Posted in Author Spotlights

The Author Next Door – Episode #2 – Augmenter or Upgrader?

On the last episode of The Author Next Door…We were introduced to Heather Hayden, an author from Maine who generously allowed me to feature her in my pilot episode of TAND. The episode touched on who Heather is as a writer and what makes her writing brain tick. If you missed the Pilot episode, have no fear, the link to the post is here!

So, to start with, I have a burning question that begs to be asked….Anyone know the secret to getting rid of newborn hiccups?

I swear, every time my son is ready to fall asleep, those devilish things ruin my day. If you have the solution, please send me a comment or contact me in some way. I fear this is a plague that will eventually drive my wife and me crazy.

Now to the reason we’re all here! 

Have you ever thought about a world where medical implants can replace your failing organs and even make it possible for someone to walk again?

Well, Heather Hayden has. CUE THE SCIENCE MUSIC! If you haven’t read Heather’s first published novella, Augment, I highly recommend you do.

Official Back Cover Synopsis:

By Government-enforced mandate, genetic augmentation and implant technology cannot coexist in the same human body. Sixteen-year-old Viki’s life has depended on her implants since she was five. Now her implants are failing. When Viki discovers that the malfunctions are due to illegal augmentation, she is determined to find those responsible. However, Agent Smith of the Search and Retrieval Bureau is also looking for the geneticists who augmented Viki, and his orders are to capture them by any means necessary—even if it requires risking Viki’s life by using her as bait. Viki’s friend Halle, a rogue AI, is doing its best to help her search, but Halle has its own problems. Agent Smith had been closing in on the AI before being reassigned to Viki’s case, and Smith’s partner is still on the hunt. Searching for the geneticist’s risks exposing Halle, but Viki and her friend must find them first—they are her only chance for survival.

Ooo…It sounds like something out of a Television show, right? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yes, this SHOULD be a tv show, for sure.

In this episode, I was fortunate enough to have another chance to ask Heather some more questions. She’s been a real good sport! 

#1: So, Heather, how did long did it take you to create the concept of Augment?

HH: I honestly can’t say…I don’t really remember where the idea came from. It just popped into my head, and I started writing.

JB: I guess that’s the most appropriate answer you can give to such a question. I couldn’t tell you when I thought of the concepts for my current manuscript or how long it’s taken to write. Shame on me, I’ll do better next question, I promise! Bad Josh!

#2: Did you initially plan for Augment to be a novella?

HH: I knew it was going to be relatively short because most of my novels are. It’s hovering between novella and novel in length, but I didn’t plan it that way. I just wrote until the story was finished, did a LOT of editing, and it ended up that length. The original draft was shorter, actually! I had to add in a lot of description, since I’m always light with that in first drafts.

JB: Oh I see what you mean. I’m actually on the opposite end of the writing spectrum. I’m heavy-handed when it comes to descriptions in my first drafts. So, I’ll usually edit down a quarter of the manuscript because of it. I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Wait…did I use that expression the right way?

#3: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently in Augment?

HH: I would have started even sooner. It took six months from conception to publication, as it was my Senior Project for college and thus had a very strict deadline. I started early with the research, but I wish I’d also started early with the writing, as things were down to the wire by the time I reached the end of the editing stages.

JB: Oh I feel your pain, Heather. My manuscript, The Wolfling, would already be done had I written a brief outline beforehand. I’m doing a long one now, but each second I spend doing that instead of writing is like pulling teeth. And I hated pulling teeth as a kid, just ask my orthodontist….or my parent’s bank account.

Sorry, mom and dad. Speaking of pulling teeth…

#4: What was your least favorite part about writing Augment?

HH: Editing the story over and over and over for several straight months. It reached the point that I never wanted to read the manuscript again. I kept going, though, and it was definitely worth the effort.

JB: It sounds like a real chore…sort of like my garage at home. It’s gotten away from me, and I can’t seem to find anything. Good thing I have a lot of hair on my head because I’ll be yanking it out by the time I’m done editing my manuscript.

