Welcome, one and all, to today’s author interview! This time around, we’re welcoming back r.r. campbell. If you haven’t read his first Q&A on the site, click this link and give it a look-in! There’s also a book spotlight up for his latest novel here.
So, with all the catching up done, head on down below for the latest chat.
Welcome back to the site! Last time, we were primarily talking about your novel Accounting for It All. How are things going with that book? Has the reception been good, or have there been any unexpected issues?
Thanks for having me back!
Accounting for It All has been well received so far, and there’s been far less controversy surrounding it than I anticipated. After all, it’s not that often one encounters a book about a porn-star-turned-accountant that takes a sex-positive perspective.
I’m actually really pleased to let readers know the book is under consideration in the Bisexual Book Awards as well as for the Wisconsin Romance Writers Association of America’s Write Touch Award. Announcements won’t be made about whether it’s been selected as a finalist for a few months, but it’s wonderful to know the book will be getting in front of more people in the meantime.
Today, we’re going to be looking at your new sci-fi novel, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn. For those that didn’t see your original interview here, can you tell readers what the book is about?
Imminent Dawn takes place during the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant. Early reviewers have called it “freaking sci-fi Game of Thrones” and an “incisive techno-thriller that gets more tense with every page,” which I hope paints a general picture of the story’s tone.
The book follows four perspective characters and their experiences during the research study for the EMPATHY nanochip. More specifically, Imminent Dawn zeroes in on the chronicles of an art-school dropout, a ruthless tech magnate, a relentless investigative journalist, and an advancement-hungry administrative assistant.
The official description on the series’ website (https://empathyseries.com) focuses on the character of Chandra. She is taking part in the trials as a way to deal with her grief over her wife being in a coma. I know that you said before that the series started out as a short story and evolved as you were writing. Was Chandra always the lead, or did she appear as the universe expanded?
Chandra has always been the anchor of the story, including well before it became the multi-perspective novel it’s now become. The universe’s expansion led to the incorporation of Wyatt, the ruthless tech magnate; Meredith, the relentless investigative journalist; and Ariel, the advancement-hungry administrative assistant.
I’ve actually written an entire guest blog post for author H.A. Lynn’s site about the process that caused the EMPATHY universe to expand from a short story into the five-book series it’s now destined to be!
[Ryan to provide link to blog post once it’s live on H.A. Lynn’s site]
I know that the novel deals with three other participants in the study too. Do they have all have roughly the same amount of page time, or is this one mostly told through Chandra’s eyes?
Readers will definitely see a plurality of the story from Chandra’s eyes, though some of the other characters—Meredith, especially—see a near equal quantity of perspective chapters. Meredith is actually on the outside of the study, and through her, readers get a chance to explore the world beyond the compound’s walls as she attempts to get scoops about the goings-on within the research complex’s walls.
Ariel and Wyatt don’t have quite as many perspective chapters, but they’re present in the other characters’ storylines, so we get to see them plenty throughout the book.
What would you say are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of writing from multiple viewpoints in one novel?
The advantages certainly include the ability to get a fuller view of the world, which is especially fun to do in a speculative world like the one featured in Imminent Dawn and the EMPATHY universe as a whole. It also gives readers the opportunity to sometimes know things that the characters on the page do not, which adds additional layers of tension to every storyline.
One challenge can be keeping track of which characters know what and when. In a book as intricately plotted as Imminent Dawn, that’s of critical importance. There’s a reason it took me six years to really get this book right, but the lessons I learned along the way have put me in a vastly better position to write the series’ later installments.
Did it surprise you that the story spiraled out in the way that it did, or did you always have an inkling that it could become something bigger than what you had originally intended?
Initially, my goal was to only write a short story. After spending some time in the EMPATHY world, however, it became apparent there was much more I could do with the universe I was creating.
I tried writing a collection of short stories featuring different characters in different geographic regions of this world, but that didn’t feel quite right. Every time I started one, I found myself drifting back to Chandra and her story, which told me all I needed to know: no matter what I did in the EMPATHY universe, it would all have to center around her in the end.
How much has the general concept of the series changed since you first conceived it?
As I’ve hinted at in other answers, a great deal of it has changed as the story has evolved. I originally intended the short story to be a retelling of Flowers for Algernon, but what we’ve ended up with in the final draft of the full, multi-perspective Imminent Dawn is extraordinarily different.
You do a lot of research for your novels, and you’ve written a little before about the real life research currently taking place with brain-computer interfaces. Are the concepts in Imminent Dawn broadly based on this research, or did you take things in a slightly different direction with it? If you did, how important was it to make sure that your own ideas were in line with how our real world tech is advancing?
For Imminent Dawn, I really wanted the technology at the world’s core to be my own, so to speak. Though I kept myself cursorily aware of advancements in the realm of the brain-computer interface as I wrote, my goal was to stitch a story based less in hard science fiction and more in the realm of science as magic and magic as science.
