I had the honor of reading an advance reader’s copy of Addleton Heights by author George Wright Padgett. In addition to that honor, I got to interview him for the release celebration!
Who did the cover art? How did you find them?
God bless the internet. I discovered a fantastic Italian artist by the name of Michele Giorgi (http://michelegiorgiillustrator.com). I have a commercial graphic art degree and have done my covers in the past, but Addleton Heights was different. This novel is solidly situated in the steampunk genre, so I wanted a classic romantic image with all the flourishes. While I do plenty of layout and design, I’m no illustrator; it’s an entirely different discipline, so I sought out someone with those skills.
I came across Michele’s art on the internet when I was a third of the way through the first draft and fell in love with his style. He hadn’t had any book cover commissions at that point, but I took a chance and contacted him in the hopes that he’d try something different. I emailed him with highlighted samples of his work which struck the tone I was looking for.
Many of the Steampunk images I’d come across to that point were often dark and grimy. I love those murky atmospheres, but wanted to go a completely different direction in an effort to make the book stand out. The end result is an image of bright sunshiny day in January with the snow gently falling to the ground. It’s wonderful contrast to many scenes contained within.
Is there any possibility of a graphic novel using the same illustrator in our future?
That would be amazing! I’d love to see that happen someday. Michele, if you’re reading this, I’m 100% up for it.
How much research was involved with writing a Steampunk novel set in the turn of the century (1901)?
Believe or not, I found myself doing as much research on this novel as I did for the space clone mining novel Spindown (www.georgewpadgett.com/spindown)
I tend to get caught into these perfectionist cycles where I compulsively need to know everything about the subject before putting anything on the page. The idea being that the more that I can understand the world that the characters exist in, the easier it is for me to immerse the reader into the scene. The end result is great because I get to transport the audience into the center of wherever I’m taking them; the downside is it’s a slower process. For instance, because I tend to go overboard, I now know all about the migratory birds of the Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard area though there’s only two or three mentions of birds in the entire novel.
I’m not complaining; I love learning so the research was fun. A huge component steampunk stories is their connection to history/alternate history, so I spent time studying about the area’s whaling oil industry losing out to Pennsylvania coal as a source of energy, the use of immigrants for the transcontinental railroad, Queen Victoria’s death later in the month the story takes place, the Boxer Revolution in China, etc. Weapons play an important part of the story, so I spent time with weapons expert Drew Heyen to make sure everything was authentic. Hopefully there’s enough history in the book to satisfy the cravings of those that are looking for it, but not too much as to bog down the story for those that have come to it looking for a mystery-action experience.
How was writing Addleton Heights different than writing your other books?
First of all, it’s the first full-length work that I’ve written entirely in first person narration, meaning we only see what our detective hero, Kip sees and thinks. He tells us everything we need to know. He has this delicious deadpan sense of humor mixed with a bitter melancholy. Life has been hard on him and he’s developed all of these colloquial sayings that he spouts out when describing things. These ‘Kipisms’ (as I came to call them) were a blast to write.
Also, I wanted to be true to the genre while offering something enjoyable to those uninitiated to steampunk stories. While the steampunk genre doesn’t officially have any set rules, there are elements that help to frame the story. As the story developed, I sent chapter sections to a group of beta readers for feedback. Doing it while the novel was written, allowed for me to tweak it as I went to ensure everything was ‘firing on all cylinders’. As a bonus, one of beta readers, a fellow writer, Christian Roule was well versed in the genre. More than once, he’d respond to what I’d submitted to him by saying, ‘It needs to be steampunk-ier here’. He and others helped me balance the story and not overwhelm it until it became a gadgets manual.
I love that you cross genres and have not pidgeon-holed yourself as a storyteller. When did you first meet the world of Steampunk? Did you find the genre or did the genre find you? (Did you read something Steampunk that inspired Addleton or did Addleton birth itself in your brilliant brain that resulted in needing the Steampunk label post development?)
