Author Interview: Chris Lodwig

Author Interview Questions for Quill and Pen, curated by E.G. Stone

(please return completed form to: thewriter@egstone.com)

  1. Name, please!

Chris Lodwig

  1. We’ll skip the “tell us about yourself” because coming up with something on the spot is, truly, the bane of an author’s existence. So, let’s start with something a little easier! Tell me what you’re working on at the moment.

I’m currently working on a short story that has to do with transferring emotion and empathy to other people via a social network. I just sent that off to the editor the other day.

I’m about 200 pages into the sequel to Systemic. There are three main story lines, the first of which picks up Lem and Eryn’s story where Systemic left off. I’m starting to suspect it might actually be two books.

2. In as much detail as you would like, tell me about your book(s) that are already out/on the way.

I only have the one book so far, Systemic.

Systemic is somewhere between a eutopia and dystopia depending on who you ask. It takes place several generations in the future. We’ve created a massive AI and for years, it’s been solving all of society’s problems. Of course, now the issue becomes, what happens to us when we don’t have any problems left to solve?

The story itself focuses on three strangers who are each making a pilgrimage to a small town in the middle of the Sagelands called Prower. Maik is hoping to find the woman he loves, Eryn wants to make it home, and Lem is out for revenge against the AI hosted in the town’s data center.

Without giving too much away, no one knows the real reasons they’re headed to Prower, but it has something to do with solving the problem of us not having any more problems.

  1. As far as the writing process goes—including such things as conception of idea all the way through to money in the bank—what is the least favourite bit? (Everyone has one!)

Showing what I wrote to my wife. She always tells me the truth, and that’s pretty terrifying. I’m also pretty uncomfortable selling myself like I’m doing right now.

  1. Conversely, what is the bit of the writing process that gets your writery brain grinning?

So many bits! I love the spilling out, when you let your mind follow its own whims and construct something it finds interesting. Today, I was writing a conversation between 4 kids sitting around the kid table at a banquet. I just got to let them talk and their relationships and personalities just appeared out of nowhere. Those kids, who I hadn’t even known existed two days ago, made my story take an unexpected turn. Totally unplanned. That’s a lot of fun. I also love editing because it feels very tactile to me, sort of like moulding or sculpting.

5. If you could steal any author’s ability to improve your own work, who would you steal from and why? (e.g. Tolkien’s language skills, Douglas Adams’ humour, etc.)

Neil Gaiman’s ability to write in a million different genres and make all of them interesting, or funny, or clever, or beautiful. All of his work feels so imaginative and rich. Witches in Startdust travelled by candle. That’s a crazy pile of creativity right there.

6. Now for some fun! The main character of the book you’re working on (or have recently finished) has kidnapped you for ruining their life. How will you explain that what you’re doing is for the best?

An interesting proposition. I have four main characters in Systemic (my recent book) and—as it turns out—I ruined their lives for the better…So, which to choose?

Lem’s life is already ruined by his own hand, he doesn’t need any help from me.

Maik is tortured enough as it is. I’d feel bad messing with him.

The global AI already knows anything I might want to do, so if I ruined its life, it would have manipulated me into doing it. My time in captivity would consist of the System explaining why my ruining of its life was for my own good.

Which just leaves Eryn. The two things she loves in life are being outdoors and her mother. In fact, she’s been planning to call in sick and play hooky from work so she can hike home through the Prower Valley. So, I imagine I’ve ruined her life by telling her boss that she wasn’t really sick. Now I find myself tied to a wooden chair in her tiny apartment. She’s asking why her boss just called her and offered to send a physician over to check on her. As the author, I’m the only one who could have possibly known her plan. Now she wants to know why I screwed everything up for her.

I do feel bad. I know how much the trip meant to her. Work has been tough, and she’s been feeling inexplicably antsy and unsettled of late. But I try, “Trust me when I tell you it was for your own good.” She just scowls at me. Doesn’t say a word. I know her well enough to know she’s struggling to master her anger and think of a way to salvage her trip. Given time, she’ll definitely come up with something. That would be a disaster, “There’s something you don’t know.”

“About why you screwed up my vacation?”

“No. I mean—in a way—yes. But I didn’t do it because I’m angry or jealous or worried about the old hermit who lives along the trail.”

She wants to appear calm, but she’s breathing heavy through her nose. She’s furious. But she doesn’t interrupt. She just raises an eyebrow in an expression that insists, “This had better be good.”

“You’re happy, right?” She doesn’t answer. “Your happiness is rooted in who you suppose you are, and how you understand the past to be. If you go on that hike; if you find your way to Prower, you’ll learn things—about your past, about your memories—and once you know them, you’re understanding of that past will collapse. And once you lose your past, you’ll lose yourself, and once you’ve lost yourself, you’ll lose your joy. Stay here, delay your trip by a few days. A few days is not too much to ask. A few days will provide you a lifetime of happiness.”

