Author Interview: R. R. Campbell III

 

Welcome, one and all, to another author interview. Today, I’m welcoming the excellent R.R. Campbell back to the site. He’s stopped by before to talk about his previous books Accounting For It All and Imminent Dawn, and has always been a blast to talk to. Today, we’re mostly talking about his sequel to Imminent Dawn, the lesfic techno-thriller Mourning Dove, and I’ve included in a mini spotlight on the book at the end of the interview, including an awesome book trailer. So, let’s  getto it!

Welcome back Ryan! You’ve been busy since we last spoke, promoting EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn and completing work on the sequel, Mourning Dove. Can you give us a quick rundown of what readers can expect from Mourning Dove?

Thanks for having me back, Matt!

I’m really thrilled about the release of Mourning Dove, as it really expands on the world and character set established in Imminent Dawn. In this installment, we dive more into the emotional journeys of a broader cast of characters than we were able to follow in Imminent Dawn, and I think this book is better for it.

If Imminent Dawn is an action, the equal and opposite reaction to it is Mourning Dove. There are still certainly a number of sci-fi and techno-thriller elements in Mourning Dove, but it, to me, feels vastly more grounded in inter-character relationships and inner turmoil than book one, which I feel has created a book with a significantly more resonant emotional core.

I wanted to start here by mentioning the awesome book trailer for this title. As I understand it, you did everything here from building the trailer’s structure to composing the music. It’s a wonderfully put together piece. Can you tell us how you went about constructing the trailer?

Thank you! And your understanding is correct: I composed the soundtrack for the trailer and produced it from start to finish. The only items not of my creation are the stock photos I pulled in from various sites on the web, but I was surprised by how many high quality images I was able to source that match elements of the book perfectly.

To put the trailer together, I worked across a few different apps and platforms, especially GarageBand, iMovie, and Canva. While I’m no AV professional, it was nice to further my familiarity with both GarageBand and iMovie in particular. I’m already working on the music for the trailer for book three, Event Horizon!

Is Mourning Dove another multi-POV piece, and are any new characters introduced that readers didn’t meet in Imminent Dawn?

Just like Imminent Dawn, Mourning Dove is a multi-perspective narrative. In book one, we followed  an art-school dropout, an investigative journalist, an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and a ruthless tech magnate. In book two we’ll be expanding the cast of point-of-view characters to nine, though a good chunk of those characters are perspective characters or familiar names from Imminent Dawn.

That said, we definitely get a handful of new characters, too, along with a number of new settings. While most of Imminent Dawn took place on the Human/Etech research compound, book two includes scenes in Texas, Quebec, Costa Rica, and more!

When we last spoke, you mentioned reading up about a lot of experimental technology and how it ties into the world of EMPATHY. Have you come across any interesting new items in your continued research?

I think the wonderful thing about Mourning Dove—and how I see the latter books in the series coming together—is that I’ve now positioned myself to do far more speculation on the nature of the brain-computer interface and related technologies than I did in Imminent Dawn. In other words, I’ve branched out more into the fi side of sci-fi, which has been liberating for me as an author and has permitted me to continue to make the world of EMPATHY my own.

Simply put, I shelved much of the technological research in favor of doing more research into the particulars of setting, culture, language, and other matters that establish details I feel add to the more vivid yet melancholy feel of Mourning Dove.

Where does the title ‘Mourning Dove’ come from? Is it a reference to a line in the book, or something else?

Mourning Dove is a reference to a scene in Imminent Dawn in which Chandra—our art-school dropout protagonist—recalls her comatose wife used to call her “mourning dove,” thinking it was spelled “morning dove.” Her wife, Kyra, would tease her for being such an early riser—ergo, “morning dove.”

The title feels like the perfect fit for this book given the mood that presides over it in general, and the mourning dove imagery does come into play, especially later in the book. I also really liked the double-entendre it allowed me to pull off, wherein book one we had suggestions of a “dawn,” and with book two we have progressed to suggestions of “mourning/morning.”

Do you have a favourite character among the cast of the book?

Chandra is where this series lives and breathes, and she really propels the action of Mourning Dove, even if she doesn’t have the plurality of perspective chapters this time around.

Aside from Chandra, though, I’m not sure there’s a single perspective character whose chapters I didn’t look forward to writing in Mourning Dove. Some were certainly more difficult than others to get right (I’m looking at you, Ariel), but the journey every last character is on is so personal and has such serious implications for everyone else that it’s hard to pick a single character outside of Chandra who’s really my favorite.

Take Rénald Dupont, our brooding newsman, for example. I loved writing his chapters, but then of course there’s Heather and Peter and Alistair and, lordy, even Gary was great for the couple of chapters we see from his point of view. There are other characters who we spend time with up close and personal in this book, but I’ll leave them unnamed for now as to avoid spoilers. J

Do any of the characters provide you with more frustration than others when it comes to writing them?

Ha! Yes, definitely. As I mentioned in my previous reply, Ariel was a real challenge in this book. I actually wrote her entire arc at one point and decided it needed to be nuked and rebuilt from scratch. The resolution she gets in Mourning Dove as it will be released is almost the exact opposite of the one she got in her first draft. To me, this is a demonstration that sometimes we don’t know the best direction for our stories until we’ve had a chance to write them and read them back to ourselves.

