Five Facts

Five Facts About One Nation Under God

Part Two of the “behind the pages” peeks at my work. This installment is the 2004 dystopian future novel, One Nation Under God.

Fact #1 – People Do Judge Books by Their Covers

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course. After all, the purpose of having an attractive cover is so that people make the judgement to pick the thing up and look at it. But in this case, a lot of people judge it by not only the cover, but the title, too.

This cover should scare the hell out of anyone.

In my last blog, I mentioned an outrageous incident that occurred at the California State Fair some years ago. Here’s a less outrageous one. A guy sees the book and gives me two thumbs up and says something like, “One nation under god… right on, man!”

I gave a slight smile and said, “It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.”

“I don’t care,” he said. “Right on, man.”

Look at that cover. It’s meant to offend the shit out of people. Replacing the stars with crosses? That’s absolutely not okay, folks. But evidently, some people disagree.

Fact #2 – I Had to Change a Character’s Name

In the first draft of the book, President Christopher’s wife’s name was Laura. But then this dude who was running for the office in 2000 somehow “won” the election, and wouldn’t you know it, his wife’s name was Laura.

I didn’t model this character after Laura Bush, but this bonehead:

“Dr.” Laura – hypocritical conservative busybody.

I knew, though, that readers might make the Bush association, so I changed her name to Sarah. No, not because of Sarah Palin. At that time, I thankfully had no idea who that airhead was.

Fact #3 – It’s Clearly Not as Prescient as I’d Hoped

I’ve been asked frequently how I “predicted” some of the things in the book that eventually came to pass in the real world. My answer to that is that I didn’t “predict” anything. I just saw the writing that had been on the wall for a while, and just projected what would happen if the Prez and Congress went ultra-conservative and uber-religious. I mean, more than they were at the time.

However, there’s one thing I did not see coming whatsoever:

I just wasn’t that much of a doomsayer.

Social media wasn’t even on my radar when I was writing the book. Would it have changed the story? Well… no. Because of certain plot points, I wouldn’t have had the protagonist actually using social media, but minor characters would have, and it would have been nice to have included them, if only for more accurate setting.

Any book that’s set in the future invariably will either over- or underestimate how much technology will advance. We don’t have flying cars, yet, after all. But we have the interwebs. Sci-Fi writers of the 50s would probably be surprised by both facts. So I suppose that, even though I didn’t see social media on the near horizon, I’m still in okay company.

Fact #4 – The Book Came to Me Fully Formed

No, it didn’t come to me in a dream, but it might as well have. I was living in Utah at the time (essentially a theocracy) and was sitting at my temp job when the idea just sprang into my brain. Not just the ideas for the characters and general thrust of the story, but also the formatting, a sort of 21st Century epistolary novel, with diary entries, email exchanges, newspaper clippings, web pages, etc. I just knew this was how it needed to be told.

Ironically, it was this form that prevented me from getting agent representation. I kept being told, “Epistolary books are a tough sell.”

Because people don’t buy epistolary novels. Nor do they get made into movies.

Fact #5 – The Book is Actually a Scrapbook… and a Handbook

The format of the book is meant to reflect the scrapbook that the teenage protagonist put together, a chronological telling of her family’s story. This is why many of the aspects of the story are not examined in much detail – they are things only of passing interest to her.

But I also meant for the novel to be a sort of handbook, a very loose primer on many different unconventional ideas, many of which are near and dear to my heart. Just a few of them are: alternative communitiesalternative religionalternative educationalternative relationships, and so on.

a.k.a. Ten Years of Utter Weirdness

Educating while entertaining. That’s always been my goal.

Posted by vmwales in Five Facts, Genre, Other Writers, Setting

Five Facts About Wish You Were Here

This is the first of a few “behind the pages” looks at my books, sharing some little known facts about the works. This week: Wish You Were Here.

Fact #1 – Yes, the Title is From the Pink Floyd Song

No, there isn’t a scene depicting this in the book.

I’m often asked this, so there’s the official confirmation. The original book, as written, contained the lyrics of five songs worked into the story. These were removed prior to publication because I couldn’t afford to pay for the rights to reproduce them. I’d certainly like to issue an updated edition one day that had the songs worked back in (along with the remainder of the accompanying scenes during which the songs are played in the story). The novel itself is divided into five “books,” each one named after the songs, although there’s no indication that this is the case. For the record (and in order), the songs are:

  • “What Am I Doing Here?” by The Moody Blues – Not one of their better known songs and only available (as of this writing) on Caught Live + Five (vinyl) or Prelude (CD).
  • “Night Vision” by Suzanne Vega – I first heard this as the B-side of her 1987 hit, “Luka.” It turned out to be the perfect song for a scene in the book.
  • “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd – What is there to say?
  • “Land Ho” by Roger Hodgson – Released on his second solo LP, Hai Hai, this particular song was written back in his Supertramp days.
  • “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits – Another song that just fit the story beautifully.

Oh, and yes, there is in fact a complete soundtrack to the book. The remaining songs that round it out are all instrumental pieces. Perhaps one day I’ll share those with you, too.

Fact #2 – My Cover Artist Saved Me From Embarrassing Myself

When my cover artist was reading the book to get a feel for the sort of cover she was going to do, she caught a boo-boo in the story. There’s a scene where the protagonist is watching someone field dress a rabbit. I got an email from her saying, “That’s not how you do that.”

Uh, no. Wrong kind of rabbit. Wrong kind of dress.

She’d caught me in a moment of lazy writing. I typically am good about researching things. For that book, I learned more about horses and herbology than you’d believe (and have, of course, forgotten most of it, now). But I didn’t look up how to field dress a rabbit. My bad.

Fact #3 – It’s a Damn Long Book

To my amazement, the book clocks in at more than 300,000 words. This makes it a good bit shorter than the complete The Lord of the Rings, but longer than the second and third books of that trilogy combined. Or for the Harry Potter fans, a bit longer than Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire combined.

I should really charge more for this book.

As I said, this amazed me when I realized it, because I believe (and others have told me) that the book reads very quickly.

Fact #4 – The Book Was Published at a Very Bad Time

The original edition of the book (there have been two) was released in August of 2001. Yes, just a month before a rather infamous event in U.S. history. And the simple truth is that consumer spending dropped considerably in the wake of 9-11. No, it didn’t last long, but another truth is that I wasn’t particularly motivated by that time to try to get people to buy the thing.

No words.

The second edition was released after my second book, One Nation Under God, had gained a lot of great reviews. (But again, since I hate marketing, it’s not as well known.)

Fact #5 – It is the First Book of a Planned Trilogy

Yes, I just said the first book was published in August of 2001, which is very nearly 14 years ago, as I write this. And the second book (which is, in fact, begun) probably won’t be published until 2020. With luck, book three in 2023. Those are just guesstimates, of course.

Besides, I’ve got another trilogy to complete, first.

Though, if she continues to piss me off, I may not finish her books.



Posted by vmwales in Five Facts