– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m not on a blogtour, but doing my own interview with D. Ellis Overttun, author of The Terra Nova Series ‘Universe: Awakening’ and ‘Genesis: Vision of the New World’, to promote his books.
Title: Universe: Awakening
Date Published: 7th October 2018
Genre: Science Fiction
The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of twelve that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and spatial distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years.
Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma.
The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity.
Fast-forward to 526,880. A sole-surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around the probe begins to stretch and distend. Then, the probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message.
CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving a superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next thousand years. To the Celesti, this is one lifetime.
What can be done?
The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there.
This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed.
Is it possible to unlock his mind?
The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower level of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary do something extraordinary?
Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series.
Title: Genesis: Vision of the New World (Terra Nova book 2)
Date published: 13th August 2018
A light streaking across the predawn sky, an explosion and an impending menace from above, seemingly unrelated events but connected to space time distortions predicted by an obscure scientific paper over 250 years ago. That same paper has predicted an end to the universe.
Has the unthinkable become a reality?
The ruling class Celesti see the danger as real and imminent since planet Arkos could become compromised in as little as 1,000 years. To them, that is one lifetime. That same timeframe is ten lifetimes to the servile class Gendu. To them, the threat does not even exist.
There are those within the Celesti who see the Gendu as a more immediate threat. Their solution is to genetically engineer a more pliant servant class and leave Arkos for an unknown planet. Is that even possible?
But will it even matter? The leaders of the Celesti, the Transcended, know a terrible secret: The Celesti are dying.
Against this backdrop of extinction lies the politics of power. A new leader has just assumed her role as the head of the Gendu Houses. However, she is an outsider. Will she be accepted or will she be cast out as an interloper?
Also, the leader of the most powerful religious organization on the planet is missing and presumed dead. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for anyone bold enough to seize the moment. Who will fill this void? Someone with a hunger for influence and privilege? Or someone with a calling for higher purpose?
Finally, there is a prophecy from the “Codices of Taru” which foretells of a time of darkness when the “head will be cleaved from the body” that will announce the coming of the “Deceiver”. Ancient superstition or a vision of the future?
“Genesis: Vision of the New World” tells this story in vivid detail, an evolution of the narrative begun in “Universe: Awakening”. As part of this journey, it takes a fascinating look into the world of the Gendu and introduces readers to a host of new characters and relationships. It is a potpourri of science, political intrigue and discovery driven by characters with selfish and selfless motives.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I grew up in a town in the Midwest. My mother was a bookkeeper for a small HVAC company and my father was a draftsman. At university, I studied chemistry. However, when I graduated, I did not (or could not) pursue that vocation because I was terrible in the lab.
I have been a storyteller ever since I can remember. It started as a way to get out of trouble and evolved as a way to entertain those around me. My first recollection of writing prose was in elementary school when I had to write a short essay about a picture from a magazine. (Mine was a freshly baked loaf of bread.) In grade 7, I penned two short stories for a school writing competition. One was entitled “My Funny Cousin”, a descriptive piece about a relative (a little older than me) who stayed with us one summer. My mother very quickly killed that story. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because she told me she thought it was very funny. It was only later that I figured out that I could have replaced “Funny” with “Flamboyant” in the title. So, it was back to the drawing board. My second attempt was a collection of anecdotes about the life of my maternal grandfather titled “The Hilarious Things My Grandfather Did”. That one went on to win.
Apart from contests and making my way through school a little easier, I found that writing (especially creative writing) had other uses. In school, I was the proverbial class clown. One time a teacher told me, “One more pun out of you Overttun and you’re out the door!” To which I replied, “O pun the door!” That earned me a string of one hour detentions that would end on completion of a 1,500 word essay on any topic of my choosing. So, I chose the great outdoors. It was a story about a lumberjack. It went sort of like this, “Jack the lumberjack was a lumberjack. Everyday, Jack the Lumberjack would go out into the woods to do what lumberjacks do best. They chop trees. When Jack the Lumberjack found one, Jack the Lumberjack took his ax and went chop, chop, chop, chop, chop…” Needless to say, while I met the strict requirements of the essay, it was disqualified. In its place, I penned something very wordy about getting up in the morning and going through a normal school day.
