10 Question With Indie Author A.K. Butler (Part Two)

One of the great benefits of having a master's degree is that it gave me the research skills to help shape my my work as well as introducing me to ideas I want to play out in my fiction. I draw mostly from Process Philosophy and Mimetic Theory. Your website states you are doing advanced education in "science." Can you tell us more about that and how it shapes your writing?

I have a degree in psychology (mostly child psychology) from Texas A&M and was pursuing a second bachelor's in neurobiology from UTD when I had to drop out due to a personal disagreement with the school -- they insisted I pay tuition even when I explained I was completely broke. Eventually I might go back and finish my degree and pursue becoming a physician's assistant; I would love to work in pediatrics, neonatology or neurology. This background has most definitely shaped my writing. I was able to take a sort of clinical approach to the children's personalities in the book. By that I mean, instead of creating the characters and sort of guessing what they would do, I could draw on literally hundreds of case studies that I've read from different children who have been in similar situations and decide how they might react from that. I ran a few of the more "controversial" reactions (the ones that make most people go "I don't think a kid would actually behave that way") by people who have worked with abused and abandoned children and they said, "Oh, yes. That is EXACTLY how a kid in that situation behaves. So I think (hope?) it lends a bit of credibility to their personalities.

Likewise there is a bit of neurology and biology in the book, and it's all pretty accurate. Though it is science fiction and so I had to take a bit of artistic license, it's all theoretically possible. None of the science in the book is a far stretch from something that would be possible, and some of it is very firmly based in things we already know or people who have already lived. (I know I'm being vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers! ;) )

You mention a love of Doctor Who. In a perfect world I'd be the eighth Doctor. With his two on-screen appearances and years of audio drama he is (obviously) the most superior Doctor EVER. Which lamer version of the Doctor would you be? (Note: If Stephen Moffat or the people at Big Finish Productions are reading this -- call me! I will write for you, no problem!)

Well, I'm not sure what you mean by "lamer" but if I could be any of the 13 (counting 8.5) I'd have to go with Hartnell. I just loved him. Not only did he start the whole thing off but I just think he's sadly underrated. I'd love to be an old man pretending to be a professorial stuffed shirt when really I just stole a time machine and go on adventures like a seven-year-old with a cardboard box.

You are a Discovery Award winner from IndieReader.com. In practical terms thats the only real award for indie.writers -- i know of numerous awards for indie and small presses, but not many for writers trying to work outside the system. So it's a big deal. What has that meant for you as far as readers and sales go? I had a GREAT review on IndieReader.com but it didn't do anything for sales.

I'm not sure it increased sales much, but I have noticed there be some opportunities previously closed to me that are now open -- like this interview, for instance. I have had people contact me (including a couple of agents) who never would have known I existed outside of the award, so while it hasn't directly impacted sales incredibly, I think it has been good.

You are in school with the "Science," married and a mother. Those are all huge time commitments. With my day-job and parenting I am finding I do allot of writing in stolen moments. Are you able to keep up a writing practice?

I would just like to say that whenever anyone asks me what I do my answer will now forever be, "Oh, I'm in school with the science." So, thank you for that. Writing definitely takes a back burner to taking care of kids and studying. It's absolutely a "stolen moment" endeavor. Of course it would be wonderful to be able to do it full time and still be able to afford to do things like eat. Maybe that's still in my future even if I have to wait until retirement.

In film and music, being "indie" means that, on some level, you want to challenge the corporatization of art. Indie books, though, seem to repeat the same themes and genres as mainstream publishing. On your website you list your influences -- all of which are some of the great works of your genre. Do you think we will see a contribution to the Western Cannon from ebooks and indie writers? A hundred years from now will a digital archeologist be pulling a lost, great, world-changing manuscript from the husk of a destroyed server or computer?

I think that's possible. I think the biggest problem indie authors face right now is a stigma that is, unfortunately, well-earned. Poor editing, derivative plots and shallow, stereotypical characters permeate indie books. They, of course, are very present in mainstream books as well, but you typically know what you're getting into when you pick up one of those. Eventually the hope is that the wheat will rise above the chaff, to mix a couple of metaphors. I think it's far more likely that the great, lost, world-changing manuscript will stay buried on the computer forever, hidden underneath piles of terrible grammar and cliché opening lines from other novels that no one wants to wade through.

True or False: In a fight between Zombies and Androids, nobody wins.

False. The humans win. The androids decide that the zombies are a bigger threat than non-infected humans, and decide to take them out first. Humans go hide out in the woods or in underground bunkers because that's what humans do while the zombies are busy fighting the androids. Eventually the androids beat the zombies, because the zombies can't destroy them -- they can just mend themselves, but the zombies can be destroyed. But the androids are severely weakened by the zombie attacks, and as soon as all the zombies are destroyed and before the androids can patch themselves entirely, we sweep in and defeat them easily in their wounded state.

As a writer I tend to feel that writers need the "Three Cs" to do their work: craft, community and conversation. Where do you go/what resources do you use to tap into these sources of strength for the artistic journey?

I participate a bit in online communities, such as Goodreads and Twitter, interacting with both authors and readers. I also study writing tips from my favorite authors as well as researching editing techniques. I read a lot and make notes about what I like and didn't like about the book or writing in my head.

What projects do you have forthcoming/in works?

I have a couple of novels I'm working on. There is a prequel to The Burning of Cherry Hill that follows Tavish and Ava (the parents of the protagonists) when they were younger. I've also got a children's fantasy and another adult sci-fi that are still in the planning stages.


AK Butler is the author of The Burning of Cherry Hill.

Jason Derr is the author of The Boston 395.