Long and Short Reviews welcomes Deborah Jackson, author of Ice Tomb, an adult science fiction thriller. Ice Tomb was first released in 2004, but just this February, after some revision and attempts to make it more kid-friendly, (although it's still an adult book), it was released as an ebook. Ice Tomb takes readers on a journey through ice tunnels and snowscapes in Antarctica to the deadly environment on the moon. It involves the interplay of science and mythology--topics Deborah loves to tinker with. It is a Top Pick from RT BOOKclub Magazine which said, "Ice Tomb is set in the near future, and the science in the fiction is very plausible. A fast-paced story with plenty of twists, this book reads like a classic sci-fi tale. The characters are well drawn, the action plentiful and the outcome surprising.”
I asked Deborah what inspired her to write and she told me, "I don’t think anything inspires you to start writing. Either you’re a writer or you’re not. I started writing when I was six years old. I fell in love with stories: intriguing adventures that took place somewhere beyond my doorstep, tales of dragons or horses or the orphan lad Oliver. I fell out of writing when my alternate career consumed all the hours in my day. I fell back into it during maternity leave and eventually permanent leave from my job."
Deborah works the same way as Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, she shared with me.
"How’s that for polar opposites?" she asked. "But they both begin without a plot outline. I usually research my ideas until I have a decent concept of plot and characters, occasionally I write a character sketch or journal entry, but then I begin. The first chapter usually needs a series of rewrites, but once the characters start to breathe, they take over and drive the story forward, sometimes at a breathless pace."
The storytelling itself is of utmost importance, she believes, combining all the elements into an "absolutely riveting tale."
"It’s impossible to single out one or two components. I think editors are sometimes too focused on style and ignore the other elements of world building, character psychology, logical plot structure, believable dialogue, etc. If you can’t piece together a spellbinding story, then all the wordplay in your arsenal won’t be enough to captivate readers."
"When writing physical descriptions of your characters, what feature do you start with?" I wondered.
"Writing descriptions of main characters? Seriously? I don’t believe in writing about physical features! I hate when an author slaps down physical features while ignoring the truly important aspects of a character. Their cockiness, their humour, their intensity, their marvelous quirks. I could care less what a person looks like if I can feel who they are through dialogue, mannerisms and behaviour. Maybe I’m the defiant author who thumbs her nose at conventional writing, but I will never start with physical features. If they’re important at some point, I’ll mention them."
Deborah strives to create endearing, enduring, and unusual characters along with a unique setting in which to place them. She's had fans of her YA series, Time Meddlers, tell her that they feel sad when they've finished reading a book because they have to say goodbye to the main characters until the next book and that they'll actually miss them.
"That’s exactly what you want your readers to feel," she said.
Her novels are also very complex—she explores unique time periods and cultures—and combines scientific near-future or speculative technology with a historical or mythical component.
"I don’t shy away from including nanotechnology, exploring a vast network of caves, or setting up a moon base," she explained. "I usually go through stacks of archaeological reference books to make a historical setting seem authentic. If you work hard enough, that attention to detail will shine through in your writing."
"What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?" I asked.
"The best: Don’t write for the market. By the time your book has been revised and perfected, the market will have changed. Write what you’re passionate about.
"The worst: If an agent or editor tells you to change your manuscript, do it. They have more experience and they know better than you.
"After a number of years, and a number of critiques from editors and agents, I find they tend to contradict each other. One would prefer you focus on character, the other would like your novel to become the next bestseller to be converted into a blockbuster movie, and you’re taking too long to jump into the action. Yes, sometimes their advice is worth the extra rewrite, but you have to decide whether it’s going to change your novel into their vision, and if that’s really what you want. I can guarantee following their suggestions won’t guarantee a book will be published."
Finally, I asked Deborah for her favorite TV shows.
"Big Bang Theory. Now who doesn’t love Sheldon, from a distance?
Grey’s Anatomy. You can take a girl out of the medical community, but you can’t take the fascination for medicine (and drama) out of the girl.
Firefly. The best science fiction series ever produced. I can watch it over and over again. Why? Because the character development is exceptional. Sci-fi western is a unique concept, but it always comes down to characters, doesn’t it?
House for the sarcasm and the unique character—an addicted genius. The puzzles are rather unbelievable and the repetition of this style getting stale, though.
Vampire Diaries (but don’t tell anyone). I do so love those sexy vampires, as long as they don’t sparkle and have somewhat of a complex character—Damon."
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