausible explanation. Did I miss anything?
Probably ;)

Nah, I'm kidding. The thing is, Dennison isn't going to justify himself to Tau any more than he would to a dog. Kalin grew up in a world where cloning was as much a thing as electricity, although Tau is the first Project he's met and he wasn't expecting the result to be quite so advanced. For Dennison to explain the benefits of cloning (such as individual organs for surgery, stillborn/miscarried babies being given another chance, animals being cloned for food or to repopulate endangered species) would fall into an extreme version of the As-You-Know style of exposition. The human cloning is also fairly self-evident; clones may be expensive, but they can be engineered to be stronger and tougher than people. They have no family members and no one to miss them, so it's not a huge deal if they die and there won't be any lawsuits. Plus, they don't require a salary.

One small point: are you sure you're not thinking of Mason? Dennison's just a regular guy doing a regular job that brings with it a certain amount of...rather specific perks. He sees the benefits from an academic point of view, but he's not really passionate about them. Mason's the die-hard company fanatic ;)

It's fine; it's even good to know that I haven't totally ceased to be what I know I am. I'm a sci-fi fan, but your piece had some CMTH tinges; I might have skipped a lot of texts to be able to grasp all the minute details and fine lines.

Mason may have been the scary brains, but Dennison stands out because of his up close and personal daily routine with the projects. There's an ethical dilemma of who's really worse - the ones who initiated the ideas or those who carry them out despite what they know.


7. Project Tau's personality in the beginning greatly differed from what I could glean in the last chapter of the book, especially in the way he treated Chatton. I presumed that shouldn't be. Was that really intentional?
To be honest, with no specific examples from the text (and even after rereading it several times) I'm not entirely sure which parts of the book you were referring to. I guessed you were talking about Tau's behavior toward Chatton in the Prologue vs. in the last chapter? If that's the case, then yes, it was intentional ;)

Prologue: Tau snaps at Chatton, picks him up by the lapels and carries him to where Kata's waiting, then tosses him into the room. (From that particular angle, ie, holding him one-handed by the lapels, the angle is too awkward for even Tau to do any serious damage to Chatton in that way).

Tau's running on a combination of terror and adrenaline; he doesn't know for sure if he and Kata are going to make it out, half his mind is panicking thinking about the likely consequences if they don't, and even though he and Kata did have a silent agreement to spare Chatton, Chatton himself doesn't know that and there's no guarantee that he would help the Projects. He's rougher with Chatton at the start because he wants to make it clear to the man that betraying them would be a very bad idea.

Remember that in Tau's world, physical violence is the only way he knows to make people do what he wants (or stop them doing what he doesn't want), because that's the only way the scientists have interacted with him. That changes once he meets Kata, but in times of stress, we all fall back on what's familiar. It wouldn't occur to him to just ask Chatton to come with him, as: a) asking people nicely has never been a part of his world, and b) experience has taught him that the scientists never listen to his requests and, in some cases, might even punish him for making them.

Last chapter: Tau snaps at Chatton and makes to attack him, only to be stopped by Kata.

At this point, enough time has passed for Tau to have calmed down and gotten a hold of himself. He's come around fully to Kata's way of thinking now, he's more relaxed and he's ready to leave with Kata.
However, Tau's lack of experience in the world outside means that he equates GenTech with the lab, and only the lab, while Kata understands that the lab is just a branch owned by the corporation. When Chatton starts talking about how Tau and Kata are still legally owned by GenTech, Tau interprets that as, "You're not leaving here no matter what you say," and at that point, all bets are off as far as he's concerned.

I also think that his and Kata's recent conversation is still playing on his mind:

Tau: "Even if I do what you ask and that somehow helps you escape, what guarantee do I have that you'll take me with you? How do I know you won't use me to get what you want and then leave me here to go back to your nice, comfortable human life?"

Something I'm not sure even Kata appreciates is that it's a really huge leap of faith for Tau to have followed him this far. Bottom line, Tau still isn't convinced that Kata won't dump him in favor of a better offer, so when Chatton says that they're both GenTech property, Tau's come far enough to fight on his own behalf.

