Randal Sloan grew up watching what used to be science fiction turn into science reality. He is fascinated by what the future may hold and enjoys writing thrillers set in the Near Future. As our Author of the Day, Sloan tells us about his science background, why he didn't become a physicist and gives us some insights in the creation of his book, Awakening.
Please give us a short introduction to what Awakening is about.
Awakening was one of those stories that just had to come out. I love science fiction, but so much of it’s far future events. I like that too, but wanted to speculate about what just might be possible in the near future.
The characters to fit this story needed to have something that made them standout from everyone else and they had have to challenges and difficulties. So when Miranda wakes up from that coma, she doesn’t know it yet, but she has special abilities; however, with her memory loss and having to learn to walk again, she has special challenges.
Behind it all we have the difficulties at school and the big overriding conflict with the Organization and the secret power behind them. All of this leads to a story that has just a little bit of science fiction, a little bit of fantasy, and a little bit of the thriller genre.
What inspired you to write a book in which a woman wakes up from a coma, just to discover she has special abilities and special challenges?
I wondered what it would be like to have your life drastically changed, almost overnight with the internal struggle and the outward gift seemingly competing with itself. What would you do with that gift? Would you use it for personal gain or to better mankind?
Why the Near Future? How likely do you think the technological advancements in your book are to happen?
The Near Future can be fun to think about - fun to speculate about. I’ve grown up watching what used to be science fiction turn into science reality and I see no reason it cannot happen again.
VR is going to be big. We just need the technology to deliver the rest of it. So much of the ideas in the book are already being talked about, so why not? Will it happen exactly the same? Of course not, but it’s fun to think about it.
And of course, Space Technology. It’s getting closer to reality too. We just need a few big breakthroughs there.
What fascinates you about science fiction?
I think it’s the thrill of seeing what could be. There’s so much of our universe we haven’t explored and so many things we could do if we had the technology to do it. Plus, it let’s you explore challenges that can’t be found anywhere else.
How much research did it require from you to make the science part ring true?
I have a strong science background. I originally wanted to be a physicist - splitting the atom and studying our awesome universe was what I really wanted to do. But unfortunately it wasn’t a good way to pay the bills, so I decided on a more practical course of action and studied engineering. When the computer revolution hit, I was swept up in that and that’s been my day job for years.
But my first love has always been the sciences. I’ve always tried to stay up to date with what’s going on in the scientific world, especially in astrophysics where more and more amazing discoveries have been made. And yet there’s so much we don’t know. What is Dark Matter and Dark Energy, those unseen forces that appear to make up so much of the universe we live in? We still don’t know what they are, but we can see their effects on the universe.
So in the story, I speculate a little on some of those things. I’ve always had this feeling that in some ways it’s simpler than we think and in other ways it’s much more complex. No matter what, it’s fascinating to think about.
Tell us more about Miranda Summerlin. What makes her tick?
The biggest thing that drives Miranda is her memory loss and her lack of self-confidence in her ability to face the world because of that. She’s literally having to learn herself as well as find her place in the world. Of course, those special abilities don’t hurt, but even as she learns more and more what she can do, she tries to hide those abilities from others.
Of course, all the things that happen to Miranda aren’t going to let her stay in that bubble. Nor will the people she comes in contact with.
Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
No, I’m not as disciplined as I should be. For starters, I’m not a plodder type writer. I like to start with an idea and see where it goes. I did start with an outline for Awakening but quite a bit of the story developed on it’s own. That’s what makes it fun!
As far as my every day work schedule, I don’t have an exact one but I do try to work on something every day. Believe it or not, I have five or six different story lines going on at the same time, some of which have just been sketched out and some of which are getting a little closer to reality. Then of course, there’s the editing and proofing that are more work than the just pure thrill of writing, but it’s part of it too.
I work on a MacBook that’s small enough I can carry it around with me and that way if I can catch an hour here and there, I can spend it working on my books.
A big part of my time has been spent on the Near Future series and I have 4 books total out in the series with at least a couple more forthcoming. And just to be different, as part of last November’s NaNoWriMo (National November Write Month), I wrote a far future novel and it’s just been released on Amazon. Galactic Empires, rebels and aliens, but it was a lot of fun too.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
This was the first book that I’ve taken all the way to publication, despite having written partial books at times throughout my life. I’ve had to learn a lot about how to bring you the story so that it feels real and the characters could come to life. I’m still learning that I think.
But I had a lot of people who helped me, from advisors to a great editor who kept after me to get it right, to a proofreader who found all those little things I missed. I also found a great cover artist that made the covers come alive.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m secretly a Ninja warrior. Well, I wish I was, or maybe a Space Fighter pilot. Mostly, I’m just someone who likes a challenge and tries to see what he can do. So I’m a bit of a Jack-of-all-Trades, I think. I’m not crazy and I don’t go jumping off mountains or the like of that, but I enjoy a personal challenge and doing something I’ve never done before. I enjoy reading and writing because with those, you can do anything!
If you had your own time machine, where would you take it?
If I had my own time machine it would be hard to say where I would take it. To the past to see historical events take place or just to see loved ones again. The future would hold wonders, both good and bad and things I could hardly comprehend. For now I am content to stay where I am physically and let my mind travel for me.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
It’s actually a scene:
Setting the scene: Miranda and Zeke are testing their project that they have been working on for all those weeks, the project that Miranda has become absorbed in; as we see, extremely absorbed. But in their live test, they have a catastrophic failure where the experiment is ruined.
The lab's fans automatically kicked on, pulling the smoke out of the room. Neither was able to say a word. Miranda's eyes were full of tears but she didn't care. She had been so sure. Maybe there might have been a tweak or two needed, but not this! Seeing her tears, Zeke moved closer to her, whispering to her, "It's ok. We'll work it all out. It's just a project."
Looking up at him, Miranda shook her head. "No, you don't understand. I have nothing else. No family, no reason for anyone to care about me. This was my chance to be someone, to make my mark on the world. And now it's gone."
Zeke for a moment couldn't say a word. He felt her total devastation. Finally, he said the only thing he could think of, "I care. You're very special to me. Emily, Doctor Ted, and Andrea, we all care."
To Miranda, it was as if her heart started beating again. Those few words gave her hope. She drew a breath in sharply. Something she’d seen in the readings, right there at the last. What was it? A new idea began to form in her head. Miranda was smiling now. She was also filled with determination. "We've got to go see Doctor Smith. We need to request a budget increase."
We all face those times where we have to reach within ourselves and find the way to go forward, even when we don’t know how. This represents what that means to me.
What are you working on right now?
I have two books in the Near Future Series in the works. One, a novella, I hope to finish soon. It will be sort of a prequel to Awakening. The novellas are fun because they let you write about a shorter topic that can still have a big impact on the series and let you explore those ideas you just couldn’t look at in detail in the book.
I’ve also just released the first in the Far Future Series, Defenders of the Rim: Beginnings and I’m already at work on the second book in that series. I’ve got ideas on a novella in that series too that will let us explore the aliens just a little bit more.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have an author’s page on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Randal-Sloan/e/B014MO3GBY and on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14240401.Randal_Sloan). You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RandalSloanAuthor/
I also have my own web site (http://randalsloan.com) and if you sign up for my Reader’s List (http://randalsloan.com/nearfuture/), you will receive my newsletter that let’s you keep up with what’s happening. You get a free novella when you sign up.