Thursday, March 27, 2014

Author Interview: Alan Porter, author of GM

Its time to meet another author and learn from their successful publishing journey. Today we meet Alan Porter, author of GM.

Geneticist Rachel Whitelock escaped the war in Zaire with a secret that could change the lives of millions. Now, eighteen years later, she is going back to oversee covert trials of the genetically modified crop that resulted.
But someones waiting for her, and hes been waiting a long time for her to return what she stole from Africa.
Hunted across the jungles of Bengara, Whitelock must pull off a daring plan that could make or break her career... and change the course of a nation. 

D.O: Thank you for joining us today on Authors' Curtilage book talk Alan Porter, and welcome.

AP: Thank you, Darmie, its great to be here.

D.O: What obstacles did you face in trying to tell the GM story?

AP: For me, any work of fiction works best where there is enough telling detailto make it convincing. For GM I needed to do huge amounts of research - everything from the possibilities of genetic engineering to how to fly a Schweizer 330 helicopter; from west African street cuisine to the weather in Goma at the end of August 1996. Most of that research only gets a fleeing mention - it acts as the spice of the novel rather than its main ingredient - but it is vital to get it right. So, getting those details sorted out was quite an obstacle to getting the book into a form that it could go to my editor.
Of course, research can have its up-side. Flying a helicopter fifty feet above the rainforest is a whole lot of fun!

D.O: Mm. I'm impressed by the efforts you put into this. Quickly let us meet Dr. Whitelock in GM?

AP: Rachel Whitelock is an entomologist and geneticist. That is, she works with insects and tries to modify their behavior through genetic engineering. In GM she has developed a strain of rice that causes pest locusts to destroy each other rather than surrounding rice crops.
Rachel is one tough cookie! She lived and worked in Africa in the 1990s and got caught up in the horror that was the Rwandan civil war. There she met someone who put her on the path that ultimately leads to the events of GM.
There are surprisingly few genuinely strong female leads in books and films right now. I did not create the character of Dr Whitelock as a deliberate attempt to redress this balance, but she does her bit anyway. She does not rely on the help of a man, she is probably the most unromantic woman you could meet and she can hold her own with some of the most dangerous characters in west Africa!

D.O: What is her mission in the GM story?

AP: She wants - needs - to use her talents to empower indigenous African farmers and make the kind of difference to the lives of people in the third world that financial-based aid rarely does. But creating the GM crop is only the beginning. She has much bigger plans, and she has to dodge a lot of bullets to bring that plan to fruition! Whether she goes about it in the right way is for the reader to decide.

D.O: How rounded is this story & how many years did it take you to tackle it?

AP: The story is rounded in the sense that we see Rachel following a path that she has been driven to follow for nearly eighteen years. She has one goal in mind, and nothing is going to stand in the way of achieving it. I think the reader is taken along that path very effectively - especially as her back-story is revealed gradually and we see that she almost has no choice but to act as she does.
The end, however, is not rounded at all! Originally I took Rachel to the point she had been aiming at all those years, then showed some of the aftermath of the decisions she had made. But that insulted the intelligence of my readers. So I cut the end. Now we follow her as far as her goal - that is up the point Rachel herself has calculated - but no further. She did not give a great deal of thought to the aftermath, and I wanted to leave the reader to make up their own mind whether what she does is right or not.
The book took a year to write from its initial conception to agreeing the final draft with my editor.

D.O: A year? That wasn't long compare to some story which will just refuse to get up for many years. Anyway, what changes has this story formed in your life as its writer?

PA: I used to write psychological horror novels. GM does have some horrific moments, but it is a much more conventionalthriller. This is a genre I will continue with now.

"They are meant to turn cannibal to defend their food supply, but they are not feeding anymore. Their sole driving force is to destroy. This is way beyond anything we predicted."

D.O: Who said this in GM? What is she referring to?

AP: This is Rachel Whitelock observing the first large-scale test of the GM rice crop in a hangar in Surrey. In small-scale tests the locusts that ate the baited rice turned cannibalistic, but only when Whitelock sees the experiment scaled up to tens of thousands of insects does the true effect become apparent. She knows for sure now that the crop she helped to develop will be able to make a significant difference in Africa.
This scene also hints at things to come once Whitelock arrives in Africa to run field tests, but to say any more would give too much away!

D.O: [Smiles] Okay then, hold it right there. Briefly tell us what the underlying theme of this story is about?

AP: Let me start by saying this book is not really about genetically modified crops at all! They feature, and they kick the action off, but the underlying theme is more about the clash of Western power with third world need. For decades the developed world has poured financial aid into Africa. And yet war and famine are still rife, partly because millions of dollars of that aid is siphoned off by corrupt governments to buy weapons and displace inconvenientpopulations. Rachel Whitelock is convinced there is another way. It is left up to the reader to decide whether she is right!