My first complete novel was a story about a soldier of fortune in the age of horse and bow. At the time, I had contact with people in the entertainment business in California. The feedback I got was that I should take one of the chapters and expand it into a novel. That made no sense to me. What the heck did that mean? How could you expand something so small into something big? So, I never pursued it. However, the comment stuck with me. It was only much later that I figured out that it meant that I should never rush the telling of a story.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
My mother was a huge fan of Byron, Tennyson, Keats, Kipling and the like. I never did pick up her love of poetry but I do have Kipling’s “If” hanging in my study. The other thing my mother loved was Greek mythology. One Christmas, I received a coffee table size book of Greek myths replete with colorful pictures of gods and goddess to go along with stories of origin, wisdom and folly. Stories such as those became the staple of my childhood reading.
Now an adult (although opinions vary), I gravitate towards nonfiction because I like to discover how things work. My section of our bookshelves is occupied by books like: Antifragile (Nassim Taleb), Great by Choice (Jim Collins), The Last Place on Earth (Roland Huntford), Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond) and The Ascent of Money (Niall Ferguson).
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
If I could, I would like to get advice from Hugh Howey (@hughhowey). He started out as an Indie author just like me and made the transition to mainstream publishing. I would like to know that story and his reason for the change. In particular, I am curious about his retention of legal representation and the most salient features how he manages his intellectual property.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I would like to tweak your question. While I drink tea, I am not partial to it. So, it would have to be for coffee. Hands down, I would choose Cyrano de Bergerac from the play of the same name. You might argue that a play is not a book. I would counter that it is memorialized in written form just as Shakespeare’s plays.
Cyrano is intensely interesting. I admire his strong sword arm (maybe I could get an introductory lesson), his wit, his soul and the breadth of subject matter that he draws upon in his plays, his verse and his prose. He could teach me much. (I think I might absorb his wisdom better than Christian de Neuvillette.)
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Well, I don’t blow on my fingers like Ben Affleck did in The Accountant but I never write when I’m tired. I find the best time to write is in the morning when I’m fresh. My ideas generally come to me in that twilight before or after sleep. Quiet is also essential. If a song is playing in the background, it interferes with my train of thought.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
The Terra Nova series is 1 part Bible, 1 part science and 2 parts human nature. I have always had an intense interest in the text of the Bible. The science comes from my post secondary studies in chemistry, physics and biology. And, of course, on my journey through life, I’ve had many experiences with the human condition. So, it’s a mixture of all three (shaken not stirred). That’s the main body for the story. However, finishing details such as hair and eye color come from current events.
There are many parts of the narrative drawn from my life. This background information is part of guest posts of excerpts from Universe that have been appearing on various blogs of late. It’s a kind of WWIT to give readers a flavor for the series. I want readers to have a good idea of what they will be reading. I do not want to disappoint.
I have no grudges to vent or axes to grind. So, no one needs to be worried.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I’m a total pantser. I like to write and discover the story just as my audience would. It comes from my long history of telling stories. In telling a tall tale, I know where I start and where I have to finish. However, the difference is when I’m telling a what happened today story (say to Natasha), I can look for nonverbal cues and make adjustments as necessary to extract the most entertainment value. That option is not available to me in written form. But the predisposition for pantsing has been almost hardwired into me from the beginning. So, I couldn’t change if I wanted.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I’m not really one to give anyone any tips about anything. Writing, in particular, is something that is extremely personal. Further, it is one thing to write something and completely another to resonate with readers. The only thing I can offer is logistical not inspirational but, finishing a manuscript without it is unlikely. Caveat emptor: What follows has been based only upon my own experience.
1. Writing, to borrow from Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, is cumulative incremental progress. If you want to write a novel with a 100,000 words and you write a 100 words a day, it’s going to take you a 1,000 days to write. And that’s just the rough draft part! Ideally, DO make a plan and stick to it, even if all you can produce is crap. DON’T set a plan and then say, “I know I was supposed to write Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week but I’ll make up for it this weekend.” In writing circles, that’s known as bullsh*t. (If you do that, then just add writing to your exercise and diet goals.)
