the Little Red Reviewer

Interview with author C.A. Voss about his debut novel Genesis

Posted on: November 14, 2018

 

I got chatting with author Chris Voss over twitter (@vossdross), and if you follow the #RRSciFiMonth tag, you’ve probably seen some of his tweets about his science fiction TBR, enjoying Doctor Who, his current  reads, and reminiscing about scifi paperbacks he enjoyed as a kid.

 

Chris’s debut novel, Genesis, came out earlier this year,  and boy did I have a ton of question for him about it!  I wanted to know everything – what was his favorite scene to write? what inspired the book? why go the self publishing route?  you know. . . everything!  Sorry Chris, I didn’t mean to freak you out with so many questions! I’m just curious about everything, and i might be an introvert but that doesn’t stop me from e-mailing someone a million questions.    This is a pretty cool interview, if I do say so myself!

 

About the book:

In a world ravaged by climate change, social inequality and dwindling natural resources there’s only one solution: abandon ship and terraform a new home.

Operation Genesis is beset by problems from the start – sabotage, covert infiltration, planning by committee – but Dylan Lomax, an emotionally disconnected empath, soon discovers there are worse things than organisational incompetence. The mission to bring life to a new planet has a terrible secret, one which threatens to take humanity to the brink of extinction.

About Chris Voss:

C.A. Voss was raised in Walsall, a small industrial town in the UK famous for its close proximity to the M6, Jerome K. Jerome and a concrete hippo (Google it). He moved to Leicester to study at De Montfort University and has been resident there ever since. He writes in his spare time and would love nothing more than to earn a living by telling stories.

He loves the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, Philip K. Dick and Hunter S. Thompson, to name but a few, and believes the greatest novel ever written was the first, Don Quixote by Cervantes. He also draws inspiration from the thousands of movies and TV shows consumed during a misspent youth; and hopes that his work contains a fraction of the wit, intelligence and excitement displayed by creatives like Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin and Steven Spielberg.

 

Let’s get to the interview!

 

Little Red Reviewer: Hi Chris! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Chris Voss: I find writing a little about myself way more difficult than writing a 100,000 word novel!

The initials in my pen name, C.A. Voss, stand for Chris(topher) Adam. I live in Leicester, in the UK, with my girlfriend Jen. A few years ago we both quit our jobs to go travel the world on a shoe-string budget and had the most amazing adventure. We barely scratched the surface of all the sights and experiences the world has to offer and can’t wait to get out and do it again someday.

I’m a master of procrastination; binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reading books off my TBR list and playing Red Dead Redemption II when I should be writing my next novel. I have three great ideas I’m working on at the moment, including a spiritual sequel to my debut novel Genesis.

LRR: You’ve described Genesis as the novel you’ve “been talking about for 20 years”. Give us some highlights of that journey. How was the idea born? When did you actually start drafting the novel? How long did it take to write?

CV: The idea for Genesis was born out of an ending. I was studying Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia for English Literature way back in 1998 and though the play is laden with many themes, the one which leaped out at me was the notion that what happened in the past was echoed in the future. As I sat in class, daydreaming about aliens and future worlds, a fantastic idea for the end of a story hit me like a brick. I was so excited I told everyone about it, but when I tried to write it down I found that I couldn’t find a beginning to match the finale. I ended up shelving the project and returned to it over a decade later, determined to find the story.

It took me a year to chisel out a first draft. It was ugly and malformed, but it had a spine: a beginning, middle and end, with promising characters and a protagonist I believed in. Little did I realise that the hard work was only just beginning. The editing process was brutal. I went through two more drafts before even daring to show it to friends. Their critique felt like a massive setback, but it forced me to look at my story more objectively and refine, rewrite and edit with more purpose. It wasn’t easy finding the time around my day job and it took another couple of years, and so many drafts I lost count, before I arrived at the published version. Though it bears little resemblance to that first draft, the ending remains the same. I really love that ending.

