Thursday, June 16, 2016

Floor 21: Interview with Sci-fi Dystopian author Jason Luthor

Jason Luthor has spent a long life writing for sports outlets, media companies and universities. His earliest writing years came during his coverage of the San Antonio Spurs as an affiliate with the Spurs Report and its media partner, WOAI Radio. He would later enjoy a moderate relationship with Blizzard Entertainment, writing lore and stories for potential use in future games. At the academic level he has spent several years pursuing a PhD in American History at the University of Houston, with a special emphasis on Native American history.

His inspirations include some of the obvious; The Lord of the Rings and Chronciles of Narnia are some of the most cited fantasy series in history. However, his favorite reads include the Earthsea Cycle, the Chronicles of Prydain, as well as science fiction hits such as Starship Troopers and Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?
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Can you tell us what your book is about?

Humanity is trapped at the top of an isolated apartment Tower with no memory of how they arrived there. They’ve never seen ground floor, and a disease called the Creep threatens anyone who travels lower than Floor 21. Tower Authority keeps society together, but discourages thoughts and communication that would encourage a desire to leave the building. Jackie Coleman, daughter of scientists and one of the privileged individuals living near the top of the Tower and away from the Creep, wants to find out how they got there. It’s during the course of her investigation that she
becomes the target of both Tower Authority and the Creep.

Why did you write your book?

I was watching a movie where a young girl was lowered into the depths of a tower where she feared there might be zombies awaiting. There are no zombies in my book, but I just thought at the moment: what if there was a society that had always lived at the top of a tower?

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Jackie is a hyper intelligent, super athletic, emotionally imbalanced, African American female about the age of 17. She’s typically one of the smartest people around and she’s always the most curious, but she has a crippling inability to emotionally connect with others. Her parents have been mostly distant from her for the better part of her teenage years. Her only true friend, Allison, is the inverse of Jackie. Allison is incredibly popular, but content living in the Tower. Still, the two balance each other out. Finally, there’s Vick, a commander of a Scavenger team whose job is to find supplies for people living on the upper floors. He’s far more of a military type character.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I think it’s impossible to write characters that aren’t based in some way on characters we know or have seen in media. Jackie has some Ellen Page in her, and Vick has some Spike Spiegel.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

Sometimes the plot is completely preconceived and plotted. Sometimes I wing it as I go. But I’m of the same mind as William Goldman, who wrote Princess Bride, who once said the best scenes in your book are the ones that inspire you to write it in the first place, those scenes you see so clearly in your head when you’re doing nothing that you have to get them onto paper.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The Tower is a character all its own. I think there’s something very frightening about staring down an empty hallway in a building you’ve never been in before, on the top floor. The claustrophobia, the fear of what’s around the corner, of who is in the next room. The thought of getting lost in those halls and not getting hard.

Is it hard to get a scifi dystopian book published?

I was picked up by the Scout imprint but I’ve previously gone multiple rounds with agents, including a full year of revisions, before finally being dropped. Given the low percentage of people who get a book picked up by any label, I’d say that, yes, getting a book published is hard.

Is it hard to promote a scifi/dystopian book and where do you start?

Fortunately, my publisher runs an ad campaign for me every two or three months. Individually, I have to do my part by regularly contacting people on my newsletter list, reaching out to my fandom via the Facebook group, and engaging in my writer’s groups.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I don’t completely believe in writer’s block. I think you either have something you want to say, or you don’t. Human beings are natural story tellers. For me, refreshing the well involves reading good books and watching exciting movies. It gets me back on course wanting to tell the same sort of stories.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Exercise. Healthy body, healthy mind.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Christmas, because the stereotypical snow white winter, cheery lights, and time with friends just gets me right in the feels.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

There’s a really popular breakfast and lunch cafĂ© down the street from me I’d visit. At night, it’s more of a wine drinking place, but that’s just as fun.

What do you like the most about being an author?

I get to be creative and work from home! More than anything, I enjoy the independence.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

The minute they take seriously the art of editing. Too many writers put out a first draft and are too afraid to take seriously the process of removing their work. Longer isn’t better, and a shorter, more concise tale can be very powerful. Editing also helps your refine the voice of your characters and think about whether what you’ve written communicates the themes that are important to you.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Get into a writing group and take critiques seriously. At the same time, read others in your genre. We tend to favor writing styles we grew up with, but it’s also important to write in a way that communicates to a current audience. The Tolkien style has given way to more accessible writing, for instance. You want to balance your own style with accessible writing, and you want to seriously understand where your book is losing its audience. For all that, you need feedback from others, in addition to knowledge on current writing trends.

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