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I'm novelist Justin Edison. Ever wanted to play God/Goddess and create a fun new world for your characters? Ask Me Anything.

Justin Edison
Jan 9, 2018

How to craft a world? I had to create two--one of them physical--for my first science fiction book, Endgame. We've got a winter planet where the sky changes from light green to purple at noon, and where the whales 'walk' on land to go after golf cart-sized crattles. The war with the Mitasterites has its own set of rules and layers of complexity. Are you setting the story under the ocean, or in a giant hollowed-out peach? As the author, it's up to you to define it all. It's brainstorming with a purpose, and it's a ton of fun!

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Justin Edison says:

This AMA will end Jan 9, 2018 9PM EST

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What are the challenges of doing this type of book? And what's the most fun part?

Jan 9, 10:20PM EST0

You are a novelist by profession, what genres do you generally work with and what made you launch a science fiction book?

Jan 9, 9:54PM EST0

When creating a science fiction book, how much research do you do?

Jan 9, 9:42PM EST0

What are your goals for your writing career?

Jan 9, 9:12PM EST0

Do you plan to do a sequel or a series?

Jan 9, 8:58PM EST0

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Jan 9, 8:48PM EST0

What do you do to get book reviews?

Jan 9, 8:41PM EST0

How many pages are there and how long did it take you to finish writing the Endgame?

Jan 9, 8:15PM EST0

Thank you for joining me and the AMA community this afternoon/evening.

A little about myself. I've been penning stories and fiction for about thirty years. Yes, you'd have to discount the entire first four years (all those Transformers stories and DragonLance extension tales). Eventually, things like character and conflict and emotion started to show up, and I started getting somewhere. I've made a ton of mistakes, and I'll make a ton more. But I consider that part of the process.

Jan 9, 8:07PM EST0

Hello Everybody! I hope you're all doing well and are avoiding the flu which has hammered us here in the Pacific Northwest!

Jan 9, 8:01PM EST0

Give us an insight about how you create your characters.

Jan 9, 6:21PM EST0

What is a typical day for a novelist? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

Jan 9, 3:46PM EST0

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

Jan 9, 3:19PM EST0

How do you promote your books?

Jan 9, 12:26PM EST0

What other genres do you want to explore?

Jan 9, 8:42AM EST0

How long does it take you to do brainstorming? And how do you pump up those creative juices?

Jan 9, 5:40AM EST0

Do you ever get writer's block?

Jan 9, 5:04AM EST0

I am a lucky S.O.B. I don't get it.

I'm always working on 3-4 things at a time, so it's kind of like my brain says, 'Change the channel, switch gears.'

I advise that for all writers. I think it's healthy. If you're utterly stuck writing a mother-daughter shouting match, turn around and write about talking flowers or farting unicorns, anything different.

Jan 9, 8:56PM EST0

What was your influence for writing Endgame?

Jan 9, 3:49AM EST0

Any advice you can share to aspiring authors out there?

Jan 9, 3:45AM EST0

Yes, this is a game of perserverance. My professor Judith Katz said you have to believe you're the only one who could write this story, that you have to believe in what you're doing. That's huge.

The biggest problem with writing, or any artistic endeavor (from what I hear) is the doubt. Monstrous nagging doubt. 'You're wasting your time. You're not good enough and never will be.' All that kaka.

You just have to find a way to get past all that, even though it's hard.

When Chris Cornell took his own life in May, that hit me pretty hard. I blogged about it. Here was an example of what happens when someone ultimately doesn't get by it. David Foster Wallace, a literary genius. Same thing. It's tragic.

So, play the music you love--whatever does it for you. Get fresh air, bounce ideas of friends or loved ones--and keep going!

Jan 9, 8:53PM EST0

Do you have a writer you look up to?

Jan 9, 3:44AM EST0

Many of them. I learned conversation and drama from Andre Dubus Sr. ("Broken Vessels" and "Dancing After Hours.") Bradbury for amazing insight and details. Mark Bowden and Sebastian Junger are the best at nonfiction. Too many other good ones to name at once.

Jan 9, 8:46PM EST0

How do you get to balance family and work?

Jan 8, 10:01PM EST0

That's a great question, because it has never been easy. My wife's job as a physician is kind of all-consuming. For better or worse, I've been the primary parent. (I'm decent at it.) But being heavily involved in the kids' upbringing and schooling has given me a crappy schedule. Working from home and on various freelance projects have been met with limited success. Currently, I'm ramping up a website-design business which, at least, affords me the schedule flexibility to get kids to martial arts and soccer, help out in the schools, volunteer work, etc. No, it's never been easy. Would I rather be in an office, having adult conversations and meeting new people? Probably.

Jan 9, 8:43PM EST0

How did you come up with the idea for Endgame?

Jan 8, 8:00PM EST0

I think the seed idea probably formed when I was a kid. I love snow, I grew up in Nashville, TN, where there isn't any (or not much) and it's so cinematic. I thought, 'Why aren't there many movies or stories set in snow?' There are a few, of course, but it isn't hard to see how that childhood thirst for flashy violence in a winter setting morphed into what seems like a very realistic scenario. Some of the stories coming from American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan involve guarding fuel tanks. War is, essentially, an economic conflict, really. In Endgame, the bad-guy Mitasterites are after a rare crystalline fuel for their cruisers to assault another key planet. Their thinking is that that goal is worth committing an invasion force of 100k soldiers (and the ships and tanks) to this forgotten outpost.

