Monday, July 17, 2017

Interview with sci-fi author Edward Ashton

Welcome, readers. Today’s special guest is author Edward Ashton. He’s here to share a bit about his new speculative-fiction-with-a-heavy-dose-of-humor novel The End of Ordinary.

During his virtual book tour, Edward will be awarding a 14-ounce Nalgene bottle filled with candy corn! & 1 VeryFit Smart Band (US only) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To enter for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.

Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.

Welcome, Edward. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The End of Ordinary is set in the near future, which is not entirely a spooky dystopia. Things are actually mostly okay in late twenty-first century upstate New York, despite the occasional super-plague or near-apocalyptic civil war. Drew Bergen works for Bioteka, a custom genetic engineering shop. His daughter Hannah is a fourteen-year-old running phenom who got her awesome lung capacity from Bioteka, and her questionable social skills from her dad. 

Hannah doesn’t have a ton of friends, so when she meets Devon Morgan at a cross-country meet, she’s willing to overlook a few minor flaws—including that Devon’s family is on a government watch list, she’s palling around with what is probably an illegal A.I., and she’s convinced that Hannah’s dad is caught up in a scheme to end the simmering hostility toward the genetically modified elite by wiping the world clean of the unmodified. Hannah and Devon set out to learn whether there's more to Drew’s work than blight-resistant corn, and hilarity ensues.

What inspired you to write this book?
Almost all of my fiction starts with a single scene. The End of Ordinary started with this one:

Here’s a story for you. The summer she turned two, we took Hannah to the beach. It was a perfect day, hot and clear, with an offshore breeze kicking up sharp little whitecaps on three-foot swells. Kara and I took her in shifts, one of us in the water, the other watching her dig in the sand. 
After an hour or so, Hannah started getting cranky, and Kara told me to take her into the ocean. I carried her out twenty or thirty feet, to where the swells were riding up my thighs, knelt down and dipped her into the water, let her kick her feet a bit and cool off. Then Kara waved to me, held up her phone, motioned for me to stand for a picture. I picked Hannah up, held her face next to mine and waved. Kara raised the phone. I smiled. I just had time to see Kara’s mouth open in a scream when a breaker hit me from behind like a runaway bus, lifted me off my feet, and flipped me forward. My arms flailed as I spun around. I tucked my chin, and hit the sand hard on the back of my neck. There was a moment of fuzzy numbness. I reached out. 
Hannah was gone.
I struggled to my feet as the wave rolled back out, my heart pounding like a jackhammer in my chest. Kara was running toward me and I spun once around, searching . . .
And there, drifting past me on the tide, was a fan of blonde hair. I dove for her, snatched her up out of the water, and held her face to mine. Her eyes were wide open, and she was laughing. 
Ever since that day at the beach, I’ve dreamed of losing her. Sometimes it’s in the forest. We’re hiking together, talking and laughing, and suddenly she’s gone. I crash through the trees calling for her, knowing that something has taken her, that if I don’t find her soon, it’ll be too late. Sometimes it’s in the city, in the subway or one of the abandoned neighborhoods. I always wake up soaked in sweat and panting. 
I never find her. 

This book has a lot of stuff in it—humor and cool tech and adventure and suspense—but at the end of the day, it’s the story of a father and a daughter, and the almost-unbearable fear of letting go.

True story, by the way.

Excerpt from The End of Ordinary:
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s take this one step at a time. Why do you need accomplices?”

“I already told you,” Micah said. “We are like ninety percent fully opposed to your plans to murder Jordan. Ninety-five percent, even.”

“Quiet,” Bob said. “Grownups are talking now.”

“Micah’s an idiot,” Marta said, “but believe it or not, he’s mostly right. We know about Project Snitch, Daddy.”

Bob’s eyebrows came together at the bridge of his nose.

“Project what?”

Marta rolled her eyes.

“Give it up, Dad. I don’t have anything else to do around here, so I snoop. I’ve heard you and Marco talking about Project Snitch more than once.”

“Actually,” I said, “I think Hannah said that the real name for it was Project Dragon-Corn.”

Bob’s face went blank.

“Oh,” he said, after a long, silent pause. “Oh. Oh, honey. You mean project Sneetch.”

I looked at Marta. Marta looked at me. Micah finished his smoothie, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and smiled.

“Uh,” Marta said. “What?”

Bob sighed.

“Sneetch, honey. Not Snitch. Sneetch.”

“Oh,” Marta said. “I thought you were just making fun of Marco’s accent when you said it that way.”

We all turned to stare at her.

“Anyway,” I said. “Confusion-wise, I’m not sure that’s…”

I slapped my palm to my forehead and let out a long, low groan.

“What?” Micah asked. “Are you having a stroke?”

“Sneetch,” I said. “Project Sneetch. Holy shit, dude. You think you’re Sylvester McMonkey McBean.”

“Right,” Bob said. He leaned back, and crossed his arms over his chest. “See, honey? Your gay boyfriend gets me.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently about three-quarters of the way through the first draft of my new book, A Brief History of the Stupid War. This book takes place in between the events of The End of Ordinary and my first book, Three Days in April, and tells the story of the war that almost ended the world when Hannah was little. I know, I know—I’m publishing out of order. It’s okay, though. These books are not a series. They’re just three stand-alone novels set in the same world. It’s totally okay to read them in any order you like.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I can't ever remember not considering myself a writer. My dad still has a collection of (very) short stories I wrote when I was nine, and I cobbled together my first novel (written in longhand, in pencil, on two hundred sheets of lined notebook paper) when I was twelve. The reviews for that one were not great (“Hackneyed and derivative” - love, Dad) but I’ve actually still got the original manuscript in a lock box in my closet.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I do not write full-time. I have a number of hungry mouths to feed, and making a living as a novelist is a surprisingly tough gig. I’m actually a cancer researcher by day, which has given me an interesting perspective on the whole genetic engineering thing. As you can probably imagine, this is a pretty demanding job, but I find time to write in the interstices of my life. Got twenty minutes left on my lunch break? Bang out two hundred words. Twelve hour flight to Tokyo? That’s a chapter at least. When you approach it in that way, its surprising how quickly the words pile up.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
For a long time, every story I wrote had a minor character in it somewhere named Doug. This wasn’t a deliberate thing. I just find that name really amusing for some reason, and I kept using it. If you get a chance to read The End of Ordinary, see if you can figure out which character’s name was Doug until my editor made me change it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A famous novelist, of course. Also, power forward for the Boston Celtics. I’m still not sure which of those dreams was more realistic.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I sold my first short story to the newsletter for an Italian sausage company. They paid me in sheet pizza and savings bonds. Until surprisingly recently, that was my biggest single payday as a writer. Like I said—it’s a tough gig.

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Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you! This was a lot of fun.

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Edward Ashton said...

Thanks again for having me over today!

Gwendolyn Jordan said...


Ally Swanson said...

Hope you had a fabulous weekend! Looking forward to checking out this book!