M.H. Mead, authors of the Detroit Next series | Interview

M.H. Mead Author Photo

Margaret Yang & Harry R. Campion: M.H. Mead

M.H. Mead is the name of Michigan-based writing team Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion. Margaret is a full-time writer and parent, and Harry writes in addition to teaching. Taking the Highway is their third collaborative novel, all of which are set in the same alternate future Detroit. Margaret also keeps up a blog about the writing process and books about writing called Writing Slices.

Android Dreamer: For those who haven’t read your novels yet, what’s the general idea behind the Detroit Next universe?

M.H. Mead: The Caline Conspiracy, Fate’s Mirror, and Taking the Highway are crime novels set in near-future Detroit. Our imagined Detroit is finally prosperous, but some strange political and economic compromises have been made to get there. The heroes are a PI, a hacker and cop. The books are fast-paced and don’t rely on high-tech jargon or far-out worlds to make the plot. Our fans tell us we write “science fiction for people who like thrillers.”

AD: How do you divide the writing duties between the two of you? How does the process differ from writing fiction alone?

MH: We live about an hour apart, so we have to plan our writing time or it won’t happen. We start by brainstorming together in marathon sessions where we throw ideas at each other—nothing is too crazy to think about. These sessions lead to a rough outline we would never show to another living soul. We get together again and make a more detailed outline. We each write part of the first draft, then come together again for editing. We do a ton of re-writing, both individually and together, so the whole thing sounds like one story told with one voice.

AD: Who are your biggest literary influences? Were there any in particular that affected choices you made in writing any of your novels?

MH: Well, of course, the sun rises and sets on Larry Niven. We’re inspired by Niven’s attention to social change. It’s fun to write about technology and new toys, but the real fun is marking the ways people react to the technology. It isn’t always in ways you’d expect. We also learned a lot from the novels of Bruce Sterling and George Alec Effinger. We love how their future worlds shine a spotlight on the world we live in today.

AD: Which character in your novels are you the most proud of?

MH: Morris Payne, the super-hacker from Fate’s Mirror. He’s a triumph of contradictions: a criminal you root for, a hermit who must interact with people, a nerd in the role of hero.

AD: How much does your personal experience influence the way your characters progress and the way the stories unfold?

MH: Every single one of our heroes is caught between two worlds–whether it’s work/family, job-for-pay/job-you-love, or in the case of Morris Payne, hiding/living. As parents with careers in addition to writing, we are constantly pulled in two (or three) directions. So that’s one way our characters are like us. Their circumstances might be different, but the emotions are the same. Maybe that’s why our readers like our heroes. Everyone can relate to that feeling.

AD: Are you happy with the results of self-publishing? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently based on what you’ve learned in publishing your three novels?

MH: We like it a lot. It’s fun to have the final say over content, jacket copy, cover, and price. The community of other indie authors is extremely supportive and helpful. For example, Lindsay Buroker was one of our first twitter friends and she introduced us to our cover artist. We learned so much from those who came before us that we were able to avoid most of the pitfalls of DIY publishing–so far, at least.  After all, there are always new mistakes to make.

AD: Do you have any plans for another entry in the series, or will Taking the Highway be it?

MH: There are things in our world still pestering us. If something clamors for enough attention, we’ll listen to it. If the idea is good enough to sustain the standards we’ve set for ourselves, we’ll write it.

AD: Is there anything in particular you’d like readers to take away from your novels?

MH: The general tone is cautious optimism. Although a lot of people have given up on Detroit, we think it still holds promise. We believe that Detroit and the people of Michigan will make some tough choices and adapt to the world. There will be some choices that make life even more difficult. Our books deal with those, too. But overall, our books are meant to be good reads. We’re here to entertain the readers for a few hours with some murder and mayhem in near-future Detroit. If we can do that, we consider our books a success.

Taking the Highway, the latest entry in the Detroit Next series, is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. You can follow Margaret on Twitter at @Margaret_Yang, read about M.H. Mead’s literary exploits at their website, and like them on Facebook.

Release Alert: Zeus, Inc by Robin Burks

Robin Burks, a talented writer for a handful of websites including DVICE.com, FanGirlConfessions.com, and RantGaming.com has released her first novel through her own publishing company Bad Karma Studios as of July 28th. The novel, which is primarily futuristic science fiction, has received some very positive reviews so far. The synopsis:

50 years ago, Zeus, Inc., and its CEO, the mysterious Joseph Brentwood, saved the world from a major energy crisis by discovering a new unlimited energy resource. Now, in 2069, Mr. Brentwood has gone missing and private eye Alex Grosjean has been hired to find him by his daughter (and Alex’s best friend), Aleisha.Black-outs begin to occur all over the world and somehow Alex believes it’s tied to Mr. Brentwood’s disappearance. Her search leads her through her own murky past and into the fantastical depths of Hell itself, where she discovers that Mr. Brentwood is not who or what he seems to be.With the help of an otherworldly man named Pip, Alex must save both Mr. Brentwood and the world. But will she be able to face her own guilty past in order to do it?

The novel is available through Amazon as well as Smashwords. Priced at only $2.99, take a look at the sample and help support Ms. Burks if it grabs you.

If you yourself or a self-published writer you know are releasing a book soon or doing a signing, tweet at us @androiddreamer with a link to the information and we may post about it here.

Review: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (2011)

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Tor Books, 2011

Rating: A

In the not-too-distant future, an independent contractor named Jack Holloway working for megacorporation ZaraCorp finds a vein of rare sunstone that is worth billions. Shortly thereafter, he finds an adorable race of bipedal cat-like creatures that may be sentient, which would void ZaraCorp’s contract to strip the planet of resources and thus cause a lot of very wealthy people to miss out on becoming exponentially moreso. Although Holloway has no problem with manipulating people around him to fuel his own selfish needs, the little creatures he calls fuzzies start to warm this very Han Solo-like character’s heart.

Fuzzy Nation is basically an environmentalist novel. It is a “reboot” of a science fiction novel from the sixties by H. Beam Piper entitled Little Fuzzy, and takes the spirit and basic idea of discovering of a borderline sentient group of adorable little creatures and makes a basically entirely new story from it. Most of the characters are different, and only Holloway’s name is the same, but the important part is in tact. Enormous corporations like ZaraCorp have one obligation: make a lot of money. When a race like the fuzzies are discovered, their only course of action is to try to disprove their sentience so that it doesn’t affect their bottom line. It isn’t all that far off from the spin given to the general population on reasoning why oil companies should be allowed to drill in nature reserves.

Jack Holloway is a likable character from the start. Although he is definitely a jerk, he’s a pretty funny jerk and it is clear early on that, despite his flaws, he actually isn’t that bad of a guy. He is an accomplished lawyer who was unfortuantely disbarred because of an incident that had nothing to do with his knowledge of the law, and he generally seems like the sort of guy who is a good man, but who definitely believes that the ends justify the means. The supporting cast are all strong, but Holloway is a pretty much perfectly developed character. Scalzi’s sense of humor is reflected clearly in Holloway’s demanor, and it suits the character perfectly.

It is hard to find any individual aspects of this novel to criticize. The writing is strong; the dialogue is perfect and hilarious. The novel has moments that have the tendency to evoke strong emotional response (I cried FOUR times reading this novel) and the general issue of corporate tendency to have completely inhumane business practices is an important issue that is addressed perfectly and succintly in Fuzzy Nation. While this novel has moments that are so hard to read because they are so sad, it is generally a hopeful novel and a really hard to write about other than to say that it is just beautiful and perfect and is worth reading and reading again.