Tag Archives: science fiction

New Book Release: Liberation by Robert Jennings

Liberation Cover Art

I’m delighted to announce that just in time for the end of the world, author Robert Jennings has released his post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Liberation. I caught up with the amiable and talented Mr. Jennings to ask him all about his novel and the writing life. I hope you have as much fun reading this as I did interviewing him.

CK: As we all know, the world’s coming to an end on December 21st, so we may as well not bother to buy Christmas presents. In view of this, your science fiction novel, Liberation, is very timely–an apocalypse occurs on 12/21/12 in which the world is overrun by green-skinned creatures called orcs, and only small groups of people manage to survive. Apart from the impending end of the world, can you tell me what else inspired you to write this particular story?

RJ: I first heard about the Mayan end-of-the-world “prediction” shortly after Y2K disappointed us. I think that was what first got me thinking about the story, and the reason for the date of the invasion in the book. I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic stories. It’s fascinating to see how different storytellers portray the aftermath. Plus, I’ve always been a small-town boy. I like the atmosphere and the camaraderie, and I really wanted to portray that as much as I could. And I played a ridiculous amount of Dungeons & Dragons in my youth. I always liked the orcs.

CK: One thing I really love about Liberation is the protagonist. I found it refreshing that John Potter is an Everyman with whom we can all identify, not a superhero. In battling the orcs, he demonstrates courage and devotion to his people, as well as a sense of humour. Are there particular people in your life—or characters in literature—who inspired your protagonist?

RJ: That’s very kind of you to say. What I was looking for out of John was exactly that Everyman feel. I like to imagine that the choices John makes in the book are what most of us would choose, given the circumstances. Of course, after getting feedback from readers in the early stages, I realized that I put a lot more of myself into John than I had intended. People kept telling me, “That’s a ridiculous decision. Nobody would ever do that!” As for his inspirations, I drew a lot from Richard Cypher in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I loved the down-to-earth feel of the character, even after he learns that he is, for all intents and purposes, a superhero.

CK: The book’s about an invasion that very nearly wipes out the human race, but it’s about much more. What do you see as some of the core ideas of the book?

RJ: The main one, I think, is family–and the lengths to which we would go to make sure they’re safe. In that regard, I really identified with John. I can’t imagine anything that I wouldn’t do for my kids. That’s one of the things that made the book really fun to write.

CK: The citizens of New Lamar, which the book centres on, have adapted to their devastated world by developing skills, such as blacksmithing, that are largely obsolete in Western society. They are also a remarkably cohesive group of people. How do you think present-day humans would cope in such a post-apocalyptic society? Would we do as well as the people of New Lamar?

RJ: That is a question that I’ve given way more thought to than is probably healthy. In fact, I may have started calling myself a writer in order to justify the inordinate amount of time I spend thinking up end-of-the-world scenarios. I think, of course, that it would go pretty badly for a good while, but eventually the people who survived would pick up and rebuild. I think that’s part of human nature. We’re always looking to make things better for ourselves and those around us. That, or we’ll all end up killing each other over canned beans.

CK: What would you like readers of your book to take away from it?

RJ: Honestly, just entertainment. When I sat down to write the book, I didn’t have any lofty goal in mind, aside from “Let’s see how this plays out.” If someone finds a message there that resonates with them, awesome, but it wasn’t intentional. If the book entertains you for a couple of days (or hours, if you’re my daughter), then I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do.

CK: You work with another writer, Thomas Clark. Most people think of writing as quite a solitary pursuit. What’s it like to collaborate with Thomas, and what are the two of you working on right now?

RJ: It’s interesting, to say the least. Tommy has been my best friend since before he could even read, so working with him is great. He’s an incredible storyteller, and he has a shrewd eye for plot holes. I think that putting the words themselves to paper is something that is best done alone, but I couldn’t imagine having put this book together without Tommy’s help. Incidentally, he did the cover, which I think is fantastic.