It's sad how Tau's innocence has been tainted along the way. Noting how things have turned out, it seems to have worked as an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. I've got an idea on what could happen in the Homecoming, but I'm fine with being pleasantly surprised.
-

So that's that! If there are any more questions, or if my rambling answers were more confusing than enlightening, please do leave a comment ;)
I really appreciate the fact that you've taken the time to respond to my questions. To be honest, I didn't expect that; I'm glad you did. Thank you. Again, all the best.
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

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Post by JudasFm » 08 Feb 2019, 05:34

Espie wrote:
07 Feb 2019, 04:37
Numerology is one thing. Some thinkers even came up with scientific facts to back up the theories. Nonetheless, I'm more interested to know your personal viewpoint.


It's always a tricky one. I do believe in things like ESP and psychic ability, and I dabbled in fortune telling at one point, but numerology always seemed a bit too set in stone for me, and I really don't believe that the future's that way :)
Espie wrote:
07 Feb 2019, 04:37

That's good to know. I admire those who look back and appreciate where they came from regardless. They are more likely to succeed in life, as they say.
I agree. In my opinion, the only thing more precarious than being at the top is forgetting who helped you to get there ;) I'm always grateful (and honored!) when people take time specifically to comment on my work. I also take my inspiration from two authors on what not to do and what to do. One was a famous fantasy/sci-fi author who treated her fans like dirt, and I think paid the penalty later. The other is a fantasy author who wrote something on her blog that I've never forgotten. Roughly paraphrased: "I get a lot of readers who start off their emails and letters by saying, Sorry to bother you or something similar. You don't have to apologize for contacting me. You buy my books. You pay my bills. It's my privilege to read what you write." I'm not yet making enough sales for people to be paying my bills, but I still think that's the best writer's credo I've ever seen.
There's an ethical dilemma of who's really worse - the ones who initiated the ideas or those who carry them out despite what they know.
Very true :) This is Chatton's biggest problem at the end; Dennison and Mason genuinely don't see anything terrible about what they're doing. Chatton does to a certain extent, but he follows orders anyway.
I really appreciate the fact that you've taken the time to respond to my questions. To be honest, I didn't expect that; I'm glad you did. Thank you. Again, all the best.


Thank you too :) I can't reply to the review or any comments on it, so I'm thrilled to be able to interact directly with readers :D

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Post by Espie » 10 Feb 2019, 01:45

JudasFm wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 05:34
It's always a tricky one. I do believe in things like ESP and psychic ability, and I dabbled in fortune telling at one point, but numerology always seemed a bit too set in stone for me, and I really don't believe that the future's that way :)
I understand. That's interesting.
JudasFm wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 05:34
I agree. In my opinion, the only thing more precarious than being at the top is forgetting who helped you to get there ;) I'm always grateful (and honored!) when people take time specifically to comment on my work. I also take my inspiration from two authors on what not to do and what to do. One was a famous fantasy/sci-fi author who treated her fans like dirt, and I think paid the penalty later. The other is a fantasy author who wrote something on her blog that I've never forgotten. Roughly paraphrased: "I get a lot of readers who start off their emails and letters by saying, Sorry to bother you or something similar. You don't have to apologize for contacting me. You buy my books. You pay my bills. It's my privilege to read what you write." I'm not yet making enough sales for people to be paying my bills, but I still think that's the best writer's credo I've ever seen.
That's one nugget of wisdom I got from the two other books I read this year (aside from yours), too.
JudasFm wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 05:34
Very true :) This is Chatton's biggest problem at the end; Dennison and Mason genuinely don't see anything terrible about what they're doing. Chatton does to a certain extent, but he follows orders anyway.
I noticed his moral dilemmas as well, and it's a relief that he's trying to do something good about it.
JudasFm wrote:
08 Feb 2019, 05:34
Thank you too :) I can't reply to the review or any comments on it, so I'm thrilled to be able to interact directly with readers :D

Reviewers aren't supposed to privately interact with authors, so this forum thread is another inventive workaround on our site admin's part.

Thank you and happy Sunday!
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

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Post by Beatus » 14 Mar 2019, 06:22

Woow! I am thrilled to see that an actual onterview took place on the forum. Is this still going on?

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Post by JudasFm » 14 Mar 2019, 07:04

Beatus wrote:
14 Mar 2019, 06:22
Woow! I am thrilled to see that an actual onterview took place on the forum. Is this still going on?
Interviews always take place on OBC; that's one of the great things about it! If you're asking whether I'm able to answer extra questions or clarify my rather rambling answers, then the answer is a definite YES :D

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