First off, give us a little plot overview of Lacuna: Demons of the Void.
- Well, Lacuna: Demons of the Void is a near-future sci-fi story where humanity develops the ability, in a very limited way, to jump between stars and planets. But before it can be widely used (or even tested properly), aliens jump in, warn humanity away from building the technology and blow up three Human cities; Tehran, Sydney and Beijing. The rest of the novel is about humanity's response to the attacks, told from the perspective of one of the Chinese naval captains, Melissa Liao.
When choosing which three major cities to destroy, how did you come up with those three, Tehran, Sydney, and Beijing?
- Cliché are good, but I wanted to avoid one in particular; "Everyone is American". As Star Trek fans I'm sure we're all familiar with the various incarnations of Trek, but out of the five Captains to appear as main characters in Trek, six if you include the reboot Kirk, all bar one (Jean Luc) were born in the United States. With the US winding down its space program while the PRC ramps up its own, the likelihood of the US leading humanity into space looks bleak... and that is a huge shame.
The character of Liao is very complex. Where do you draw inspiration for her from?
- I draw inspiration from Liao from a number of sources. Much like most writers I see a bit of myself in her; mostly her occasional impulsiveness and moments of self doubt. However, the main source of inspiration was a personal friend of mine who's kinda shy so probably best not to name her (she encouraged me to write a story with a strong female lead), and from UFOP: Starbase 118's own Flt. Captain Sidney Riley and Captain Quinn Reynolds. I also drew various traits from all the writers I've served with in the fleet. The dedication in the cover of the book credits UFOP: Starbase 118 with teaching me to write, and I stand by that assertion.
Follow up: Do you see the character taking on a life of her own as the book progressed? Most writers have character already in mind, and the writing part is conveying that to the reader. It seems that the character of Liao was growing as well. Was her growth planned, or did she take on a mind of her own, so to speak?
- I'd say that Liao grew as my confidence as a writer grew. In the beginning, I think, I was too cautious to do anything with her; I didn't want her to change, or grow (or grow old!), or suffer. As I wrote, that changed... and she's a much better character for it.
Was this your first time publishing your writing?
- It was my first time and I learned heaps. When it came time to push "go", squeals and "Oh god oh god what if it's not reeeeady" were everywhere, coming fast on the heels of late nights cramming in final revisions, fixes upon fixes upon fixes upon fixes. Rewrites and rewrites. If you compare my original synopsis with the final product there's a vague resemblance, but that's it. Still, what a journey, huh?
Did you find it hard to publish your works to Amazon.com?
- I found it hard to format the book correctly as it was written in Google Docs, then downloaded as HTML and manually formatted for Kindle. This took hours and hours and was a very slow, labour-intensive, error prone process so... never again. I've done a lot more research since publishing and there are a lot better ways to go about it (downloading to RTF first fixes most of the roaming spans problem). Once the actual book file was ready to go, though, the process was very painless and kinda exciting.
Can we look forward to a sequel, perhaps?
- Funny, I just finished the first draft of the cover for book II today and I'm quite happy with how it came out, and the synopsis is about 25% complete, so I'd say a sequel is "very likely". No hints on what the title is though... you'll have to wait. ;)
What was one thing you want to portray in his book?
- One thing I wanted to do with this book was address one of my own personal weirdnesses about the Star Trek universe, and that is... where are all the Chinese people? Sulu is Japanese, Kim is Korean... and almost all of the background extras are either Caucasian or African. In the super egalitarian, almost stateless Star Trek future it seems odd to wholly omit a country which at present is home to 1/4 of the world's population and growing. I mean... wouldn't that mean the average population of Humans aboard a starship would be 1/4 Chinese? So where are they all?
Follow up: I have to play devil's advocate. While looking into the Post-atomic horror, I found this on Memory Alpha...
"The term post-atomic horror was used by future Earth historians to refer to the global turmoil which resulted after the end of the Third World War in 2053. Because the war was a nuclear exchange, large populations of Humans were bombed out of existence, and the survivors were placed in jeopardy by radioactivity, supply shortages, and the collapse of most of the major governments. "
Perhaps the Chinese were among those "bombed out of existence?" Or maybe they faced the worst part of supply shortages due to their size?
- Of course, there's a lot of reasons why there aren't many Chinese people represented in Star Trek, but it just seems such a strange thing to not mention. Although verisimilitude (and international appeal) might well be served by tactfully not naming the nation-state with whom the United States and her allies fought, the idea that there would be essentially none just strikes me as very strange. It's entirely possible that China suffered both the most severe of the nuclear strikes by a significant margin, and the survivors just couldn't make it in the post-nuclear world. This would be a sad end to one of Earth's most ancient civilizations.
What kind of rating can readers expect from Lacuna: Demons of the Void?
- I suppose one word of caution would be to be mindful of the rating of Lacuna. All UFOP: Starbase 118 sims must be PG-13 or lower. Lacuna is definitely NC-17, primarily for the swearing and occasional steamy romance scenes.
At one point there was a PG-13 version available...
- Honestly, the PG-13 version got no reviews, no sales, no borrows and no interest during the whole week I had it up there... and I kinda realized that any sales it would have made would have taken away from the popularity of the main edition in terms of the Kindle rankings, so I just took it down (I'd rather have one book at rank #10,000 than two at #20,000). If Lacuna takes off and becomes a roaring success, I might reissue it, but for the moment consider it an extremely limited edition collector's copy which exists only on my hard drive. ;)