Right now, we’re working on his first book. The working title is Rogue’s Phoenix, and it’s the beginning of an epic fantasy series in a world of his creation. The world is populated by people who fall through rifts from other worlds and are forced to try to make the best of it. It’s been incredibly fun to collaborate on, and it should be ready for release first quarter of next year.

CK: Can you tell me a little about your history as a writer? How did you get started? What keeps you going?

Well, here comes the clichéd “I’ve been a writer since all the way forever ago.” Which is true, to an extent. I’ve always loved writing, but I had never really considered it as a career choice. I liked robots and spaceships too much. The story for Liberation has been bouncing around in my head for about ten years. I even tried getting it down on paper once, but it was horrible. So, I shelved it until about five years ago, when I was deployed to Baghdad with the US Air Force. It was also about this time that I started working with Tommy on Rogue’s Phoenix. I had a little free time on my hands, and the story poured out in about two months. Then came the incredibly fun process of submitting the manuscript to agents and publishers, only to get rejected time and time again. So, again I shelved it. I was glad that it was written, but didn’t really have any plans to do anything with it, since it obviously wasn’t good enough to publish. Earlier this year, I got laid off from my job and my wife was like, “Why don’t I go to work while you focus on your writing.” That was when it first really clicked for me that I might be able to actually be an author. And that’s also what keeps me going. If my wife believed in me enough to risk financial ruin, I must have something going for me.

CK: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

RJ: Don’t give up. If you aren’t accepted by an agent or a publisher, don’t be discouraged. Publishing is changing, and you don’t need them anymore. You can do it all yourself if you feel inclined. Except editing. For that, you need Caroline. A caveat, though, is that you’d better have a strong manuscript. Editors can help, but it’s ultimately up to you to write a good story.

CK: Now that Liberation is finished, what’s next for you?

RJ: That’s a good question, only because there are so many things on my plate that it’s hard to keep them separated. Priority zero is Rogue’s Phoenix. We’ve got to get that one ready for publication before the end of March. I would like to have the sequel to Liberation done (yes, there’s a sequel–isn’t there always?) by the end of June, and the book that I wrote last month for NaNoWriMo is tentatively scheduled for September, but it’ll be a side project while we’re working on the second Rogue’s Phoenix book. And then I’m going to Disneyland.

Liberation is now available as an e-book on Amazon. And if you’re so inclined, you can chat with Robert Jennings and Thomas Clark on their Facebook page.


New Book Release: The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley by Tiana Warner

Tiana Warner has just released her first novel, The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley. The 23-year-old author hails from Abbotsford, BC, and works as a software developer. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of working with the gracious Tiana on her book, a young adult science fiction novel. But The Infinite Knowledge is really so much more than this genre label suggests. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Tiana about her book, and hope you will enjoy our interview.

CK: What was it that prompted you to start writing The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley in the first place, and how long did it take you to write the book?

TW: I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was 5 I would write stories and staple the pages together and sell them to relatives. I started writing The Infinite Knowledge near the end of high school, when we studied classics like Gulliver’s Travels and 1984. I knew then that I wanted to write a book with a purpose—so I started with the topics I feel passionate about, and everything else followed. It took me six years because of university, but in the end I’m glad I was patient.

CK: In the book, the unsuspecting protagonist Jake (J.T.) plummets via a portal through space and lands on the planet Zielaarde, a planet very like our own in some ways. Through your portrayal of Zielaarde, what kinds of things were you trying to say about Earth and its inhabitants?

TW: I want the reader to interpret much of it for themselves, but I will say that I had a fun time exploring certain contemporary issues. Some of these issues are more light-hearted, while others I take more seriously and feel strongly about. The inhabitants of Zielaarde often reflect the way we humans regard the environment, technology, and each other.

CK: The book is an excellent read—it’s dramatic and suspenseful, and I wasn’t sure how it would end until it actually did end. As well, it’s often funny—the reactions the Ziels (inhabitants of Zielaarde) and Jake have to each other were quite amusing. But the book is also very thought-provoking and serious. Ultimately, what thoughts or impressions did you hope to leave readers with?

