Adam Quinn - Space Opera With a Lot of Intrigue
Author and aspiring engineer Adam Quinn loves to dream up new worlds with interesting technology and factions. This resulted in the creation of his debut novel, Flashpoint. As our author of the day, Quinn talks to us about Flashpoint, how much worldbuilding this epic novel required and how he created his characters.
Please give us a short introduction to Flashpoint
Flashpoint is a “space opera”—a sweeping interstellar sci-fi adventure in the spirit of Star Trek or Star Wars. It follows regretful war hero Taylor Ghatzi and fashion-conscious diplomat Cherran DeGuavra as they try to solve the mystery behind a string of terror attacks and a foreign invasion before the situation devolves into all-out war.
Why sci-fi? What is it that fascinates you about the genre?
Soft science fiction and fantasy are unique among the genres in terms of the massive amount of worldbuilding involved. Obviously this creates extra work for the writer: if I set a story in Tennessee, I don’t have to spend words describing how the American government works, but if I set it in an anarcho-capitalistic Venusian utopia, I might have a bit of explaining to do. Yet it also allows a sufficiently-talented author to build a deep and compelling universe that draws the reader in. For someone who enjoys worldbuilding, like me, this is a win-win.
Your book involves a lot of political intrigue. Was that a deliberate choice?
Absolutely. A lot of different factors went into my decision to tell the story from two perspectives, but one of them was a desire to provide both a tactical (Taylor) and a strategic/political (Cherran) view of the plot. I think this setup helps raise the stakes of the book’s conflict, because it illustrates how the decisions made in each plotline can reverberate across the other and the galaxy as a whole.
How much research did you have to do to make the sci-fi believable?
A good question! I actually wrote an entire blog post for Flashpoint’s release about how I create the technology for my universe—you can read it here, on Ashley Kemp’s blog, Mama Reads, Hazel Sleeps. TL;DR, both before and while I write, I use my characters’ actions to sniff out inconsistencies in my world, and, just as in real life, these problems inspire the creation of new technology. I can’t say how many hours I spend on it, since this process is integrated with the rest of my worldbuilding and writing, but it’s a significant concern.
How do you go about creating relatable characters in a foreign world?
The relatability of a character isn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be affected by the foreignness of their setting. Whether they live in Tennessee, a Venusian utopia, or my Drive Maker Universe, every character struggles with problems that are fundamentally human—love, hate, guilt, conflict—and this makes them relatable. In fact, sci-fi can address these human issues more directly than some other genres by the process of defamiliarization—presenting old conflicts in a new (sci-fi) context so that the reader can get a fresh perspective on them.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
It varies, depending a lot on how well I understand a character’s role in a particular scene. In an early draft of Flashpoint, a character named Ciro Dance tagged along with Taylor’s team for the entire book. Ciro was an entertaining character, but I continually felt hard-pressed to work him into scenes because he just wasn’t relevant. Ultimately, I decided that he would remain on Taylor’s homeworld when the rest of the team departed on their adventure. I think this was one of the best decisions I made while revising Flashpoint, because:
- It took Ciro out of scenes where he didn’t belong and had no role.
- It freed up space in the middle and end of the book for more important subplots.
- It allowed me to keep Ciro in the book, albeit with a smaller part to play.
- It means that, when we return to Taylor’s homeworld in later books, there will be another familiar face there, serving as a good callback.
- It’s a decision that’s more realistic for Ciro to make, considering his character.
After that shift, writing Ciro was easy. This is one of my favorite parts of writing: that a single, simple change can instantly resolve half a dozen seemingly disparate plot problems.
If you could have been the author of any book, which would you pick?
I’d really like to be the author of Pressure Point (the sequel to Flashpoint) because that would mean that Pressure Point was done!
Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
As a part-time writer, my schedule is rarely mine to command. When I have a full day to myself, I try to dedicate a solid 8-hour workday (8:30 – 4:30) to core writing activities (plotting, writing, revising) while peripheral time goes to things like marketing and answering interview questions. Alas, this doesn’t work out as often as I would like it to.
What did you have the most fun with when writing Flashpoint?
The crossover scenes in Flashpoint—where one plotline affects the other—are not just good for increasing tension, they’re also very fun to write. Readers are used to hearing about a point-of-view character from that character’s own perspective, so to be able to describe my two protagonists in each other’s eyes—what Cherran’s impression of Taylor is, and vice-versa—is a unique experience created by my dual-POV structure.
Do you have a set of rules for your world? Is there a process you go through that helps define these?
Not only do I have a set of rules, I have a full-sized Story Bible on Evernote, which currently consists of over one hundred different notes organized into eight notebooks, ranging from “Governmental Bodies” (7 notes) to “Weapons & Technologies” (21 notes). Every idea that I have for the Drive Maker Universe ends up as a bullet point in one of my “plotting” notes—if I decide to use it, and it’s an important part of the world, I’ll eventually give it its own note.
What are you working on right now?
As I alluded to above, I’m working on Pressure Point—the second book of the trilogy that begins with Flashpoint. It’s shaping up to be significantly longer than Flashpoint, but I’m hoping to publish it sometime this coming January.