Where she ends up at the end of Mourning Dove now—however little I might have anticipated it when I first started drafting—feels exactly right for her character, though, and that’s what counts in the end.

You’ve done a number of public appearances relating to your books. Book signings and launches are things that I’ve wanted to do more but haven’t had much of an opportunity to do as yet. For those like me that aren’t as experienced in them, can you offer some advice as to what to expect, and what good practices would be? Are there things we should avoid doing or expect?

I’ve had some decent success with book launches and book events in the last couple of months, yes, though I think the real test will be spring and summer of 2019, during which I have nearly ten events slated to take place across my home state. My goal for Mourning Dove is to take a local approach in getting it and Imminent Dawn on the road. When book three, Event Horizon, comes out, my goal is to expand into major metro areas in nearby states, including the cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago.

But to your point about advice and other tips on getting these events together and making sure they succeed: I’ve actually written this blog post and recorded this podcast on that very topic, and with about a half hour of content in the podcast on this very topic, there’s certainly much to be said. I’d encourage readers to take a look at or have a listen to those resources and, if they have any questions afterward, reach out to me through my website’s contact page. I love to help as much as I’m able.

Have you had any surprising or favourite responses to your work so far?

I was over the moon when Madison’s alt-weekly, Isthmus, reviewed Imminent Dawn. It was so well received that I ended up with a handful of folks I’d never met before making it out to my launch party based on the review. There was also a recent feature in my alma mater’s newsletter about my upcoming speaking appearances at a writing conference put on by the university, which also really cast the series in a positive light.

Where readers themselves are concerned, I’ve been blown away by the positive reception to Imminent Dawn, and am really eager to see how they react to Mourning Dove. I can’t blame anyone for being concerned about the perceived fates of a few characters from book one, but read on, folks! You might be pleasantly surprised to learn some of your favorites (and your least favorites) are still out there somewhere…

Another interesting tidbit is how widely opinions seem to vary on all of the perspective characters with the exception of Chandra, who seems universally loved. I’ve noted readers find Wyatt and Meredith especially polarizing, but I’m more than okay with that; one of my goals for this series was to present complicated, morally gray characters whose decision-making is imperfect, and it seems that for these very reasons, the characters in question have been viewed quite differently by readers who’ve chimed in on that front.

Something interesting I spotted when browsing https://empathyseries.com was that there’s a game based in the book universe. Can you tell us a little about that? What sort of game is it, and how did you end up creating it?

I created EMPATHY: Madrugada to give readers (or prospective readers) the chance to play around in the EMPATHY world as Chandra, the art-school dropout at the heart of the series. Players are tasked with trying to get Chandra off the Human/Etech research compound, and they do so by selecting from a number of prompts generated by the game itself. It’s a choose-your-own-destiny style game, essentially, with a number of winding roads that will have characters visiting all of their favorite locations from Imminent Dawn, including the arboretum, the intra-compound tram, GenRec, and more.

The game itself actually runs on Google Forms. You can set up a form such that it redirects those “filling it out” to a new set of questions based on previous responses. After setting all of that up and throwing in some visual effects, we’ve got EMPATHY: Madrugada!

How is the third book progressing now? When we last spoke you were around halfway through the first draft.

Event Horizon has proven to be quite the challenge, and it’s undergone a number of changes since we last chatted about it. In fact, it’s actually been split into two books now, and the events in these separate books will be concurrent to one another.

I ultimately opted to pursue this direction for the book and series for two reasons. First of all, the word count for Event Horizon as originally conceived was becoming so great that it either would have had to be split into two installments anyway, or I would have had to cut material that I felt would undercut the series’ ability to really resonate with readers. In other words, to jam everything into one book wouldn’t have given the characters their due, which, in the end, would have shortchanged readers as well.

The second reason I elected to split Event Horizon into two is because this will now give us an opportunity to focus more intensely on two sets of POV characters for the entirety of each book. For example, we’ll follow characters A, B, and C for Event Horizon, and then characters D, E, and F for its concurrent installment, Rubicon. This should make it easier for readers to follow the interwoven stories for the characters in their respective installments.

At this time, I’m still hopeful we’ll have Event Horizon out into the world by the end of 2019.  Rubicon will very likely have to wait until 2020 to be released, but I remain confident this is the best decision possible I could be making for the series.

All of this said, it’s looking like the sequel to Event Horizon and Rubicon—tentatively known as Consolunarity–will also have to be split into two installments, but I won’t know for sure about that until late 2019 at the earliest. If that installment is split into two, we’ll be setting ourselves up for a seven-book series. If it can remain in a single installment, we’ll be looking at six books total in the main series.

You also run a podcast. What can you tell us about that?

I’m the founder of the Writescast Network, which is a podcast collective for writers, by writers. Currently there are three shows under the Writescast Network umbrella: the r. r. campbell writescast, Novel Approaches, and Biblio Breakdown.

