Monday, 19 January 2015

Q&A with Mary Fan

Hey guys!

Joe here with a different type of post today!
I am so excited and grateful to say that the amazing Mary Fan who has written both’ Artificial Absolutes’ and ‘Synthetic Illusions’ (both of which I have read and reviewed) has agreed to do a Q&A with us!

Here’s the Q&A guys, hope you enjoy!

1. Where did the ideas for the main characters in Artificial Absolutes come from, and were they based on real people?

Jane was originally a character from a contemporary story that didn’t end up materialising—recent college grad with a boring job who daydreams about what she’d rather be doing. And then I thought, “What would happen if I threw her into a madcap sci-fi adventure?” I’m a longtime fan of space adventures, and one thing I’ve noticed consistently is that they all tend to be about people who are specialised in someway—the starship captain, the bounty hunter, etc. Meanwhile, there are billions of regular folks living in the rest of the universe. So the original idea behind Jane was to take one of those regular folks and hurl her into a situation she couldn’t have prepared for.

As for whether she’s based on real people—that’s hard to say. I drew certain aspects of her personality from people I know (including my own kid sister). A few pieces come from my own life (I’m also a musician-turned-office-drone). And a few elements come from other fictional characters (like Scarlet O’Hara and Princess Leia).

Devin is closer to the familiar action/adventure character we all know—the guy with the dark past. He came about because I wanted to explore the idea of an idealist gone wrong—the character whose lofty dreams of heroics happened in the past and led to disaster. Instead of the usual tale about an ordinary person who goes on a quest and finds glory, I wanted to tell the story about the guy who went on a quest and failed—where would he be years later?

As for Riley—he’s another mishmash of people I knew. Cocky nerds who are good at what they do and know it. I also wanted to show how one’s online personality can different from one’s real-world personality, and hence the difference between Riley when he’s himself and Riley when he’s communicating through the Net.

2. What was your favourite thing about writing Artificial Absolutes or Synthetic Illusions?

It’s hard to pick just one! I had loads of fun writing the action scenes and dreaming up new worlds. Perhaps one of my favourite world-building scenes to write was the part in Synthetic Illusions when Jane pilots a damaged segment of a starship into a giant cargo freighter in order to escape. It was just so out there! I had a blast making up the system that allowed that to happen.

3. When did you start showing an interest in writing?

I’ve always been obsessed with stories in all mediums. Books, movies, theatre, music—I’ve dabbled in them all at one point or another. What I really enjoy about writing, though, more than the others, is that there’s more room to develop your characters and your world. For characters, you can show their deepest, darkest secrets that they’d never reveal to another character, since when you’re writing from their perspective, you’re in their head. And for world-building, you can explains details and backstory that add richness to the universe. Books really allow you to dig into a story more than any other medium.

4. What authors have inspired you throughout your writing journey?

A wide and varied bunch! Believe it or not, Victor Hugo is one of my biggest influences. It may not be immediately obvious, since he wrote giant literary tomes and I write commercial spec fic, but I always admired how he imbues bigger ideas into his tales. I wasn’t directly emulating him, of course, but he certainly influenced me. Margaret Mitchell (of Gone with the Wind fame) and Steig Larsson (of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) are two others who indirectly influenced me, mostly in their treatment of characters and backstory. Even though they wrote completely different works in completely different eras, both had the uncanny ability to bring characters to life and let you really know why they are the way they are.

On a more conventional front, I was also influenced by the old-school sci-fi greats such as Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, and Stanislaw Lem. Plus Timothy Zahn (who wrote the first few Star Wars expanded universe novels).

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers in Sci-Fi genre?

I would say: Don’t forget about your characters. Cool storylines and interesting new concepts are fantastic, but not enough to keep a reader engaged. People are drawn to other people—that’s just who we are. So a reader’s not going to care about what happens unless they care about who it’s happening to.

Also: Be consistent in your world-building. In fact, consistency is the most important aspect of any speculative world. Readers have big imaginations, and so it’s okay to make your world as “out there” as you want, as long as it’s consistent with itself. The moment something becomes inconsistent, though, the reader’s suspension of disbelief is broken, and the story is ruined.

6. And lastly, will we be seeing Jane Colt go on another fantastic adventure?

Yes! In fact, I’ve recently completed the first draft of the third and final instalment in her saga (currently titled Virtual Shadows). Book 3 will see the return of all the principle players from the first two books (Jane, Devin, Adam, Riley, Ines) and introduce a new villain—plus a few twists. I’m not sure when it will be released since I’m still hammering it into shape, but I’ll be sure to make an announcement when I do!

Jane also makes an appearance in a short story for the Brave New Girls anthology ( The theme of the anthology is tech-savvy teen girls, and it’s aimed at encouraging more young women to become real-world programmers, scientists, engineers, etc. (revenues from sales of the anthology will go to a scholarship fund). Jane’s story, Takes a Hacker, takes place about six years before Artificial Absolutes, back when Jane was a code-writing teenager. She participates in an interstellar coding competition and discovers that one of her fellow contestants is a cheating saboteur. It’s a standalone, though a few elements will tie into Book 3.

I'd like to say thank you again to Mary for doing this Q&A for the blog!
If you to purchase Artificial Absolutes or Synthetic Illusions you can do so here:

Thanks for reading this Q&A guys!
See you on the flip side! :D

Joe :D


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