2. Writing takes time. I’ve found that it takes me about an hour a page to get something that’s fairly readable. DON’T try to write unless you have enough time.
3. DO tell your story. One mistake I made when I first started was to rush the story. I would get (what I thought) was a great premise then write until it (and I) were exhausted. Then, I would read it over and say, “WOW!” (Yeah, in my dreams.) Your ideas have sub-ideas and nuance. Explore them.
4. DON’T get discouraged (at least as a default condition). This is a very tough business. You are like a salmon swimming up stream. Finishing a manuscript is probably the easy part. By the numbers, what are the odds of your book becoming the next Harry Potter? Probably somewhere around the 10th decimal place in a fraction. Should you give up? NO! Again, by the numbers, I calculate there are over a billion books sold annually every year. How much is a 100,000 books? 0.01%. Your audience is out there. Go find them!
5. DO at least a rough copyedit as you go. If you leave it until the end, I have found a final manuscript takes longer to finish. I have found that this part of the process is a two person job that comprises: spell check, grammar check, format consistency, plot consistency and plot holes. The first three are purely technical and are easily overlooked. Get as much of them out of the way so you can concentrate on the last two.
Note that these items only address producing something that is readable and makes sense. It has nothing do to with how your writing will be received by readers. Get back to me, if you ever figure out the recipe to that secret sauce.
6. This next point deals with those of us who write in English. DO pick one and stick to it. I was amazed at how often I flitted between US and UK spelling, for example: gray (US) vs grey (UK), signaled (US) vs signalled (UK), analyze (US) vs analyse (UK). I have a list of words on a spreadsheet to help me keep things straight. When in doubt – google.
7. DO watch for homonymic spelling errors, for example: illicit vs elicit, distain vs disdain, hanger vs hangar. Again, I refer to a word list of the most common ones I use in addition to googling.
8. DO give serious thought to your cover. When I was ready to publish the original version of Universe: Awakening, I got to the part in kdp where it asked me to download my cover. I had never even thought about it. I was so anxious to publish I had Natasha take a picture of part of a pot and email it to me. I slapped it together. It was a real hack job. Needless to say, I’m not good at it. Natasha did a makeover and now handles everything visual. She uses a combination of Paint, the freeware version of Photoscape (not Photoshop) and Word.
What are your future plans as an author?
Write, write, write. Then, after that. Write, write, write. All joking aside, I’m more than halfway through writing Book 3, tentatively titled Prophecy: Eve of Darkness. I think the Terra Nova series will be done by Book 4. Then, there is a prequel series tentatively titled The Great Father named after one of the characters in Genesis: Vision of the New World. It details the origins of the two racial groups on the planet: the Celesti and the Gendu. Then, there are 2 one offs, stand alone books. Intrepid (working title) will tell the story of the technology that is the linchpin in Universe: Awakening. The Book of Probes will be a compendium of short stories about the 12 probes launched from the Intrepid.
That should keep me busy for a while.
Last, but not least: Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
The setting in Universe makes it appear that this is earth in the distant future. Is it somehow possible that this is the distant past?
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, D. Ellis Overttun.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!
Topic: Indie Spotlight – Terra Nova Series
Topic: Author Q&A
On: On The Shelf Reviews
Topic: Author Q&A – Cinematic and Visual Influences
On: The Book Hole
Topic: Author Q&A – Musical Influences
On: From Belgium With Book Love
Topic: Background to Universe: Awakening and Excerpt “Wanderer”
On: Zooloo’s Book Diary
Topic: Cover Makeover Genesis: Vision of the New World
On: On The Shelf Reviews
Excerpts and Commentary:
Topic: Universe: Awakening Excerpt Chapter 46 – Tsai and Citrus
On: Herding Cats
Topic: Universe: Awakening Excerpt Chapter 66 – The Second Way
On: The Tattooed Book Geek
Topic: Universe: Awakening Excerpt Chapter 85 – Heron of Edenoud
On: On The Shelf Reviews