The first of these is a more traditional interviewer-interviewee format, during which I pick the brains of authors, editors, agents, and other industry professionals about the particulars of the world of writing and publishing. We’re coming up on our sixtieth episode of that show, and we’ve covered topics ranging from writer’s block to establishing an author brand to self-publishing and setting one’s publishing journey to a writerly soundtrack. It’s wonderful to be interviewing so many folks from the writing community around the world, and I’m always open to pitches for new topic ideas or retreads of past topics with new angles.

Novel Approaches is a craft-intensive podcast during which I and fellow editor Sione Aeschliman tackle a single topic in the world of writing. To choose that topic, we take to Twitter to ask writers what they’d like us to cover, and we host a monthly #WritescastChat to discuss the chosen subject prior to recording an episode about its particulars. Recently we’ve addressed writing a character’s darkest moment, writing a series, and writing multi-perspective narratives, all of which perfectly tie into my work in the EMPATHY universe! We have more than a dozen episodes of Novel Approaches available at the moment, and we plan to publish one episode on the second Friday of every month going forward.

Then there’s Biblio Breakdown. This is again a craft-focused podcast, but it centers around a single book, TV show, or movie and pulls back the curtain to demystify the storytelling particulars at play within it. The goal is to see what other writers have done well with the goal of using that information to better inform our own writing process. Biblio Breakdown episodes are really time intensive to produce, so at the moment there are only three episodes available, but I’ve got some long-term plans at play to try to get those out into the world more regularly.

Anyone who’d like to learn more about these shows can (and should!) check out writescast.net or follow us on Twitter @writescast!

With your work as an author, blogging, your podcast, composing the music for the trailer, and also editing, you have a lot of strings to your bow. Do you find that they crossover freely throughout your work, or do you need to consciously split the different mindsets until needed?

There’s certainly a fair amount of crossover in that most of these endeavors are, at their core, creative, but I do need to compartmentalize my writing time specifically if I’m to ever get anything done.

I find it’s best for me to write first thing in the morning (that means no checking email, Twitter, texts, etc. before writing), and then once again in the afternoon after lunch. The in-between times are when I tinker with music or write and schedule blog posts or put together conference proposals or contact bookstores about hosting events. The list goes on.

There’s a very time-consuming business side to the writing and publishing industry, and I think most readers don’t realize how much authors are expected (and need) to do in order to get their books out into the world. At the same time, I’m also not the kind of person who could write for five hours every day even if all of those business matters were tended to by someone else; I need time to decompress in between sessions as to not write so feverishly that I box myself into a corner or overlook important details.

So, to answer your question, there are two mindsets where my creative endeavors are concerned—“writing” and “everything else.”

Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by again. Did you have any final messages for readers? Feel free to plug any upcoming appearances or podcast episodes if you like.

I’d like to thank you for hosting me and your readers for their interest in my books. I really do mean it when I say I love to hear from readers of my work or listeners to my podcasts, and I’m still at a point where I can respond to every email I receive. It may not be immediate or on the same day, but I do get back to people as quickly as I’m able.

If any of you are in the Upper Midwest of the United States and would like to catch me at an event this spring or summer, I have more than half a dozen conference, bookstore, and brewery appearances throughout the state of Wisconsin in the next few months. I’ve got a full list of my past and present events at empathyseries.com/events or on my Facebook page at facebook.com/iamrrcampbell/events. I’d love to see you there.

Otherwise, I can be found in my main digital haunts of Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or on my sites at rrcampbellwrites.com and empathyseries.com. I’d love it if folks would follow me on Goodreads and add Imminent Dawn and Mourning Dove to their want-to-read lists as well, and my (mostly) monthly newsletter is another way to stay in touch with my books, podcasts, and whatever other projects I might take on in the future.

That said, thanks again for hosting me on your blog. And congrats, by the way, on getting more Cassie Tam lined up for the future!

EMD-Paperback

Title: EMPATHY: Mourning Dove
Publisher: 
NineStar Press
Release Date: April 29, 2019
Find the book on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | NinesStar Press | Kobo | Smashwords | Goodreads | Author Website | GoodReads

In the aftermath of the calamitous Human/Etech research study, Chandra and Kyra struggle to reclaim the life they shared in a pre-EMPATHY world, while Ty, armed with knowledge of EMPATHY’s programming language, seeks revenge on the Halmans for the harm that’s befallen his friends.

As a North American Union investigation into the happenings on the compound looms, a grief-stricken Peter works to resurrect the memory of his mother from a harvested nanochip, and Heather scrambles to keep her family—and their company—together. Alistair, having abandoned the family business, plots to save his hide and that of his wife while she strives to stay one step ahead of a husband she has no reason to trust.

Far to the north amid civil unrest, a recently retired Rénald Dupont investigates the disappearance of his friend and former colleague, Meredith, despite grave threats from an increasingly skittish North American Union government.

As old and new foes emerge, spouse is further pit against spouse, brother against sister, and governments against their people. In the end, all must choose between attempts to reclaim the past or surrender to the inevitable, an intractable world of their own creation.

Mourning Dove is an evocative, sweeping symphony of love, revenge, and desperation in cacophonous times. It is the second installment in r. r. campbell’s epic EMPATHY sci-fi saga.

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