Sunday, June 04, 2017

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: Sand Runner by Vera Brook (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! For our third feature, we have Sand Runner by Vera Brook. If you are a fan of Maze Runner and Hunger Games, you would enjoy Sand Runner. I know that a lot of you guys are looking for an adrenaline-charged tale that is seeped in danger at every turn. This might be your next read. Today, I'm interviewing neuroscientist turned writer, Vera. :)

How does your being a neuroscientist contribute to your writing?

I love that question! I think my neuroscience training influences my writing in a lot of ways. I write science fiction, so there is usually some science and technology as the background for the story.

In SAND RUNNER, one such technology is bionic prosthetics, or the new generation of prosthetic limbs that are directly linked to and controlled by the person’s nervous system. Such prosthetic limbs already exist and people use them every day, and they will get better and better, and make a huge difference to thousands of people. But it’s amazing to think about how much knowledge about the human nervous system went into designing such prostheses. So both the science and the applications are fascinating and a great source of story ideas.

But there is more. There are similarities between science and writing. In both cases, you start with curiosity, you start with a question. Maybe it was something you noticed, something that stuck with you, and you want to know more, you want to figure it out. So you investigate. In science, we design experiments and then collect and analyze the data and that’s how we get our answer. In writing, we create characters and outline stories, and then the process of writing is the process of discovery. In science, the results can often surprise you. But you have to listen to your data. And when you’re writing, you have to listen to your characters and try to be true to them, so the final story is almost never what you set out to write.

One last similarity is the importance of resilience. In science and in writing, there are times when things don’t work out. Your experiment fails and you have to repeat it, your story goes nowhere and you move on to something else. But you can’t quit, you can’t get discouraged. You pick yourself up and try again. So if any of you are thinking of a science career, I’d say: Go for it! Even if you don’t work in your field, you’ll have a ton of skills that will help you in whatever career you choose.

Okay. This was a very long answer. But it was a great question!

What or who inspired you to change your career and start writing?

I never really switched. I do both: I have my “day job” and I have my writing. One thing about science training is that you can apply these skills in a lot of different fields, so I am still exploring. I enjoyed doing research in a laboratory, but I think I like working with data in higher education even more. And maybe one day I can be a full-time author, and only read about neuroscience research and big data for fun and for inspiration. Everything is possible.

In terms of inspiration, there was one book that really blew me away and made me want to write professionally. And that was THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. I know it’s not very original of me to cite that book as my main inspiration. But it was. I love and admire everything about it: the concept, the characters, the world-building, the impossible moral choices that Katniss and the other characters have to make, and, of course, the writing. I have two copies of the whole series and go back to them often.

I've noticed a trend in YA dystopian novels, in which survival games are the platform of the stories. What is your take on this? What makes it interesting to write about?

That’s a really interesting thought, and I think there is something special about survival games serving as a kind of scaffolding for dystopian novels. First of all, such games already come with high stakes, often literally life-and-death. High stakes produce drama, and drama is what moves the story forward. Survival games also work really well if you want to challenge your characters and force them to make difficult choices, so we can find out who they really are and what they are made of. It’s like a trial by fire. All lies and pretenses fall away. So I absolutely agree that, as a structure in a dystopian novel, a survival game can be very powerful.

Your question also made me think about THE LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s about a group of boys who get stranded on an island after a plane crash, and in their struggle for survival, they basically recreate a society and all its conflicts, with tragic consequences. It’s a great book, mostly because it’s brutally honest. It forces us to think carefully about what choices we would make if put in the same place. The writing is also amazing. I am not usually a fan of long descriptions, but in that book, they make you feel like you’re actually there, on the island, running through the burning jungle. Another great book that I keep returning to again and again!

Could you share with us a quote from Sand Runner that is close to your heart?

Here is an excerpt from early in the novel. Without giving too much away, it’s the scene where Emily recruits Kai for the Race.