As far as my heroine, June Vereeth, I think I'd always wanted to write a story about a woman caught up in this huge conflict--something much bigger than she is. She realizes that so much about the war is out of her control. But she also can't lose her mind in trying to engineer some survivable solution.

My five heroes are utterly screwed in this situation: No transportation, no way to call for help, predatory wildlife, not much food, relentless bad guys coming back. Most of us would just lose it in that situation.

Jan 9, 8:36PM EST0

How do you see yourself as a writer a few years from now?

Jan 8, 2:13PM EST0

Should I crack a joke about being more financially successful?

I'll probably be the same kind of writer I am now, if a bit more mature. I have a couple books in the pipeline which are really going to push me to develop, both as a researcher and as a thinker.

Of course, some of my own development--as a writer and as a person--has come from age, from having been a father for 12 years. You start to notice more things about people, about their interactions and what they might not be willing to say.

I just blogged about how "Spotlight" is such an amazing film, both for the subtlety and for all the slight facial tics which say a character knows more than they're willing to give up. It struck me as the most 'mature' movie, and I'd be shocked if any of the writers or director was in their 30s. It's all very patient, polished work.

Jan 9, 8:27PM EST0

Sci-fi genre is quite difficult to write for some because it has to be thoroughly detailed. How did you prepare for it?

Jan 8, 1:50PM EST0

Yes, the devil's in the details. Also a lot of the fun. The brainstorming sessions were everything. What is possible? What isn’t possible? More than that, what’s realistic? My characters are fighting with laser-beam weapons, true, but they're also using tanks and missiles we have today. They don’t have unlimited technology. This is in an era where atmospheric entry is still an issue. So my heroes wouldn't be able to use a handheld radio to call for help.

Things like temperature and topography were, of course, very important. To give the world some character, the whole place smells like hazelnut because a particle in the atmosphere. The same particle also makes the sky shift, at noon, from pale green to purple. These aren't things which affect the plot at all, but they felt necessary to put myself and my readers in this world.

On the flip side, I don't have the right background to wow people with loads of technical info (which tends to get boring pretty quickly, unless the hero's life depends on it).

Jan 9, 8:20PM EST0

What type of working environment do you prefer when doing your writing work?

Jan 8, 8:45AM EST0

It varies during the day. Early in the morning, when everyone else is asleep and it’s me and my coffee and the cat, that’s great. But once the kids are up, it signals a shift upstairs. Then I’m happiest in a noisy café—the busyness, the faces and different people. My wife used to joke about buying me a black turtleneck (which I would not wear!), poking a little fun at the Bohemian look. I’m okay with that, though.

Music is a definite, but the TV is an absolute no-no. I know a lot of writers who get it done in front of the tube. For me, it’s not going to happen.

Jan 9, 8:13PM EST0

Among the books you have created, which one is your most favorite? Why?

Jan 8, 8:32AM EST0

Well, I’ve enjoyed all of them, but Endgame has presented the biggest challenge, which makes it (by necessity) the most fun. It’s telling June Vereeth’s story (or parts of it) plus her camaraderie with the other four characters, plus this awful war (which started five months before, with a bombing) plus the story of this planet (in its sunset years) and its wildlife. And it needed to be a stand-alone (sort of) story. And I wanted to do it all in a reasonable length of around 70k words. That's short for sci-fi, but I felt like 120k might become a neverending tome.

To be honest, for the first two years of taking notes, I didn’t even know how I was going to get the heroes off the planet. So things had to keep evolving and shifting while I tried to stay true to Vereeth’s character.

Jan 9, 8:12PM EST0

How do you brainstorm for ideas?

Jan 8, 7:21AM EST0
Can you tell us a bit about the main character in your book?
Jan 8, 5:43AM EST0

June Vereeth is a normal woman in her late twenties caught up in a war. She’s a sharpshooter, an elite Special Forces soldier blessed with exceptional aim and judgment. Because of previous success in action, she’s been elevated (early) to the rank of captain. This is a status she wouldn’t normally care about, but it’s her rank which puts her in charge in a desperate situation.

Vereeth, her best friend (of another humanoid species), her mentor and 1,500 others have been sent to a winter world, P-75, to defend an enormous fuel cache. The enemies (Mitasterites) begin a ground assault in order to get the fuel. Vereeth, her friend Prubius, and three others get separated from the rest of the army by a cave-in. This ends up saving their lives when the fuel cache is detonated (a war tactic). But it leaves the five of them stranded on a planet 50 million miles behind enemy lines. Vereeth, the only woman, suddenly finds herself in command—and responsible for somehow getting them out of this mess.

Jan 9, 8:09PM EST0

For me—and I’ll admit I’m very lucky—the ideas come all the time. When I’m driving the kids somewhere, when I’m out for a walk, getting my coffee first thing in the morning…I take notes like a madman. When I actually sit down with the intent of brainstorming, I go for coffee. A cup of dark roast in a crowded chaotic place gets the neurons firing. Music is key, too. Sometimes, the right set of piano keys or pitch change in a singer’s voice is enough to get my thoughts swirling.

The great thing about writing is that anything is possible. Keep pushing back the horizons and redefining frontier-land. It can all be new and fresh and exciting.

Jan 9, 8:10PM EST0
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