7. You, your main character(s), and the protagonist of the last book you read are playing poker. What are the stakes? Who will win and why?

That would be Horza from Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas. From my book I would choose Lem. Lem is certainly smarter than me, so he’d probably be a better poker player, but as soon as he thought he was going to lose, he’d fold. He’d probably say something like, “This is stupid,” and toss his cards on the table and storm away.

As far as Horza is concerned. I’m pretty sure he’d beat me. He’s gone to at least one Damage game and so he’s familiar with emotional stress, plus as a shape-changer he has precise control of every aspect of his body, so I bet he as an impressive poker face. I’d get my ass handed to me.

As far as what we’d play for, not money. Aside from the fact that none of our money would be compatible, both Horza and Lem come from post-scarcity societies, so anything I could ante wouldn’t matter much to them. So, I guess just bragging rights.

8. Let’s face it, writing is hard. What do you think are some traps to avoid in your particular area of expertise? (Whether that be your genre, your knowledge of plot, your character building, your world building, etc.)

I have two things that are both dangerous for me for the exact same reason. I love imagery and descriptive writing, and I like to geek out on ideas. Induing in either—or worse, both—of these runs the risk of going too deep for the sake of my own entertainment, and at that point I’ll lose the audience.

9. Anything else you’d like to add? Plots to take over the world, for example. Upcoming release dates, links and things, maybe even your favourite chocolate cake recipe.

I have no plots to take over the world that would not be totally ruined by telling the world about them. So…no. Instead, here is my favourite home brew beer recipe.

Recipe Name: Take 5 IPA – Pliny the Younger

Beer Type: IPA

Ingredients

Grains:

  • 0.6 lb (272 g) Crystal 45 malt
  • 0.6 lb (272 g) Carapils (Dextrin) Malt

Extract Sugars:

  • 3 lbs Golden Iight dry malt extract
  • 3.5 lbs of Pilsen Light dry malt extract
  • 0.75 lb (340 g) Table sugar

Water Agents

  • Calcium Chloride – 1 tsp
  • Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) – 1 tsp
  • Epsom Salt (MgSO4) – .4 tsp
  • Irish Moss (Need amount!)

Hops

  • Bittering:
    • 3.50 oz (99 g) Columbus 13.90% A.A. 90 min.
  • Flavoring:
    • 0.75 oz (21 g) Columbus 13.90% A.A. 45 min.
  • Aroma #1:
    • 1.00 oz (28 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. 30 min.
  • Aroma #2:
    • 1.00 oz (28 g) Centennial 8.00% A.A. 0 min.
    • 2.50 oz (71 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. 0 min.
  • Dry: #1
    • 1.00 oz (28 g) Columbus 13.90% A.A. Dry Hop (12 to 14 days total)
    • 1.00 oz (28 g) Centennial 9.10% A.A. Dry Hop (12 to 14 days total)
    • 1.00 oz (28 g) Simcoe 12.30% A.A. Dry Hop (12 to 14 days total)
  • Dry #2
    • 0.25 oz (7 g) Columbus 13.90% A.A. Dry Hop (5 days to go in dry hop)
    • 0.5 oz (7 g) Centennial 9.10% A.A. Dry Hop (5 days to go in dry hop)

Yeast:

  • Wyeast 1056 American Ale Yeast

Quick sheet

DoneEventSugarsHopsInstructionsNotes

heat water

1 Gal of water to 165

165f

maintain heat at 165 Add Steeping Grains

30 min steep

Remove and rinse grains with hot water top up kettle (as much as possible) Heat to boil

(boil) 200 fAdd Malt
water additives add Malt Extract Add Dextrose Bring to boil

t- 90
Bittering: 3.5 oz ColumbusAdd bittering hops Set 45 min timer

t – 45
Flavoring: .75 ColumbusAdd Flavoring Hops Set 15 min timer

t – 30
Aroma #1: 1 oz SimcoeAdd Aroma #1 Set 30 min timer Add Irish Moss

t – 0
Aroma #2: 1 Centennial 2.50 oz SimcoeAdd Aroma Hops #2

t – 0

Cool to 67f

67f

Remove all hops move to fermenter Oxygenate top off to 5 gal pitch yeast

Fermenting stops
Dry: 1 oz Columbus 1 oz Centennial 1 oz SimcoeRack beer Dry Hop #1



Dry: 0.25 oz Columbus 0.5 oz CentennialDry Hop #2

Rack + 14 daysPriming
Bottle

bottle + 4 weeks

Drink