Years ago I was signing books at a science fiction convention with some other authors. We were sitting across from a friendly booth of steampunk ‘makers’. They were selling all of these fantastic clothes and enhancement components (cogs, gears, and whatnot). I asked fellow author, Leo King (www.foreverwhere.com) who was next to me ‘What this steampunk thing was all about?’ He proceeded to educate me in the ways of alternate Victorian history. It was such a fresh concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
As for the story of Addleton Heights? The concept that serves as the core mystery (finding the Jason character) was an idea that I when I was seventeen. I’ve carried the idea around with me all of that time until it found a home in this novel.
You write every sub-genre of the science fiction realm… are there dragons in our future? (I, for one, would love to see what you came up with involving dragons…)
Dragons, huh? Currently I’m hard at work on a kind of time travel hide and seek adventure called Drift Pattern, but I do have a rough draft for a story which involves dragons and people using them for transportation. The working title of this fantasy-ish tale is ‘Kern’. Maybe we’ll see that in a few years.
As a woman, I adore reading Janae. She’s bold and fierce, but not without flaws. She is not flat, but dynamic. She’s not all wonderful, nor is she a ninny. Tell me about her and your experience writing her.
I’m fortunate to have a number of strong women whom I admire in my life. I wanted to pay homage to these ladies by avoiding writing some messed up ‘damsel in distress’ trope.
Enter: Janae Nelson. She is a force of nature! She’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time to achieve a balance within her of being strong without forfeiting her femininity. I was careful to make sure that no man ever rescues her in the story; that she would save herself. I attempted to turn the stereotype on its head by having the damsel do some saving of her own when the male lead gets tied to the metaphorical train tracks.
If Addleton Heights were to become a major motion picture tomorrow, who would your ideal cast be?
Oh this is a tricky one… When I write I do ‘cast’ the characters with actors from movie roles and people that I know (I even print out photos for reference as I’m writing about them).
The problem with sharing this type of thing with a reader is that it’s unlikely that we visualize the same exact ‘players’. If I envision a grisly Kurt Russell for an old sea captain character, but you imagine an unshaven Dustin Hoffman for the same part, then I reveal who I’ve chosen in the role, does it reduce or nullify your experience? As with painting, what’s on the canvas is a conversation between the artist and the person witnessing it. The viewer’s interpretation is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but in the same vein, the creator of the art shouldn’t have exclusive say once the paint has dried. In that same spirit, I humbly must decline to answer here and leave that to the reader’s imagination.
You’re typically a one book storyteller, completing a story in its entirety at the first go. But I’m dying for more Addleton Heights – is there a continuing series in our futures?
Detective stories are typically based on a single event; if it’s a who-done-it the question is who the murderer is and possibly the ‘why’ of the mystery. One thing that’s nice about these types of novels is that once the case is solved there can be another one right behind it. So we may see Kipsey again someday.
How can readers order posters and prints of the book cover and map to go with their copies of the book?
Warmest thanks for your interest and support of Addleton Heights.
George Wright Padgett has done it again – blown my mind with an awesome and fun reading experience.
Addleton Heights will be his third published work, but it’s an epic debut into the Steampunk genre and the world he has built and the characters he created have me smitten.
Just like everything George tackles, he writes his detective story with artistic spunk. Flare abounds from start to finish.
I believe so much in this book, the story, and the time period, I’m obsessed with the idea of launching the book release at the Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Of course, this launch is expensive (mainly because booking the museum after hours costs a pretty penny), but would be worth it.
So, Grey Gecko Press and I have set up a Kickstarter page. Please, please, if you appreciate my reviews, value my bookish opinions, and/or love supporting indie authors and publishing houses, check this out:
Title: Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Author: Mario Acevdeo
Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Mystery
Meet Felix Gomez, Iraqi-vet Vampire P.I. who has been called to Denver to investigate an outbreak of Nymphomania. It sounds silly because it is. But it’s equally adventurous and well written. It’s a slightly older title, but the series is still fresh with a current addition that came out in April (Rescue from Planet Pleasure).
