What do you get when you put 2 musicians, a writer, a recording device, and a few beers together?
The best bar conversation you’re ever going to eavesdrop.
Many thanks to Justin Stover of Blue Collar Songwriting for the rare opportunity to be interviewed alongside my brother, Christian Somerville, who co-created The Kota Series worlds with me. This was tons of fun.
May or may not contain:
Stories of how The Kota originated
The influences of family on creativity
My writing history
Why I love indie publishing
Connections between indie writing and indie music
Taylor Swift shout-outs
After many, many hours drawing, here is some updated art for The Kota Series. Take a look! Anyone look like they did in your head?
I mostly focused on Book 1, but more coming soonish. 🙂
See it all HERE: NEW Kota Art
Today I’d like to welcome Michael Stern, Science Fiction author of Storm Portal, Sand Storm, and the newly released Shadow Storm.
Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
I am writing a series about a high school history teacher who discovers his classroom door is the entry to a time portal. He is able to travel back in time, as well as travel to other points in present time. In the first book, he walks into the Oval Office, sets off a storm of security issues, and begins a relationship with the president. The first three books are available now, with a hopeful release of Book 4 by end of summer.
What event in history would YOU most like to go back and see? What historical figure would you want most to meet?
As a student of history, there have been so many events and people who have crossed my path that the imagination wanders in many directions. To see only one, to meet just one person, what a difficult choice! And for so many reasons.
I’m going to give you two for each and tell you why. First, events. The single most important speech ever given by an American is in my opinion the Gettysburg Address. The most important event in our history was the 2nd Continental Congress which led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They would give me access to historical figures I would like to meet, so I’m cheating a bit.
As to people I would like to see, I would love to visit Shakespeare and Company in Paris in the 1920s, when a young Hemingway was surrounded by the literary and artistic world including Joyce, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali. How cool would that have been?
The second person I would choose is a man almost no one will have heard of. His name is Russell Fritz. He was my creative writing teacher in Junior High School. I would love to be able to share with him the fruits of his labor–my writing.
That’s a great, sweet idea. What are you working on currently?
I am currently working on two books, the sixth in my time travel series, and a fantasy/adventure titled, “Sara and the Dragons.”
Fantasy, huh? Anything with dragons from you seems like quite a change. What gave you that idea?
It is quite a change, but I have read fantasy for more than a little while. I also consider myself to be a new writer in spite of my decrepitude. Trying new things, taking risks makes this journey exciting. The idea for “Sara and the Dragons” came from To Kill A Mockingbird. As writers, I believe we have both the ability and obligation to challenge the human condition, while entertaining at the same time. “Sara and the Dragons” portrays the various ways we treat our differences, our similarities, our fears, and our triumphs. It sounds like a kid’s book, but I hope that it will deliver a message to adults as well. No spoilers, however.
What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?
You need to keep writing because you’ll get better. You need to keep reading, so you can learn what works. Expect to feel the worst you’ve ever felt in your life, and exult when you feel more successful than you have ever felt. That’s the world we choose.
What do you like to read that helps you as a writer?
I’ve found three specific areas that help. One is obvious, the multitude of how-to books, many of which provide “light-bulb moments” that make more sense the more I write. The second is books that have received accolades. Those I read to see how the plot and characters are structured. As often as not, the well-written story by critics standards are lessons in how not to write a book I want to read. The third is new writers. Although I would not routinely read much of what is new today—vampires and zombies, dystopian society, romance and erotica, I do read some of these because they offer a fresh voice in storytelling. And give me a good story, well-written, suspenseful (note here: I hate bad spelling and careless punctuation), with a few twists and fun characters, and I’ll be reading more of your stuff.
(Ha! Thanks!) Who inspires you to write?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. First, my readers. When I get a good review, especially from someone I don’t know, I want to repeat that formula. Other authors inspire me. There are a great many fine writers who make me feel I can always improve what I write. And my friends and family who has supported my efforts. I want to succeed to justify their faith in me.
Do you feel like you put a lot of pressure on yourself to get better and better?
Pressure, not really. I have always been competitive, and demanding that I do the best I can. I never thought that writing a story would be as challenging as it is. So rather than put pressure on myself, I study the craft. There are a great many good writers, some even successful financially. My goal is to be a great writer, and even more, to be a great story teller. Whether that happens or not, well the jury is still waiting for all the evidence.
In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?
In a perfect world, meaning I can choose time and age, I would pick actors from various points in their careers to meet the age requirements. Fritz and Ashley would be Damon and Affleck when they were in their mid-30s. Linda would be Amy Adams. Jane would be an earlier Angelina Jolie. George would be Kevin Spacey, and Lois would be played Meryl Streep, which guarantees that it will have an Academy Award nomination.
Again, having read your books, I can picture these actors in these roles. PERFECT casting, in my opinion. Do you like the Damon and Affleck pairing because of their buddy/brother-like relationship (that seems to mirror Fitz and Ashely well)?
I had trouble choosing Fritz. I considered Brad Pitt and George Clooney for Ashley, again in age fitting times of their careers. But Damon and Affleck fit together so well, better even than Newman and Redford (and they were great together). I think both have quality performances individually, but were great in Dogma and Good Will Hunting, playing off each other. And as my series moves forward, good individual roles will be needed to put the whole story together.
Thanks, Michael, for sharing!
Having read this author’s more YA books, I was curious to see how this more adult novel would go. Now, I’m quite pleasantly surprised by how Tew’s writing and storytelling has “grown up.” While his other books are cool and entertaining, this one is a lot more complex and easily better written. It’s like Looper meets Ex Machina meets…something about corporate hoodwinking via chemical-induced amnesia.
