Interview: Eric Garrison Gives R.J. a Reality Check

ericgarrison-tbpCongratulations to my friend Eric Garrison on his two book publishing deals, one with Hydra Publications for his recently released science fiction dimension hopping thriller, Reality Check. The other for a multi-book deal with Seventh Star Press.

 

Shorty after Eric and I met, we discovered pretty fast that our writing shares much in common. We decided to embrace the similarities and write in a “shared world.”

 

So ignore all that, because Reality Check is something else entirely.

 

Reality Check is Eric’s genre-bending, dimension-hopping science fiction thriller, the first of a planned trilogy. You can meet Eric along with many other awesome authors *koff-koff me too koff-koff* at the That Book Place Book Fair, Saturday, March 16, the first place on the planet where Eric will appear, armed with the paperback of Reality Check.

 

Reality-Check-Cover-thumb“When a quantum supercomputer’s ‘reality simulator’ program causes temporary insanity in its beta-testers, Lee Green rolls up his sleeves and dives into a virtual world to debug the problem. Only he discovers that place is more real than anyone imagined.

He finds alternate versions of his friends in that mad science reality, their lives and relationships very different from those in the ‘real’ world. Quantum entanglements become romantic entanglements as he meets his love again in each new dimension.

Lee must save these other lives, decide which destiny is truly his, and what he’s willing to sacrifice to get there.”

 

For those that can’t make it, click here and here to see the book’s Amazon links.

 

 

There’s something both classical and yet new to this story. When it comes to science fiction, are you drawn more toward the classics or to the more modern stories? Which authors inspire you, particularly with this work?

 

I suppose if I had to pick just one of those, I guess I lean toward the classics. Even the modern authors I read, Stephen Baxter, John Varley, Dan Simmons… these guys write about spaceships and exploration and how humans change and still remain human.

 

Looking at my bookcases for science fiction authors, I see a lot of Asimov, Niven, Simmons, and Gibson. But if I think about the forces that formed Reality Check, I’d have to give credit to Robert Heinlein, Neal Stephenson, and John Varley. Whatever else you may say about Heinlein, he was the master of social science fiction… that “what if” being applied to how people adapt to technology and alien situations. Neal Stephenson, on the other hand, is the master of science fiction at breakneck, breathless pacing. I always strive to keep the momentum in my novels going.  John Varley follows in Heinlein’s footsteps in his treatment of individuals and relationships in science fiction, but he’s also amazing at cranking things “up to eleven” in intensity, taking the story through twists and turns that make you afraid to put his books down.

 

From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.
From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.

I’m going to give a nod toward Jack Chalker too, since absolutely no one writes body swapping stories like he does. There, I said it, I love Jack Chalker’s novels. We all have to have guilty pleasures, right?

 

 

What work would you most directly compare this story to?

 

That’s a tough one. It’s part Matrix, part Quantum Leap and part Star Trek TOS: Mirror, Mirror. I take a techie geek from our world and put him in alternate worlds, where he finds his own life still intertwined with his friends’ in different ways, despite the changing backdrop and genre.

 

 

When you first discussed the concept of this story, what struck me was how difficult, potentially, keeping track of your plot points might be. Yet everything falls into place quite nicely. Discuss the approach you took to keeping the plot from getting away from you.

 

Without giving too much away, I think the symmetry of the story was what held it together. Sure, three characters across three-and-a-half worlds did get confusing. Those three became nine individuals, but despite local differences, each triplet has great similarity to his or her alternate counterparts. It could have gotten all sorts of crazy, dealing with three main worlds, each with its local crisis, and all those characters’ motivations, but in the end, I told the story in first person for a reason: This is Lee’s story. Seeing it all through his eyes, we follow just his thread through the warp and weave of the novel. Writing it that way, I could concentrate on his wants and feelings and actions, even as everything changed around him, including his own body.

 

 

Let me throw a couple of thoughts at you that occurred to me as I read your book, and get your response. Reality Check follows a protagonist, unsure of himself, unhappy with his life, who finds within himself hidden potential as his exterior environment radically shifts. Reality Check may be seen as a study on how our environment directly affects us as a determining factor on how much of our potential we can find within ourselves.

 

From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.
From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.

I think this is a valid way to look at a theme in the story. Lee’s in the doldrums in his own life, but when he’s thrown into alternate versions of his life, he meets the challenges he finds there, doing more to fix those lives than than his own. Change is difficult, but it’s being put outside of our comfort zone that makes us grow and shine. Lee could have continued happily enough in his rut, but so could Bilbo have sat at home in his hole. And like Bilbo, Lee makes that first choice to step outside of himself to become so much more than he would have otherwise.