At Dragon Con people would walk up to the WordFire Press booth and ask, “Do they come with pictures?” To which Acevedo would, without skipping a beat, reply, “No, only scratch and sniff.”
I laughed every time. It just didn’t stop being funny to me.
I think that’s how Felix Gomez will be as I continue to read the series. I’ve never been so amused as while reading Nymphos of Rocky Flats. It has all the excitement of the X-Files with the plot development silliness of Eureka. Just as I had settled into the pace of the book and thought, “Ok, I’m ready for all this to wrap itself up,” he’d toss something else at me and I’d giggle, “Maybe not…”
I enjoyed having a vampire story-line with a more realistic life story being dropped into an absurd universe (Iraqi War Vet meets Vampirism, Werevolvishness, and Aliens) – as opposed to the typical unrealistic life stories being dropped into a more familiar world (Two-hundred year old man falls in love with high school teen in the mundane school cafeteria; I’ll take aliens over high school again).
What I didn’t expect were the author’s deep thoughts on life to make subtle waves in some of his writing. Hints at politics and undertones on what might be Acevedo’s worldview were made but never formulated completely. Having met the man, I know he is intelligent, well-read, and has a lot of wisdom regarding the world. As much as I enjoy his humorous banter, in both real life and his books, I’m interested to hear or read what his deep thoughts on life are.
Aside from deep thoughts, this book is all guy all the time but one girls can enjoy too. It sells in mass market paperback form at the bookstore to middle-aged men like hotcakes all the time, but I plan to start pushing it toward more ladies. The trade paperbacks have a longer shelf life, but honestly, I think it’s just because of where they are located. I’m already mentally planning a place to feature them for Halloween as I type.
A previous reviewer referred to the Felix Gomez series as Dude-lit. “When Girls Go Wild… Call in the Undead” the tagline of the book says. If this doesn’t place it in that fabulous sub-genre of Dude-lit, I don’t know what would. The fact that the book is the first vampire novel ever to be declassified by the U.S. government is another tell-tale sign.
Ironically, scantily clad women in hooker boots is not sub-genre specific, merely a hint that it’s urban fiction as it’s something that women expect to see on their chick-lit as well. It is a consumer behavior impulse I will never quite understand – like how magazines for men and women alike feature half naked women on the fronts… And despite the book being classic dude-lit, I’m a chick and I loved it. Then again, as a character in Rocky Flats points out: “Earth women are surprisingly complicated…”
Side Note on Content & Ratings: I was pleasantly pleased that with all the hinting and perverted jokes, the book isn’t actually raunchy. The movie version would probably still be rated R for nudity, but there’s a reason the books are not classified as erotica, and for that I was grateful. If it had been, I’m not sure I could look the author in the eye again – and I really like him, he’s fun. There’s more porn in the Outlander series than in Rocky Flats.
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
The Martian is freaking amazing. Just as amazing, it seems, is the author Andy Weir, as I was just as entertained by his essay and interview in the back of the Broadway Books edition I was reading.
In addition to being clever and snarky, the book has a fun history. Originally it was self-published on a website. It got such a following that it was then released for kindles… and was so popular there that Weir got a book and a movie deal practically at the same time.
Oh, and, Weir loves Doctor Who, so there’s that.
I’m a little late to the game, I wish I had discovered him sooner so I could say something original and exciting about The Martian (I would have loved to interview him) – so this review will be short and void of spoilers. But if you’re in the mood for some suspenseful comedy set in space, all MacGyver style with the science, you need some Andy Weir in your life.
I can’t wait to see what he writes next. If you’ve already read The Martian, you might also want to check out the work of Heinlein and/or George Wright Padgett.
In case you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue4PCI0NamI
It wasn’t my favorite, but I suppose they can’t all be. It was PKD’s first published novel, and it feels like it. Not because it isn’t good, but because it’s so very typical genre. There was a lack of bravery in it. It’s plot pointed. It’s correct.
