Everything you ever wanted to know about me and my writing (and more) in my interview with the amazing Fiona Mcvie. (Check out the original here) Fiona has interviewed over 5,000 (!) authors on her authorsinterviews site.
Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi everyone. My name is Paul Anlee. I’m 61 and happy to have made it that far after a heart attack and triple bypass last year.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m originally Canadian (most recently from Edmonton, but I’ve lived all over the country). Now, I live with my wife, Sandra, in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m a Canadian, living in Cuenca, who’s writing provocative, hardcore sci-fi, and learning Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan (and sword form, too) from a South American teacher.
Before I semi-retired and started writing science fiction, I was a scientist at Canada’s National Institute for Nanotechnology. My PhD is in molecular biology and genetics, but the work I did there was in the exciting new field of synthetic biology. Before that, I had a career in information technology as a systems designer, programmer, and consultant in business and accounting software.
My wife and I began a big adventure about 5 years ago when we moved from Canada to the perennial spring climate of Cuenca. We’ve been exploring Ecuador, learning Spanish and more about South American culture, writing, and practicing Tai Chi in the park. It can be difficult being away from extended family sometimes, but we love our lives here south of the equator.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve got two more books in the Deplosion series coming your way.
Book 3, The Reality Rebellions, will be released before Christmas 2017, and I’m currently working on Book 4, The Reality Assertion, which will wrap up the series. Watch for it this coming Spring, 2018. I’m having a ball with this series. Expect some twists and turns coming up, a couple of your favorite characters return for major roles, and I’ve got a bit of a surprise ending to the series. My whole reason for starting these novels was to present different viewpoints and generate conversation around some difficult themes. I hope my readers will talk about some of the ideas.
We’re also responding to reader feedback, and reformatting the series into a “Deplosion-Chrono” edition for people who prefer shorter reads (80k words instead of 120k) presented in strict chronological order. Both the Chrono and Author’s Original editions will be available as individual books and boxed sets.
Another cool spin-off project we’re working on, came out of our efforts to get the series translated into Chinese. I wrote the books as two parallel stories taking place about 125 million years apart, and I jump back and forth between the two timelines. The Chinese translation team asked if there was a way to break the books into smaller chunks (80k instead of 120k words). We also had some readers tell me they loved the books but would’ve preferred a more straightforward chronological timeline. We thought about it, and decided we could do both. Stay tuned for the Deplosion “Chrono” edition in English and, if all goes well, in Chinese. Both the original “Author’s Edition” and “Chrono Edition” will be available as individual volumes and in boxed sets.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing for fun many, many moons ago, during high school. Back then, creating new stories was just a way to pass time during spare classes. But then a couple of busy careers intervened, and I put on my fiction writing on hold. It’s only been since moving to Ecuador that I’ve been able to turn my attention back to writing.
I’d been working on some theoretical issues in Artificial Intelligence and ran into some road blocks. I needed a new project. I’ve loved the sci-fi genre (especially hard, speculative sci-fi) since I was a kid, and I’d played around with writing fiction off-and-on for decades. It seemed like a fun idea to try to write a novel. Turned out, it was a lot of hard work, too. Writing something others want to read is an all-consuming challenge.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Well, I’ve published a number of scientific articles during my career as a scientist and researcher (not under my pen name), so I’ve been writing for a long time. But this has been my first real stab at fiction. I think I became a writer the first day I started thinking about putting a story together.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The Deplosion series has two purposes. It gives me an outlet to put out some of my more creative ideas about the future of science and technology; and it allows me, and my readers, to explore how scientific ideas can sometimes be at variance with religious ideas, and how it can all get embroiled in political and economic ambitions. My wife thought I was crazy to go from never having published a short story, to tackling a complex four-part series as my very first foray into the writing world—or maybe she just thought I was crazy, period.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I brainstormed for days. The story’s about reversing creation to make the universe anew. Alum, the main protagonist, wants to recreate the entire universe (all possible universes, actually) into His personal version of “heaven.”
