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By Patrick (2007-10-08)
Q: What's the progress report on THE DIGITAL PLAGUE? Any tentative release date yet?
I think we're shooting for spring/summer of 2008. I've completed the manuscript and turned it in, so I'm pretty sure we're on schedule for that—and thank goodness, because my Corporate Masters would beat me with oranges wrapped in bath towels if I missed that delivery date. I fear them.
Q: In terms of worldbuilding, you used the post-apocalyptic environment, though you offer few details about the Riots and the creation of the System of Federated Nations. Will we learn more about what led to the Riots and the Unification in the next book, or are you planning to utilize the worldbuilding as a backdrop that doesn't intrude too much on the rest of the story?
Definitely as little intrusion as possible. I want the story to have an immediate feel, and people just don't go around pondering the backstory to things. It slips through in dribs and drabs, in subtle references and things half-attended to.
Plus, the characters are often on the move, rapidly trying to not be killed or escape from someplace, and I just can't see characters pausing in the midst of a gunfight to have a lengthy internal lecture about why things are the way they are. It's sort of like Broadway musicals—do people ever actually break into song during their daily lives? Maybe. But do I want to go watch them do it? Nope.
Q: What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE ELECTRIC CHURCH in the first place?
I read Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency when I was a kid. Didn't get most of it, of course—I mean, I enjoyed it, but when I read about the book now I realize that there was a lot going on in that story that just flew over my head. I have a terrible memory and things I read usually descend into a partially-recalled murk almost immediately, but one thing I did remember from this book was the couch jammed in a stairwell in an impossible way, a way that meant the couch would have had to have been beamed into place because otherwise it violated the laws of physics. That messed with my mind.
That has nothing to do with my book, however. The other thing I remembered from the book is the Electric Monk, which was an appliance invented to believe things for you, sparing you the burden of having to believe them yourself. A brilliant idea, but I took it and ran it through my brain, which has gears made up of Thundercats and Battlestar Galactica reruns, and I saw a dark side to that: Take the sort of religious fire-eaters who always want to tell you you're going to hell and all that, then make them into heavily armed cyborgs. I'm surprised I was the first one to make this transformation from Adams' work, actually.
Q: What was your inspiration for the Monks and the Electric Church?
Q: Could you tell us a little of the road that saw THE ELECTRIC CHURCH go from manuscript to published novel?
My lord, do we have time? This book is a prime example of how you can never tell how things are gonna go.
First, cast your mind back to 1990. This was when I wrote the first manuscript of the story. I named most of the characters after friends of mine, which, looking back, wasn't a good idea since most of my friends were girls. Most of the main parts of the story were there, but the writing was flabby, as I imagined a group of ruthless people seeking the truth about The Electric Church but having endless cocktail-party conversations along the way, filled with witty banter and insults. Witty banter is fine, of course, but basically my characters would be in gunfights and making nonstop jokes, because I was enamored of myself as a humorist back then.
The manuscript sat for ten years. I started to read more widely, reading stuff that wasn't spec fic, and for a while I wrote a lot of mainstream fiction or attempted-literary fiction. Some wasn't bad. My first published novel, Lifers (out in 2001), was written during this period.
After that I returned to the central story and themes of TEC a few times, trying to rework it in a more intelligent fashion, but didn't get too far. Then in 2004 I saw an advertisement for a web site called Another Chapter. Their idea was to deliver serialized fiction via email—you'd subscribe to something and get another chapter every week. Get it? I didn't think much of the business model, to be honest, but they were looking for spec fic and offered a royalty contract, so I thought it'd be a good exercise if nothing else. I submitted a proposal and they accepted it, assigned me an editor, and I started rewriting the whole thing.
Well, the web site went out of business a few months later, but the editor they'd assigned to me was none other than Lilith Saintcrow (http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/), author of the Dante Valentine series being published by Orbit (and lots of other stuff). She loved TEC and offered to show it to her editor. I didn't think much would come of it, but I said sure, and her editor bought it!
So there you go: A more convoluted path to publication you can't find.