LRR:  I am intrigued that a particular character is described as “an emotionally disconnected empath”. Can you tell us more about Dylan, his empath abilities, and why he’s emotionally disconnected?

CV: As an empath Dylan is attuned to the emotional state of those around him, making it easy for him to read people. If a person’s emotion is particularly acute Dylan can be drawn into one of their memories, experiencing it as though it were his own. When he was younger Dylan used this ability to try and help those in need, even studying psychology in an attempt to mask his secret gift from the world. Sensitivity to the pain of others gradually takes its toll on Dylan and when his mother succumbs to lung cancer he is pushed over the edge and abandons her just when she needs him the most. Guilt and a desire to protect himself from the burden of feeling too much causes Dylan to withdraw into himself. He grows selfish and disconnected from society, using his ability to cheat at poker instead of helping others. That’s where we meet him at the start of the novel.

LRR:   What was your favorite scene in the novel to write? Were there any scenes that were unexpectedly difficult to write?

CV: It’s a little longer than a scene, but the chapter where Captain Brice leads a rescue mission into hostile territory was really fun to write. It’s an homage to Predator (1987), as a band of soldiers face off against the local wildlife; it even has an Arnie styled one-liner. Also, any scene with Lori. I really enjoyed writing her character; plenty of cussing and bad-assery.

Some of the scenes between Dylan and Beth were unexpectedly difficult to write. I felt as though I had an understanding of the complexities of their relationship, but struggled to put it into words; good words, anyway. I spent a lot of time going over those scenes to ensure their relationship was as organic as possible. I guess I found it easier writing the action sequences as there is a choreography that can be neatly planned. Emotions are more complicated and don’t always lead you in the direction you expected.

LRR:   I do love that Amazon, kindle, and e-book phone apps, have made self-publishing easier and more accessible, and self-published books more accessible to readers. Why was self-publishing the right road for you?

CV: In honesty, after almost four years from first draft to final publication I was desperate to get my book out into the world and self-publishing was the fastest way to achieve that. Not that I wouldn’t love to go the traditional publishing route if the opportunity arose and I’ll keep up the search for a literary agent willing to help me with that. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how much talent there is out there until I started trying to market my own novel. Self-publishing has brought a platform for so many voices that might have otherwise gone unheard and that can only be a good thing.

LRR:   Who are some of your favorite authors and artists? Why is their work important to you?

CV: I’m surprised how difficult this question is to answer! There’s so many that it’s hard not to spurt out a list of amazing authors, all of whom have influenced me in some way. I read an awful lot of Stephen King when I was younger, he is an absolute master of the end of chapter cliff hanger and I hope that I’ve been able to emulate that ability in my own novel. In terms of sci-fi I would say Philip K Dick is my favourite; he manages to pack big ideas into short stories told with such vivid imagination. Through high-concepts he manages explore what it really means to be human and I think that’s something every author aims for in their own way.

LRR:   What books have you read lately that really had an impact on you?

CV: I haven’t read as much as I would have liked over the past year, but I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai has been an emotional insight into a society I knew little about. The way in which the Taliban infected Malala’s community with their pervasive ideology is almost like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers plotline. When people are too afraid to stand up to oppression, and freedom of speech is curtailed, society can swiftly descend into a dystopia.

I’m currently halfway through Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which has hooked me in with its rich and layered characters and immersive universe building. It feels rare in science fiction to find a story that focuses more intently on the social interactions between the ship’s crew than external events. As somebody who has just written a novel where action drives the narrative I find the emotional impact of this slow-burn approach as interesting as it is engaging.

LRR:  You and I are both involved with ##RRScifiMonth, an annual online celebration of all things science fiction. Why do you enjoy reading science fiction?

CV: At its absolute best science fiction is a mirror to our own societies, our own selves; the good and the ill. You experience the multiverse whenever you read a science fiction book and transport yourself to worlds populated with alien life and advanced technology. The only limits are your imagination.

LRR:  Thanks Chris!

