With the release of my novel, Sands, I had the chance to catch up with fellow Future House Publishing author, Jared Garrett. His novel, Beat, was a great read and full of fun, action-packed adventure. If you haven’t read it yet, there aren’t any spoilers here, but stop by Amazon and order yourself a copy. It will be worth your time. I also have it on good authorize that a Beat sequel is well on its way to completion. Check out his webpage for updates on that as well as his interview questions for me.
On to the interview then. My questions for him are italicized and his responses are marked with a letter “A.”
1 – What sort of research did you put into Beat’s premise? There are certainly a lot of things that could affect the viability of a disease dependent upon a heartrate.
A: Not a lot at the start. I figure, hey, it’s the future. I’ll make the science sound good, like Star Trek did, and that ought to do it. So I did some minor research on a virus that could affect the heart, but just went with the premise that had come to me while I was out jogging one day. Then I just wrote the thing. As I went, I needed to get some medical information about what would manifest in a body whose heart was being attacked by the Bug. For this, I asked my father, who’s been in the medical community for years, as a nurse, manager of a neuro-critical care unit, and a kidney donation program coordinator. We talked about some gruesome stuff, about what would make the chest bleed without it being cut open, and so on.
It was fun.
I ended up having to do some research after a book club beta-read BEAT and one of the people came back and said that a virus wouldn’t do that. Instead it would be a toxin of some kind. So I revamped the Bug and made it into a bio-toxin, which works much better for the world that BEAT takes place in.
2 – There are a lot of people out there who say the dystopian genre is dead. With that thought out there, what made you decide to write a dystopian novel?
A. Well, the dystopian genre isn’t dead, so those people are wrong, frankly. No genre with good, fun stories in it that people want to read and tell others about is dead. Do the big publishing houses feel like there’s been a glut of dystopian? Yes. With the Maze Runner, the Hunger Games, Divergent, and more, they have reason to think that people might say they’ve had enough.
If people were like that. But they’re not. People want to be entertained. They want to be swept away and to face down villains and ponder deep questions along with sympathetic and heroic characters. So I say the genre isn’t dead. I wrote a book I would like to read, full of harrowing adventure, interesting people and worlds, a psycho villain who is the hero in his own story, and cool gadgets.
I believe that you can write what you love without worrying about the market. When it comes time to seek publication of certain genres, that’s when you want to be careful and thoughtful about what you do. If you start off a book thinking, “I’m writing this because the market will want it,” you’re likely to end up with a soulless book of questionable value. Like some of the literary fiction out there. But if you write what you love to read and write, your book will probably have some soul to it. And you will feel great about it. And you will be able to go and write some more.
And when the market’s ready for one of your books, you can do what it takes to get it in front of people.
So why’d I write a dystopian novel? Because I love them. When I first tried getting it published, I was turned down pretty firmly by folks who talked about full publishing house lists and how it was a two-year lag time between sale of the book and it being on shelves.
That was fine. I still loved the story, loved rewriting it, and believed in it. I also kept writing other books. If I keep writing, one or more of my books will get real sticky in a market and that will be a solid beginning.
3 – In Beat, your main character has a certain skill with mechanical engineering. Do you have a similar skill to draw on or did you do research to get those scenes right?
A. I have the ability to come up with simple, creative solutions to engineering issues. I have this ability because I’m not technically minded- I’m pragmatically minded and am also an artist. So I’ve read enough and am curious enough that I’ve got an okay base of mechanical knowledge. What’s more, I have been renovating homes for over ten years. I do most of the work myself. I also do most car repairs myself. I usually go in thinking, “I have no clue how to do this, but I bet I can learn.” I’ve learned a lot.
I did have to do research to make sure some of the more demanding technical scenes rang true. I’m still not sure the kinetic motor and spoke thing would really work, but who knows?
4 – What is the difference, in your opinion, between science fiction and fantasy? Where does Beat fall on this spectrum if you could choose?
Let me start with similarity. They both want to awe and inspire. They both, when done right, fill the reader with wonder. They both transport- or at least should.
But science fiction deals with humanity or other races creating fantastic and wonderful solutions through physical means, using laws of physics and other things that have an explanation. Fantasy tends to deal with humanity and other races living in world with unexplainable forces. Sure, Brandon Sanderson has really well-thought out magic systems, but they’re still ultimately unexplainable forces and powers.
BEAT is all science fiction.
5 – What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give an aspiring author?
Stop calling yourself an aspiring author. Start writing, write as often and as regularly as you can. Take the craft seriously and have as much fun as you can with it.
Honestly! I’m not an aspiring hiker just because I’m not famous for it. I’m not an aspiring jogger just because I haven’t won any races. I’m not an aspiring poet simply because my poetry’s only been published in a couple places. I’m a writer. Too many of us become complacent writer-conference attending aspiring authors who go to writer’s conferences but don’t invest in them. We should go to those things and see them not as only a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our friends and like-minded people and heroes. We should attend them as an investment in our craft. We should come away from them energized to do better and determined to make progress.
So in short, again, stop aspiring. It’s not a freaking title; it’s a job, a craft, a passion. Do it. Be an author.