I fell in love with PKD’s writing because it wasn’t confined to a formula, because he didn’t seem to care whether or not the plot points occurred when they were supposed to. It is why Clans of the Alphane Moon is my favorite of his work so far.
The same week I read Solar Lottery, I also got a DVD I requested from the library:
It was an interlibrary loan from a college – what I call my “super fancy request” because it has a $3 a day late fee.
It looks like something they’d show in a high school class. I say high school because I always thought showing videos in college courses was a lazy prof’s way out. (You should require students to watch something, then discuss in class.) Also, because by the time I got to college cheesy 90’s videos were being replaced by updated videos.
As I watch the video, I keep thinking how much I’d rather be reading the content in a book than be viewing a documentary. I suffer from a plight the majority of my contemporaries will never understand… watching things on a screen is far more tedious to me than reading them.
Also, as I’m watching, Solar Lottery slips away from my mind as my most recent PKD experience (of slight disappointment) and all the reasons I adore PKD flood back.
There’s a cheesy cartoon of PKD moving his mouth to Phil’s actual audio responses, recorded when he was still living. This would be cool if I didn’t feel like I was watching Southpark. It’s hard to focus on the documentary without closing my eyes because a headache is starting to form behind my eyes, another reason why I don’t watch a lot of tv but can read for days straight.
I’m glad I’m listening, though. There are so many things about him that fascinate me. The break in to his safe, for instance. People relate this tale in direct correlation to his drug use and having an unhealthy level of skepticism for the world around him… then the police thought he orchestrated the explosion himself… to which his supposedly drug addled mind thinks, “Maybe I did…? What would my motivation have been?”
They attribute all of this to a novelist’s mind on drugs.
How is this not just a normal human response to an accusation? I have these spin off thoughts nearly every moment of every day. I’ve written entire novels in my head based on an accusation. My first published novella was born slightly out of a similar strain of thought.
I may not be drug addled. I may not be as prolific or clever. But I do think, had I ever met PKD in person, we may have been friends, at least I think I would have liked him a lot.
“She, as well as he, as well as everyone […] struggled for balance, for insight; it was a natural tendency for living creatures. Hope always existed […]”
That line hit me like a train. I loved it. I loved the twist in Mary’s character. I love the terrible beginning and the hopeful ending in the midst of far worse circumstances. I just got a tattoo last month “I am half agony, half hope.” Hope in the midst of agony and agony that leads to hope is my mantra. I loved this moment of humanity so brilliantly expressed. The fact that I have a Jane Austen tattoo and binge read Philip K. Dick may not seem like two cohesive characteristics to other readers, but to me few other writers have grasped humanity so cleverly.
I have loved all of PKD’s work, but Clans of the Alphane Moon (four Philip K. Dick books into my discovery) just might be my favorite so far.
I said so to a fellow Dick fan and he said, “Funny, that’s one of his most disliked books.”
“I don’t know. From what I’ve read a lot of people criticize the plot.”
I looked into this, of course.
“Just as Phil breaks the rules of reality, he also breaks any and all literary rules at the same time. The result is a Dick vision presented in an inconsistent story that is not fully developed.” – Jason Koornick, http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/reviews/review-by-jason-koornick-clans-of-the-alphane-moon-1964/
I’m not a plot person. I don’t care about plots. I like well written people and unusual circumstances. I like to learn something new about the world around me and myself. I could care less whether or not the story moved the way it *should* have. Maybe this is why I like Dick. He doesn’t seem to give a rats ass about the rules of writing. He just tells his stories.
Koornick proves this bookish faw of mine when he writes, “Let us not forget that the most memorable moments of many of PKD’s best (and worst) novels are the “situations” rather than the characters or plot development. It is on this level that Clans of the Alphane Moon succeeds.”