 

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4 Responses to "Interview with author C.A. Voss about his debut novel Genesis"

Awesome interview! 😀

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[…] got a SciFiMonth special this week, as our Little Red Reviewer interviewed author and SciFiMonth Fleet member Chris Voss about his debut novel, Genesis. Jess of Jessticulates struggled with Shelf Control over Connie […]

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Hallo, Hallo (*waves)

I was wicked excited seeing someone had interviewed Mr Voss, as I’ve been enjoying his exchanges of thoughts within the world of #smallangryplanet since we started hosting our Sunday chats for the RAL this #RRSciFiMonth! 🙂 I noticed he was following me and it took me a bit to visit his feeds and sort out what he was writing about – as this month, like most this year, were a hard start to a month I was looking forward to simply enjoy reading + sharing my bookish adventures. At least I have two full weeks left to do that now!

Sometimes the best we can do for ourselves is to ‘distract’ our minds whilst we are in the mood to be creating our literary worlds. I think you spent those hours well!

As a fellow writer, I love how he sought the ending before the beginning! I have the tendency to write out of sync with order as well – whilst following the muse to which section interests me to develop and then, at some point looping back round and going start to finish to see what is missing or what can be inked out next. Writing is of itself a journey and l loved hearing how GENESIS was developed.

Is there a strong focus on Dylan’s Mum passing from Cancer? I ask as those are the stories I shy away from myself as their at times too much for me to read. I wasn’t sure if her illness/death was followed day to day or if it was acknowledged but the story was still centred on Dylan and the aftermath of his choices to withdraw?

I agree about self-publishing being a viable market of its own. Except for me it isn’t about the e-side of it but rather the opportunities for print and audiobook. Mostly as I’m not an ereader so for me, it is curious how there are other options out there, like traditional print, large print and audiobook. Although part of me is curious about Braille.

I keep cross-referencing #smallangryplanet to #theclanchronicles for being wholly intrinsic about the human condition and the method of emotionally pulling us through an inter-species narrative at the core of how their lives are affected by what is happening round them. There are a few distinct differences of course between the two series and although I’m enjoying my journey w/ Chambers, Czerneda’s series is still a top preference for this genre. Something I need to sort out how to write about when the RAL concludes. As similar to what Voss was saying about sorting out how to write a novel, sometimes sorting out how to articulate my own takeaways on stories/series is a rather challenging moment of self-reflection.

Definitely true – Science Fiction enlarges our capacity for what can be imagined inasmuch of giving us something to chew on about what Futurisitically is just ’round the corner.

What a lovely convo, thanks for sharing!!

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Hi Jorie! : )

I hadn’t considered procrastinating in such a positive light. You’re right though, sometimes the answer to a writing puzzle which you can’t solve regardless how long you stare at a blank screen comes to you in a flash of inspiration while you’re ‘distracted’. Plus watching anything produced by Joss Whedon helps remind me how snappy dialogue can/should be!

In answer to your question about Dylan’s mom; her battle with cancer takes place long before the start of the book and isn’t relived day-to-day, but provides context for who Dylan is now. I read Aliette De Bodard’s article on mothers in SFF (https://aliettedebodard.com/2018/11/12/list-of-sff-mothers-written-by-people-of-colour-and-indigenous-people/) and realised this might add fuel to the fire that there are ‘SO MANY DEAD MOMS’ in SF. However, I hope the fully realised relationship between Deborah Elliott and her daughter Josie is something Aliette would more readily approve of.

I haven’t fully explored the audiobook/braille options for printed work, though the Print on Demand scheme run by Amazon has been great as it meant I could get my Nan a physical copy of my book without a commitment to a large order of stock. It was also great for editing, I felt like I made real headway once my novel was formatted for print and I could read it in book form.

Glad you enjoyed the interview! I would offer you a copy of my book, but I think it transgresses some of the rules on your review policy. There are certainly a few moments which cross the border into grisly town and I wouldn’t want to subject your heart (or stomach) to anything which might bother it.

For now, I’m going to get back into A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet so I’m ready for the conclusion of the Twitter read-along!

Voss

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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