 

 

Try this one: A core theme in Reality Check seems to be that some people are destined to be together and will always find each other, no matter their life circumstance or position in life. With each reality shift, Lee continues to have a close relationship with his two best friends, even though the realities have little to nothing to do with each other geographically or, in many ways, the professions and organizations the three of them are associated with. (Dancing around spoilers). Do you embrace this destined viewpoint between individuals as a personal philosophy?

 

I think the idea of a soulmate is overused. I absolutely do not believe the “romantic” notion that there’s one true person for each of us in this world. I don’t see that concept as romantic, I see it as depressing. Only one person out of billions that really gets you? What if you pick wrong and meet your real soulmate later?

 

I prefer the idea of kindred spirits, in the sense that some people, you just know right off the bat, like you’ve met them before. Like we’re all just characters in some massively multiplayer online game, and we’ve played other games with the same folks another time. I do think we’re drawn to certain people, and I like to think that would be true no matter what universe.

 

Just to be contrary, I’ll relate that Reality Check doesn’t actually imply this. One of the Dionnes comes out and says that the only way the reality hopping works for Lee is because he’s swapping with people in other universes enough like him to be essentially who he is, despite all other factors. She goes on to say that the reason he’s surrounded by his closest friends, even in other universes, is because he can’t be who he is without those people as a part of his life.

 

But it’s really just a chicken-and-egg sort of thing.  Can they travel between dimensions only because they are together, or would they be together in any universe? They’re simply not the same people without each other, so it doesn’t matter which is the real reason. We are who we are, in part, by who we choose as friends.

 

 

This is your fifth completed novel and your first venture into science fiction. Discuss your journey as a writer. Is this a novel you could have written at any point in that journey or did you have to build up to it? Why did you feel that now was the right time?

 

I wrote Reality Check for two main reasons.  One, I had this idea, in some raw form, rattling around in my head for many years beforehand. It’s been sitting in my “Story Ideas” file in Google Docs all this time. It was going to be a short story, originally, but I couldn’t think of a plot to go with the concept that would fit that format. Two, I’d written four urban fantasy novels already, one trilogy and one spin-off, and I felt I wanted to stretch myself by writing all new characters and a different genre.

 

From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.
From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.

I really don’t think I could have written this as my first novel. It was a huge challenge. I quit writing it out of frustration halfway through the first draft. I did, I quit, I shouted I was done with it. I felt overwhelmed, and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end it. But some good friends told me the idea was too compelling to abandon, that I had to finish it. With that external motivation, I sat my butt down and redid the outline, in greater detail, and finished a rough draft. Which I got feedback on; I was right, the ending wasn’t very satisfying. So I made it a sort of false ending and kicked the plot back into gear toward a new goal, which ended up rewriting and expanding it quite a bit. Even that ending wasn’t quite satisfying, so I tweaked it until I was satisfied and added an Epilogue so the ending didn’t come to such an abrupt halt.

 

There’s no way I would have had the discipline and drive to retool, rewrite and polish this book before the time I wrote it. It took having the other four books under my belt to have the confidence to finish what I started, with a little help from my friends, and the patience that came with the experience I gained over time.

 

 

Because “it’s complicated,” can you discuss what’s coming up from Eric Garrison?

 

It really is complicated! Toward the end of last year, I had a choice of working on a sequel to my urban fantasy spin-off, Blue Spirit (which I’ve already started), or following up on the adventures of Lee, Dionne and Cecil with a Reality Check sequel. Mean Spirit or Sanity Check. But a few things happened. First, Reality Check got picked up by Hydra Publications, which meant spending quality time with an editor (shout out to Martha Swanson!) to further refine that work. Then, I pitched my self-published Road Ghosts trilogy to Seventh Star Press, and they’ve decided to pick it up and publish it, along with Blue Spirit, as part of a six book deal.

 

So, my first novel, Four ’til Late, will be my next novel to come out in late spring or early summer of 2013. It will be followed by Sinking Down, the second book in the trilogy in mid to late summer. Blue Spirit will come out right on that book’s heels, for complicated reasons… mainly so that it doesn’t have to stay out of print as long, but partly because its protagonist, Skye, is introduced in Sinking Down and doesn’t have a role in the third book in the Road Ghosts trilogy.

 

So that means I will be working on a sequel to Blue Spirit in order to have it come out by the end of the year or early next year. But I think it won’t be Mean Spirit; I’ve decided more has to happen between those two books, so my working title for Skye’s next adventure is Restless Spirit.

Visit Eric Garrison’s website here.

Check out the Reality Check book trailer here.

Check out artist Nell Williams here.

