The Avid Reader is the fifth stop of my Virtual Book Tour.
What made you want to become a writer?
Hi Nancy, thank you so much for this interview. Your husband was right to suggest you start a blog. It’s really lovely.
Did I want to become a writer? I think I wanted to write a book. Is that the same thing? Sorry, sometimes I get overanalytical.
It happened like this. I love the science fiction genre. It allows you to do anything and go anywhere. So, I had this story in my head about a group of young diplomats uncovering some kind of intergalactic plot, and how nobody would believe them. But somehow, that was it. And it wasn’t nearly enough to write a book about.
So, what if the story was about a young diplomat who builds an artificial intelligence machine that could help achieve peace? Then he could find all kinds of interesting people to help him out. Every hero deserves good companions. And I started thinking about companions (I’ll get to that in one of the next questions).
And of course, the characters need to overcome problems. The first would be how to build a machine? Then it has to fail. And somebody doesn’t want the group to build the machine. And all of a sudden, I was in a flow and I finished the book.
Does that make me a writer? Ask me again after I’ve finished the trilogy!
What inspired you to write “Can Machines Bring Peace? Hope in a Post-Apocalyptic Age”
I’m an optimist at heart. I strongly believe if we can work together, we can resolve a lot of the issues we are facing today. That there is more that brings us together, than there is that keeps us apart.
But when I look at the news or read news articles, almost most of the stories are about how poorly we are dealing with all kinds of issues and about how one group of people blames another. And every day, in my professional life, the opposite is true. That there are a lot of people actually working together to get things done.
So, I really wanted to write about how it is possible to work together and how it is possible to deal with big issues – even though that’s not always the easiest path.
And I didn’t want to add the next special forces hero who wins a planetary battle only armed with a pocket knife 🙂
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in “Can Machines Bring Peace?”?
Deciding on characters was the scariest and most wonderful part of writing the novel. They actually turn out to be people you care for. And you don’t want your readers to dislike them.
At a certain point, your characters take charge of their own stories. And they may not be moving toward the end of the novel the way you wanted. It’s scary and wonderful at the same time.
Because the theme is ‘working together’ I wanted a diverse cast.
The setting is Japan of the future, but it looks and feels like Japan in the 1930s. Future retro as opposed to retrofuture.
Kazimir and Kira, two protagonists, have Russian roots. So, they are foreigners. Kazimir just survived a mission gone wrong and when he sees The Marvelous Thinking Machine at the fairground, he wants one to help bring peace. But he has no clue how to do it. He asks his sister for help.
His sister Kira, a student of engineering, has been hiding in her room for months because something happened to her. And she’s coaxed out of her room by the idea of building a machine.
Kazimir’s admiral thinks the idea is worthless, especially since Kazimir can’t even explain how the machine would work.
Mizuki, the admiral’s daughter, however, takes an interest in the crazy venture. Somehow, it intrigues her. And she finds Kazimir’s company more than interesting.
Professor Wakizaka is a retired professor of the History of Diplomacy. She’s 87 and just filling her days. Kazimir asks her for help. He read some of her articles on peace missions and negotiating for peace. But she immediately sends him away. She has no time for this silliness. Or does she? The conversation lingers in her thoughts. And then she decides to visit Kazimir to find out what it’s all about.
Aisake is the creator of the fairground Thinking Machine. With a lot of steam and whistles, he enthralls his audience. But the machine is a fake. Because he is in debt to a nasty loan shark, he decides to con Kazimir’s to pay for his help – that doesn’t turn out quite the way he hoped.
What surprised me most when they all started interacting, is the romance between Mizuki and Kazimir. I think they are just as surprised. They would never have met if it weren’t for the machine. Her father strongly disapproves; especially after he fires Kazimir. They realize that there is a deep mutual respect and of course a physical attraction.
You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?
It was Jack McDevitt who re-introduced me to the science fiction genre more than fifteen years ago. I was reading Chindi. An alien vessel is discovered and a team of people is sent to investigate. It now belongs to the Academy Series – Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins.
I read the books, McDevitt wrote before Chindi, and I liked those as well. Then the other books in the Academy series. I like Priscilla Hutchins. Then McDevitt started the series on Alex Benedict, a collector of rare alien artifacts. And those were just a good.
Both protagonists are persons with professions. They don’t want to solve the situations with military action or violence. It’s brain instead of brawn. And I relate to those stories because I don’t live in a world where I have to use brawn to get things done. I have to work together with others. And we have to figure out how to deal with difficult issues.
So, McDevitt has his protagonists do what I do, but in a way cooler setting 🙂
Can you tell us a little bit about your next books or what you have planned for the future?
One of my colleagues laughed when I told him my novel was the first part of a trilogy. The sheer professional arrogance that I could and would write two other novels.
So, naturally I’m working on part 2.
And there is an entirely new dynamic at work in a second part. We know the characters already, so the freshness of being introduced to them isn’t available anymore. We know what they are working on, so there is no surprise about that anymore.
Should I get rid of some characters and replace them with others, just to keep the story fresh? That’s a tough question to answer.
What happens to Mizuki and Kazimir? Will they live happily ever after? I really don’t know yet.
And now that I’ve written one novel, some part of my brain opened up and now I have to write like ten more! And it’s fun and terrifying at the same time. Because I’m not sure anyone can write more than one novel at the time. And I’m afraid that I will try to do just that.
I’ll let you know how that turns out.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I can tell you what I disliked most about writing about the book: the editing. No matter how often you read it, there is always some typo hiding in a dusty corner.
A moment that I liked a lot was when I asked Belle Manuel, the author of Fire (Elemental series #1) and A Fate So Twisted, to help with the editing and reflect on the story. Here’s what she wrote:
“Kaz and Mizuki were AMAZING to read about! Oh my gosh! And seeing the roller coaster of emotion interspersed with the intense world-building. Excellent.”
“As far as favorite character, it goes to Kazimir. I like his beginnings all the way down to him admitting his love for Mizuki later on. I feel like his growth was realistic and I wanted more of it as I read. Kira was really interesting and well put together. From her first few paragraphs, she was a character to watch. You made her very real and easy to grasp onto. Well done. I felt her feelings, saw her moments. Awesome. Mizuki was a multidimensional character that was excellently written.”
What more can I say, Nancy! Thanks again for the interview.