The series title, “Deplosion,” was easy; it’s a mix of “deflation” and “implosion”. It’s the opposite of the “explosion” and “inflation” of the Big Bang (although there never was really an explosion). The Deplosion is what Alum wants to bring about.
The individual book titles were harder. The first book was all about the nature of reality, the basis for the laws of nature, that sort of thing, and whether those laws are immutable. What if you created a device that could change the laws of nature, and what if someone stole that device for their own purposes? Science figures out one of reality’s deepest secrets, and an inevitable clash with religious belief motivates the story from there. The titles for Books 2, 3, and 4 each hint at the major thrust of that volume.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to write in a thriller style, fast-paced and exciting, but the tension and suspense is in the thinking and ideas as much as in the action. I imagine chapters like scenes in a movie (enter the scene as late as possible, keep the tension high, and end with a bang). But, I also like to take the time to explore various issues as they arise. Because I try to incorporate lots of real and speculative science, politics, and economics in the novels, it’s a challenge to find a good interplay between the plot points and exploring scientific and philosophical ideas.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are bits of lived experience in the book, but the vast majority is from my imagination. My wife (and editor) often shakes her head and says, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” One of the challenges I throw out to my readers is to tell when I’ve moved beyond solid science into sheer speculation. But, no, I don’t have a neurolattice enhanced brain. Unfortunately.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Only in my mind.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The wonderful Elizabeth Mackey (http://www.elizabethmackeygraphics.com/) has been great to work with. We highly recommend her.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
On my blog site I state that my philosophy is one of empirical physicalism. I believe in the reality of matter, and in the scientific method as the best way to understand the universe. This is quite at odds with the push towards mysticism and fantasy prevalent in much of western society these days. I believe in hope and optimism, but I don’t think it’s enough to simply “hope” that society’s problems will go away. We need to acquire and apply both knowledge and wisdom, and that requires a lot of hard work and persistence.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Science fiction is different from other forms of literature in that it’s about the intersection of ideas and story. The love of big ideas, new discoveries, and new technologies motivated much of my career in science and technology.
I’ve read science and science fiction almost exclusively since I was around twelve years old. Some of my favorites are Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, David Brin, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, and John C. Wright.
Recently, I’ve been enjoying the work of Sri-Lankan author Yudhanjaya Wijeratne (Numbercaste); South African author J.T. Lawrence (Why You Were Taken); and American author Alexes Razevich (Khe, The Girl with Stars in her Hair). These three are writing thoughtful science fiction that harkens back to some of the classics, fiction that asks “what if” and follows the answer to interesting conclusions.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Author D.B. McNicol started a writer’s support group called “Cuenca:Writing our World” (WOW), when she lived in Ecuador a few years ago. That group has grown to over a hundred members. Donna has since returned to the US but author friends like Scarlett Braden and J. Michael Herron have been instrumental in making this group a huge success and inspiration. Along with WOW, the Cuenca Writers Collective is a steady heartbeat in our vibrant writing community.
This year, members from both groups are working on the third “Cuenca International Writers Conference” (http://cuencawritersconference.com/), which will welcome writers from around the world. The first two were an overwhelming success, and 2018 will be even bigger. We have a new venue this year, a refurbished building in the heart of this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city. Expect quality presenters hosting sessions in a wide range of genres in English and in Spanish.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
If I’m lucky! Fiction writing is a long shot if you want to make money and be successful. Certainly, my previous careers in computer programming and scientific research provided more obvious routes. These days, writing is as much a business as a career; there’s just so much to learn. But it’s exciting and, like many small businesses, it gives you the possibility—or maybe it’s just the hope—of controlling your own destiny. Just a little.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’ve always enjoyed puzzling my way through a novel and like complex, interwoven plots. But that’s not everyone’s preference. As I said, we’re going to provide an optional configuration for readers that prefer something more straightforward. Watch for the Deplosion Chrono series.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Writing, like science, is a continuous process of learning and growth. Authors should be constantly trying to become even better, in the craft, in the ideas they explore, and in the research and world building they conduct.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I think Zachary Quinto (of Heroes, and Star Trek) would make an excellent adult Darian Leigh. I’d chose Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game) as the young Darian—it would take someone special to portray the right amount of curiosity and humility coupled with confidence (okay, scientific arrogance) for that character. Darian’s mother, the brilliant Sharon Leigh would have to be Amy Adams, of course.
