IndieView with Mary Fan, author of Artificial Absolutes



Don’t be shy about your book. Show it to anyone who will give you feedback, and be prepared for criticism. It’s important to know when to take advice to heart and when to shrug and say, “oh well, can’t please everyone!”

Mary Fan – 4 March 2013

The Back Flap

Jane Colt is just another recent college grad working as an Interstellar Confederation office drone—until the day she witnesses her best friend, Adam, kidnapped by a mysterious criminal. An extensive cover-up thwarts her efforts to report the crime, shaking her trust in the authorities. Only her older brother, Devin, believes her account. Devin hopes to leave behind his violent past and find peace in a marriage to the woman he loves. That hope shatters when he discovers a shocking secret that causes him to be framed for murder. With little more than a cocky attitude, Jane leaves everything she knows to flee with Devin, racing through the most lawless corners of the galaxy as she searches for Adam and proof of her brother’s innocence. Her journey uncovers truths about both of them, leading her to wonder just how much she doesn’t know about the people she loves.

About the book

What is the book about?

Artificial Absolutes is about an ordinary young woman, Jane Colt, and her older brother, Devin, who’s trying to leave behind his haunted past. The story takes place in a distant future in which humans have spread across the galaxy. After a mysterious criminal entity kidnaps Jane’s best friend, Adam, and then frames Devin for murder, the Colts set off in search of the truth, hunted by both the criminal and the interstellar authorities.

When did you start writing the book?

June 2011.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took about two months to bang out a first draft, and another six months or so of nonstop rewrites to get it submission-worthy.

Where did you get the idea from?

I’ve always liked stories that take place in space, and so when I decided to write a novel, the far-off future, in which spaceflight is commonplace, felt like a natural place for the story to take place in. I actually came up with the characters before brainstorming the plot. Jane was a character I’d created for a short story, but I didn’t know what to do with her, so I figured shooting her into space would be a fun thing to do. I thought it would be interesting to explore what would happen if an ordinary young woman with no weapons training or military background were put in a dangerous situation. For Devin, I wanted to explore the idea of someone who’d been in dangerous situations before, but whose great adventure was a past he’d rather forget. The idea of a lost young man in search of purpose was a theme I was interested in, and for Devin’s character, I asked, what would happen if he set off on that journey, and it all went wrong?

I also wanted to work with the dynamic between the creator and the created, and so I introduced artificial intelligence to the plot. That dynamic is also explored in the relationships between Jane/Devin and their father and in the religious element of the book through the character Adam, who is a student of the fictional Via faith.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

The character Adam Palmer was the hardest to write. He’s a devout young man who’s chosen to dedicate his life to the Via religion, and he’s very philosophical. He has a gentle, kind personality, and he’s somewhat shy. I tend to draw upon my own personality and experiences when writing, and he’s the character I have the least in common with (in fact, I don’t think I’m like him at all!). To prepare for his character, I read all kinds of philosophy and religion essays, and I must’ve rewritten his dialogue a thousand times or more before it “sounded” right.

What came easily?

About halfway through the book, a hacker who goes by Corsair online—a character initially seen only through typed messages—is introduced in the flesh. The chapter in which he first appears in person is written from his point of view, and I found that it pretty much wrote itself. I think it’s because by that point, I was so familiar with his background, personality, and quirks that I knew exactly how he would act in any given situation.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Most of my characters are entirely fictitious, but I’m sure a lot of their traits are subconsciously borrowed from myself or from people I know. Jane shares my penchant for music, and I definitely drew upon my own experience for the scene in which she conducts. I also based some of her traits on my little sister (like her copious amounts of wavy hair).

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I wasn’t thinking of any particular authors when I was writing, but I was influenced by authors who focus on their characters, which could be anyone from Stieg Larsson to Margaret Mitchell. I liked how all their characters, even those who weren’t in the spotlight, were given back stories and a point of view.

Do you have a target reader?

I’m a huge fan of science fiction, and I believe the book will appeal to fellow Browncoats (Firefly fans), Gaters (Stargate SG-1 fans), and others space opera aficionados. I also think people who don’t normally read sci-fi will enjoy Artificial Absolutes because it doesn’t read like the average sci-fi book; it’s “feels” more like a contemporary character drama.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

All I need to write is a computer with Microsoft Word. I’ll write anywhere—on the train, during my lunch break, on my bed, wherever!

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I’m a plotter through and through. Before I can begin writing the actual story, I must have detailed outlines, back stories, and action scene choreography. For Artificial Absolutes, I even have a mini encyclopedia for the different locations and technologies!

I begin with a basic brainstorm and then come up with lists of characters, organizations, locations, etc. For the characters, I write out their basic biographies. Once I have all that, I sketch out a skeleton outline highlighting major plot points, then flesh it out into a more detailed outline. The actual writing process tends to go pretty quickly because by that point, I’m so familiar with everything, I know exactly what’s going to happen. But even after all that, I end up deviating from my outline and making things up as I go.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Both. After finishing a chapter, I reread and tweak it before moving on to the next chapter. Then, when the whole thing’s finished, I’ll go through and edit again, and again, and again…

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

No. In fact, I find it extremely distracting. I can’t concentrate at all if there’s music in the background because I end up listening to the music instead of writing.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Yes, but unfortunately, they don’t seem to like space adventures. I’ve seen some with submissions guidelines stating that they’ll consider sci-fi, but that it absolutely must take place on Earth!

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

To me, it made sense to submit to agents and indie publishers (that accepted unsolicited submissions) at the same time. I didn’t have any expectations for Big Six publishing, since space operas (outside of Star Wars and TV show spinoffs) aren’t exactly a hot genre right now, and indie publishers seemed more open-minded about the kinds of books they accepted. I was lucky enough to discover Red Adept and was over the moon when they accepted my book.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?

Red Adept has their book covers professionally done by Streetlight Graphics.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

A little of both. I plan to do the usual—book signings, social media, etc.—and I’m brainstorming other ways to market.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Don’t be shy about your book. Show it to anyone who will give you feedback, and be prepared for criticism. It’s important to know when to take advice to heart and when to shrug and say, “oh well, can’t please everyone!”

About You

Where did you grow up?

I was born in California, spent most of my childhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and moved to Princeton, New Jersey in high school. I also spent a year in Hong Kong in middle school.

Where do you live now?

Princeton, NJ.

What would you like readers to know about you?

Like Jane Colt, I was a music composition major in college, and I still compose in my spare time (I wrote the music for my book trailer, which can be viewed here. Most of my music is vocal (written for choirs and classical singers), and I’ve been experimenting with electronic instruments.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently in the process of writing a second space adventure. I’ve been working on it on and off since finishing the first draft of Artificial Absolutes, and I’m hoping to make more progress on it now that my first book is finished.

End of Interview:

For more about Mary, visit her website.

Get your copy of Artificial Absolutes from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.


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One response to “IndieView with Mary Fan, author of Artificial Absolutes

  1. Awesome indieview, Ms. Fan and I loved the trailer. Good luck with your book, it sounds intriguing. I will have to check it out.