Today on the blog, I am joined by John Connery, author of Alien Exodus,
Hi John, and welcome to the blog! Tell us a little about your book – what is it called, and what is it about?
My first book is “Alien Exodus” and it’s available on Kindle. The novel is a young adult alien invasion science fiction novel. After Earth wins an alien war humanity has to welcome the other winning alien race on Earth. A teenager must overcome all his prejudices against a new alien schoolmate so the two of them can save Earth.
What inspired the story?
Honestly the idea came from the immigration debate. As a fire breathing liberal, I always felt that at the end of the day no matter what country you are from we are all still human. It got me thinking what if the immigrants where not human but aliens? And what if that alien race caused humanity to get involved in a galactic war that caused millions to die. Would I want to be so welcoming to another species?
What were some of your favourite books to read as a child? Which were the first books you remember falling in love with?
My favorite book as a child was “What Dreams May Come” by Richard Matheson. I remember not being able to put it down. He created such compelling characters. Then they made a movie and it didn’t translate. Sometimes the elements that make a novel great don’t translate to different mediums.
I also remember my least favorite book when I was a kid. I got a copy of a sequel novel to Return of The Jedi. I was so excited to have more Star Wars. I don’t think I ever finished reading it because it was too boring to read. That memory has me very concerned with how Disney handles the property. I think if they can create a really great TV show on Disney+ we will be in good shape. I loved Rogue One so I know it can be done. It’s also very easy to mess up. I hope the Game of Thrones guys can launch another trilogy of stories as successfully as they have with GOT. A lot of people are upset with how they handled the last season so again it’s not easy.
Ok, we’re waving the Altered Instinct magic wand. Your story is being turned into a movie – and you get to cast the main roles. Who do you cast for the leading characters? Bonus perk: Who directs?
I love this question. I always start my character development with picking actors. For my main character, Jane, I picture a young 16-year-old Jennifer Lawrence playing the lead character. The first time I saw her was in Winter's Bone when she was still a teenager. Jane’s father is the main character in the novels prior to City Of Robot and for that I picture an older Bradley Cooper. I know that’s weird because they have been lovers in movies together. In the prequel novella that is available for free on my website I picture Kal Penn playing the second in command of the moon colony.
I got into writing because I have wanted to be a director. So my pick to direct would be myself. I think my story probably requires an experienced director. Someone like the guy who directed Passengers, Morten Tyldum, would probably be able to get good performances from the actors and get the look and feel of the future right. But if we are picking anyone I would want Steven Spielberg. We can always dream.
Jennifer Lawrence was great in Winter's Bone - a movie not enough people have seen, I reckon! Are there any particular themes you address in your story? What issues do you explore, overtly or otherwise?
A common theme in my future science fiction stories is how life is very similar in the future as it is today. Our basic needs and motivations are the same. The things in life that where important 200 years ago will still be important in the future. The difference in the future is all the set pieces. Happiness, love, security and success or failure. I like to imagine the future where financial gain is less of a driving factor. With improved science and technology basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing become cheap enough that everyone has access to it. Also I tend to examine the idea that desire for technology is a be careful what you wish for scenario.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Tell us about yourself.
I’m a big Yankee fan. I like to get to the gym everyday especially if I send the entire day sitting. Music and movies have always been my favorite things, even more than reading. I have done a few 48-hour film challenges and hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to do some more film making in the near future. I also avidly follow politics. I wish I spent as much time reading science fiction as I did political news. I also enjoy investing in the stock market so I like to do a lot of research on businesses. The thing I enjoy the most is goofing around with the wife and laughing at the puppy when he tries to alpha her. I know better.
Tell us about your main character. Who is she and what makes her special?
My series is broken down into three trilogies. Each trilogy spans a different generation so they have different main characters. My favorite is named Jane Young. Her story starts in City Of Robots as she turns sixteen years old. She is the youngest human left on Earth. She dreams of one day getting an apprenticeship building robots. All her friends have gone into bio engineering to work on finding a cure to prevent humanity's extinction. I find her story fascinating. She is growing up in a city of robots, on a planet that is going extinct, which has made her the youngest person on the planet. I examine what kinds of things she enjoys? How does living with this reality affect her? What does she value most and what parts of life are most important to her? I really enjoyed creating her and now that I’m doing rewrites I feel like I’m getting to visit with an old friend.
What’s next for you as a writer? What’s cooking in your literary kitchen?
My goal right now is to finish writing this series. I have ten books outlined. Once it’s done I would like to start another series that has to do with time travel. I also plan on writing a few novellas in the City Of Robots universe to fill in some holes that didn’t get covered in the main novels. I’m almost halfway done and hopefully if I can find an affordable editor I can finish by the end of the year.
What’s the most fun piece of technology/magic that you’ve included in your novel that you wish you had in real life?