If you’ve read my own published novella (nothing nearly as good or even in the same realm as any PKD story), you’ll see that plots are not my strong suit and that open ended ambiguous endings are my favorite. I have no problem leaving someone hanging and asking for a wee bit more. I’d rather be asked for more than be told, “Oh my gosh that story just wouldn’t end!” Even if that means I jump to a random conclusion without spoon feeding anyone. *SPOILER ALERT* So Mary and Chuck reconcile for no clear cut reason. That’s marriage. You don’t have to have a clear cut reason for making it work. You just do – even if you’ve been screaming bloody murder for weeks (or years) on end… you have a moment and remember what you’re there for… even if it’s just a vague inkling of a thought you can’t express.
I like the ironies and the exaggerations in this one. It mirrors my mind. Constant ironies. Always a hyperbole (or a thousand). It may not be everyone’s favorite – it wasn’t even PKD’s favorite – but I like it a lot.
I think the most amusing thing about the novel, isn’t the novel itself but rather PKD’s own reaction to it:
“One night, after taking a great number of amphetamines, I sat up reading three novels of mine which I hadn’t read since the galleys: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON, and UBIK. Of the three, only UBIK struck me as having any worth. I genuinely enjoyed reading it. But STIGMATA merely puzzled me, especially the last scene & ending. CLANS had one good item: the robot-body programmed to attack Bunny Hentman’s rocket ship (along with everyone else intending to attack it but not doing so) — the robot attacking the ship all alone, and the people in the ship saying, puzzled, “Who’s out there attacking us?” Very funny, I thought… and then the horrible wonder came to me, saying, “But when I wrote it did I intend it to be funny?” I’ll assume I did.” [Selected Letters, Vol. 1, p. 294]
As soon as I finished reading, I handed my copy to the librarians to check in and re-shelve and pulled out Minority Report, which I read all at once. Although, if I had read the above quote first, I’d have grabbed UBIK. Solar Lottery, however, is next.
Here I am still chronicling my emotional well being through Philip K. Dick novels. I’m torn between telling myself to shut up and stop being a drama queen and diving into a full on crisis regarding empathy and my constant struggle to have some. Sympathy is really my problem. I can put myself in someone else’s shoes just fine, embrace, feel what they feel and all that – so a struggle for empathy isn’t truly my issue. It’s sympathy I don’t have. I won’t pity others, I won’t feel sorry for your plights. I will consistently tell you to suck it up – I might also slap your ass and say “Go Team.”
The question is, should I pity and sympathize? I was always taught those things were the most condescending things you could feel for another person. But not feeling them seems to make me crass, blunt to the point of tactless, and generally unpleasant to those in my outer affiliations as well as my inner most circles.
“Tell me if I start to sound bitchy, because I don’t understand why ________ can’t get their shit together,” I told my Em over coffee. I know how they feel, I understand the issues, the struggle, and still I’ve been there and I survived and I’m not any good with my feelings… I just don’t think anyone anywhere holds the license to struggle more than another, so stop whining and figure it out. (Take note that I am completely aware that I am currently – and often – whining about this.)
“Ok, you’re being a bitch,” my faithful friend told me.
Chuck’s wife, Mary, in Clans of the Alphane Moon is a terrible person. I relate to her more than anyone in any of his novels so far. So much so that when Chuck starts wanting to murder her, I started to tear up – again – because I see that she deserves his murderous thoughts, but I can’t see how she could possibly want anything different than what she wants. She’s unfair, unforgiving, horrible for sending her daughter away, terrible in almost every way. And I understand her.
In all this struggle for a empathetic balance, I am not sad that she might get murdered, I’m sad that she is the character I identify with. Am I a shrew? I don’t think so. But I could be. It’s probably silly for me to take Philip K. Dick novels so personally. Shouldn’t they be genre sci-fi candy to binge read? No. For some reason, every one is something I feel deeply about. I run on two speeds… psychotically passionate for no reason and completely numb.
I dare you to read Philip K. Dick and feel numb. I dare you.
