One of the books I'm really looking forward to get my trotters on is Monsters, the last book in the Ashes trilogy. Ilsa J. Bick, author of this awesome trilogy is dropping by today to answer some questions about herself and her books.
Welcome to Pearls Cast Beofre A McPig.
Could you tell a bit about yourself for those people who don’t know you yet?
Well, I’m a child shrink, as well as a film scholar, surgeon wannabe, and former Air Force major. (Honestly, I’m a little peripatetic and very easily bored.) Having also consulted to a women’s prison, I can say, categorically, that no, it’s not Orange is the New Black, not by a long shot. After writing a ton of academic articles on psychoanalysis and film, I’ve had the great good fortune to become an award-winning, best-selling author of short stories and novels, and I earned my writing chops doing a lot of work-for-hire in established universes that I adore: Star Trek, Mechwarrior, Battletech and Shadowrun. My secret ambition was to hang out aboard the Enterprise where, of course, I was a super-brainiac, had super-powers, and really cleaned up so well that Captain Kirk—the true beefcake of my day—just couldn’t help himself. This, sadly, was not to be. Instead, I moved to rural Wisconsin where my closest neighbors hang out in a Hebrew cemetery just across the street. One thing I really like about them: they’re very quiet and only come around for sugar once in a blue moon.
The moral: win some, lose some.
Oh, and I like hiking and survivalism and all that outdoorsy stuff. On the other hand, if Starbucks goes under, I’m toast. The cats know better than to mess with me before my morning cuppa.
I will confess that so far I only read the books in your Ashes trilogy and Draw The Dark, although I plan to remedy that quickly. What can you tell us about your other books?
That they’re all different? I’m not all that into wash-rinse-repeat. Leaving aside the work-for-hire books, DRAW THE DARK is a mash-up of horror, fantasy, historical fiction, and dark psychological thriller (one reviewer said I’d actually invented a new genre). DROWNING INSTINCT, a YA contemporary, is probably the closest I’ll ever come to a (really twisted) romance. THE SIN-EATER’S CONFESSION, which came out just this past February, is both a YA mystery and confessional memoir.
I like to mix things up.
Any chance you will write more post-apocalyptic or Dystopian books after the Ashes trilogy?
Not . . . really? Like I said, I don’t do wash-rinse-repeat, but never say never. I suppose it will depend on what I dream up and the story demands. After doing a bunch of stuff, I aim to complete work on the first book of a new sf series I’m in the middle of thrashing out, SAVING SKY. That might have some dystopic elements, but I don’t see those as primary. More like background music. But things could change. That’s one of the fun things about writing: characters and situations surprise you. Oh, and you learn a ton of new stuff just about every day.
Have you ever been tempted to use people who’d been rude to you in real life as victims in your books? Or have there been other people you used as characters in your books?
Oh, you mean like that old saw: Be nice, or I’ll kill you in my next novel? Well, no, not really. I’ve certainly used crummy situations I’ve experienced, and astute readers who know me and where I live will probably recognize a couple landmarks and, maybe, one person (although that person comes off very well in the book). But I tend to shy away from using “real” people per se (though you could say that every character and situation in every book is an amalgam of aspects of a writer’s life). Part of it is the shrink in me: who people are and what they say in the context of treatment is confidential.
But also, if things are too close to real . . . they’re very hard to write well. I think it was Stephen King who put that sentiment into the mouth of a character: Mort Rainey in Secret Window, Secret Garden, if I’m not mistaken. As a writer, you just get this . . . ugh feeling when you start to stray too close to reality. I do, at least.
Are there any other projects you’re working on or thinking about starting in the near future?
Oh, sure. I’m always working. Just finished the first-pass copy-edits for WHITE SPACE, the first volume of in my new Dark Passages series: think The Matrix meets Inkheart and Inception, and you start to get the gist. Very YA horror/darkly psychological thriller, mind-bending stuff going on. Right this second, I’m in the beginning throes of the sequel, THE DICKENS MIRROR. Soon as I’m done with that, I’ll go back and finish banging out a standalone YA thriller that’s about halfway done. Then the SAVING SKY series is up, and by the time I finish that first book . . . I’d better have some more ideas.
Where can you be found when you’re not at your desk writing?
Outside/outdoors, principally: biking, hiking, walking, swimming when there’s an outdoor pool. Gardening. I’m happiest when I’ve laced on the boots and hit the trails, or gone just about any place where I can be outside for hours and not see another soul.
What did you do to celebrate the release of your first book?
Ah, that would be DRAW THE DARK. Pub day was actually very low-key. The husband went to work; I went to work. I exercised. I fed the cats and puttered outside. He came home; then we went out to dinner and had very dry martinis. Then I went to bed because we both had work the next day ;-)
Boring, I know. I’m kind of a cheap date.
What is the best thing about being a published author?
Holding a book I wrote in my hands. That’s just . . . it’s an incredible feeling.
What authors have been an influence to you? And have you read any books lately that you want to share with us or have you been too busy with writing to read?
Well, I’m always reading, but I usually don’t make recommendations because everyone’s tastes are different. More often than not, my favorite author is the one who just happens to be telling me a thumpingly good story at that moment.
Sci-fi was the adolescent lit of my day, so that genre’s been a huge influence. I’d be hard-pressed to single out authors since I’ve read so many—but if you nailed me to the wall, I’d have to say that I think Stephen King is an A-class storyteller. That’s not the same thing as saying all his books are spectacular because they’re not. Honestly, there are some real clunkers in there. But no one knows how to construct a story better, and that’s always worth paying attention to and learning from.
Thanks for these great answers and thanks for dropping by.
It could happen tomorrow . . .
An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.
For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.
Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.
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