Warwick Gleeson - The Struggle to Create a Utopian World for Humanity
Warwick Gleeson is a dedicated writer of screenplays, short stories, novels, and poetry. He has lived in both LA and NYC and worked many different jobs in his life, everything from roofer to waiter to small business owner to government analyst. He was the major writer, creator, and senior story editor for another project published by Del Sol Press called "War of the World Makers" that debuted in 2017. The novel has since won four national novel awards (two first place and two place) for SFF. Warwick is a big fan of great SFF television writing, like the kind you find in Emerald City, Gotham, The Expanse, and Umbrella Academy. He now lives in Tucson, AZ, with a fat lazy cat and his most wonderful wife who is also a writer. As our Author of the Day, Gleeson tells us all about his book, Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker.
Please give us a short introduction to what Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker is about.
Thank you, and let's see if I can be brief! AOZ transforms the world of 2038 CE into a glimmering network of "city-worlds" all based on the Oz model, but the "New Oz Ascension" comes with its own special antagonist determined to eradicate the human species. It calls itself the Witch Queen, and only the Brooklyn barista and Grand Sorceress, Piper Robbin, can lead the titanic struggle to stop it.
AOZ portrays the struggle to create a utopian world for humanity that refuses to succumb to the flaws of past utopias, while at the same time exposing the terrible trials and mortality of a "New Humanity" mythologized as superior to the old.
What inspired you to write about a homicidal alien from Orion, intent on annihilating human life?
The concept is not unique in SFF, but in this case, the enemy creates its own mystery and theme that will interweave through a series. The potential true origin already creates a surprising twist towards the end of the first novel. Also, I've always been intrigued by the concept of a magical alien falling from the stars and intent on transmogrifying Earth. I am intrigued too by the concept of an alien presence created expressly for the purpose of extinguishing any advanced technological civilization it encounters over the course of millions of years. Why such a paranoid fear on the part of its creators? Or do they know something we do not?
Why did you decide to weave the Wizard of Oz into this story?
Oz is such an undying trope in the American consciousness, and no less with me personally. I'd been toying with the concept of a new and darker Oz tale for a long time. It finally came together with Piper and the dawning of the Witch Queen.
Your book is fast-paced, keeping readers at the edge of their seats throughout. How did you pull this off?
Plotting the story like a thriller while utilizing tried and true narrative techniques to cliffhanger and establish more suspense. Point of view makes a huge difference, enabling cuts and fade-ins from location to location in order to witness action scenes occurring in parallel. Intense emotional reactions and interactions also ramp things up, same as in film.
Does writing about surreal worlds and enigmatic scenes present any particular problems?
Well, yes, always very challenging, but it's one of my favorite creative pursuits, and one of the reasons I favor SFF. In this case, once I created the "neo-space" concept of relative space ratios (derived from Doctor Who) for the Oz city-worlds, that provided a lot of flexiblity. Next, we pull Mars into the equation and ship everything off to the other side of the galaxy. Eeeezy peez.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Secret? My life is an open book few would choose to read. Seriously, if only I could do a few magic tricks. I did own a magic box once.
Do you have a set of rules for your world? Is there a process you go through that helps define these?
A magic system based on dividing reality into an astrophysical duality of "Tao forces," i.e., a Tao "Yin" composed of magical matter and wavelengths, and a "Yang" composed of non-magical elements like gravity and electricity. Both function and are accessible with the right tools, however, neither is completely understood in a basic ontological sense. Why do they exist at all? Why gravity? Why magic telekinesis? The greatest scientists and sorcerers do not know.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
Drinking enough coffee early enough to chop out a few thousand words before succumbing to daily business and the need for a nap? I am being slightly facetious, but not overly so. As a writer, one of my greatest challenges is always proper self-editing of the prose narrative.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
Yes. What is the real advantage to power other than taming or overcoming an antagonistic power of equal or greater force? Does great power in of itself make the world a better place? Also, does the possession of any degree of personal power actually make one "superior" or rather serve to deteriorate the human moral condition as a whole? Lastly, is human utopia possible, or do we as a species always travel with a baggage of socio-psychological viruses, genetic misprints that will ultimately crumble even the firmest of utopian foundations? Or as Piper might put it, "How can we lead or experience a good life while surrounded by assholes?"
How do you force yourself to finish what you're doing before starting the next project when the new idea is nagging at you?
New ideas go into a file while I focus on generating cinematic scenes for the current story. In other words, I'm focused so much on the current novel and its running film in my head that its momentum and flash disallow me from becoming too distracted--if that makes sense.
How do you go about choosing your characters' names?
I quite often use Dickensian characters as an inspiration, play with combinations.
When working on a new book, what’s the first thing you do?
Generate a premise I believe has a chance of selling in this market, and I move on to create a short synopsis, building from there and sketching characters at the same time.
What are you working on right now?
Planning of the next Oz novel: Piper Robbin and the Thunder Child of Oz.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Via the AOZ book blog. Via my profile anyone can feel free to drop me a line. Thanks!