Friday, September 28, 2012

Author Interview with J. Gabriel Gates

I am thrilled to have J. Gabriel Gates here for an interview today! I recently read his newest novel Blood Zero Sky (my Review), and it was amazing. He's a great author, and I loved his answers to all my questions. But he'd be a great author even if I hated his answers :)
Click the links to find my reviews for J's other books.

Q. As you may have noticed from my review, I really loved Blood Zero Sky. What inspired the world and characters in this book?
A. Thanks, I’m really glad you enjoyed it.  I wrote the original draft of the book back in 2005, and basically I wrote it because I was looking around at some of the things that were happening politically and sociologically and I found them pretty concerning and infuriating, so I wanted to write a book to show where the path we were on might lead.  As for the characters, they came from different sparks of inspiration.  The rebel leader, Ethan, came from reading books about the founding fathers and the American Revolutionary War.  May was partly inspired by a book I read called Stone Butch Blues by a wonderful writer named Leslie Feinberg.  The protagonist of that story is a gay woman trying to make her way in a very hostile environment—as a factory worker in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.  When I thought about it, there were some major parallels with May’s situation, as a strong, gay female protagonist trying to fake her way through a world that is hostile to her most authentic self.
Q. How do you feel about the comparisons made between your novel and George Orwell's 1984?
A. Well, I’m flattered by them.  It’s always nice to be compared to a classic.  I think when you do dystopian fiction really well, it really infiltrates a reader’s mind and even the lexicon of a society.  When people talk about the government overreaching its bounds and watching you in creepy ways—like the recent case where a federal court ruled the government can use your cellphone records to track your movements without a warrant, for example—people still shake their heads and say: “big brother.”  It creates a short-hand so that people can express their feelings about what’s happening around them.  I’d love it if next time the government funds some 0% loan allowing a too-big-to-fail company to gobble up one of its competitors, or when private military contractors start flying drones over U.S. airspace to spy on Americans, people would say: Here it is again, Blood Zero Sky.  Books like mine and 1984 create a shared experience that people can draw from to comment on the world around them, and that’s very important, especially in our age of partisan corporate media and vitriolic, polarizing discourse.
Q. What would you say to people that might say the underlying idea in Blood Zero Sky is too far-fetched or a complete impossibility in our own world?
A. I would suggest that they haven’t been paying attention.    Look at the Citizens United supreme court decision, opening the floodgates to allow corporate interests to buy elections.  Look at the political pressure to privatize every corner of the government, from charter schools, to the correctional corporations that run our prisons, to military contractors that continue to take on increasingly large roles in our national defense.  Look at the bailout of the banks, where hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money was given away, with very few conditions, to the same crooked banks that sold bad mortgages to homeowners, packaged them as investments, sold them to individual pension funds, retirement accounts, college funds, etc. as grade A investments, then bet against them, wiping out the life’s savings of millions of people, while they themselves walked away with millions in bonuses—and none of them went to jail, because all the regulators are former buddies of theirs from Goldman Sachs.  Only 6 companies control 90% of the media in the U.S., down 40% since 1990.  I could go on and on, but those who refuse to see the problem will still refuse to see it.

Q. In Blood Zero Sky there are individuals within The Company that could be considered the villains of the novel, but I found The Company's all-powerful grasp on every inch of the people's lives to be sinister on another level. Was it more difficult to characterize The Company as the nemesis of humanity as opposed to a specific person?
 A. I’m glad you picked up on that.  The villain in this book, really, is the corporate system.  Inside a corporation, individual morality fades a bit.  People can do something bad and say “my boss told me to do it.”  Or the boss can say: “I was just doing everything I could to make money within the law. (Of course, corporations now write our laws…) It’s my duty to the shareholders.” The premise is that corporations are basically engines of greed, designed to do one thing: make money.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Corporations are useful, and greed is useful, too—it leads to productivity.  The problem is that we’ve allowed these mindless engines of greed to control our government and write our laws.  That’s the problem.  Sharks are insatiable carnivores, too, and they’re beautiful creatures—you just wouldn’t hire one to be the lifeguard at a kiddie pool.  In the same way, corporations should not run our government. 
Q. I really liked May Fields as the main character and found her to be very relateable. Were you concerned that readers would have a hard time connecting with a lesbian MC? How important was it to you that she stay true to how you originally pictured her?
 A. It’s great that you liked her; not all reviewers have.  She’s a very unapologetic character; she’s strong, sometimes mean, and often confused as she tries to sort out the truth of the world around her.  She has this “I don’t give a damn if you like me or not” attitude, and I guess I share her attitude when it comes to readers liking her character.  I hope people will like her.  I like her. And I was genuinely surprised that some reviewers didn’t relate to her very well. But if you’re writing well, characters really take on their own being.  I couldn’t change the way May is any more than I could train my dog to meow. 

Although she is a lesbian, I don’t see sexual preference as her defining trait— or any other person’s defining trait, for that matter.  She’s just a human being trying to understand the world and her place it in.  The choice of whether or not to make the effort to understand May falls to the reader; she’s too proud to go begging for their adoration.  You just have to either accept her, or not.
Q. Is this the last we will see of the world in Blood Zero Sky?
 A. It probably is.  I have another idea for a sci-fi story that could be set in the same world as Blood Zero Sky, but a few decades later.  It’s possible that I may set it there—but it’s also possible that I might not.  Either way, I think May’s tale is finished.

Q. I'm always curious to know how writers do their writing thing.  Do you have a favorite place to do your writing? When are you most productive?
 I’m normally sitting on the couch in my living room.  I live on an old decommissioned golf course, so there are sliding doors right next to me that open out onto a pretty meadow with willow trees and a brook, with ducks and squirrels and woodchucks running around.  It’s a pretty peaceful way to work.
 I normally get up, have my breakfast, walk my dog, pour my coffee and write in the morning.  Then, I have lunch and do an afternoon session.  In between, I try to take care of the other requisite tasks of being an author, social media, correspondence, etc.  It’s a pretty darn good life! 
Q. Aside from writing really cool books, what do you enjoy doing?
A. I’m pretty active.  I like to go for runs, lift weights and go mountain biking.  I spend a lot of time with my family.  My dad and my grandparents live fairly nearby, so I spend a lot of time with them .  I’m pretty into the simple life—give me a nice run under a blue sky, some pizza and a glass of wine, some good conversation, a good book, and church on Sunday, and I’m a happy man.
J, thanks so much for your thoughtful answers. I hope eveyrone enjoys Blood Zero Sky as much as I did. I know I've already referenced it once or twice in regards to government :)
About J. Gabriel Gates:
Author J. Gabriel Gates is a native of Marshall, Michigan. The son of an English teacher, his passion for the written word began at a young age. During college, another passion – for performing – led him to get his B.A. degree in theater from Florida State University.

During his years in Los Angeles, he appeared in a dozen national TV commercials and penned several screenplays while laying the groundwork for his career as a novelist.

His novels include the YA fantasy books "Dark Territory: The Tracks, book 1," "Ghost Crown: The Tracks, Book 2," and horror novel "The Sleepwalkers." His dystopian sci-fi epic "Blood Zero Sky" is slated for release in October, 2012. (All are published by HCI Books.)

He currently lives in Southeast Michigan.
You can connect with J via his website, Twitter and Goodreads.

Blood Zero Sky will be available October 1, 2012 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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