I’m a long time Chris Rogers fan. I met her a few years ago booking signing for Half Price Books books and I’ve enjoyed reading her work, featuring her on my blog, and hanging out in bookstores with her ever since. The following is an interview regarding her latest work, Emissary, which I read and reviewed toward the end of 2014.
1. Emissary is drastically different from your previous work in the Dixie Flannigan series, but I understand you started writing it first. What was it like finally getting such a long term project completed?
The idea came to me just after I published the third Dixie Flannigan book, Chill Factor. I do a lot of driving, and this is often when I get the ideas I turn into stories. On a long trip to Wyoming I was sort of cursing the sun beaming through my windshield no matter how I tried to block it, then reasoning that rain would be even worse, when I flashed on the idea of having no sun at all. What if our sun went supernova? We’d fry, right?
But our scientists would surely see it coming long before the actual event, so what would we do? Build spaceships and try to escape? But to where? And how could we possibly build enough ships for the world’s population?
After pondering that idea for a few miles, I flipped it. What if the supernova occurred to an inhabited planet in another solar system? They’re more advanced that we are, so they build ships and look for a planet that will take them in. One emissary is sent to Earth, where he becomes embroiled in our political and criminal problems. Naturally, I’d want the emissary to connect closely with an interesting individual, and I chose a cop.
I liked it, but when I pitched it to my agent, he said, “Can you do it without the alien?” So I continued writing the next Dixie Flannigan book. But the story stayed with me, and though I wrote others over the years, I kept coming back to this one. So yes, I love this story and it’s wonderful to have it finally launched so readers can enjoy it, too.
2. Emissary is so much bigger than the Dixie stories. Dixie is sort of self contained, the impact is on her own life, the lives of the criminals, and the safety within her community; whereas Emissary involved a full cast of lives, cultures, and worlds. Was this a more difficult writing task? Or was it nice to stretch your wingspan a bit?
Not easy, I’ll admit, but a book I fell in love with as a child was Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein, which is about a boy who attends school on Mars and takes his pet, Willis the Bouncer. So science fiction has been as dear to me as mysteries. When I envisioned Emissary Ruell, I knew he would be young (as most front-line soldiers are young) and inexperienced (since no Szhen had been in this situation before), and the whole “stranger in a strange land” feeling came to me. When I’m writing, I become the characters in my book, the good ones and the bad, so I envisioned how I would attempt to communicate the plight of my people, and also envisioned the difficulties I would encounter. Ruell would start with the “most powerful person in the free world,” which brings in American President Addison Hale. As with any novel, he can’t succeed on the first try, so he expands his efforts globally, which means the book also expands, because extraterrestrial emigration would be a global concern. Then, to rein in the story, I introduced Ruell to Officer Kirk Longshadow, who has his own problems, and they eventually create the “close community” feeling you mentioned, even as they pursue solving an international crime involving the president.
Tackling a story that exists on a broader canvas than my previous books challenged me on many levels. Considering the result, it was well worth the effort.
3. You did your own cover art, which I love by the way. Was this painting done specifically for Emissary or did it merge as one project later?
I was poised to self-publish Emissary when I met Jeffrey Hastings, who was launching his Houston publishing company, Chart House Press. The book was finished except for the cover. The painting I chose was actually one of my early works, but the sleeping woman with blue skin resonated for me with Ruell’s girlfriend, Jianna, who appears in the book only in Ruell’s memory.
It seemed like a great starting place, yet I really didn’t know how to prevent it appearing as purely science fiction, when it’s more of political thriller with science fiction overtones. Once I decided to link my efforts with Chart House Press, I inherited a team who turned the painting into the final cover art, with an excellent result. Sometimes we get too close to a project, and fresh eyes can save the day.
4. I would love to see Emissary put to film. (Despite what it may seem, I’m a huge science fiction nerd and one of my own long term projects is a time and space opera.) If that were to happen, who would be in your ideal cast? What director would you desire? Do you have a favorite film score composer? Would you want a lot of involvement or a little?