I see Kevin Spacey as the ideal person to play the Reverend Alan LaMontagne. Confession: I channeled an evangelical version of Mr. Spacey when I was writing.
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Lion) would bring out the character of Greg Mahajani beautifully; and Liu “Crystal” Yifei (The Forbidden Kingdom) would be fantastic as Kathy Liang. One can dream, right?
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I’m a big fan of Larry Brook’s “Story Engineering,” and of Dean Wesley Smith’s “Writing into the Dark.” I believe in planning and pantsing at the same time. You need to have an idea where your story is going but also allow it to follow your creative impulses. As biochemist Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Deplosion is a series for those who enjoy provocative sci-fi and philosophy. One of my most enjoyable and surprising recent experiences was walking into a restaurant in Cuenca, and finding two friends discussing the ideas in The Reality Thief. I want people to enjoy playing with the concepts as much as the story itself.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished Linda Nagata’s “The Bohr Maker.” What a fantastic exploration of nanotech, synbio, and sociology that was. Considering it was written in 1995, it was amazingly prescient. I didn’t work in synbio and nanotech until 2004.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Besides Dick and Jane? I won some kind of reading award in Grade one. It was a wonderful children’s book called something like, “Hunt the Ocelot.” I think my parents still have it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My sense of humor leans toward the British: dry and ironic. I almost never cry at the “sad” parts of movies, but the triumphant scenes in “Arrival” and “Hidden Numbers” had me bawling like a baby.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Theoretical physics and cosmology have always been hobbies of mine. I’d love to be able to sit down with Lawrence Krauss, Neal de Grasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Sean Carroll, and just kick around ideas about the universe. Of course, I wish I had the mathematical background to do that intelligently.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I practice Chen-style Tai Chi (open hand and sword) and think a lot about Artificial Intelligence. I read avidly about finance, economics, and politics. And I try to keep up with advances in synthetic biology and science, in general.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The past few years, I discovered I really like a bunch of shows out of Korea and Japan that are on Netflix, shows like: The Gu Family Book, The Moon Embracing the Sun, Midnight Diner, Atelier, White Knights, and Gourmet Samurai.
Probably my favorite movie of the past year was “Arrival.” Even though the ending was a little unsatisfying (time travel and the block universe are nonsensical concepts in my view), the movie was thoughtful and emotional. I loved it. Before that, I really appreciated the way “The Martian” so fluidly incorporated science and engineering into an engaging story.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love Vietnamese, Japanese, and Thai cooking. Sushi is probably my favorite. I have a great memory of getting up at 5:30 am in Tokyo to walk to the fish market and wait in the cold and snow for two hours to have sushi for breakfast. (Thanks, Rick.)
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
In developing the Deplosion series, I’ve worked on some of my ideas about artificial intelligence and conceptual processing systems. Maybe I’ll take a bit of time after the series is done and flesh out some of that theory.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
What headstone? Now that I’ve survived death once, I have no intention of trying it again.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
www.paulanlee.com is my blog site (where you can sign up for my newsletter), or readers can follow me on Facebook (Paul Anlee Fans page), twitter (@PaulAnleeAuthor), or Pinterest (Paul Anlee). You can also email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow me on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Paul-Anlee/e/B01LDGPF7M
Check out The Reality Thief here: https://www.amazon.com/Reality-Thief-Deplosion-Book-ebook/dp/B06XSML7V5
Download a free sample here: https://www.amazon.com/Reality-Thief-Deplosion-Book-ebook/dp/B06XSML7V5
Check out The Reality Incursion here: https://www.amazon.com/Reality-Incursion-Deplosion-Book-ebook/dp/B074FH1J44