Last week marked the release of Ruins, the final book in the Partial Sequence by Dan Wells. As this series is easily my favorite of the post-apocalyptic genre, I was positively thrilled when Wells agreed to answer a few questions on my blog (which, by the way, I think is one of the coolest things ever). If you’ve read my review of Partials and Fragments, you know I admire this author for the many things he does brilliantly in his novels. From world building to great characters to amazing plots, he can do no wrong. Now, join me in a geek-out as we learn more about inspiration behind this series!
Q&A with Dan Wells:
What was the inspiration behind the Partial series?
There are so many inspirations for this series, but I’ll narrow it down to three:
1) I love post-apocalyptic stories, and I wanted to tell one. I grew up in the Cold War, when we were certain that the world would end in a nuclear salvo, but I was more interested in writing a plague-based apocalypse because of how personal it is: it doesn’t destroy our cities or our structures, just the people. We’re all gone, but our stuff remains behind, and the few survivors would be living not in some barren wasteland, but in the ruins of our homes, with our clothes in the closets and our pictures on the wall. There’s something so evocative about that, I had to write it.
2) I love Battlestar Galactica, and particularly the human-like Cylons in the new series, and I every time I watched an episode I’d think about new stories to tell about them, and new ways to play with the idea of humanity, and what it means to be human, and how very subtle differences can divide us in vast, irreconcilable ways. My Partials are a hundred miles away from the Cylons, in terms of where they come from and how they work and what makes them different and what makes them the same, but that core idea of the artificial almost-human alien was a big inspiration.
3) I love Hermione Granger, but it always bugged me that she would find all the answers and solve all the puzzles and then stand to the side while Harry got the credit. I created Kira as the fiery, super-smart heroine because I wanted to give Hermione a chance to be the star.
Who was your favorite character to write about and why?
I love them all. I love writing Kira because her heart goes so much faster than her head, and she rails against injustice no matter what the consequences might be. I love writing Marcus because I see so much of myself in him, and I love writing Samm because he wants everything Kira wants but for such different reasons, an he goes about it in different ways. I love writing Afa because he was such a good-hearted, complex challenge, and I love writing Haru because he’s a complete douchebag who’s right way more often than we want him to be. More than anybody else, though, I love writing Heron. She’s so far removed from human thought and emotion, and so ready to do whatever it takes to survive, and so ripe for incredibly dark humor. Every scene she’s in was so much fun to work on.
Did you have any struggles while writing the series?
The single biggest struggle in this series was the time frame, which was incredibly short. I had just a few short months to outline, write, and revise each book before it had to be turned in and off to the printer, and I ended up with long hours and sleepless nights on all three just to get it done. We got better with each book, though, and everyone at Harper was amazing to work with, which made it easier. Still, though. At one point the deadlines were so tight we had to do two simultaneous edits, each focusing on a different thing, and then shuffle them together for a final proofread. It all turned out great in the end, but if I ever have to do that again it will be too soon. The next series I’m doing with Harper we pushed back a few months, just to give us more breathing room :)
What do your writing habits look like?
I have an office in my home, with a door I can lock to keep out the kids; it has bare walls, and a mostly bare table, and if I had to work in those conditions for a real office job I’d hate it, but for my purposes at home it’s exactly what I need. I have my laptop open to several different outline and planning documents, and then I write everything on my tablet and bluetooth keyboard. I spend a few hours each morning doing Internet stuff like twitter and facebook and awesome interviews like this, and then I’ll review everything I wrote the day before, and then I write for four or five hours–usually 2500 words a day on an average.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Allow yourself to write a bad book. Aspiring authors tend to think they’re first book has to be perfect, because they’re going to publish it and make a zillion dollars, but that’s not how art works. A painter doesn’t get his first painting hung in a museum, and a sculptor doesn’t get her first statue into an expensive gallery, and we authors need to remember that our first works are just like theirs: they’re practice, not designed to sell but designed to teach us how to write. Finish your first book, warts and all, and then your second will be better, and your third will be better than that, and so on until your writing is awesome. I wrote five books before finally selling my sixth, and now I’ve published eight, but if I’d insisted on perfection I’d still be revising that first one, over and over, all alone in a room somewhere.
What are you working on next?
Lots of things! Here are the main ones:
1) I have finished a manuscript I’ve been working on for about three years, tentatively titled Extreme Makeover: Apocalypse Edition. It’s a corporate satire about a health and beauty company that destroys the world, and I love it beyond measure. We’re still working on selling this one, but I hope you’ll be able to read it soon.
2) New John Cleaver books! My first trilogy, before Partials, was a supernatural thriller about a teenage sociopath who fights demons. I’ve just signed a deal to write three more in that same series, and it’s been great to get back to that character again.
3) An all-new YA science fiction series called Mirador, about a teenage hacker in a cyberpunk Los Angeles. It’s got high-tech mysteries and scary criminals and steamy romance. The first book is called Bluescreen, and it comes out in Fall of 2015.
Thanks again Dan Wells for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I loved learning more about the process of creating the Partials series, but was most inspired by your advice to writers – it described me to a T (which was a little freaky, by the way) and was exactly the advice I needed to push forward with my own projects. I am really looking forward to reading all of your upcoming books!
I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A as much as I did. If you haven’t picked up the Partials Sequence yet you are sorely missing out – it is amazing!