Published by Thirsty Bird Productions on 1-5-2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
Born an outcast, raised a soldier, and chosen as a savior. Rafian VCA is humanity's only hope against a vicious new race of predators aimed at taking over the galaxy of Anstractor. In Anstractor: Vestalia, the first book by author Greg Dragon, the planet of Vestalia has been completely taken over by the Geralos. After losing their home and being forced into space, the revengeful Marines of Vestalia decide to take the fight back to the Geralos and win their planet back.
Interview with Author Greg Dragon
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
Anstractor is a story about the human struggle set in a different universe but with very similar people to us earthlings. This first story “Anstractor – Vestalia” tells the tale of Rafian VCA, an unwanted orphan boy from a stolen planet who grows up to become a legend. The planet Vestalia–which is very similar to our Earth–in the galaxy of Anstractor has been conquered and taken over by the Geralos. Its inhabitants were enslaved for food on the planet or fled into space as refugees. Rafian VCA and the formal Military Alliance is in a desperate fight to remove the Geralos from the planet and this situation is the backdrop for this story.
Besides the main military struggle of the story within Anstractor, there is also the struggle of Rafian to maintain a love-life and his sanity as some of the worst situations get thrown at him from all angles. The book has fighting, technology, love, and tropes that are both familiar and strange to Sci-Fi fans and otherwise.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
Its strange to say but I have written bits and pieces of this series since I was a younger teen. I grew up on Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and various other space fleet shows that influenced me to want a world of my own. I wrote many short stories about the Anstractor galaxy but it was one I did entitled “The Chronicles of Raf” that made me do a book. Chronicles resonated with many people, it was amazing, and I was pressured into telling the full story. For anyone curious the “Chronicles” portion of the book is the chapter that deals with Rhiya and the moon of Talula 🙂
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
I wrote Anstractor to be an honest accounting of what a man goes through when multiple opportunities and stress come into play. A guy may seem great on paper but depending on what he has going on he may actually be an ass. Rafian has readers that love him and others that absolutely hate him. He is an ambiguous womanizer that has a selfish agenda to save his home world. It is a dynamic that I haven’t seen in many “heroes” so the underlying message is that even the greatest heroes were hardly perfect as human beings.
How long did it take to write the book?
Anstractor took me roughly a year and a half to complete. I promise you that the sequel and side-stories won’t take that long. Right now I am doing a side story for Lady Hellgate (Rafian’s hero in the story) and I am almost finished, if that gives you any idea. The original book took a long time even though I had so many short stories from the past to lean on. It took long because writing a book was uncharted territory and I second guessed myself about a billion times before committing to what is in book form now.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
Vani Narcila! Vani is Rafian’s first love onboard the ship Helysian and she is a golem made up of all the crazy girlfriends I’ve ever had in my life (I’m slightly joking). Vani made me smile just writing her parts and dialogue and many readers seem to understand her or at least mention her when giving me feedback.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
I started with the adult Rafian’s tales as short stories but when I decided to do a book on his story I made an outline. I wanted to know how it would wrap and even after that it took my editor telling me to chop off two chapters. I am a very “structure first” person so I need highlights to remind me to rein it in as I go. I free form write in my own way, but the outline tells me where to finish each chapter at. I find a corner, or quiet spot somewhere (seaside writing is second to none), I put on Jazz or classical music and I wish myself away mentally into the situation of the story. As I imagine what is going on in a scene I type away. This style of writing makes it hard for me to write straight through from beginning to end so I typically write what I am in the mood to write. If there is a fight that I need to write right now, I do it. If I see Rafian arguing with Vani and need to get it down I do. In the end I just put the puzzle back together and have my editor tell me when gaps occur.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
Outside of some silly mistakes that should have been fixed in editing I am extremely happy with my story.
How did you come up with the cover?
The problem with Sci-Fi is that it gets a certain attitude from a section of readers. People see Sci-Fi as being this techie, cartoony genre that has nothing soft for non-nerds. This is not a stereotype I wanted for my book so I skipped over the badass action shot for something that would warrant some thought. I found an old military jacket, some badges, and one of my many swords and hired a great photographer to perform sorcery on it. A few Photoshop touches later and we have Rafian in his decorated suit pulling forth a las-sword on the cover. It’s Sci-fi but at a glance it’s simply military. I love it.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’m an artist (as in drawing, painting, poetry, etc.) but the workforce made it hard to create. When I began blogging hardcore a few years ago I realized that I could really express my thoughts through writing and I took on a real love for it. I am an aggressive reader also, been this way since my teens, so writing is an honor especially if people read it.
