Friday, August 3, 2012

The Immortality Virus: An Interview with Author Christine Amsden

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?

I guess it just happened, if you consider being born a certain way “just happening.” I've always been a writer. My first short story, written at the age of 7 or 8, involved Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars, and I've never stopped writing.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?

Playing games – board and card to be specific. I'm not into computer games.

When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?

In 2003, I attended a by-audition “boot camp” with Orson Scott Card. I consider this to be the beginning of my professional writing career, and a real turning point. Before then, I was a closet writer, and however prolific you are in the closet, you'll never improve until you show your work to someone else and get opinions.

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?

Writing is pretty much a full-time career for me, and has been since I got married. My husband told me to go for my dream, and I did. I do have two children (4 and 6), who take up quite a bit of time right now, but I've almost got them both in school so that will change soon. As a part of my writing career, I don't just write, though. There's a lot of marketing involved, plus I review books for my blogs and teaching writing workshops. I also offer professional editing services.

Do you have a favorite character in The Immortality Virus? Who and why?

Meg, a slave Grace meets partway through the story. The reason I like her is that while the world is big, and the story is big, Meg is just a girl trying to live in it. She brings it down to earth.

Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Grace Harper is going to get through their biggest challenge.

Grace is in trouble even before she agrees to take the case – to find the man who released a virus that stopped human aging. The man who hires her is wanted for murder, and as soon as the police realize she's met with him, they threaten her if she doesn't help them prove his guilt. Plus, there are plenty of people who don't want the secret of human aging to get out, and as soon as she begins asking questions, some of them realize what she's up to. So her biggest challenge doesn't end up being to find Jordan Lacklin – it's to figure out what to do with him when she does. To do that, she needs answers her employer isn't willingly giving her, a bit of cunning, and a lot of courage. She'll also get help from Jordan Lacklin's grandson, Alexander.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?

That how we live our lives is far more important than how long we live.

What three words would best describe Grace?

Angry. Soft-hearted. Determined.

What kind of research was involved for The Immortality Virus?

I mostly researched two things: immortality and viruses. That is to say, I looked into current theories about aging, and what may trigger the aging process in humans. There was a theory at the time that something in our own genetic code may cause us to stop developing and start (very gradually) dying. I also did some research into viruses, and found that viruses can be engineered to create long-term changes in our genetic code.

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?

It helps, but I've learned to write with distractions – two of them, to be exact. They're short and cute and not quite 40 pounds each.

What do you have in store next for your readers?

Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective (Book 1 of 4) [Note: Theparain paranormal has a strike through. When posting to sites that don't allow this, I go withNormal.]

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, living between worlds, but not belonging to either. At 21, she just wants to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family's reputation isn't easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

I'm working on the fourth book now, so this series will be coming out back to back starting early in 2013. It's pretty different from The Immortality Virus, both in genre (urban fantasy instead of science fiction) and plot. (Cassie Scot does have mystery in it, but it is more of a character story, heavy on the romance. The Immortality Virus is more of an action-packed mystery with emphasis on the world building.)

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?  

As an artist, I have that cliched inner voice  telling me I'm no good. Getting a publisher to sign a contract with me helped, but winning two science fiction awards for The Immortality Virus helped even more.

What type of hero do you like best?

The kind that has a serious challenge or obstacle to overcome, and that grows as a person during the story.

What type of heroine do you like best?


How do you unwind after a long writing session?

Interesting question, because actually, the writing sessions are what help me unwind.

Is there a genre you wish you could write, but havent made the plunge? Which one and what appeals to you about it?

I'm about to take the plunge into romance – for better or worse – with my Cassie Scot series. It's not all romance, but it's a lot more than I've written before. What appeals to me about it is the potential for character development and deep connections. (The word potential is important here, because romance can be as void of true connections as anything else when they cling to archetypes instead of characters.)

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I'll call my chosen genre “speculative fiction” because it's the only thing that connects everything I write...that of the strange or unusual. I've always liked writing about the strange and unusual, partly for the escapism factor, but even more for the potential to use exaggeration to really get people to think about important issues.

Does where you live or have places youve been influenced your work?

Absolutely! I was born and raised in St. Louis, so my debut novel, Touch of Fate, was set there. I live in the Kansas City area now, so The Immortality Virus is set there. My upcoming Cassie Scot series will be set in a fictionalized small town in the Ozarks, where I've often vacationed.

I think it is essential, when writing about a real place, to have been there. Settings have personalities, and in their way, are as much a character as any human (or sentient being) in the story. It's in the subtle things, the things that don't come up on a google search or show up in a guidebook – the way people drive, the smells, the way they greet you, and just a thousand little things.

I also can often tell when a writer is writing about a place he or she has never been – especially if I have. I recently read a novella set in St. Louis, and gave it a scathing review on my blog because I lived in St. Louis for the first 18 years of my life, and that wasn't the St. Louis I knew.

What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?

