Welcome to the blog, Steve! Could you tell us a little bit about Ascension?
Thanks for having me, Rachel. It’s an honor.
Ascension was an idea I had years ago. The first scene I can remember visualizing was this girl who has been driven to the brink of insanity. After fighting to prove she wasn’t crazy, she’s on the verge of giving in when she notices a tear, a sort of corner of reality where the two planes don’t quite meet. She begins tearing away at it like it’s wallpaper, until there’s a big enough hole for her to step through into true reality. Though that didn’t exactly make it in the book, there’s a very similar scene.
What led you to write this book?
I had just finished writing my first full book, a fantasy, and was experimenting with some of my other ideas. I wrote three chapters of Ascension, but promptly stopped the first time I watched The Matrix. There were enough similarities between my book and that movie, I ended up shelving Ascension for years. Only when I became desperate for something new to bring to my weekly Writer’s Group, did I dust off those three chapters. The response was very positive, which motivated me to renew my writing on it and retool it in a different direction. I’m glad I slacked off that week and didn’t have anything new to bring.
How did you show the shifting realities of Kharma’s life without letting the plot become too confusing?
I knew from the beginning there was a potential to lose the reader. I tried very hard to stay inside of Kharma’s head, especially in the beginning of the book, so they were seeing things through her POV. I wanted the reader to be just as confused as she is, but not more so. It was a bit of a struggle, but I think it worked out. I’ve had a number of readers tell me they were surprised how easy it was to follow the twisting, winding plot and that they found Kharma asked the same questions they did, which gives me confidence I did an all right job.
Also, I tend toward a more simple writing style in general. When I first started out, I tried really hard to describe everything in great detail and use as many fancy words as possible. After all, I was trying to prove I was a writer, right? But I found I didn’t much care for over-writing when I was reading, so I made the decision to tone it back. I’ve been much happier with my writing since then. I prefer complex characters and plots to a complex writing style.
Who are you influenced by? Any new or underrated authors we should be reading?
My favorite writer at this time is George R.R. Martin. I’ve been singing his praises for years and I love the fact the Game of Thrones series on HBO has inspired a new generation of people to check out his books.
In a very literal sense, I have to say I’m most influenced by my mother, Mickee Madden. She had some books published back when I was in high school and, for better or worse, seeing her struggles with the industry really helped to shape my path forward. I decided early on I would never strive to be a published author, that I would only write for the sheer joy of it. Of course, as I got older, I started to realize there were others out there who might enjoy the fruit of my labors. She was the one who first mentioned self-publishing to me, but I jumped on it and pestered her to try it out, as well. Now, we give each other advice and help inspire the other to keep going on.
As far as a new, upcoming author, I really enjoyed Ted Krever’s Mindbenders. It’s an excellent book and I look forward to the sequel and anything else Mr. Krever has coming out.
What is your best writing advice?
Not to be terribly predictable, but my best advice is…write! It seems like a no-brainer, but it really is the backbone of being able to produce a finished product. It’s easy to run into a scene you just can’t get right and let it grind you to a full-stop. My method has always been to muscle through those difficult scenes and go back to them in the editing phase. Meanwhile, my brain keeps working on how to better write the scene and by the time I come back to it, I more often than not have the solution.
I also recommend writers to try National Novel Writing Monthly. This will be my third year trying NaNoWriMo, which is a sort of personal contest to produce 50,000 words for a brand new story during the month of November. It’s a wonderful challenge (one which I’ve personally never beaten) and it’s a great way to get started on one of those books percolating in your head you just haven’t gotten around to getting out.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Steve!
Thank you, Rachel!. This is a great service you’re providing. It’s much appreciated.
Steve Madden works as a full-time Para-transit Driver/Dispatcher and a full-time husband/father. He loves all genres, but has a fondness for SF/Fantasy. He has one other book, The Four-Year-Old Guardian, currently available and hopes to have his next, Unseen Things I: The Shadow Walker, out this Fall.
Steve Madden can be found on his blog at http://travellerzero.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter @travellerzero.
Ascension is available at Smashwords and Amazon.
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