Friday, July 29, 2016

Authors To Watch: Ian Lewis, author of 'Godspeed, Carry My Bullet'

Ian Lewis prefers not to be bound by a particular genre. Though the inspiration for his work varies, it often finds roots in something he dreamt. He strives for a gritty realism and maintains an interest in the humanity of his characters. His hope is that readers find themselves haunted by his stories in the sense that the narrative sticks with them long after they've finished reading, leaving them with a subtle restlessness for more. Mr. Lewis is the author of The Camaro Murders, Lady in Flames, and Power in the Hands of One, all novellas. His first full length novel, Godspeed, Carry My Bullet, was released in April of 2016. He has been writing since 2002.

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Bobby Clyne has nothing to lose. Two illegitimate governments have taken the place of the fallen United States: The Directorate in the East and the United States Valiant in the West. And he's just learned that a man who once terrorized his family as a low-ranking member of the Military Police is set to become the Grand Marshall of the Ohio Region. Armed with his father's Dragunov sniper rifle, Bobby embarks on a mission of revenge with consequences far more reaching than his personal vendetta.

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Tell us a little about yourself.

By day, I work for a software company, but that just pays the bills. I have a compulsion to write, and every scrap of free time I get, I’m writing. I would write full-time I could. I’ve released three novellas since 2009: The Camaro Murders, Lady in Flames, and Power in the Hands of One. My first novel, Godspeed, Carry My Bullet, was released this year. The novellas are all available through Untreed Reads whereas the novel is my first attempt at self-publishing. 

Give us a brief overview of your previous releases.

The Camaro Murders is sort of a murder mystery with a supernatural twist. It’s told from four different first-person points of view, one from beyond the grave. The narrative is told out of order from a chronology point of view, but in the order that the reader should read it. It was once compared to Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” I don’t know whether that’s a compliment—there are many fans of that book, but I couldn’t get through it myself. At any rate, I wrote this one for selfish reasons. I wanted to write something that I thought I’d find engaging as a reader. Sure, I wanted others to like it just as much as me, but I never thought it would get picked up because it was so unorthodox. It’s still probably my favorite thing I’ve written.

Lady in Flames sees the return of the Driver, the ghostly character introduced in The Camaro Murders. This story is once again told from multiple first-person points of view, but it’s told in order this time, and the narrative exhibits more of a storytelling quality, I think. The Driver finds himself mixed up in the desperation of a small, economically depressed town. His sense of self-righteousness causes him to intervene in the lives of the people in the town whom he deems as “good.” It’s sort of a character development study in the sense that it lays the groundwork for what will become the Driver’s “besetting sin” in future books.

Power in the Hands of One was written to pay homage to shows like Voltron and the Big O. I started out with a simple idea: write a giant robot story. As fantastic as that sounds, my tendency to keep things down-to-earth prompted me to place the story in present day and keep as much of it as I could grounded in a semblance of current technology. The pace of this story was ratcheted up so that right from the beginning, you’re flying through it. An interesting side note: as I began to examine Troy (the main character) and his motives, the story turned into a subtle commentary on moral relativism. The idea was that no one really believes that right and wrong are relative. As William Lane Craig aptly points out, no one would bother reading the back of the Aspirin bottle if that were the case. When pressed, nearly everyone will admit to some sort of absolute. This becomes evident when Troy, after much protestation, relents and gets involved in the struggle between the story’s two antagonists: a right-wing extremist group and the scientific elite.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

Godspeed, Carry My Bullet is part thriller, part action/adventure story. It’s the first of a two-book series that follows an alternate history. The premise is that the recession of 2008 gets so bad that the United States sees full economic collapse. Banks fail, infrastructure is disrupted, riots and looting ensue, and government officials are assassinated. Fast forward to 2013 where the book begins, and the reader sees the government has split into the Directorate in the East and the United States Valiant in the West. The narrative follows several different points of view: a would-be assassin nursing wounds from the past, a nomadic survivalist trying to forge his own path, a single mother struggling amidst financial distress, a novice undercover operative working to restore Constitutional government, and an itinerant preacher turned vigilante tracking a predator who has kidnapped a young girl. Their stories interweave in unexpected ways and keep the reader turning the page. Stylistically, it’s a departure from my previous work in that it’s a bit more accessible and mass-market. I didn’t do anything experimental with the format like I did with The Camaro Murders. Though I wouldn’t describe it as formulaic genre fiction either—I think the characters are stronger than what you’d get in a run-of-the-mill thriller.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

I like the Driver the best (The Camaro Murders and Lady in Flames). He’s brooding and introspective, and very much a loner. I think he feels like no one really understands him, and that it’s up to him to do something about the evil he sees day in and day out. Anyone who’s honest with themselves would likely identify with him because his weakness and failures are all rooted in his noble intentions. There’s often something there in the beginning that starts out as good, but gets twisted and corrupted and made to serve our selfish impulses—some gift we’ve been given that we use the wrong way.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing the sequel to Godspeed, Carry My Bullet. If all goes well, it will be available in 2018. Just this year I started doing some ghost writing for a new Science Fiction series. This slows down the writing process for my own stuff, but keeps me creative and prolific. I also have a completed (albeit short) novel that will stand as the third entry in the loose series that features the Driver from The Camaro Murders and Lady in Flames. I hope to release that in 2017.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

First and foremost, I would suggest he or she join a critique group. This has been the single most helpful thing I’ve done as an author. Active participation in such a group not only helps improve your writing, but it serves as motivation to keep writing because you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals.

I would also recommend outlining one’s novel before starting to write. You can get away with pure organic story development with short stories, but anything of length will greatly benefit from an outline. It doesn’t have to be anything that involved either. Writing a paragraph for each chapter will suffice. Not only does an outline keep you on track with the plot and character development, but it gets you over the hump of the first few chapters. I don’t know how many aspiring writers have told me that they sat down to write a novel and either couldn’t get past the first few chapters, or found that their idea only filled the first fifty pages.

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