Deborah Rix’s favourite position for reading a book is head almost hanging off the couch and feet up in the air with legs against the back of the couch. She’s been reading too much from Scientific American for research and ideas and needs to get back to some fiction. She has a long standing love of science fiction, some of her favourite authors include William Gibson, Philip K Dick, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks. A bit old school.
Deborah enjoyed a successful career in entertainment publicity, live music promotion and event management. Which means she slogged through muddy fields for music festivals, was crammed into concert halls with too many sweaty teenage boys and got to go to Tuktoyaktuk (that’s in the Arctic Circle) for a Metallica concert. She lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, where she is the proprietor of The Lucky Penny, a neighborhood joint in Trinity-Bellwoods.
External Forces is her first novel.
Visit her website at www.DeborahRix.com.
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About the Book:
A lot can happen to a girl between her first kiss and her first kill.
It’s 100 years since the Genetic Integrity Act was passed and America closed its borders to prevent genetic contamination. Now only the enemy, dysgenic Deviants, remain beyond the heavily guarded border. The Department of Evolution carefully guides the creation of each generation and deviations from the divine plan are not permitted.
When 16-year-old Jess begins to show signs of deviance she enlists in the Special Forces, with her best friend Jay, in a desperate bid to evade detection by the Devotees. Jess is good with data, not so good with a knife. So when the handsome and secretive Sergeant Matt Anderson selects her for his Black Ops squad, Jess is determined to figure out why.
As her deviance continues to change her, Jess is forced to decide who to trust with her deadly secret. Jess needs to know what’s really out there, in the Deviant wasteland over the border, if she has any hope of making it to her 17th birthday. Because if the enemy doesn’t kill her first, the Department of Evolution probably will.
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Q: Thank you for this interview, Deborah. Can you tell us what your latest book, External Forces, is all about?
External Forces is about Jess and her group of friends and the challenges they face in a future where evolution is the new religion and deviations from the divine plan are not permitted. It’s about being a teenager and the choices you have to make as you decide who you are going to be and what you stand for. It’s also about racism and bigotry, ethics in biotechnology, eugenics, the corruption of science by religious belief, the loss of privacy. You know, all the fun stuff.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Jessica Grant is the MC, she is a 16-year-old girl who is at the beginning of her journey to discover who and what she is. She is considered different and has labels placed on her. She needs to decide what she will call herself. Her best friend is Jay. He is gay but pretends otherwise for his mother, although he has no shame or fear about it himself. He begins to explore who he really is as the adventure takes off. Sheree is Jess’ new friend and she doesn’t let anyone tell her who she is. Matt is Jess’ sergeant and the guy she falls for. He knows exactly who he is and he has lots of rules to prove it, until there are no more rules. They are all teenagers faced with a changing world and changing identities.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I’d say it’s 95% from my imagination. The physical aspect is something that I will rely on other people for. Sometimes I think of someone I know or I might scroll through images on a google search until I come across the vague person in my head. Then I can properly describe them and bring them to life. But, no, they are not based on people I know.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I knew where to start and where I wanted to end up. I discovered a trilogy in between the beginning bit and the end part. I did not have an outline or synopsis or any sort of organizational chart when I started writing. I made all of it up as I went along. I was frequently surprised by what my characters did.
Q: Your book is set primarily on an army base. Can you tell us why you chose this location in particular?
An army base, or any military setting, is a place where things can happen at an accelerated speed and intensity. Young people are forced to confront impossible situations outside of their scope of experience, and they are expected to make intelligent, rational decisions about life and death. They are also expected to surrender their identities and blindly follow orders. For any reasonably intelligent person this is going to be difficult and fraught with peril. An excellent setting for a book about teenagers discovering their own identities.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Yes. It provides the opportunity for constant conflict with authority. It is also a physical barrier between the inside world and the outside world. The inside world is familiar to the characters, but the border between is heavily fortified and guarded, so the outside world is mostly unknown. Geographically, it was necessary to set up a military base near the Hoover Dam to make the plot work. As it happens, there is a real military base in proximity to my imaginary one.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Jess, Sheree and Jay, the new squad members, are listening to a story told by Ramόn and Boyd, the ‘veteran’ squad members. It is about Matt, their sergeant, and Charlie, his second in command and the strangely symbiotic relationship they seem to have. It is also a story about loyalty and bravery and personal sacrifice and it explains the ethos of the squad.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
This is a scene with Jess and her sergeant, Matt. There is a romantic element developing in the scene and it’s tentative and sweet. But Jess is also discovering some things about herself, discovering that she has some power.
