Monday, 16 May 2016
A.J. (Alfred) Gillette - Author Profile and Interview
A.J. Gillette is a technology guru, he is also a musician and writer. His first book Geoterra was published in 2005 and took him over 8 years to write. He has now published 3 books in the last year and seems to have found his stride using NaNoWriMo as a focusing force behind his writing. Currently he has 4 books available and a few in the works. A.J. or Alfred took some time to answer 20 Questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More, so here he is in his own words.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?
I started reading Science Fiction in High School and continued to enjoy it through college and university. I ramped up my reading when I graduated and once our kids were grown, I realized that although I loved reading about new worlds, I wanted to build one of my own.
2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
My wife Julianne, edited my first novel and has supported me in all of my crazy adventurers. Friends and family read my books and tell me that they are really good. I have discovered over the years of writing and playing music, that friends and family don't make the best critics. If you are not good at something, they won't tell you.
3. Knowing your computer science and programming background I was surprised that your book with not Hard Science Fiction. Was that a deliberate choice?
I like to read about stories and worlds. I felt that I had to create personalities that people could relate to. I read about theoretical physics, gerontology, advancements in medicine (Stem cell research, biological 3D printing) and try to work aspects of these things into the stories. I observe interpersonal relationships around me and work that into my books.
4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?
Anne McCaffery, Elisabeth Moon, Paolo Bacigalupi, Robert Saywer, Eric Flint, David Weber, Dan Wells, Diana Gabaldon, Morgan Rice, Eliza Green, Suzanne Collins, Hugh Howey, John Scalzi.
5. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?
You would think that I would but not really. I perform weekly at open mics in the Ottawa area, where I play covers that range from Seals & Crofts to Ed Sheeran. When I listen to music, it's usually songs from my set lists so that I burn them into my brain. When I write I generally don't listen to music.
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
A good question. I woke up one day over the Christmas break with a complete book in my head. I generally create notes for topics that I will write about in each chapter of a new book, but don't start writing until November 1. NaNoWriMo is a great way to create a book in a short period of time. My first book was written over an eight year period. Each time I sat down to write, I had to read the entire book to figure out where I was at. With NaNoWriMo you can keep the whole book in your head from start to finish. The outline is basically done to you sit down and write, don't correct typos, don't edit, just write.
7. Your Geoterra series started as a trilogy, but is not planned to be 9 books. What spurred the change?
I generally only read series that have more than three books. I wanted to create a story that would appeal to people like me. The plan was a double trilogy and I started with book four because it placed me far enough in the future to have a free hand with future science. I went on to write three quarters of book five, but I couldn't use it for NaNoWriMo, because it was already started. Exodus was my first book written as part of NaNoWriMo. Journey and Arrival followed on as NaNoWriMo projects as well. When I got to the end of Arrival I realized that there was too much of a gap between it and book 4 (Geoterra) so I decided to add three more books in between. The series will now be a triple trilogy.
8. For your Geoterra series do you have plans or outlines for the remaining 5 books? Are they in progress? If so at what stage?
Yes and Yes kinda… Exodus, Journey and Arrival are all complete. The next three have tentative titles, and I have started making notes with respect to the extension of the story that will tie into what is now book 7.
9. Do you have any books in development outside of the Geoterra series?
Yes, there is one called Evolution that is loosely based on the science behind the book "Genome". In that book it talks about how some species go extinct, because only females are born. The book explains that the chemical makeup of the Genome favors the female Genome and when an extinction event happens, it happens almost overnight. The book explores what would happen to society when this occurs in the human race.
There is another book coming that explains the origin of the Yeti. I'm really excited about this one, but don't want to give too much away.
10. Being a programmer and teacher do you see yourself ever writing non-fiction to pass on some of the knowledge you have accumulated over years in the technology industry?
It's not out of the question, but there are way smarter people in that space. I'm more of a generalist which means I am pretty good at a large number of things. I can't really say I'm an expert in many areas though. I think that experts should write non-fiction.
11. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
Wow that was a long time ago. I don't think there was any one author. We lived a long way from the closest library and my family did have money to buy books.
12. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?
