author, Chris Lawrence, Fantasy, Fiction, Interdimensional Interviews, Interview, J. Chris Lawrence, Jesse Pohlman, Novel, Physics Incarnate, Physics Reincarnate, Protostar, Science Fiction, Self publish, Weekly Freeporter, writer
I’ve never been to college before, but after watching National Lampoon’s Van Wilder for the thirteenth time, I knew it was finally time I went.
Sure, I could get a degree and learn how to write gooder. But more importantly, I could have mentally challenged rich kids in robes spank me as I invoke deities of debauchery! We could throw topless parties where they lift me up on a golden throne, spraying me in fountains of shaken beer whilst chanting our fraternal name in a dead language as Jimmy Eat World blazes on in the stereos of our hearts!
So, why then am I now wandering the quiet halls of the Catskill Community College in upstate New York, finding only erudite people of varying ages focused entirely on their education?
“You there!” I say to a passing fellow, certain he will know the way. “Tell me where your parties hide!”
“I’m sorry?” he says, turning around to see if I was speaking to someone behind him.
“The parties sir!” I cry. “All your parties are belong to us! Woop! Woop!”
He scratches his lip, says, “You must be new here. I hate to tell you this, but college really isn’t how the movies depict it. Those types of parties aren’t allowed on campus, and this is a community college, so–”
“You lie!” I hiss, giving him a hard stare for good measure before continuing on my way.
Walking even further through the labyrinthine corridors, I at last come upon a door with a sign on it that reads: ENTER AND YOU WILL BE STABBED IN THE EYE!
“This is the place,” I grin.
Inside, a man is standing, surrounded by tables covered in beakers and other sciencey stuff. His short blonde hair is scruffy and receding, revealing two fingers pressed against his temple. He smirks as what appears to be a needle spins about, orbiting his head like a drunken insect.
I recognize him immediately. He’s Jesse Pohlman: author of five novels and a collection of short stories; founder of The Weekly Freeporter; teacher; mad scientist; and eater of Teriyaki chicken.
“Why are you here?” he asks.
“Er…party?” I mutter.
“You did not read the sign. Prepare to di—“
“Wait!” I throw my hands up. “I was just joking! I’m actually here to…um…interview you!”
He cackles, his maniacal laughter echoing in the strange room. Then he says, “Cool! I have a new book out you know.”
“I do,” I nod, ignoring the sweat dripping into my eyes as I find a chair.
Quietly looking for potential weapons for self-defense, I say:
Thanks for letting me interview you, and for not stabbing me in the eye with that needle. As I usually do, I’ll start by asking about what draws you to the craft. What does it do for you, and what got you into it?
I got into writing through the usual nerdy procedure; I liked dragons and sorcerers and all that, and I wound up involved in chatroom-based role-playing games. From there, I started creating my own stories and spreading them around. At first I was really terrible, but at some point my work became bearable to read. The overarching theme here is telling a story: The characters I come up with are like visions in my head, dancing about and acting strange.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a ritual or habit, or is it more spontaneous?
Rituals? They sound fun! I have a lot of ways I generate my artwork. Usually, it starts with inspiration – I see something in the news, or in the world around me, that helps me come up with a concept for whatever it is I need. Maybe it’s an article about a new invention, whatever. From there, I tend to come up with some basic notes on how a plot should go. When I actually write, a lot of times I just write whatever I think; though, I have a habit of reading dialogue out loud, and even talking to myself a number of times. [Laughs] I have some go-to literary techniques, like alliteration and onomonopoetics.
The overarching theme here is telling a story: The characters I come up with are like visions in my head, dancing about and acting strange.
Tell me about your novel Physics Reincarnate.
I’m always up for a challenge! Physics Reincarnate is the second novel of the somewhat obviously named Physics Incarnate series. The first book introduced us to Emmett Eisenberg, and the big hook of the story was that he had been a super-hero – I use that term loosely – about ten years before the novel takes place. In his day job, he’s a physics professor; by night, he’s literally the master of physics as he can re-arrange atomic structures at will. Readers discover that Emmett was the cause, by way of psychiatric breakdown, of a nearly world-devouring nuclear accident at a secretive research facility located in Africa. A decade later, the physicist had reunited with his old “research” buddies in order to put down a couple of threats from their past.
In Reincarnate, Emmett and his colleagues, a team of super-heroes calling itself The Consortium of Trust, are recruited to investigate strange radio transmissions coming out of a newly-constructed facility in Alaska. They run head-long into another new-world-order type organization, The Coleman Group, who are not merely prepared to face down a collection of super-heroes, but quite literally saw them coming. While the first book is about Emmett resolving his past and accepting his fate, this book is more about how the Consortium deals with protecting themselves, their loved ones, and their friends.
Science played a big role in Physics Incarnate, the first book of the series. How much research did you have to do for that book, and how much of a role will that research play in this sequel?
One technology that I feature in both this series and in my Protostar books is called Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors (LFTR). They sound like pure science-fiction: A nuclear reactor that isn’t pressurized and has built-in fail-safe measures in the event of a coolant failure? Sounds too good to be true! And, there are technical hurdles to this technology; but the long-and-short of it is that back in the height of the cold war the U.S. wanted to build – I kid you not – a nuclear-powered aircraft. [Chuckles] They figured out that if you use Thorium salts you can accomplish that goal kind of safely, but the government didn’t invest heavily in it because it had already chosen to invest in the much more dangerous nuclear power that we’ve got today. Right now, China and India are really interested in this stuff, and while American scientists like Kirk Sorensen have been on the warpath for some time, we’re still taking baby steps.
