Genres: Science Fiction
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* From the award-winning, bestselling author of Devil's Hand and Burning Cards comes a universe-spanning science fiction adventure. *
Seventeen year-old genius Zakari Sharp has never stood on the surface of a planet, never seen a sun-streaked sky. He lives on a corporate-owned mining facility at the edge of the solar system, with a mute alien for a guardian and brainwashed, muscle-bound ex-convicts for company. The day his father vanished was so long ago that Zak thought he would never hear from him again.
Zak was wrong.
Now, chased off-station by a cabal of mythical assassins, Zak and his best friend Liz embark on a harrowing journey across the galaxy, to find his father's hiding place and learn the universe-shaking discovery that hides with him. But their enemies will stop at nothing to steal the secret themselves.
Can a teenage boy change the fate of the universe? Or will a nanotech-wielding killer reach him first?
Interview With Author M.E. Patterson
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
Song and Signal is a sci-fi space adventure and futuristic thriller for both adult and teen readers. The story pits a teenage hacker, Zak, and his best friend/love interest against a universe of strange alien races, corrupt interstellar megacorporations, and genetically engineered assassins in a race to find Zak’s long-missing father and the universe-shaking secret that might rest with him. It’s one part cyberpunk thriller, one part space opera, and one part teenage love story.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
The genesis of Song and Signal actually lies in a sci-fi universe I’ve been crafting for over 20 years. Over the years I’ve used this universe in role-playing games, short stories, computer games, and more. It was only a matter of time before I sat down to write a full-scale novel set in the Post-Helix setting. And when I did, I decided I wanted to write a book that adult sci-fi lovers would enjoy, but was geared specifically towards the 16 year-old “me” who was always searching the library shelves for something with this combination of edgy, gritty cyberpunk sci-fi, space adventure, and teen heroes.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
I’m not a fan, generally-speaking, of implying that there’s any single message or theme that I intend for readers to take from any of my books. Certainly, there are themes in Song and Signal like fatherhood, the challenges parents leave behind for their children, the dangers of unchecked technology, race relations, and the aspirations of teens to leave home and seek out their destinies. But I’d hope that every reader takes something a little different away from the novel – something that has real meaning to them, personally.
How long did it take to write the book?
Excepting the 20 years it took to build out the sci-fi universe, the novel itself was broken into two major chunks, with my second novel, Burning Cards, being written in-between work on Song and Signal. I believe, all told, Song and Signal represents about 6 months of pure writing to finish the first draft, then another 6 months of edits, rewrites, cover design, etc. etc…
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
I’m a big fan of Jeremiah Flint. He’s tortured, experimented upon, and the product of a particularly unpleasant life. You’d expect him to be evil through and through, and yet there’s still a decent guy in there somewhere, a guy who really just wants to be left alone to try and salvage something from his ruined life. It was both a challenge and a joy to inhabit his perspective, to see things in the twisted way he does.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
I’m a hybrid writer, as I suspect many folks are. I don’t outline everything, but I do create a basic skeleton to hang my story on. Once it gets going, though, sometimes it goes in unexpected directions. Sometimes it even forces me to modify the original skeleton. I think the best novels surprise the author as much as they surprise the audience.
How did you come up with the cover?
For all of my novel covers, I work with a great South African artist named Chris Valentine. We collaborate over Skype and email by tossing back and forth ideas and quick sketches, until we come up with something that works.
For Song and Signal, I wanted to do a cover that didn’t feature the protagonist, mainly because I’ve found that sci-fi and fantasy novels with teenage heroes tend to end up with cover art that doesn’t even match the description of the hero in the book. So for this book, I decided to put the primary bad guy on the cover instead. I like it. It’s ominous yet beautiful, and a lot of that is Chris’s excellent illustration work.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, maybe 8 or 9. I’m also a giant computer nerd, so I went to college planning to be a computer engineer. But it didn’t take even a full semester to realize I was missing something, so I switched to an English major, focused on Fiction Writing, and I’ve been writing short stories, poetry, and novels ever since.
What are you favorite books and authors?
I read a pretty wide variety of stuff. Some of my favorite authors include Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, William Gibson, Iain M. Banks, and Tim Powers. There are lots more, but I’ve churned through a fair amount of those authors’ works.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on the third (and final?) book in my Drawing Thin series of supernatural thrillers. If you’ve been following the trials and tribulations of my doomed hero, Trent Hawkins, this book will bring much of the craziness to a head.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
It’s kind of lame, but the best advice I can give is pretty much what you hear from most authors when you ask this question: Write, write, and write some more. It sounds obvious, but it really is important. You only really learn what you don’t do well by doing it over and over and then moving past. Finding a good mentor to help you see your work in a different way is also crucial.
Praise for Song and Signal
“The kind of storytelling that makes a statement: M. E. Patterson is here to stay.” — Austin Post
“[Song and Signal is] WELL worth the read. Enjoyable and immersive.” — Michal
“Patterson’s work will blow you away… a page turning, roller coaster ride.” — ReviewsByMolly
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