 

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

The Mooresville Public Library

and the

Indiana Horror Writers

Present

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

A gathering of Indiana authors with: Vampires, ghosts, pirates, superheroes, fantasy warriors, wizards, and more!

Saturday, November 3,
1-3 PM

Mooresville Public Library
220 West Harrison Street
Mooresville, Indiana 46158
317.831.7323, mooresvillelib.org

Featuring:

Matt Adams: Indianapolis, Author of superhero prose, lives and works in Indianapolis. Long ago, I planned to patrol the streets as Batman, but ultimately decided writing was safer. www.mattadamswriter.com I, Crimsonstreak.

Maurice Broaddus: Indianapolis, co-editor of the Dark Faith anthologies (Apex Books) and author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books). www.MauriceBroaddus.com King’s Justice, King Maker, King’s War, Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, and more.

Nicole Cushing: Southern Indiana, prolific author of horrific short stories. www.nicolecushing.wordpress.com Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beast Within (anthology); and the forthcoming novella Children of No One.

Eric Garrison: Indianapolis, dark supernatural fantasies: ghosts, demonic possession and sinister fairy folk. www.ericgarrison.wordpress.com Road Ghosts (3-in-1), Blue Spirit.

Roberta Hoffer: Indianapolis, three words: Romantic Vampire Series. www.asilentheart.com Silent Heart, Silent Madness.

R.J. Sullivan: Camby, author of edgy ghost stories and paranormal thrillers. www.rjsullivanfiction.com Haunting Blue, Haunting Obsession, Contributor to Dark Faith: Invocations

Kathy Watness: North Salem, serial contributor to fantasy anthologies, such as the Blue Kingdom series, “Terribly Twisted Tales,” and The Crimson Pact, V.1.

Michael West: Indianapolis, prolific author of traditional horror and scares. www.bymichaelwest.com Cinema of Shadows, Wide Game, Poseidon’s Children, Skull Full of Kisses, and the just-released Spook House.

RJ Sullivan Publishing News Press Release

For Immediate Release
February 23, 2012

Seventh Star Press Announces Four-Book Deal with Paranormal Author R.J. Sullivan
Seventh Star Press proudly announces a four book deal with author R.J. Sullivan, making him the seventh author to come aboard the publisher’s main roster.

The addition of R.J. Sullivan comes close after Seventh Star Press’ strongest year yet, during which titles such as Jackie Gamber‘s Redheart and Michael West‘s Cinema of Shadows received excellent critical reception, and the artwork featured by the press also received increased recognition, as Matthew Perry recently won Top Cover Art in the 2011 Tor.com Readers Choice Awards for his cover art on Stephen Zimmer‘s The Seventh Throne.

The first title to be released by Seventh Star Press, Haunting Obsession, tells the story of Daryl Beasley. Daryl collects all things Maxine Marie, whose famous curves and fast lifestyle made her a Hollywood icon for decades after her tragic death. Daryl’s girlfriend, Loretta Stevens, knew about his geeky lifestyle when they started dating, but she loves him, quirks and all.

Then one day Daryl chooses to buy a particularly tacky piece of memorabilia instead of Loretta’s birthday present. Daryl ends up in the doghouse, not only with Loretta, but with Maxine Marie herself. The legendary blonde returns from the dead to give Daryl a piece of her mind—and a haunting obsession he’ll never forget.

A member of the Indiana Horror Writers, R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona “Blue” Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren.

R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona’s story, Virtual Blue, which will be released in 2013, followed by two more novels over the course of 2013 and 2014.

“I was with Michael West at several events last year, and I couldn’t help but notice the slick marketing materials he was handing out,” R.J. Sullivan commented as to why he wanted to bring his work to Seventh Star Press. “I saw how Seventh Star had a personal presence nearby to assist at the cons. I realized that having the publisher at those events changes the convention vibe, which can otherwise be an isolated experience. I love that they produce interior artwork as part of their product–it shows an understanding of the genre and its readers. It’s clear Seventh Star understand the modern publishing world, and does everything they can to open up opportunities for the author to succeed.”

Bonnie Wasson, whose cover art and illustrations are featured in Seventh Star Press titles such as D.A. Adams’ The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, will be creating the artwork for the R.J. Sullivan novels.

Haunting Obsession will be released in limited hardcover, softcover (trade paperback), and several eBook editions, including versions for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, and Sony-compatible devices.

For further information on R.J. Sullivan and the upcoming releases, please visit www.seventhstarpress.com or the author’s site at www.rjsullivanfiction.com

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky

Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond

Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond

With the release of Switchblade Goddess by Del Rey in late December, Lucy A. Snyder officially turned her Jessie Shimmer stories into a trilogy. In this blog interview, Lucy reveals that we have definitely not seen the last of Jessie Shimmer.