The most recent Chronicles of Narnia movies were, I believe, better than the books. I loved the books as a child, but when I read them again as an adult, I realized they talked down to children quite a bit, and didn't have any depth of character. It was amazing to me, because character isn't what movies do best, but darn if that movie didn't bring those children to life more than the book ever did.

Do you believe in writers block? Has it ever happened to you?

Yes. It usually means there's a problem with my WIP (work in progress) that m;y subconscious is trying to tell me about, but my conscious brain hasn't yet figured out. The best thing to do is usually to take a step back, put the WIP down for a while, and work on something else. Then – and this is the important part most people miss – go back to the WIP with a fresh perspective and brainstorm until you've figured out the problem(s).

Is there a book youve ever read more than five times? Which book and what drew you back to it?

Harry Potter and the – all of them! Yes, yes, I know it's popular and I should try to be different, but the simple truth is I loved them. Despite their flaws (and I can list those flaws with the best of them), I just loved the simple escape, the way Harry himself grew and changed over time, the subtle humor, and the connections (the ones I mentioned turning to romance to find – well, this YA fantasy had some too). There was Harry and his first ever best friend, Harry and his parents – though they were dead the whole time, Harry and Hermione (and how they became friends in fht first place).

Have you ever literally deleted or thrown away a book youve written?

I have never intentionally destroyed anything I've written, though I've lost some of it. I do have some novels (part or whole) that I probably should delete, lest I die and someone finds them while sifting through my hard drive. 

The Book

In the mid-21st century, the human race stopped aging. Those who know why aren’t talking, and the few who are brave enough to ask questions tend to disappear. To an elite few, The Change means long life and health, but to the ever-increasing masses, it means starvation, desperation, and violence.

Four centuries after The Change, Grace Harper, a blacklisted P.I., sets off on a mission to find the man responsible for it all and solicit his help to undo The Change — if he’s still alive. To complicate matters, Grace’s employer is suspected of murdering his father, and when the police learn of their connection, they give her a choice — help them find the evidence they need to convict Matthew Stanton, or die. But if they discover Grace’s true mission, they won’t hesitate to kill her in order to preserve their shot at immortality. 

An Excerpt
“Why did you call me here?” Grace asked. She remembered the newspaper headlines again and found herself wondering if, just maybe, Matt had killed his father. Accidents, murder, or disease were the only way for a person to die when age didn’t plunge them towards that fate. Perhaps Matt had been sick of waiting around for his father to step aside and leave control of Medicorp to him.
“Straight to business, then?”
Grace nodded. “You have to admit, this meeting is unusual.” She did not specifically mention the blacklist, but she was sure Matt would know what she meant. “Does this have anything to do with your father’s death?”
“My father?” Matt cocked his head to the side. “That was a terrible accident in the midst of a robbery. Once you get as old as we are, you begin to tempt fate every day just by being alive. Old age might not get to us, but accidents are inevitable. Besides, the police have already handled the investigation.”
“They found the killer?” Grace asked, confused. She would have heard. Besides, since the robber had successfully stolen a holosuit, it seemed unlikely that anyone would find him.
“Not yet, but our city has a fine police force, and I’m sure they’ll do their job admirably.”
Grace decided not to argue with the idea that the Kansas City police force was either “fine” or “admirable.” They would enthusiastically serve the rich, perhaps, but a madman could go on a shooting spree in the park, and they’d just call in the recyclers.
“Then why–?” Grace began.
“How old are you, Ms. Harper?”
“I’m sure you know,” Grace said. She suspected that this man knew quite a lot about her.
“Yes, but I’m trying to make you feel more comfortable.”
“I’m one hundred and thirty.”
“Still quite young, then,” Matt said. “The odds are still on your side. Although you chose a dangerous line of work.”
“Is there a safe line of work? This is what I’m good at.”
“Rumor has it that you’re good at finding people,” Matt said.
Grace didn’t hesitate. “The best. I’ve had a fifty percent success rate across my career.”
“Fifty percent?” Matt echoed, his voice hollow. “That doesn’t sound very certain.”
Grace shrugged. “Who said life was certain? But most in the business don’t find more than one in ten.” Grace hesitated, but decided to go for broke. “I don’t always get work looking for people with ID chips, either. My clients aren’t people who deal with The Establishment, but I guess you know that.”
“Of course.”
“So then I must assume that the person you’re looking for is either someone without an ID chip or someone The Establishment wouldn’t want you to find.” Grace paused and tried not to think about the implications of that. “Probably both.”
A small smile played at the corner of Matt’s mouth, but he did not answer in words. He walked to his desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out an old-fashioned digital diary, the kind people used to buy when they had more money and resources than they knew what to do with. Grace had only seen them in movies. It looked a little like a notebook from the outside, but opening the cover revealed a microphone and speakers. “I ran across this diary a few weeks ago, mixed in with some old records the company was throwing out. It’s fascinating.
The Author
Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children, Drake and Celeste.
Where can your readers find you?

Is your book in Print, ebook or both? Both