D.O: Is this story based on someone experiences or a pure work of fiction?

AP: It is pure fiction, although I have spent time with aid workers in Africa and some of the events in the book are derived from stories they have told me. The genetically modified rice is pure fictionprobably!  Already cotton plants have been modified with Bacillus toxins to make them lethal to bollworms; cabbages have been genetically laced with scorpion venom to kill caterpillars; and tests have been run to develop hep-b and cholera vaccines administered through modified bananas. So a rice strain that can alter the behavior of locusts? Not yet, but it is only a step or two away...

D.O: What genre is this story?

AP: Broadly it is a thriller. That is a very wide genre, but it fits alongside writers like Michael Crichton and Frederick Forsyth.

D.O: Okay. What draws you to this genre?

AP: Its what I like to read; I like to see and explore strong characters in tough situations. I am also committed to giving readers something a bit different. The first decade of the new millennium has seen commercial books and films become very bland and uniform. I enjoy tackling controversial subjects.

D.O: Okay. What do you hope people will take away from GM?

AP: First, they should enjoy it! If it makes the readers think in a different way about the third world, and the developed worlds attitude to it, thats good. If it shows that theres a whole lot more to a female lead character than her need for a man, perfect. But above all, enjoy it: it is a fast-paced adventure novel, not a political polemic!

D.O: All right then, Alan Porter, thanks for choosing Authors' Curtilage for your book promotion. I hope you'll stop by again for future promotion.

AP: I would be delighted to. Thank you.

GM is available worldwide in paperback and ebook:



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Author Interview: Morgan Straughan Comnick, Author of SPIRIT VISION

If God gave you a mission, would you answer His call?
The Lord has given Stary, a high school freshman, a mission: extinguish the evil residing in the murderer of two teens--Maren and Umbra. Stary never imagined that her strange visions meant that she was the Spirit Warrior for God and now with her powers activated, she must train to use them and try not to get caught by the murderer who has the ability to hide and conjure up the dark powers from the fallen angel himself--Lucifer. If Stary fails, not only will she lose her life, but Maren and Umbra will lose their entry into heaven and the world will be exposed to the madness of the murderer for the next forty years until the new Spirit Warrior is born.

Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Smashwords

Interview with Morgan Straughan Comnick
Darmie Orem: What's your style of writing?

Morgan: I like to write using a lot of descriptive terms and imagery. I know I write a lot, but I try to make it flow so it is effortless, like how you breathe. I personally like books that have a little bit of everything, so I write that way as well; something for everyone. :)

Darmie Orem: What did you do before coming into the literary life? Make it very brief.

Morgan: I have dreamed of being a teacher since I was ten and I am still one and will always be in some form or fashion, no matter where my path takes me. They coincide fairly well most of the time.

Darmie Orem: What types of genre do you work within?

Morgan: Spirit Vision is a paranormal romance with mystery, high school life, and humor in it as well. I do not limit myself to one genre; I have way too many ideas for books all over the spectrum, but I like writing for young adults. I can bet that 90% of my books to come will be young adult, but I would like to compose an intermediate or juvenile work and write a few children's books as well in my life time

Darmie Orem: How did Stary's story begin? Was it an event which gave you the idea to write it, a character, or an image?

Morgan: Stary's story itself started after I decided I wanted to take a crack at writing a book, but I did not decide on the topic at first. I was exploring my school, observing things from the point of view of an author for the first time and it is amazing what I uncovered! I knew I wanted to write from the point of view of a freshman girl in high school since I was one; it made narration simple, relatable. I was into spiritual/ghost stories where humans helped them with a task at the time (I go through phases), so I knew that was my genre. I was in the bathroom and I was thinking of powers for Stary's powers and then I joked, saying, "Duh! Of course she can see spirits and see spirit writing; she would have spirit vision," and the title was born! The rest of the plot came to me in a rush within the next weeks. It was a pretty surreal experience, but I get ideas on a whim a lot.

Darmie Orem: How many years has the first chapter been growing in your mind?

Morgan: I have to write in order so chapter one was originally written close to ten years ago! 0.o Dang! Now I feel old! >.< It came to me fairly quickly. I watched anime where the heroines had symbolic dreams often, so that is what I intended for Stary to start off with. I have vivid dreams too, so I wanted to make it as detailed as possible, but the original version is much tamer than the one I have now! I added some more dark elements to it, but with the theme, it fits. Still, the three main parts are all the same.

Darmie Orem: What's the theme of SPIRIT VISION?

