Today we have author Edward Ashton visiting. Welcome!
What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.
Today Edward Ashton will be talking about Advice to the Writer: Don’t Quit Your Day Job
* One sunny afternoon in April of my junior year in college, my favorite professor called me into her office. She was a poet of some note, and had spent the past two semesters trying to cram the concepts of rhyme, rhythm and meter into my prose-centric skull. I thought she might be planning on tearing apart my latest sad effort at blank verse, but no. She was in a mellow mood. She invited me to sit.
* “So,” she said. “How are you progressing these days?”
* “Um,” I said. “What?”
* She rolled her eyes.
* “Your academics, Ed. How are you progressing? You’ve been working toward a double major, no?”
* I nodded. I’d been keeping one foot in writing and the other in engineering for the past three years. This wasn’t an easy balance. There were surprisingly few classes that fulfilled requirements for both degrees.
* “Good,” she said. “That’s very good. You know my next book is coming out soon?”
* I nodded again. She’d been pretty clear on that point. She leaned back in her chair, and looked up at the ceiling.
* “I just got my advance check,” she said. “Do you know what I did with it?”
* I shook my head.
* “I bought an air conditioner.”
* I opened my mouth to say something positive, but she went on before I could.
* “Not a central air unit, Ed. The kind that goes in your window.” She sighed. “Study hard in your engineering classes. You don’t look like the sort who can live on bologna.”
* As a writer—or as any kind of artist, really—there’s always a delicate balance to be struck between following your dreams, and making some kind of reasonable accommodation with the world. The economics are pretty similar for almost anyone whose primary job is to entertain. A very small number of people make obscene amounts of money (Taylor Swift, or Lebron James, or J.K. Rowling) while a great many people work extremely hard for something close to nothing (your local bar band, or some anonymous power forward playing for the Rapid City Twisters, or my poet-mentor.) Writing a novel is much more akin to buying a lottery ticket than it is to landing a plum job at Google.
* This is not to say, of course, that you should set aside your dreams of artistic glory, and resign yourself life as an office drone. However, if you run down a list of famous speculative fiction writers, you’ll find an awful lot of folks who didn’t quit their day jobs. Isaac Asimov was a tenured professor, as is David Brin. Robert L. Forward was an aerospace engineer. John Scalzi… well John Scalzi got a multimillion dollar book deal with Tor. If you manage to pull that off, yes, you can resign your position at GloboMax Corp post-haste.
* As for me? I’m still keeping one foot in both worlds. I’ve published dozens of short stories over the last couple of decades, as well as two novels (Three Days in April and The End of Ordinary, both from HarperCollins) with a third on the way. I’ve also built a career as a cancer researcher, and published a thick stack of journal papers and medical texts along the way. Time management is an issue at times (take a look at my previous post on writing in the interstices for more on that) but I don’t actually feel like my scientific career detracts from my writing. To the contrary, some of my best plot twists have come from things I learned during the course of my research. There might not be quite as much synergy if my day job were in accounts receivable at Target, but I’m sure I could find something to work with even there.
* The important thing to remember at the end of the day is that to be a writer, you don’t have to be only a writer. You just have to write. Also, it’s tough to live on bologna cooked over a garbage fire. Can’t forget about that.
A look into…
~ Blurb ~
* Drew Bergen is an Engineer. He builds living things, one gene at a time. He’s also kind of a doofus. Six years after the Stupid War — a bloody, inconclusive clash between the Engineered and the UnAltered — that’s a dangerous combination. Hannah is Drew’s greatest project, modified in utero to be just a bit better at running than most humans. She’s also his daughter. Her plan for high school is simple: lay low and run fast. Unfortunately for Hannah, her cross-country team has other plans.
* Jordan is just an ordinary Homo-Sap. But don’t let that fool you — he’s also one of the richest kids at Briarwood, and even though there isn’t a single part of him that’s been engineered, someone has it out for him.
* Drew thinks he’s working to develop a spiffy new strain of corn, but Hannah and her classmates disagree. They think he’s cooking up the end of the world. When one of Drew’s team members disappears, he begins to suspect that they might be right. Soon they’re all in far over their heads, with corporate goons and government operatives hunting them, and millions of lives in the balance.
~ Excerpt ~
* “Okay,” he said. “Let’s take this one step at a time. Why do you need accomplices?”
* “I already told you,” Micah said. “We are like ninety percent fully opposed to your plans to murder Jordan. Ninety-five percent, even.”
* “Quiet,” Bob said. “Grownups are talking now.”
* “Micah’s an idiot,” Marta said, “but believe it or not, he’s mostly right. We know about Project Snitch, Daddy.”
* Bob’s eyebrows came together at the bridge of his nose.
* “Project what?”
* Marta rolled her eyes.
* “Give it up, Dad. I don’t have anything else to do around here, so I snoop. I’ve heard you and Marco talking about Project Snitch more than once.”
* “Actually,” I said, “I think Hannah said that the real name for it was Project Dragon-Corn.”
* Bob’s face went blank.
* “Oh,” he said, after a long, silent pause. “Oh. Oh, honey. You mean project Sneetch.”
* I looked at Marta. Marta looked at me. Micah finished his smoothie, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and smiled.
* “Uh,” Marta said. “What?”
* Bob sighed.
* “Sneetch, honey. Not Snitch. Sneetch.”
* “Oh,” Marta said. “I thought you were just making fun of Marco’s accent when you said it that way.”
* We all turned to stare at her.
* “Anyway,” I said. “Confusion-wise, I’m not sure that’s…”
* I slapped my palm to my forehead and let out a long, low groan.
* “What?” Micah asked. “Are you having a stroke?”
* “Sneetch,” I said. “Project Sneetch. Holy shit, dude. You think you’re Sylvester McMonkey McBean.”
* “Right,” Bob said. He leaned back, and crossed his arms over his chest. “See, honey? Your gay boyfriend gets me.”
Buy The End of Ordinary here…
Thank you for joining us here today, Edward Ashton! It was a pleasure getting to know you and your story.
ANNOUNCEMENT! Edward Ashton will be awarding a 14 Ounce Nalgene—filled with candy corn! & 1 VeryFit Smart Band (US only) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour! So be sure to leave a comment AND use this RAFFLECOPTER LINK to enter the drawing. Also, visit the other tour stops for a greater chance of winning!