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Nov 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was tagged for this post by Priya Sharma for which I'm grateful. It's a cool thing. Stop now and go immediately to Priya's site and read her interview about a story that she's very promptly sold! While waiting for her story to appear, you can read some of her other fine stories at Albedo One, Black Static (issue 28) and Interzone (current issue).

Next week, plus or minus a few time zones, Richard Jones (blogging here) speculative fiction writer and author of A Dude's Guide to Babies (pre-order now!) will be posting his answers to these questions.

1) What is the working title of your next book/short story/project?

My next published book will be Shaky Ground, due out in a few weeks. My next (still-in-my-head) book will be an alternate-historical mystery with the working title of Tainted Earth. The two don't have anything in common despite the titles and the German setting.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is a complicated and not completely linear thing, this genesis of ideas. I suspect it's probably that way with most writers. Anyway, I'll try.

Shaky Ground is the sequel to Primary Fault, the first book in my Schattenreich series. I got the idea for the first book when we first started working on the archeoseismology of the Roman ruins being excavated in the Archeological Zone in Cologne (the paper that came out of that project is open access, published by Springer Verlag and downloadable here). The events in the novel are all fictional, but the real world controversy surrounding the (still unsupported) hypothesis that an earthquake could have forced Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, to abandon his seat of government in Cologne for Aachen greatly inspired me. Even though the Schattenreich series is contemporary, I also have plans to do a few historical shorts linking the past and the present.

But what really caught my fancy was a certain Roman well – a part of the excavations in the middle of Cologne – just across from the Rathaus or City Hall, in fact. This Roman well, still in use in Charlemagne's time, kept bugging me, wouldn't let me go. Plus I had started reading heavily about Druids and continental Celts and knew that had to be a part of the story. Druids+Roman ruins+Earthquakes. It was enough to get started. Even though the Roman well doesn't come into play until Shaky Ground, it was always there, in the back of my mind while writing the first book.

So, complicated.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Fantasy suspense with a healthy dose of romance.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha! I love this question because actually answering it will totally ruin everyone's – including my own – private images of the characters in the book. After giving it much thought, there's only two characters I'd pin down with an actor/actress: Anne Hathaway would, I think, be the perfect Caitlin Schwarzbach. Marco Girnth, a German actor who is mainly known for his work in the television police procedural SOKO Leipzig (the show is not particularly riveting, but I do enjoy watching Marco Girnth :-)) would be the perfect Heinrich von der Lahn and matches the mental picture I have of him.

I'm still trying to figure out who could play Sebastian von der Lahn. He's the most complicated character in the series, and I have to admit, I'm completely stumped. There are probably a half dozen excellent German actors who could do the role justice. Specifying an actor to play Hagen von der Lahn remains beyond my abilities at the moment. Gus Schwarzbach is such an amalgam of people I've known in my life, that it would also be impossible for me to pin him down. From looks alone, though, Garth Brooks comes pretty darn close.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A tale of seismology, Druids, and an evil blonde.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published under my imprint, Terrae Motus Books.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Four months. But it's taken me over three years to get it into publishable shape. It was a complete mess. It was the second novel (after Primary Fault) that I wrote. Even though I'm an incurable Pantser, Shaky Ground was the last novel I will ever write without some sort of a Road Map. I realized after it was finished that I didn't ever want to wander in the wilderness like that again.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Difficult, since it's a mix of real world science and contemporary fantasy. There's Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, but other than the Celtic cultural references and the romance aspects, the two books couldn't be more different. I would love to have it compared to Roger Zelazny's Amber series, but the comparison falls short once you get past the Otherworld/mythological aspects and the freaky Gothic castle.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

That's easy. Impending unemployment (that thankfully did not transpire!) Plus encouragement from another scientist who had written a novel (and gotten it published). I thought, if he could do it…so I sat down one day and started with Chapter 1. No plan. No real clue at all. Three months later I had Primary Fault. That was a little over five years ago. And after I finished, I immediately started writing the sequel, Shaky Ground. Everyone warned me away from doing that, from continuing to write books in a series before I had sold the first one. They were completely right. But I'm incredibly stubborn. And not so smart. However, I am immensely glad I did it. It's been a liberating experience, writing the books I always wanted to read. I'm now writing the fifth and final book in the series (if I change my mind on this, please just push me off a cliff).