For Longshadow, I’d definitely choose David Giuntoli, who plays Nick Burkhardt on the TV series, Grimm. David doesn’t have the appearance of a “typical cop”, which fits Officer Longshadow, who often wonders why he ever thought he was cop material. David does have the toughness of a copy when he needs it, which Longshadow also has. Ruell would be harder to cast, but Neil Patrick Harris in his younger years as Doogie Howser, MD, would’ve been great. President Addison Hale is the third major character in the nuclear family of Emissary, and my choice would probably be Tea Leoni, who is terrific as Secretary of State on Madam Secretary.
And while I realize this is the expected answer to the choice of a director, it has to be Steven Spielberg. It’s not only that he’s an incredible director who makes excellent blockbuster movies but that his attitude about extraterrestrials is similar to mine. In most science fiction films, the aliens are bad guys who come here and make war, or we make war with them in space. I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind again. No war, and I was as moved by it as when I first saw it in 1977. Yes, I know that dates me, but facts are facts.
As for musical score, I’d have to leave that to the experts, and being intricately involved in the film production would be terrific—but not likely. Hollywood likes to keep writers at a distance.
5. Now that you’ve emerged into the science fiction world, after being a long time mystery genre writer, are you here to stay? (I look forward to reading more projects like this one.)
My early writing attempts were neither mystery nor sf. Back then, I didn’t believe I could plot the exciting and intricate stories I loved to read. So I started with children’s books, mistakenly thinking they’d be easy since I had four children. I was wrong. Then I tried the romance genre because I’d had a few romances in my life, whereas I’d never killed anyone and wasn’t a science nerd. Romance wasn’t easy, either and my stories kept being rejected for having “too much mystery.”
A diehard sf reader might say the same of Emissary, that it has “too much mystery,” but it’s a combination I enjoy, and it works for me. So yes, I plan to continue in this venue. For readers, Emissary opens the door to a world where humans interact with extraterrestrials, the way J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth, Isaac Asimov created a world where robots with positronic brains dwell alongside humans, and J. K. Rowling created Hogwarts. Without giving
away the story, I can say that I planned Emissary as a trilogy, and the ending of this first book is the beginning of an exciting new future for the humans who dwell in that story world.
At present, I’m also working on a paranormal mystery about a 300-year-old pirate who runs his many times-refurbished ship today as a Caribbean cruise ship. Passengers attracted to a Molly Dore cruise always include at least one person with a dark paranormal problem that Captain Cord McKinsey helps resolve, despite the fact that he can’t cure his own curse of immortality. I started this story in 2011 and put it aside to work on Emissary. Now it’s scheduled for release in May 2015.
6. If you could interview any existing science fiction author and pick their brain, who would it be? Did that author and their work influence Emissary in any way?
Sadly, I don’t read current sf, but my favorite sf author of all time is Harlan Ellison. He writes the sort of speculative fiction I enjoy. My first introduction to Ellison’s work was his short story, “A Boy and His Dog,” which first published in 1969 and was adapted into a film in 1975 by L.Q. Jones. I’m a feminist, and the story’s hero, 15-year-old Vic Blood, is a knuckle-dragging brute, but I still enjoyed the story. Many fans will know Ellison for his work on the original Star Trek series, his numerous Hugo- or Nebula Award-winning stories, his often caustic personality, which he demonstrated as Guest of Honor at the first AggieCon in 1969, or from his being the first author to win a copyright dispute against a major television network. In picking Ellison’s brilliant brain, I would come away with scars, but I’d still love to sit down with him for an hour or so.
As to whether Ellison’s work influenced Emissary, how can I judge? I’ve read literally thousands of stories and seen hundreds of movies, and all that material is muddled together somewhere in my consciousness. But no, I didn’t base Emissary on any author’s work. That’s not to say I don’t steal from the best when I fall in love with an idea or a great line. What author doesn’t?
