Monday, February 25, 2013

"Artificial Absolutes," by Mary Fan

Today we're pleased to feature our KindleBoards interview with Mary Fan, author of the newly-released novel Artificial Absolutes.

We received an advance review copy of this action-packed Sci-Fi story, which takes you into the world of Jane and Devin Colt - siblings of a wealthy father, in a futuristic time and far-off galactic setting.

In their efforts to free a kidnapped friend, they must deal with a perilous and realistic world of artificial intelligence, where the authorities cannot be trusted - and where their lives and their loved ones are in mortal peril.

The Artificial Absolutes blog tour is underway today - check the blog tour page for upcoming interviews, reviews, and giveaways!

Now, on to our conversation with Mary Fan!

Mary, welcome to KindleBoards and congratulations on your new novel. In a few words, how would you describe your book to someone who hasn't heard about it?

Hi! Artificial Absolutes takes place in the distant future, in which humans have spread across the galaxy. Jane Colt’s ordinary life is upended when she witnesses her friend Adam’s kidnapping. The next day, her older brother, Devin, is framed for murder by the same criminal entity. She chooses leave behind everything she knows and flees the authorities with Devin. With the help of a hacker known as Corsair, they cross the galaxy in search of answers.

While telling Jane’s story is the easiest way to describe Artificial Absolutes, the novel rotates points of view between sections, and so it’s also Devin’s story, Adam’s story, Corsair’s story…

Your story is action-packed, and at the same time it works in some effective "world-building." How did you as an author approach working in the futuristic world setting without losing story momentum?

Honestly, I feel as though I don’t build worlds; I depict worlds that already exist in my head. I treat a futuristic world the same way I would a contemporary one: I focus on the action and fill in relevant details around it. To the characters, the settings aren’t futuristic; starships and repair bots are as commonplace to them as iPhones and bullet trains are to us. So when I write in close third, I keep descriptions of what they see fairly offhand unless something strikes them as unusual.

The relationships between Jane, Adam, Devin, and Sarah each have an interesting and unique dynamic. Were any of these characters inspired by real-life people?

Not intentionally, although I’m sure aspects of my own personality or those of people I’ve known seeped into their characters. Like Devin, I’m an over-protective older sibling who will always see my little sis as a kid. Like Jane, I was a music major in college and fancy myself a composer. Some of Jane’s traits are borrowed from my little sister and others from friends of mine; she’s something of a mishmash. Sarah was partially inspired by a singer I used to know. As for Adam—I’m not entirely sure where he came from. I was a member of my university’s chapel choir, and through all those Sundays of sermons, I actually listened to some. I’m sure parts of him are subconsciously influenced by the reverends and seminary students I heard speak.

As an online forum administrator, I enjoyed reading about the virtual reality forums that your book describes. Are you a user of online forums?

Why yes, I am! I’m mostly a lurker because for some reason, I find other peoples’ conversations fascinating (especially when they get into online spats). The forum I use most frequently is Authonomy, which is an online writing community run by HarperCollins. It’s always interesting to see how opinions differ, and I’ve picked up some tips on writing along the way. I also peruse movie forums in search of spoilers.

Your love of science fiction comes through in the story. Who are some of the Sci-Fi writers you admire?

Oh, where do I begin? I’m a huge fan of the classic sci-fi writers—Isaac Asimov, Jack Williamson, Ben Bova, H.G. Wells… I find it fascinating how they dreamed up so much beyond the worlds they lived in. There was a period of time in which I cleaned out my local library’s collection of Michael Crichton books. His attention to detail astounds me. And then there’s Joss Whedon, whose screenplays and comics really pack a punch.

How long did it take you to write the novel? Can you give us some insights into your approach?

A lot of the ideas that went into Artificial Absolutes had been swirling around in my head for some time, but I didn’t sit down and sort them out until July 2011. I’m a neurotic plotter, so I spent weeks outlining, scribbling down back-stories, and jotting down notes. I’m also very impatient, so I started writing before I finished my detailed outline (I already had two less detailed outlines written out). It started with a chapter a week, and then I sped up to about two three chapters a week. Once I hit the halfway point or so, something possessed me, and I zoomed through a chapter or more a day until I reached the end. I seem to recall it taking four weeks to write the first four chapters and four weeks to finish the book.

After that came six months of nonstop editing and revising and rewriting to get the manuscript submission-worthy.  

What does a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

I work nine to five pretty consistently, so I can usually count on my evenings and weekends to write (unless I have something planned). I also write and edit during my lunch breaks from time to time. I don’t have any particular writing rituals; I’ll write anywhere. It’s one of the few things I can do first thing when I wake up before I caffeinate.

I don’t set daily goals, but I do set personal deadlines, which I usually beat. For some reason, my brain won’t let me rest until the work gets done!

Your book is perfectly-formatted and well-edited. Can you tell us a bit about the review and editing process that your book went through? Did you use beta-readers, for example?

Why, thank you! The wonderful editors at Red Adept Publishing are really the reason the book is in its current polished state. I did my best to clean up the manuscript before submitting, but there were so many things I simply didn’t see until the editors pointed them out.

I was lucky enough to have four of my friends do full beta reads on Artificial Absolutes before I submitted. As a story’s creator, one’s perspective is simply too narrow to view the manuscript from a reader’s angle. Things that are so clear in my head don’t always make it onto the page the first time around, and my beta readers were extremely helpful in pointing out what I missed.

I then posted the manuscript on Authonomy and swapped critiques with other writers on the site (the Authonomy community mostly critiques just the opening few chapters of a book). Some of their comments were helpful, and others not so much, but either way, it was a great way to test the waters. That most of the comments were positive gave me the confidence to start querying.

The funny thing about a manuscript is that even when you think you’re done and there’s nothing left to fix, someone inevitably points out something you missed. And once that thing is pointed out, it suddenly seems so obvious, you wonder how you could have let it go for so long. That was how it was with me when I worked with the Red Adept editors. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them. My manuscript first went through a content edit for general story issues. Fortunately for me, there weren’t that many (I guess all my preliminary nitpicking paid off). Then a line editor helped me smooth out the prose. After that, the book went to the proofreaders, and it was basically out of my hands.

What advice would you give to other writers or would-be writers?

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming… Perhaps the most important thing for a writer to do is to persist. Writing is hard. It will zap your energy and possess your mind, not to mention bruise your ego and cause the occasional anxiety attack.  

Okay, let's get a bit more personal. Tell us five random things about you!

  1. I played drums for my university’s pep band. This involved running around campus in a loud orange jacket and singing raucous fight songs.
  2. My first job out of college was in Beijing, China. I lived there for about a year, and I sampled many of their more bizarre foods.
  3. I am far too fond of Tostitos salsa. If you walked in on me at any given point in time, there would be a jar of salsa in my fridge.
  4. I am also far too fond of hats. I have been called the “hat lady” from time to time.
  5. My favorite place on the planet is the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Thank you! We enjoyed your book. Is there another in the works?

I’m so glad to hear that! I meant for Artificial Absolutes to be a standalone book, but I couldn’t help wondering what could come next. Ideas started formulating, and finally, I had to write them down before they burned a hole through my brain. I recently finished a first draft of the sequel. Whether it’s decent enough to ever be read by the public remains to seen.  

Thanks for talking with us. We're pleased to feature your book on KindleBoards!

Thanks for hosting me!

 Readers: Artificial Absolutes is available now to download to your Kindle!

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