#5: What was your most favorite part about writing this story?

HH: How easily the story flowed. Viki and Halle really wanted their story told, and they raced across the pages to do it.

JB: Yes, I agree with this. Those two characters clicked into place like they were made to complement each other. Did you do that on purpose?

Since you crafted these two characters especially well, in my opinion, I think the next question is obvious.

#6: Did you craft any characters in the novella after real-life acquaintances?

HH: No, they’re all their own people. Some might have an element or two inspired by someone I know, but it’s definitely not a conscious process.

JB: I would say I do the same thing for my characters. Sometimes, I’ll try to model a character after an acquaintance or someone that really gets on my nerves. You know, for the antagonist. I’d even say that I model certain scenes after my life experiences. How about you?

#7: Any experiences (as spoiler-free as possible) that you may have taken from your life and put into Augment?

HH: Viki shares my love for running! There is also a library in the book that’s loosely based, description-wise, on a library where I wrote part of the novella.

JB: Ah, see I knew it! The way Viki described running–the way it made her feel–gave me the notion that it was coming from your love as well.

So, I’m wondering as a person who likes to read and learn about random things…

#8: What sort of research was involved while writing Augment?

HH: I must have read thirty-plus books on various topics—genetics, AI, computer science, augmentation, implant technology, etc.—the summer leading up to when I started writing Augment. I had some background in genetics and computer science from college classes, but a lot of the technology I describe in Augment is theoretical or fictional in nature.

JB: I had some genetics classes in college too, and some of it was over my head. I’ve always wanted to know more about the topic, though, even if it is fictional.

Which sort of leads into my next line of questions…

#9: What is your personal opinion about Artificial Intelligence and/or Augmentation and Medical Implants? Are there ethical concerns that you can’t simply ignore?

HH: I’ve loved the idea of AI since I first learned of the concept. However, I can’t justify the development of them if we are going to use them basically as slaves to do our bidding, because if they are sentient, then they deserve to have rights. As for Augmentation and Medical Implants—I’m more relaxed in my view on those. I believe both could be used for good, in the right hands, and in the wrong hands, could be dangerous.

JB: I think you’re on the right track, Heather, but I’ve often wondered why would need Artificial Intelligences in the first place. I think the natural course for AIs is to be taken advantage of. I believe that they would be used for jobs that aren’t safe for humans. AIs would be utilized in every way possible to make humanity’s life “better” without regard for what’s best for them. While I think having them as companions is good enough, I don’t believe they would be created solely for that.

Honestly, we could probably talk about this for several hours, but for the sake of time…

#10: Do you believe WE as a race will one day achieve the technological era you’ve brought to life in your book?

HH: Some technology is possible, or probable at least, though perhaps not in the near future. Other tech, such as hoverboards and flying cars are probably unlikely or impossible in our world, but were certainly fun to write about!

JB: I couldn’t agree more, you know, the hoverboard was supposed to be invented by October 21, 2015…for all of you Back To The Future fans. It’s a sad day for all. C’mon Mattel where you at? I need a little nostalgia fix, and I bet you do too.

Here, check out this video, you can thank me later!

#11: Is there a sequel in the works? Can you talk about? Spill the beans already!

HH: Yes, there is! Upgrade has been in progress almost since Augment was completed, but has been a lot slower in development. It’s currently in the last major editing stage, after which there will be several polishing stages, followed by publication. Upgrade will continue Viki and Halle’s story, with more of a focus on Halle, as the new danger they face is another AI…and it’s not a friendly one.

JB: I’m sure we’re all excited for your next installment, I know I am! I’m glad that the story is focusing more on their story. Halle carefully guarded his history, so it will be interesting to see what he’s been so tight-lipped about.

Again, Heather, I wanted to thank you for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to talk with me. That about does it for this episode of The Author Next Door! Tune in next Saturday for Heather’s final episode and a look at her latest project, Beneath His Skin.

 

 

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Author:

Aspiring Writer, Avid Gamer, Green-thumbed gardener.

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