I don’t have a clue how to explain the plot (a difficulty whenever multiple timelines are involved), but basically the story centers around Mel, a young inventor, and how he gets tangled up in the deceptions of the corporate powers at Emergent, a towering “spacescraper” where dwell those responsible for the greatest advancements in science. Meanwhile, Dale and Eirik time-travel all over the place and try to orchestrate events, and this has SOMETHING to do with why-ever Emergent wanted Caroline, Mel’s mother, in the first place. The different timelines added a dimension of intrigue that I enjoyed, but it was also confusing as I tried to sort out who was up to what, when, how, and why. But, that confusion also kept me reading.
The android aspect of the story was great. Tamara’s growing awareness of Self and her subsequent adventures, all while working out her loyalty/love to Mel, made her a very sympathetic non-human character. I’ve read a lot of Sci-Fi books with female androids and at first thought, “Dear Lord, not another idealized sexbot,” but this was not that, as Tamara is much more fleshed out, so to speak. The contrasts between here and E, the god-like AI of Emergent, worked very well too. It was cool how these futuristic creations were used, and also how they used minds of their own to interfere with human plans.
Honestly, I think Mel often was a little stupid. His frequently saying, “Huh?” made me think this was on purpose on the author’s part, but sometimes his actions and decisions seemed dumb solely so that the plot would move in a certain direction. (Example: If you don’t trust the bigwigs and think they are responsible for your mother’s disappearance, THEN you receive a note warning you your life is in danger, why would you show that note to said bigwigs?)
Overall, I was impressed with the complexity of this story, even if it felt like a few too many layers at times. The not-so-distant future setting is completely believable as corporations with money seem to have all the power. It was easy to relate to the good, struggling characters while detesting the greedy, ambitious-at-any-cost characters. And by the end, the direction the story takes definitely leaves room open for more story to come.
See it on Amazon!
It’s rare that a book gives me chills. This one did.
I can’t think of another story quite like this. It is reflective of “The Road” with the main part of the story showing us a pained journey through a dangerous landscape. I didn’t get the “Firefly” comparison at all because this has quite a different tone (if you’re expecting fun characters, shootouts, and Whedon wit, this is not that). But, there are definitely great Sci-Fi elements (a terraformed planet, native creatures, etc) while much of the story feels like a Western too. It also feels post-apocalyptic as these few survivors struggle to cross the abandoned world that’s been overtaken by the natural landscape. The author wrote in unique language and terms that make Idyll feel otherworldly but familiar too. All this blends together for some really great world-building.
The four main characters are believable, and I liked the use of siblings. Walt is the brains, Samuel the brawn. Their sibling rivalry is understandable, especially in their extreme situation. How they each relate to their comatose mother was very touching and understandable, and this added a lot of heart to the story. Miriam and Virginia are more loving toward each other, but their differences also create a bit of friction between them. (The author went to somewhat exhausting lengths to describe them physically, however, which was my only real complaint about this book.) When these four come together, the whole dynamic of the group becomes a central aspect to the story even while so much is going on around them. Many times I wondered what I would do in their shoes, and there are no easy answers.
Then there’s the mystery of the Lullaby, which haunts this book and creates a lot of tension. You’re told early on that certain words, if heard, will induce a coma where the sleeper then speaks the words over and over, further spreading the “infection” to anyone who hears them. Through a lot of the book I wondered what these words were, but at the same time I was afraid for the characters to hear them. When the words finally DO show up, that’s when I got chills. How the words are revealed is brilliant and creepy and heartbreaking. (It didn’t help that my Kindle read this part of the book to me while I was trying to fall asleep, so the words were said in a disembodied, subhuman voice. THAT is the way to go if you never want to sleep again.)
I don’t want to give away any plot points, but there is a definite twist where the whole story flips into something different. You go from feeling like this is a Western to suddenly — Oh, yep, there’s the Sci-Fi! I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but it turned out to be really, really clever and set the stage for things to come.
Definitely read this one if you like genre-bending, character-driven Sci-Fi.
See it on Amazon!
Sequels are tough, but the author does a very nice, sneaky job of reminding you what’s going on and who is who in this Part 2, following “The Acolytes of Crane. “ It was very easy to slip back into the story as present-time Theodore is still in prison, telling the story of the adventures that led him to be here. I liked the way the same teenage Earthlings from Book 1 are now stronger and more knowledgeable about these alien worlds. I liked how the team was more solid, brought together from their previous experiences. The framing, with Theodore telling the story from prison, still works very nicely and adds a bit of mystery because we still don’t know how he got there, but in this sequel we do suspect that he’s soon to be rescued or escape as the plot thickens.
I really liked the way the story moved, expanded, and built on the prior book. The new planets and aliens we meet in this book are very unique, each with their own look and cultural background. The action in the book is cool and fast-paced, never feeling like action just for the sake of action but always furthering the plot. I’m always going to be a reader focused on characters, and I really liked the way Theodore, Mariah, Liam, and Dan interacted as a team. The changes involved with Lincoln’s character were my favorite aspect of the story. The climactic scenes inside Eppa were very descriptive and game-changing, and the revelation about Zane made me nod excitedly and go “Ohhh” as it all came together.
Overall, I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who’s read book 1 and wants to continue. It’s worth it for the story, and I’m guessing the next part will pick up right where this left off.
See it on Amazon!