What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
Swarm is a fast-paced high-tech thriller that melds technology and hacktivist culture with primal human urges and social forces that may or may not trigger the next phase of human evolution. There is a mystery at the heart of this cautionary tale, but part of the surprise is how much of the events and technology in Swarm actually exist today. No matter how far-fetched some of the things that happen in Swarm seemed, I felt that reality was chasing right behind me. This book is for anyone who loves science-fiction, mystery thrillers, and stories that use fictitious scenarios to reveal a deeper truth.
What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
Technology is moving faster than we can absorb it – and some of the same innovations that make our lives easier also bring new dimensions of uncertainty and danger. As technology blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, past and future, right and wrong, we must find the courage to protect and assert our humanity. There is a lot of noise about machines owning the future, but I’m still betting on the durability and evolutionary potential of our own species. Without a human heart beating inside every digital step forward, without human emotions and needs and dreams linking us all together, magical machines have no value and no future. And when new technologies and products ask permission for access to our brains, we should take a long collective breath and make sure we’re not giving away something that can never be taken back.
What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
Do not underestimate the value of small random tidbits of information that catch your attention and tickle your imagination. Write them down, text them to yourself. Keep them in a folder and when the folder gets fat and heavy you’ll know it’s time to think about writing a book. And don’t be afraid to revise – it won’t hinder the genius of what you’ve already written. To the contrary. I revised Swarm ten times over four years. When you’re making improvements that are so minuscule nobody else will ever notice, that’s the signal it’s time to publish and move on.
What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
We are in a golden age of storytelling. The hunger for compelling narratives of every kind is insatiable, stoked by the same forces that are squeezing the traditional publishing industry. Writing books and nothing else is great work if you can get it. But the opportunities –and demands– of social media, video, vitrtual and augmented reality are something that every writer needs to take seriously. But good writing remains at the core. I recently shared a virtual reality clip of Swarm VR Experience at the Sundance Film Festival. It definitely raised the profile of the book and allowed me to try my hand at intriguing new platforms for immersive storytelling. Still, if the novel at the heart of it all wasn’t sturdy and true, none of those flashy high-tech extensions would matter.
What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
Swarm is novel, but I researched it as much as any of my non-fiction books. It was a challenge to make sure that the trove of information never overwhelmed the human dimension of the story, but the personal passions behind big ideas ended up being the book’s moral compass and subliminal message.
If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
Swarm is Orwell’s 1984 updated for the Age of Trump. It’s a thrill-ride exploration of the convergence of technological, social and biological forces that are raising the stakes and shocking the system of every person on this planet. Grounded in techno-moral conundrums as familiar and unnerving as tomorrow’s headlines, it is a searing cyclorama of a world groping for meaning and redemption in the maw of the imminent now.