When we boil away some of the meat on the Imminent Dawn bone, what we’re left with is a story not about technology, but about people whose lives are affected by our species’ unrelenting curiosity and desire for improvement through technological means. It’s for this reason that I really wanted to avoid going too hard on the particulars of the universe’s technology, focusing instead on these human profiles in courage and cowardice, in determination and deceit.
Experimental technology is always complicated in terms of not only how it works, but whether it should be used. Does the EMPATHY series tend to lean more towards celebrating the potential of this tech, or acting as a warning against potential issues?
My goal is for the long arc of the series to present both the upside and downside of brain-computer interface technology. Where Imminent Dawn is concerned, however, I think readers will get to see one side of that coin much more than the other.
The world in which all of this takes place is only a few steps removed from our own, and overall it’s a rather dark and unforgiving society that isn’t especially kind before the implementation of EMPATHY-like technology. Once EMPATHY is thrown into the mix, some of society’s problems are only exacerbated—rather than quelled—by its existence.
I do think there are some wonderful moments of positivity surrounding the nanochip in Imminent Dawn, too, but I’m not sure we’ll get to see the most positive sides of the brain-computer interface until much later in the series.
When we spoke before, you mentioned the series being akin to a hybrid of Black Mirror and Game Of Thrones. How would you say that it’s most like these two series?
Tone and presentation are the ways in which Imminent Dawn is most similar to these franchises. With Black Mirror there’s this this extraordinary darkness pit against invocations of the technological, and Imminent Dawn and the entirety of the EMPATHY series really seeks to capture that. For Game of Thrones—particularly if we step back from television and explore the A Song of Ice and Fire series more generally—the use of multi-perspective storytelling to weave complex power dynamics, incessant scheming, and explorations of the nature of good and evil into a single, intricate tapestry is something I hope to achieve over the course of the EMPATHY series as well.
Do you have a favourite moment in the book that you can tell us about?
I have a favorite place in the book if we’re willing to count that. By and large, the book takes place on a sterile-feeling, labyrinthine research complex, but in the middle of the compound is an enclosed, fifteen-acre arboretum complete with an area that features a towering willow tree and koi pond.
Some of the book’s most critical scenes take place in this spot, and it’s a favorite location of Chandra’s to boot. To me, it feels like there’s some greater power at play any time we pay the willow a visit.
I know that you have already completed a submittable draft of book two, Mourning Dove. Is that one currently going through editing with the publisher too? Do you have any idea of when readers can expect it?
At this time, Mourning Dove is currently under evaluation with the publisher. If we can adhere to our original target for this one, it could be out as soon as April of this year!
How are things progressing with books three to five?
Book three, Event Horizon, is still in its first draft. I’m about 72,000 words in and expect this novel to land around the 140,000 mark. It’s by far the most sprawling, complex installment of the series so far, which means even once a draft is done, I’ll need to spend a great deal of time combing it over for possible inconsistencies and small details to make sure I don’t drop any threads I introduced in books one and two. I honestly enjoy that work, though, however torturous it might seem. The intricacy of a book really balloons when one goes from four perspective characters in book one, to nine in book two, to twelve in book three, so we’ll see how the revisions process plays out!
Book four (Consolunarity) and book five (Nightshade) exist only in that I know what major moments need to happen in them and generally how every character will land themselves in those positions. I’ve got scenes in my head and am really eager to write a handful of them (particularly the climactic scenes of book four), but I won’t be in a position to write them until Event Horizon is complete.
Much like with Accounting For It All, you created a website specifically for this series. What influenced your decision to create individual sites rather than integrate them with your personal author site, www.rrcampbellwrites.com?
Since my main author site is focused on endeavors specific to writing and I knew I wanted to delve into the research that went into these books on the sites I created, I felt it important to create a separate venue for the most zealous readers. With Accounting for It All and the EMPATHY series coming from such disparate genres with different focuses where readership is concerned, I also wanted to use the presentation of the distinct sites to drive home matters related to the unique moods of these books. Establishing separate pages felt like a natural way to achieve this.
You also ran a book launch recently. What can you tell us about how you arranged this, and how it went? What advice would you give to other authors considering doing the same?
I had a wonderful time during the book launch for Accounting for It All—so much so, in fact, that I decided to hold another one to celebrate the launch of Imminent Dawn!
Essentially, I arranged to rent out space in a local bar/lounge during a Saturday afternoon—complete with a bartender, of course—and gave guests an opportunity to mingle, grab merch and other book-related swag, and enjoy drinks along with one another’s company for a time before I did a few readings, an author Q&A, and a raffle. I also used the final hour of the party to do screenings of the first book trailer for Imminent Dawn.
People seemed to really enjoy themselves, and I’m very much looking forward to hosting the Imminent Dawn launch party on February 22nd at a community center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Where advice to others is concerned, I actually put together a blog post and an even more detailed podcast episode of advice to help writers who would like to learn from how I carried out my own book launch.
Finally, can you tell readers in one sentence why they should pick up Imminent Dawn?
If you like Black Mirror, Game of Thrones, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’re going to love the twistedly delightful clockwork of intrigue and suspense that is Imminent Dawn.
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