Series: Lifehack #3
Genres: Science Fiction
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3rd and final book in the Lifehack series. Sarah's got daddy issues. He lives in her head, built her out of fish, and killed millions of people. But he's really sorry. Honest. A father that lives in your head wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't the killer of millions. At least it's comforting to know that he didn't murder the fishes used to create your body. Or the seagull. Sarah hides her illegal nanite origins in an effort to build an ordinary life, but the legacy of dad's horrors makes it difficult. Especially when new but familiar zombie-like abominations begin to appear in the city.
Enter after the interview for your chance to win all three copies in the Lifehack series by Joesph Picard.
Can you discuss a little about what the Lifehack series is about?
It kind of is a series, and kind of isn’t… I made sure they can all be read on their own, but they take place in the same world, and the events of one does impact the next. Some characters return, some retire, some fall out of the focus of events, and some die. The over reaching arc is about a country dealing with abuses of nanotechnology, and most prominently the reanimation of the dead, mostly for the amusement of one person with the resources and a whim.
This first book falls under the label of “zombie book”, but fans of the genre may find much less gore and claustrophobic survivalism than is often seen in many zombie books. I also present a very personal story, from Regan’s romantic floundering in Lifehack, Cassidy’s love and loss in Watching Yute, and Sarah’s coping with her ‘father’ and his issues.
I enjoy a good brawl with a bloody construct, but it has to be more than the adrenaline. My heroes had lives before everything hit the fan, and those lives go on in one way or another. These personal tales have as much time or sometimes more than the physical threats. While Lifehack and Echoes of Erebus sport ‘healthy’ death counts, Watching Yute is the quiet middle child. I think I only kill around five people in Yute, but I aimed to make the readers care.
Where did you come up with the idea?
I used to draw a lot, and after my injury resulting in paraplegia, I suddenly had more time on my hands. I bumped the detail in my art up a couple notches, and found a couple characters getting drawn a lot. Image descriptions got longer and longer. I had a military-ish gal shooting.. shooting what? I’m a peaceful kind of guy, so what can a person shoot without guilt? Robots. Or zombies. In the end, I had zombies controlled by microscopic robots.. well, nanites. I finally decided to sort out everything in a short story. I’d written short stories for ages, but the idea of a book seemed impossible. Well, I really liked the resulting short story, and ended up making sequels and a prequel… and suddenly I had enough material that I could fuse together, polish up, and have a BOOK.
After that, the idea of a book wasn’t so threatening, and I found other stories to tell in that world, through the somewhat quieter years (Watching Yute) after the Lifehack disaster, and tying everything together to put them to bed in Echoes of Erebus.
How long did it take you to write each book?
Ugh… so hard to say. I like to say “about a year each”, but that doesn’t count time taken by my lack of experience for the first book, and later my having kids, it’s… it’s so hard to quantify any more.
Who is your favorite character?
Regan from Lifehack. I used to be worried that she was a poor role model- a playful lesbian written by a straight guy? Eep! In my paranoia, I sought out gay women to read my stuff and give feedback.. I didn’t get any hate mail, but Regan got fans! I’ve since accepted that she doesn’t have to be a role model, she’s human. And she’s fun to hang out with. I tend to get to know my characters by having them as ‘imaginary friends’ for a while, and to this day, when I get a whiff of a certain type of energy drink, BAM. Regan visits me on her own volition.
How did you come up with the covers?
Lifehack is due for a new cover, to be honest. With my art ‘background’, I felt the need to do my own covers. I couldn’t get a model for Regan at the time, so I went with something that really doesn’t reflect the book all that well. It looks much more horror-based than it actually is. I hope the new cover will feature Regan, showing a little sass, and a little reflection.
Watching Yute’s cover is a depiction of Cassidy at the the Yute desert.. the background is a blend of desert photos, (mostly a couple Sahara vacation photos by a friend) and the foreground is taken from one of my drawings. My art is anime-sytled, but I don’t feel the books are, so I turned it to a silhouette, not wanting to alienate any non-fans of anime.