I also did a lot of research on the Theory of Relativity, the concept of faster-than-light travel, and the way matter itself works. I also look into history and even more fanciful conspiracy theories. It’s not like I’m a crazy guy with the brains to rule the world, or anything! [Winks] Let’s take that radio signal I mentioned our heroes are after in the second book; it’s what people refer to as a “numbers station,” and all I’ll do is suggest you look up “UVB-76.” Preferably, look it up in the context of the Cold War.
The first book set readers up to wonder if Emmett was crazy or not. I decided I wanted to investigate one of the characters around him, James Lowery, and through that lens I set up the plot of the second one.
What is it about the subject of Science and super powers that inspires you?
I think my favorite aspect of reading scientific information and writing about the real, super-power-like things it can create is that it gives me a lot of hope for the future, even if it can be scary sometimes. I know there’s lots of problems today, but look at some of the one’s we’ve fixed: Technology has all but eradicated smallpox, polio, and tuberculosis; we can communicate almost instantly over the internet; a trip to the other coast of America would take maybe a week, when it used to take months if not years; and, even though there’s still many famines and droughts, our world can – if its resources are arranged right – support ever more people. For all the downsides we’ve seen, like the rise of a surveillance state, we are infinitely better off for each experiment we conduct.
…Is that heroin?
You can spend your time worrying about what’s in here, or you can ask the appropriate question; who is it for?
I, uh, I’d rather not. Moving on: Do you plan to turn the Physics series into a trilogy?
At first, I didn’t. The first book set readers up to wonder if Emmett was crazy or not. I decided I wanted to investigate one of the characters around him, James Lowery, and through that lens I set up the plot of the second one. I haven’t written the third, but I could tell you, if I was so inclined, what’s going to happen.
I hear you plan to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo, is there anything you can tell me about that process, and about any other projects you’ve done through it?
I tried NaNoWriMo in 2010, but succeeded at it in 2011. I really enjoyed the experience, especially because November is a month that I usually can scrape together some free time. It’s a real test of willpower and dedication, but it’s not to be entered into with dreams of creating a best-seller. Sure, some people turn their NaNos into big bucks, but most of the time the pressure of writing fifty grand in a month leads to sub-par prose.
I came up with a relatively simple tale called Protostar: Memoirs of the Messenger. It’s a space opera, and it seizes on some common tropes like a human war with an alien species and a united world. What’s fun is that I try to tie it in with science (again, Thorium as well as discussing some of the technical problems that an interstellar empire would have to overcome to flourish, like gravity), and I turn some of the usual concepts on their side. Just as an example, lots of fiction pictures humanity on its back, relying on some last-minute heroics to artfully destroy its opponents. Protostar has no such heroic bias. Humans are not warlike, but they are not incapable of self-defense. Plus, while other aliens might be jerks, humankind has made friends with some.
Be patient. Be prepared to work a day job. Unless you write absolute, pornographic trash you are probably not going to be an overnight success.
If you were a college party, rife with shenanigans, where would you be?
In a beautiful woman! Unless you mean what college or frat house I would be? In that case, I’m not really sure.
Wait, how did that question get in here? Okay, so who or what are some of your biggest influences?
To be honest, I don’t really write what I read. I know a great deal about dystopian literature and art. My favorite book is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and I love George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. When it comes to TV, I’m a huge fan of Lost and Undergrads (one of these things is not like the others…). Maybe it’s just a belief that, by reading about how science and technology can go bad, we can better understand ways to use it, right?
Makes sense to me. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Writing is easy; making it in the business is incredibly difficult. If I were to be sincere, I’m not there; yet. Hopefully, some day, I will be – and I think that’s the biggest bit of advice. Be patient. Be prepared to work a day job. Unless you write absolute, pornographic trash you are probably not going to be an overnight success. Find a job that pays the bills, but won’t drive you crazier than your writing style requires. Be ready to start small, with freebies and blogs and the rest. Be friendly, since friends can be a great benefit…
Like movies and TV shows, the publishing industry is being transformed by digital technology and it’s becoming a “feast, or famine” racket.
As I understand it, you’re a proponent of Indie publishing. What is it about self publishing that you feel strongly about?
I am! I’m not exactly a patient person, and moreover I’m not really good at handling the lack of communication that comes with traditional publishing. If you’re looking for a good reason I’m a supporter of the indie scene, its economics. Like movies and TV shows, the publishing industry is being transformed by digital technology and it’s becoming a “feast, or famine” racket. For every huge best-selling novel that spawns a series of episodes, there’s literally tens of thousands of people who would like one hundredth of the investment that the few remaining publishing powerhouses plunk down. Today, these titans would rather see an author with an established fan-base join their ranks because they don’t have to develop something new.
Okay, that’s all of my questions. So … now that we finished this totally legitimate interview, I can safely leave with my eyes intact and never whisper a word of what transpired down here, right?
Thanks for your time, and – don’t take this personally! – but if you tell anyone about this room, well, nobody will believe your last words, anyway!
Works for me! This will be our little secret.
For the readers, be sure to check out Physics Reincarnate, available now in print or for download on Kindle. You can also follow Jesse Pohlman on Facebook and Twitter. And stay tuned for updates on the exciting new charity that’s working hard to help me buy a bionic eye!