7. What’s the main thought you would want readers to walk away from Emissary thinking?
This is the question I tell my students to consider early on in the process of writing a book, yet it’s a hard one to answer without sounding a bit full of myself. I suppose it’s this: people are complicated and wonderful and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into any sort of group analysis. Each of us has value and heart but we also have a dark side that rises at times, and no one is without flaws, so stop throwing stones at strangers who are “different” and look for the wonder that each person can bring. On the other hand, remain watchful for the horrors that rise in certain malcontents, because they really are out there and can be devastating.
8. Do you plan to take Emissary to any sci-fi conventions in the future? (Say, Comicpalooza in May?)
I’m signed up for AggieCon 46, which happens March 27-29 2015 in College Station, Tx. Never having attended a science fiction convention, I’m a little scared.
9. What would you say to a graphic novelization of Emissary?
I grew up reading EC Comics, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt, which I loved, so for me graphic novels are still comic books. I know there’s a difference. I have a copy of The Illustrated Harlan Ellison, which features several of his stories and was produced by Byron Preiss in 1978. It’s great. Some truly talented illustrators were selected for this graphic compilation, but I believe some of the stories converted well to graphic presentation while others didn’t. In that light, I don’t see Emissary as a graphic novel. But that’s just me.
10. Has the publication of Emissary opened any new doors for you as an author that were previously closed in the mystery genre?
Not yet. I’m not even sure which doors I’d knock on, but I’m open to whatever happens. Meanwhile, writing and painting continue to make me happy, and that’s what really counts.
On the other hand, Emissary is already available in print, e-book, and audio—which took much longer when I was associated with a major publisher. For me, that’s an important door, because it makes this big-format story that’s so dear to me available to more readers.
Author: Chris Rogers
Genre: Science Fiction Literature
Length: 434 pages
Sometimes being a reviewer is hard. That sounds silly, because I love it! But when you recognize a GOOD book and you can’t seem to get into it, it’s a little painful on the emotions. (Just like I’ve recognized books as crap and managed to love every minute of them… that part is just painful on the ego.) It’s even harder when you begin building recurring author/reviewer relationships, see these people face to face and have to tell them: It’s brilliant, but I couldn’t get into it. I don’t get to hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen, I book these lovely people for signings and see them around. I enjoy that I can’t hide, it perhaps makes me kinder. But it does not make me any less honest. In fact, it maybe keeps me more honest, because I know we’ll chat later and I know that my facial expressions never lie. I’m the kind of person that can’t manage to tell a cancer patient that they’re looking good when they’re not. I end up saying, “You look better than you have!” At which point, true story, they laugh and say, “Atleast you’re honest.” My facial expressions could be the death of me.
Let me premise by saying: I am not copping out with a back handed compliment. Emissary truly is brilliant! From a literary perspective, it’s Rogers’ best work. It has the most depth, the most importance. I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe it’s exhaustion, the holidays, or the fact that I’m just not in the mood for so many characters, but I wanted to devour Chris Rogers’ latest title as I have done all her others – but I didn’t. I plodded. I got distracted. Between readings I forgot whether Longshadow or President Hale was the leading character, and what their role in the story was. Ruell and I weren’t communicating well and I kept wanting him to be more tangible like Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Every time Rogers mentioned a town or country or other world, I started thinking about geography and history books, space, and the milky way… I was reading science fiction and my mind kept grasping for non-fiction reading material.
I went total ADD on this book for nearly every page. Every time Duarte made an appearance I found myself humming “Don’t cry for me Argentina” until I distracted myself out of the story yet again. Like Ruell, I was feeling all sparky and in need of a host to anchor myself. I say it’s brilliant because I think there are a lot of discussion opportunities within its pages, both for reading groups and classrooms. It felt like reading Kurt Vonneget for school with a little Nelson DeMille splashed on top.
I think it would make an excellent film if someone could write a worthy screenplay, but the story should be guarded protectively lest someone come and make a shotty job of it. (Think of how many ways Ender’s Game could have been ruined if someone other than Gavin Hood had tackled it.) Please give Emissary a go… then come back and discuss! Also stay tuned for an interview with the author.