What was the first story that you ever wrote?
Hmm, I did a ton of short stories in High School… the one I remember as being the first was one I did on a gladiator that had lost his fight in the arena after a perfect career. The crowd was cruel to him and he just wanted to die. The story was really a parody of my wrestling career at the time.
What are you favorite books and authors?
I love the Terry Brooks Shannara series and I think he has a solid formula for them that works. The books that have resonated with me however are 1984, A Clockwork Orange, and Dune. Authors I would call favorite are Stephen King (I love his honest swagger), Robert Beck who wrote Pimp: The Story of My Life… (brilliant writer), Kurt Vonnegut and of course Frank Herbert.
What are you working on next?
I have three books that I am working on but my focus is on a short story novella based on Anstractor. The first is a story that precedes Anstractor: Vestalia and goes into detail about the mind control that the Geralos used to defeat the humans. I’ve been writing pieces of the true sequel when they come to me but “Hellgate” is what I am aiming to complete.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t overthink it, just write what you love and make sure that the finished product is actually finished. Editorial and graphics are the two areas that should not be sacrificed in lieu of anything else and make sure that you are your biggest cheerleader (there are millions of dream killing trolls out here). I would encourage people that if they are doing the Indie route, they should also pick up A.P.E. by Guy Kawasaki and read it through. It helped me to understand the three main roles or author, publisher, and entrepreneur and you need to know what you are getting into up front.
How do you juggle writing with family time?
What family time?
From Memory 07: Violent Vani
“Let me guess Marine, you’re probably thinking of that pretty girlfriend of yours.”
Rafian had to smile at the accusation.
“Is it that obvious?” he asked, but Val didn’t return the smile like Rafian assumed he would.
“Well, I know you haven’t been thinking of her while fighting these things, but check your thoughts when you do. The lizards have consumed enough pureblood Vestalian women to where some have been gifted with the ability to read us and put thoughts into our heads. I had it happen to me once when I sat on my gun thinking of Chelle, and some recon spucha bastard gave me visions of her being tortured and killed. I wondered where the hell that level of thought came from, and thought it was the war y’know screwing with me.”
Rafian was intrigued and horrified at the same time.
“So these guys have us outmanned, outgunned, and can put thoughts into our heads now?” he asked Val, but not in a way that Val could answer. “How exactly are we even winning on this moon with those odds?” Rafian mused.
Val gave a mocking laugh, injected a ration bar into his mask, and sat back chewing for a while, as if the question was worth considering.
“Who knows Raf, maybe they’re letting us win for some greater strategy. But remember what I told you, in case you’re ever alone with one of them. You should keep Vani and her memory off of the battlefield where she’s safe.”
Rafian nodded and thanked his friend. Val then went on to make fun of him for having a thing for bad girls, a joke that apparently had made its rounds to Missio-tral from all the friends who knew him.
“Vani’s not a bad girl Val. What has she done to anyone besides being annoying?”
Val looked genuinely surprised.
“What!? Do you not know why they made her a button-pushing navigator instead of the admiral path that she was pursuing?”
Rafian shook his head, sadly awaiting what he assumed would be disappointing news.
“Well, your woman punched out the Cadet Commander after they had words one night and the woman was carted out to receive multiple zaps to her face to keep her pretty. I’m surprised you didn’t hear about this. Look at you, thinking that you had a gentle wildflower all this time. It got bad man, you must’ve been on a mission or something, but princess had to call mommy and daddy to bail her out, as the Commander was a step away from shooting her out of an airlock for assaulting an officer. Her parents are powerful people so she got away with it, but you need to watch your back with Vani Narcila, that girl has a temper on her!”
“She didn’t tell me about any of this when I got back with Aurora.”
“See…, you and bad girls man! First with Kim the Terrible, and now with Violent Vani. Hell if you and Vani don’t work out, you can holler at Rueche SYN, the girl who tried to blow up the ship after she failed out of Special Operations.”
“Ha!” Rafian looked at Val and smiled.
“What about Vestalia? Is she a bad girl?” he asked, still thinking of her beautiful face grimacing from the stasis. Val got serious and made to get to his feet as he answered.
“You’re not her type Raf. Trust me, Vani would get her before you would. Either way I’m gonna go take advantage of this chance to sleep buddy. If I were you, I would do the same.”