I am a raving fan of the first two books, and look forward to digging in to SG as soon as possible (the reading stack here at home, were it not mostly electronic, would have collapsed one of my walls by now, but I digress). Her first book, Spellbent, was nominated in 2010 for a Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in a first Novel.  (Check out my review of the first book here). Previously, Lucy’s collection Chimeric Machines won 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Poetry. But enough from me.

Congratulations on the release of Switchblade Goddess. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks, RJ!

Did you conceive of the Jessie Shimmer stories as a trilogy, or did the development come after Spellbent?

Spellbent emerged from a short story assignment that never happened. Some years back, I got a heads-up that there might be openings in the anthology Apprentice Fantastic, so I started working up some ideas to pitch to the editor. I got the idea for a story centered on a young apprentice who loses her master when a storm-calling goes wrong and has to face down a demon with just the help of her familiar. The anthology ended up not having any openings, but by that time, I’d gotten excited about the characters and slowly started working on the story, which became a a novella, which became a novel.

By the time the story had expanded to novella size, I was already thinking ahead to additional stories I wanted to tell about the characters, and also about the overarching plot that would be carried out over the course of several books. Of course I had no idea if I could sell the book, or if whoever bought the book would want a series, so Spellbent was written with a more “closed” ending than either Shotgun Sorceress or Switchblade Goddess. Which consequently resulted in my adding the prologue and epilogue to Spellbent.

And ironically enough, I haven’t managed to get to the events implied by the prologue in the series yet, so really I might as well not have included it! I need three more books to carry through with the main plot arc. Said novels, unfortunately, will probably not be released by Del Rey. My agent and I are in contact with other publishers; one way or another, I will write the rest of the Jessie Shimmer series and make it available to readers. But at the same time, I do have to keep a roof over my head, so if I end up writing the rest of the series without the benefit of an advance, it’ll take me longer than I’d like.

One of the joys of the trilogy is your portrayal of the sorcerers and witches existing as an open secret in the mundane world. Is this just fun extrapolation or do you think there are secrets hiding in plain sight in the real world that the average person has conditioned themselves to ignore? (Author photo by Doug Dangler)

Mostly it’s a fun extrapolation. At the same time, we humans aren’t built to be able to sense everything that happens around us: x-rays and magnetic fields are invisible, very low and very high pitches are inaudible, quarks and gluons untouchable. So who’s to say that there aren’t secrets hiding from us in plain sight?

One of the things I love about the series is the character of Jessie Shimmer. She rides a fine moral and ethical line in ways that I think will surprise uninitiated readers. Did you have a clear understanding of where she makes her stand in most scenes? Did anything raise a flag with yourself, your pre-readers or you publisher that you had to reconsider?

As a character, Jessie is a good person who wrestles with her own darker impulses. She’s quick to anger and her first instinct is to jump in and fight when the people she loves are threatened.  So, she wants to do the right thing, but a calmer, more dispassionate person might question the prudence of the things she decides to do.

The main things as a writer that I’ve asked my editors and first readers for input on is the level of violence.  The violence and darkness in the books won’t be anything extreme to horror readers, but not all urban fantasy readers have been expecting it. Some people who read what’s marketed as urban fantasy are mainly romance readers, and they expect the urban fantasy novels they open to simply be a more action-oriented kind of paranormal romance. My books have a love story, but they are not romances and were not intended to be romances. Romance readers have a different set of expectations, and they often don’t expect the kind of violence that happens in my books.

And there’s issues with sex. Romance readers may usually expect sex scenes to mostly happen off stage. If the sex happens on stage, it’s supposed to fit with the plot, sure, but mostly it’s supposed to be hot. Some of the sex scenes I’ve written are supposed to be plotworthy and disturbing, or plotworthy and funny, or plotworthy and creepy. It doesn’t all titillate because it’s not all supposed to titillate.

Might we be seeing Jessie or the supporting cast of this trilogy in future stories?

Absolutely!  The story “Repent, Jessie Shimmer!” will appear in Apex Book Company’s 2012 anthology Southern Undead.  And there will be a set of new stories about Jessie, Cooper, the Warlock, and other characters in my forthcoming collection Orchid Carousals, which I hope will be out toward the end of 2012. I’m still working on the stories, which are all erotica; some of them may also be appearing in other anthologies, but that hasn’t been decided yet.

Thanks again, Lucy, and congratulations! I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Learn more about Lucy A. Snyder at these links.

http://www.lucysnyder.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucy-A-Snyder/32362763073