TW: I hope readers come away thinking about said contemporary issues, but I also hope they think about their own roles and abilities in this world. The book is primarily written for teens, so when I was writing it I wanted make sure I avoided telling the reader what to think, and focused on simply provoking them into thinking. Jake faces the same identity-crisis problems that so many teens face around the time of their high school graduations, and he’s at an age where he starts to gain awareness and scepticism of philosophy and religion. He is forced to gain a stronger sense of self in the book, and I hope Jake’s self-exploration also encourages such thinking in the reader.

CK: One thing I enjoyed about the book was your ability to really get inside Jake’s  experience. He suffers immensely, and the reader is keenly aware of his every thought, sensation, and emotion. Was it difficult to write in this intense sort of way?

TW: It certainly took more than one draft before I was able to fully portray Jake’s thoughts and emotions. It takes a lot of focus and imagination to pretend you’re an entirely different person in an entirely different place, and then to describe exactly how you feel and what you’re thinking at that moment. I find that it helps to imagine a situation using all of the senses.

It’s interesting when you’ve been pouring out the deep thoughts and emotions of a character for years, and then it comes time to actually let other people read it. It feels too personal, like they’re about to read into part of your soul. I guess that’s how you know you’ve really put everything into a character.

CK: Tell me about your fascination with astronomy and how you’ve brought this into the book.

TW: It’s funny, because when I was a kid I hated learning about space. I was afraid of it and tried to avoid thinking about it, because I couldn’t understand how space and time were even possible. I still can’t understand it. I guess writing this book was a way to overcome that. I pushed my own fear and uncertainty onto Jake. When you pick a topic that you feel very strongly about—whether that feeling is of love or hate or obsession or fear—you write about it more passionately. What strengthened the passion was when I decided to take an introductory astronomy class in my last year of university. It was without a doubt one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken, and also a very sobering one because it makes you realize how small we are in such a vast universe. By the time that class was done I had already written most of The Infinite Knowledge, but I was still able to apply some of the science I learned to the story. It’s fun inventing concepts when you write science fiction, but what’s more fun is when you can relate your made-up concepts to real science.

CK: Your love of animals was really obvious to me in the way you portrayed certain creatures in the book. Can you tell me a bit about this love, and how it informs the book?

TW: There’s never been a time in my life where I’ve been without a pet, and I think a dog will always be my perfect companion. It takes owning a dog or a horse to really understand the bond you can have with one. As Betty White once said, “Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.” I tried to portray such human-animal friendships in a couple of ways in the book. An important, loyal character doesn’t always need to be a person.

CK: Which writers do you like to read, and which have been most influential on your work?

TW: My favourite author of all time has to be J. K. Rowling. I’m a Harry Potter superfan. In general, I tend to enjoy a wide variety of books and authors, although I mostly find myself reading YA. I wouldn’t say any one writer has influenced my work, though. Everyone has a writing style and I tried to distinguish my own, as well.

CK: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

TW: I think a person has to have a certain level of obsessive passion in order to write a full novel, so my advice is “Don’t hold back.” The best part of writing—and especially sci-fi—is that you get the freedom to create whatever you want to create. It’s your book and you control everything inside of it, so do what you want with it! Immerse yourself in your book’s world. Tape outlines and photos and maps to your walls, write down ideas in your cell phone as they come to you, make a playlist that inspires your characters, get those Crayola window crayons and write inspiration on your mirror—whatever it takes for your book to materialize. Then, when you write your first draft, don’t even pause to think about the format or spelling errors. Just let those creative juices fly, and do your editing later.

CK: Are you currently working on another novel? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

TW: I’ve been harbouring an idea for about a year, but haven’t had the chance to give it a good go. I’m very excited about it. It’s different from The Infinite Knowledge, however, and has a more mature theme. That’s all I’m going to say, since I’m still outlining the plot at this point! I’m also trying to convince a friend of a friend to let me write a story based on his very interesting life.

For more information about Tiana Warner and The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley, please see the author’s website: http://www.tianawarner.com.