Right at the moment, I'm waiting for the next Outlander book, the next book in the "Name of the Wind" series by Patrick Rothfuss and the next book in the Partials series by Dan Wells.
13. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?
TV shows seem to come in and out of favor. Currently I watch Grey's Anatomy, The Arrow, The Flash, Elementary, Castle, Saving Hope, Rookie Blue, Vampire Diaries, NCIS, and Outlander.
14. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well-rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
The dragon rider series by Anne McCaffery explorers many different aspects of a society rebuilding itself. The inter-personal relationships are fascinating. The Partials series by Dan Wells is a little closer to earth and does similar things. On the non-fiction front, the book Genome, Long for this world, The youth pill. On the business front, The Alliance, Zero to One and the startup owner's manual.
15. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?
My characters have personalities of their own and they tell me what to write. They each speak in a certain way and choose words accordingly. If you were to ask me what Beth would say in a given situation, I would be able to answer. Mary would respond differently as would Jacob and Martin.
16. Most of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?
All of my books are DRM free. I hope that people copy them so that I get more readers. I think that authors and musicians need to establish a community before they should consider locking people in.
17. Some authors monitor torrent sites contact them to remove their content. Do you have plans to do so are have someone do so for you?
Nope, I hope that my books are freely distributed to the world. If people like them, hopefully they will tell me and compensate me for my efforts.
18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?
Interesting question. I started with a college education (Electrical Engineering Technology) and then went on to do a University Education (Computer Science). The motivator was basically the difference in compensation. Having done both, I would say that University was easier and didn't really add much to the college education that I already had. I think education is the best investment that a person can make in their life. You invest time and money and it pays your salary for the rest of your life.
I have always been lucky in that I know in advance what I am going to enjoy. I picked electronics and computers because I could see the role that they were going to play in my life time and I wanted to be part of that. Students should think had about what they enjoy, save the top choice as a hobby and select the second one as a career.
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
I generally don't read a book more than once, so it would have to be books that require enough thought to inspire me to want to read them more than once or books that I need to survive. In no particular order…
Book 1: Some kind of survival guide. I don't know much about living on a desert island. Should contain a complete guide to edible plants and how to prepare them.
Book2: A book on how to fish, types of fish and how to clean and cook them.
Book3: A book on how to get rescued, if you're stranded on a desert island.
Book4: The complete dragon rider series by Anne McCaffery because the story is inspiring and contains nine books under one cover.
Book5: The taekwondo encyclopedia by General Choi. It would provide reading to help cope with stress and exercises that would help me stay fit.
Book6: A book on navigating by the stars so that I could figure out where I was.
Book7: Right now I'm reading "The startup owner's manual" that would be one because it's more of a reference and you need to read it 10 or 20 times to really get it to sink in. Not that the knowledge would do me any good on the island.
Book8: The Bible: I've had it read to me all my life (in Church) but I've never actually sat down and read it from cover to cover.
Book9: The Quran: I would need it translated to English, but I would like to understand more about other religions.
Book10: The Torah: Again I would need a translation.
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
Life is too short to do things that you are not passionate about. If you want to write, then start writing. You'll know soon enough if it's for you. Participate in NaNoWriMo. It will force you to complete your first book and you will have the support of the rest of the world. You will be able to find local authors at libraries, coffee shops and various other public venues. NaNoWriMo has write-ins that happen all over during the month of November.
I had the privilege of meeting A.J. a number of years ago through work. I was greatly impressed with his passion for technology, his breadth of knowledge and his intense and yet jovial personality. When I found out he had written a book I had to read it. (Even buying it from a platform I do not enjoy that much.) I devoured the first book and can say it has been a long time since I found a new fiction author I have enjoyed so much.
It is not surprising that Robert J. Sawyer is an author who shaped his writings, for one of my first thoughts while reading his work was that it was like a cross between Sawyer and Heinlein. His writing is very enjoyable to read and I look forward to reading more of his works. You can read about part of the reason why he started releasing his books here. And if you have not read his book go give them a try they are excellent.
Books by A.J. Gillette:
Other books by A.J. Gillette:
Author profile and interview with A.J. Gillette