Morgan: "Hold on to what if." Maren and Umbra never give up to find a way to enter heaven even when it seems near hopeless. Stary never gives up on tracking a murderer, a task that could end her own life, in order to help her new friends. This pops up a lot in the book and this quote is so dear to me, I use it as my author quote on my business cards!

Darmie Orem: Do you make it a conscious choice to identify your theme before you start writing the novel or is it something which develops as the characters evolve?

Morgan: I think the characters reveal the theme to me. They lead me on every path the book takes. We fight over it and sometimes, they pout when I am stubborn, but it is like having your children in your head! You NEED them and in the end, it is THEIR tale you are sharing to the world. 

Darmie Orem: What is not quite right that your lead character has to fix? Please, briefly tell us.

Morgan: My lead character and narrator, Stary, finds out she is the chosen Spirit Warrior for God and she has the ability to see, communicate, and aide spirits and ghosts. In this case, she has been asked to track down the murderer of Maren and Umbra so she can take the evil out of the murderer and the spirits can move on into Heaven. This is a rule of Heaven to help save other innocent lives. This is a huge problem; I am not sure I could handle the task, although I would try!

Darmie Orem: Is there anything you wouldn't write about within your genres?

Morgan: Using religion and religious lore, I had to be careful because I did not want to offend anyone. This is a work of fiction after all. I was just careful with my wording. I also get red thinking about my characters in... 'adult situations...' Romantically, I know, as they age, things may happen and I will not deny it, but I will not go into graphic detail because, well, I get so...*blushes* Yeah, this is why I stick to young adult fiction and not the adult books with Fabio on the cover that my grandma loves! -_-;;

Darmie Orem: What are the elements in SPIRIT VISION that will keep a reader stay up all night reading, that will whisk him or her to faraway places and times, that will expand minds and inspire?

Morgan: How nicely put! :D Like I said, I put a little bit of something in there for everyone and I like putting twists and turns that the reader may not expect. I am told by many that the ending, although to me it was obvious, was real shocking! I think that is good. ^^ I also have different events going on, but they do tie together in the end: there is the mystery of the murderer, there is Stary trying to live a normal life and failing, there is Stary and who her romantic interests will be... A movie in your head I hope.

Darmie Orem: Shortly, what's the climactic end of SPIRIT VISION?

Morgan: Wow! I really do not like spoilers! But, I can tell you Stary, Umbra, and Maren do confront the murderer in an epic, to the death battle and several things are revealed. The ending also opens up the story to another book, which I am currently working on and plan to have out this fall! :)

Darmie Orem: Do you wish to be synonymous with fame and fortune in the publishing field?

Morgan: I am not going to lie; I would like to be a well-known writer and I could always use more money, but that is not my goal in writing. I want to share my stories with the world, have Stary's story loved by more people than myself, and inspire others to see that you should never give up on your dreams. If I get some fame and fortune from it, I will not complain. ;)

Darmie Orem: How many books do you plan to write & publish before you get off the ride of 
 literary life?

Morgan: For Spirit Vision, I have plans for a five book series, and I have ideas for at least three side books and a fan book. I have an anthology coming out this year as well and plan on another one in the not too distant future. I also have numerous ideas for other stories, all written down! If they ALL get published, I would say I am looking into over 200 books being published! 0.o It is a lot and I think I will write until I physically cannot any more or mentally, but I pray that never happens.

Darmie Orem: Morgan, will you write for us a short encouraging quote? [Smiles]

Morgan: :D Of course: I was always a super shy kid, a kid who worked hard at everything, but I always got second no matter what. It was never about a prize or praise, but I wanted to be good at one thing, I wanted someone to clap for me, I wanted to shine, just once. I wrote this poem a while back and I repeated it often like a mantra when I needed to get myself out of a tough spot and say, "You are good enough!" I want everyone to know they are good at something, they shine in their own way; we just have to find it and support each other's light.

"Someday...It'll be time
My time to show my light
Let my feelings glow in the night
and prove my heart can shine."

Darmie Orem: Hmm. Concise and sweet. Have you enjoyed this interview?

Morgan: Very much so! Thank you so much for having me, supporting my tour, and asking such excellent questions! :)

Darmie Orem: Thanks for choosing Authors' Curtilage for your Tour Stop for SPIRIT VISION presented by Paper Crane Books.

About the Author: Educator of young minds by day, super nerdy savior of justice and cute things by night, Morgan Straughan Comnick has a love for turning the normal into something special without losing its essence. Morgan draws from real life experiences and her ongoing imagination to spark her writing. In her spare time, she enjoys doing goofy voices, traveling to new worlds by turning pages, humming child-like songs, and forcing people to smile with her "bubbliness." It is Morgan's mission in life to spread the amazement of otaku/Japanese culture to the world and to stop bullying; she knows everyone shines brightly.
Follow the author at: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

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