Echoes of Erebus shows the hand of the protagonist, Sarah. It’s laden with wires and fishing tackle, and a little drop of blood from the hook for good measure. Sarah’s body was built mostly from flesh harvested from dead fish, and her mind is very digital, so the symbolism is pretty blunt. 🙂 The sky in the background is a photo I took in my neighborhood.. oh, and the hand model was my cousin.
Can you discuss your writing method and how you write each book? Do you use outlines? Do you think up backstory, places, etc. before writing any plot?
Step one: “Wouldn’t it be cool IF…” This is where the world is set. A lot of it draws off of an RPG world I created/played in high school days. Some of my friends will notice a familiar sounding city name, or a creature they’ve slain before… but no longer in a medieval setting.
Step two: “Now, how can I make that plausible?” Here, science jumps in. If I can’t find a realistic way to make something plausible, I change the thing. I don’t use magic, teleportation, faster than light travel, in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find anything in my books that feels star-trek like…. uh… other than my unfortunate last name.
Step three: “Who’s going to get caught up in all this?” I pull up a person who might live or work where this stuff happens. Some imaginary person I like. If I’m going to subject a reader to a few hundred pages of following this person around, they need to like them, at least a little. They have to have some kind of past that got them there, and some kind of goal for the future, even if this goal is just making rent. They need a quirk, maybe a hobby. I want to meet them. The bad guys too. They all have their own kinds of charms.
After that, I end up making a point-form list of major plot points I expect to go through. They’re very rough points, and only serve as reminders as I go.. they don’t restrict me, they just make sure I never have writer’s block, and always have a suggestion for the next thing to happen. The list is usually about 2/3rds of a page long, and each line might turn into an entire chapter.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
Ugh, there’s a lot of books out there! Some cliches pop to mind right away… Tolkien, Poe.. if we want something modern, Robert J Sawyer dawns on me as someone I’ve read a lot of in the past few years. Specifically the WWW trilogy- (Wake, Watch, Wonder) The protagonist Caitlin is a likable young lady, and her encounter with a new digital friend as she works to overcome being born blind… discovering the world of sight as she guides the A.I. into the world in general. Oh, and she shared the name of my daughter. Rob denies that he named Caitlin Decter after my daughter… just because he created her before ever meeting me. Obvious excuse.
When did you first want to become a writer?
I create. I’ve drawn, I’ve composed music, I’ve had a hand in a couple minor video games, and I wrote when the whim struck me. I want to create things for people to enjoy, and writing has turned out to be the one I can construct my ideas most fully. As such…. I can’t pinpoint when I became a writer. See how I resist the cliche “Lol, I was born a writer!”
Will there be another Lifehack book?
After three books, the Lifehack world is closed. The nation of Aguola has their little nanite problem under control, and while future related threats are not out of the question, it’s time to give the wee nanites, and the people who wrangle them, a nice rest.
What book are you working on next?
Rubberman’s Cage. Technically not sci-fi, if very much has that feel. I’m about half way through the first draft, and I hope to be out with it by next summer, definitely before fall 2014. I could go on and on, but how about I be lazy and paste the “official” blurb that’s going to be on the back of the book:
The world is small.
But just big enough for the entire population: 5.
Lenth, his three brothers, and the rubber-coated man who directs their lives and punishes them with electrical shocks.
You know, normal.
When a brother dies, the survivors learn about death.
When he is replaced, they learn that they are replaceable. By who? The rubberman? Why? How?
When the ceiling above the ceiling cracks open, Lenth plans a journey beyond the known universe.
A third floor.
I also post freshly written chunks on my Facebook page now and then, (https://www.facebook.com/ozerobook) giving glimpses into Lenth’s journey though his odd little world, meeting new people, learning literacy, where his food comes from, discovering what a woman is… he’s 22, he had to find out SOME time.
I’d released a few graphics created for the cover wrap.. one was a minimalist/industrial picture of a skull with a recycling symbol on the forehead, and a papaya tree growing out the top. A few people on FB have decided to call it “The Dicktree”, and there’s an unofficial group called the “Dicktree Girls”. I’m denied membership, as I am not a girl. I can only remain mystified and amused.