Monday, December 26, 2011

Ten Questions with Jess C. Scott

I certainly don’t want to go overboard with all the fanfare (the marching band and trapeze act couldn’t make it on such short notice anyway), but this post is the inaugural author interview here on I Read a Book Once. Hopefully it will be the first of many.  And here to ring in this oh-so-auspicious occasion is the author, artist, and non-conformist extraordinaire Jess C. Scott.  I recently read and reviewed Jess’s cyberpunk novel The Other Side of Life, but she’s also the author of other works of young adult, fantasy, poetry and erotica.  Talk about running the gamut of genres, huh?  Thanks for being here, Jess.

Jess:  It’s great to be here.  Thanks for having me.

The Pleasure’s all mine.  So here’s the deal.  Ten questions, varying subjects, answer them however you please.  Ready?

Jess:  Sure am.  Fire when ready.

Question 1 - I've read your book, but for the benefit of those that haven't, please give us a little synopsis.
Jess:  Sure--here's a blurb!

Logline: A thieving duo’s world turns upside down when an Elven rogue uncovers the heinous dealings of a megacorporation.

Synopsis: Anya and Leticia are partners-in-crime who steal for a living. Their world turns upside down after a chance encounter with fellow rogue, Ithilnin—the enigmatic leader of an Elven band of thieves.

A scuffle to prove who’s “the better thief” transforms into more than Anya and Ithilnin ever bargained for. They retrieve the missing piece of an ancient poem, before getting caught in the secret dealings of a megacorporation. What they uncover threatens to alter the very essence of not just human life, but the other side as well.

Elven intrigue, cyberpunk action, and a deadly dose of danger come together in The Other Side of Life [Book #1 in the (Cyberpunk) Elven Trilogy].

Question 2 – Categorically speaking The Other Side of Life is both cyberpunk and urban fantasy.  Those are two genres you don't see combined every day.  How'd you get the idea?
Jess:  I wrote the two words "cyberpunk" and "elves" side-by-side. I like urban fantasy because I grew up in a cosmopolitan city (and I like stories that are set in contemporary times). Setting the story slightly in the near future pushed the project towards the cyberpunk vein (which aligned nicely with the initial subject/concept of "cyberpunk elves").


Question 3 – Very interesting.  So tell us about yourself.  What makes you tick?
Jess:  I enjoy many good things in life and literature--they're what inspire me as a writer (my goal is to create original stories that are both entertaining and meaningful). Most of my work is fueled by an intense drive to inspire others to favor social/spiritual values over shallow values. I loathe superficiality and this tends to show in my writing, in one way or another.

Question 4 – Entertaining and meaningful.  That’s a combination that’s sorely lacking these days.  Speaking of which, I got a little thrill when I saw that you quoted a Nine Inch Nails song in your book.  They're one of my favorite bands (Trent Reznor is also my wife's not-so-secret crush), and I can't think of a better musical genre to embody cyberpunk dystopia.  If you had to put together a soundtrack for your book, what other bands and/or songs would it include?
Jess:  I'm glad you noticed (Nine Inch Nails = one of my all-time favorite bands too! I love this "Kinda I Want To" video on YouTube).

I probably could list a lot more songs for a potential soundtrack to embody cyberpunk dystopia (if I did some research into the "industrial rock" musical genre). But for the moment, a few of the "definite choices" would be:

1) The Catalyst -- Linkin Park (song)
2) Stabbing Westward (a massively underrated band)
3) The Chemical Brothers (electronica band)
4) The Crystal Method (electronica band)
5) Rotten Apples -- Smashing Pumpkins (alternative rock band/album)

Question 5 – Best not to get me started on NIN videos.  We’ll be here for days.  Instead let’s quit with the softballs and get down to the nitty-gritty.  What do you find compelling about cyberpunk?  Why does it make you want to write in the genre?  What does it do that Urban Fantasy by itself can't?
Jess:  I think cyberpunk is very compelling because we're on the fast track to it being the way of life (if it isn't already). Cyberpunk stories allow us to project ourselves a little bit into the future in a realistic way (there's this "living on the edge" kind of feel, as compared to a story set in the present time). 

The genre allows for a structured set of dystopian themes to be explored, pressing themes very closely linked to technology, consumerism/the mass media, and humanity (the former two aren't as emphasized in general Urban Fantasy, and it is these things that are eroding away our collective conscious awareness).

Question 6 – One  of the typical themes of cyberpunk is the melding of man with machine and its effect on our humanity.  You touched on it a little bit in your The Other Side of Life but it was more subtle than typical cyberpunk, mostly focusing on cosmetic modifications and beauty products.  Any particular reason for that?  Any plans to delve deeper into other themes in future installments?
Jess:  I think I wanted to focus on pervasive and insidious ideals such as materialism and excessive consumerism. These themes and "looking good" are the hedonistic new forms of spirituality in our post-modern 21st-century era, and I think it's important for people to be aware of how these issues truly erode at a person's self-worth and identity (to the point where money is worshiped as a modern god, with little emphasis on a meaningful life which emphasizes inner beauty and inner wealth).

Book #2 in the series covers a little bit more of the melding of man with machine and its effect on our humanity. I'd like the elements to be there, but not for them to overpower the true storyline (which usually always is about love, not fluffy romance). There's enough misery in real life--I like to create what I have trouble finding in real life ;)

Question 7 – Certainly words to live by.  Your book focuses heavily on the environmental impact of corporate exploitation and consumerism.  Obviously it's a subject near and dear to your heart.  Do you feel your novel is an inevitable vision of the future or a warning of things to come if we as a society don't shape up and fly right?
Jess:  It's safe to conclude that the future will be very, very bleak if society doesn't "shape up and fly right." I do wish that cyberpunk novels stay within the realm of fiction. They won't if people fail to step back and create their own realities, separate from what the mass media and megacorporations tell us "is right" based on what they deem is popular (and therefore of value today, but not tomorrow, where you'll have to buy something else to "fill the void in your life").

It brings to mind the words of George Orwell: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

Question 8 – And now she’s quoting 1984.  A woman after my own heart.  But as it so happens, that quote provides a nice segue into my next question.  The setting of your book, like any dystopian work, includes an authoritarian and intrusive government.  Do you see the current governmental inclinations trending in that direction?  Is that something you envision for our near future, or is that a simply a vehicle for the events in the story?
Jess:  I think it's an element of the story, as well as something one could envision in the near future. Technology's all-pervasive. The microchip will change everything (once they officially become embedded in a person's brain with an assigned ID). This is a theme I'm including in the second book, and would like to explore (if possible) with future projects.

Question 9 – Yeah, potentially scary stuff, isn’t it?  So at the end of the day, what message do you want people to take away from The Other Side of Life?
Jess:  To focus on the real values in life.
                                         
Question 10 – Finally, to paraphrase a rap icon, writing ain't easy.  It takes a lot of hard work and has more than its fair share of emotional ups and downs.  What keeps you at it? 
Jess:  The need to approach sexuality and spirituality with openness, respect and honesty. On a broader scale, I'd like to do what I can (via creative work) to help others map out a sane course in their lives, between the two extremes of rigid puritanism and total permissiveness (more info on my recent blog post).

A lofty and worthwhile goal.  I wish you luck in it along with all of your other writing endeavors.  Thanks for stopping by!

Jess:  It was my pleasure.  Thanks!

If you like to learn more about Jess, The Other Side of Life, or any of her other works you can visit her blog at jesscscott.wordpress.com or her publishing website JessInk.  You can also find her published work at Amazon.com and Smashwords, and you can find my review of The Other Side of Life here.  

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