The girl’s—Emily’s—gaze was so direct, so intense, that Kai found it difficult to focus. Who did she say she worked for? And then the name caught up with him, and a jolt went through him.
Was she kidding? Of course he’d heard of them. Everyone on the planet had heard of them. They were one of the highest profile athletic management firms in the world. Another jolt, as the meaning of this exchange hit him.
“You recruit runners for the No Limits Race.”
Sounds of excitement from his friends cut through Kai’s tunnel-like concentration—shuffling feet, slapped thighs, a sharp whistle.
A hint of a smile crossed Emily’s face. “That’s right. But we do more than recruit them. We manage their training and their… careers.” Was there a hesitation there? Kai couldn’t be sure. He was suddenly fascinated with every nuance of her expression and tone of voice. “Think about it this way—we find the best runners, and we make them even better. We make them into legends.”
“I’m in.”

What is the hardest part/scene to write in Sand Runner?

All of it! I went through several drafts, and worked with a professional editor to polish the final version. I wanted the story to move quickly, and to keep that momentum all the way until the climax at the end. So it was challenging to balance that fast pace with slower, more emotional scenes where we get to know and care about the characters. The training sessions and the actual Race sequences were also a challenge because I didn’t want to repeat any ideas.

For all the budding writers out there, I can also share a strategy that saves me each time: I write out of order. I jump all over the place. If I get stuck in one part of the story, I move to another and add to that. I also add layers. Details, foreshadowing, cause-and-effect links. They only come to me after I’ve been working on the story for a while.

But the writing out of order really helps. In fact, when I start a new book, I just take copious notes, until I have a complete draft that spans from the beginning to the end of the story. I call it draft 0 and no one ever sees it but me. But it makes it possible for me to finish a draft and then go back and revise it.

What is next for Vera Brook?

I am writing book 2 and outlining the final book 3 in the SAND RUNNER series. I am also working on two other YA dystopian series, and on a middle-grade series in the vein of magical realism. And I keep notes with ideas for projects after that. I can come up with a lot of idea. The challenge is to stick to a project and finish it.

Also, now that I network with readers and writers a lot, my to-read pile is just exploding. I was a reader before I was a writer, and that’s something I will always struggle with: having to choose between reading and writing each day when I love both. There are just so many good books to read, and never enough time. But I’m not complaining. I love books. That’s why I’m a writer.

Thank you, Vera!

About the Author:

Vera Brook is a neuroscientist turned fiction writer.

She writes fantasy and science fiction. Or speculative fiction, as it’s sometimes called. In other words, the type of stories where she can change something about the world and get away with it.

After studying several fields – including literature, philosophy, genetics, and neuroscience – She has decided that SHE IS INTERESTED IN EVERYTHING.

Which sounds great. But it’s actually a bit of a problem if you’re trying to be a serious, focused, responsible adult with serious, focused responsibilities.

She is with it, though. In fact, her list of interests keeps growing. (Physics. Cover design. 3D printing. GOOD BOOKS OLD AND NEW!)

Find Vera Brook: Website | GoodreadsTwitter | Instagram

Book Description:

Paperback, 316 pages
Published June 2nd 2017 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Welcome to the No Limits Race.

In the near future, 16-year-old Kaiden Reed makes a bold and dangerous decision to enter the most brutal sports competition on the planet. One in which he will undergo a radical upgrade and become a new kind of athlete and a new kind of hero.

Part human. Part machine.

All Kai wants is a shot at a better life and to impress the girl of his dreams. But the stakes in the Race are higher, and the choices tougher, than Kai ever imagined. The physical challenges are just the beginning.

Ten days. Ten contenders. One winner.

Does Kai have what it takes to compete? How far will he go to win? And should he trust the person who recruited him in the first place - or is she using him to carry out a bold and dangerous agenda of her own?

Sand Runner is available on Apple iTunes, Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. It is available in Paperback and ebook.


Thanks to Vera for sponsoring this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Paperback Copy of Sand Runner
Scope: US and Canada

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