That’s a tough question. I include a lot of set pieces in my stories. I love Back To The Future and I always thought all the set pieces helped make the stories work. City of Robots has a lot of robots. I love the international market where there are 100 kiosks of different types of food with robot chefs programed how to make the best cuisines from all over the world. I like the idea of being able to take a flying saucer anywhere on the planet and get there in less than 30 minutes.
I used the idea of Noah’s Ark a few times. In my first book, Alien Exodus, the alien ship has a huge ark with all the species from their home world. In City of Robots, they have a lab underground where they are trying to clone every Earth species to prevent extinction. It was used previously by the aliens who had tons of alien species in the lab that they studied to build their bio weapon. I guess it’s a zoo more than an ark.
Away from books, what are your loves when it comes to TV and movies?
One of my favorite shows of all time is Mad Men. It took me a few tries to get into it. For me it’s science fiction, because it does such a great job of depicting life in the 60s NYC. For someone who wasn’t alive at the time, it’s like visiting another world.
Mad Men, a stylish trip back to the 1960s
Another favorite show of mine is Dexter. I think it’s is behind my motivation to write City Of Robots from the first person. Some stories are best told from the main character's point of view. The other aspect of that show that I find brilliant is how they build suspense. Every episode has a ticking bomb that feels like it’s about to go off. Tension is drama and great stories have great characters and tons of drama. No one does this better than Dexter. It also takes place in Miami the location of one of my first loves, Miami Vice. I think I wanted my captain on the moon to be a little like Sonny Crocket. And when we talk drama and suspense there is no show better than Breaking Bad.
I have to admit as a fire-breathing liberal I loved West Wing. I particularly loved the season with Santos running for President. I wish Beto could be more like Congressman Matt Santos. Can someone sit Beto down and make him watch that season?
My favorite Star Trek is Voyager by a long shot. I feel like any television love list would not be complete without talking about the Sopranos. I ran a few episodes recently and it’s every bit as good as I remember. I’m excited to hear there is a prequel in the works starting James Gandolfini’s son.
For stuff that is currently on, I love The Walking Dead. I’ll take zombie stuff any day of the week. I will never say TWD is perfect, I thought The Strain was a superior zombie show in how they created suspense with more interesting characters. I feel like the golden age of TV is starting to dwindle. It’s as if there are so many venues now that they are creating too much content which is causing the content quality to suffer. I never liked network TV much because 24-episode seasons is too much to maintain a high level of quality. If I had one wish for television if would be for the networks to start making 12-episode seasons and having fall and winter shows so they could focus on quality. I never watched another network show after West Wing ended.
I have always referred to Shawshank Redemption as the best story ever told. A close second in my opinion is Lonesome Dove. I have watched both stories many times trying to figure out why they work so well. They both have great characters and conflict that builds on itself. Lonesome Dove was a mini series based on a book. If you haven’t seen it and love westerns I recommend that you watch it today, it’s that good.
Marketing is always a challenge for writers – to share the love, what have you found the most useful tip for spreading the word about books?
I write because I want to share stories with the world. I have been playing with Facebook ads. They have something called lead ads that easily autofill in and can be very targeted. I’m giving away a free novella which is a prequel to my City Of Robots series. It’s costing me about 25 cents per download. My hope is to be able to build my newsletter list using that technique. I think the best quality subscribers are ones that bought a book and then signed up. This is a classic example of the chicken and egg dilemma. How do you sell books without fans and how do you get fans without selling books. My goal is to some day have 1 million reads of my novels. I think that only happens with an investment in marketing. I don’t think there is a better way for an author to market then build up their news letter audience by giving away free short stories and hopefully turning fans into super fans and even friends. My guess is that in order to have 1 million book reads my newsletter list is going to need to have at least 100k active subscribers. If someone wants to invest the $25k, I’ll gladly give the investor a percentage of every book sold in my City Of Robot series. There will be at least ten books.
Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work?
I’m active on Twitter. My Instagram has a shadow ban so I don’t post there as much mainly just cool science fiction images of robots and future worlds. My original idea for Instagram was to post images of things I was writing about. My favorite was an image of the SpaceX lunar lander because I just finished writing a first draft about a moon resort that gets stranded on the moon for fifteen years. Right now I’m doing a lot of interviews of science fiction writers on my blog
My author website isplease download the Lunar Station novella there for free. I post a lot of cool science fiction stuff on Twitter @jcscifi
A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
One of my goals is to spend an hour a day reading similar science fiction stuff to what I’m writing. This was one of the reasons I started the blog and interviewing other writers. I’m trying to find others doing similar stuff. It seems like everything is military or romance science fiction or space opera. My stuff is what I like to think of as future science, I examine what life might be like on Earth in the future. A future world after first contact with robots and spaceships. If you know of anything like that, please message me.
Right now I am reading Stephen King's book on writing. Next I want to read the Ray Bradbury biography. My dad has been raving about it, apparently the two of them grew up with very similar interests. I always say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so I expect to find a ton of great information in his biography which hopefully makes me a better science fiction writer.
Thanks for calling by, John! It's been good to chat!
Readers can pick up Alien Exodus on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2HKqWSO