Matt has decided that my sparring skills need some work.
I never expected to be in a combat position, so I didn’t train for this very well. Sheree pointed out that Matt does not do private training with anyone else.
Training is in a small room with a padded floor. We’re standing a few feet apart, both barefoot in loose clothing. My hair is tied back, showing off the last remnants of my bruises beautifully. Matt takes a swing at me, I block it. He aims low, I block again. We’ve been doing this for a while; he is purposely going slow so I can get my technique down correctly.
“You don’t want to tire yourself out by kicking and punching way too hard from the outset,” he tells me. “And blocking is hard on your body, so evade or redirect the punch. The best block is not to be there.”
Now he instructs me to go on the offensive. I throw a few punches, I think I’m actually going to hit him, but the wind suddenly goes out of me. Matt punched me in the gut!
“You still need to protect yourself when you’re attacking,” he admonishes as I stagger back a few feet.
On impulse, I run at him and kick him as hard as I can in the shin. He wasn’t expecting it at all.
“Ow! What was that for?” he asks me indignantly.
“Just something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now,” I answer breezily, attempting not to show how much I hurt my big toe.
He straightens up and looks at me for a too-long moment.
“Let’s move on to some kicks then, shall we?” He sounds almost amused, which takes away any satisfaction I felt.
He demonstrates, and I attempt to duplicate his technique. Matt takes a forward step then spins into a back kick to the middle. I try it, but I can’t keep my momentum, and the kick is way too low. I try a few more times. Matt tells me to slow it down.
He stands right beside me, almost touching, and I follow his movements as he steps forward and shifts his weight to his front leg. Then he reaches over and lifts my back leg by gripping my thigh, and slowly turns me into the kick.
Holding me in the correct position, he leans over to my ear.
“When you do it, follow through all the way. You have to fully commit to it,” he says softly.
It almost sounds seductive. I draw in a wisp of his scent. My heart beats a lot faster. I can still feel his touch after he releases me. I try a kick in slow motion, and I know how to do it. I run through it again, using his hands as a target.
I think about muscle memory, and wonder if it only works with him.
“You don’t have the mass or upper body strength for most slams,” he says, looking me over.
Hand on my hip, I say, “You know, a girl could be made to feel inadequate with that kind of encouragement.”
“Don’t get cute,” he says.
“Yes, you are. You’re cute.” He grins.
I shut up.
“The double-leg takedown will be your best approach for getting someone to the ground.” He crosses his arms and gives me the once-over again. “It’s pretty straightforward. Using your forward momentum, you get your opponent off balance by grabbing him at the waist or upper thighs and falling on top of him.”
Without thinking too long, I lunge at Matt, wrap my arms around his waist, and we go down. One of my hands is trapped under his back as I sprawl awkwardly on top of him. Our faces are inches apart.
“So, J. Grant. Do you have me at an advantage or a disadvantage?” he asks quietly, as I stare at his mouth.
With my hand trapped, I can’t pull away, and he has an arm around me, so I can’t roll off. He pushes a stray strand of my hair behind my ear and my skin blazes so hot that he must notice it this time. His finger trails down my neck and stops on my hammering pulse.
He quickly rolls us, so he’s on top. He raises himself up and looks down into my eyes. My breath is quick and shallow.
“I think you have the advantage,” he says, his voice all low and husky.
We stare at each other for a long moment. Then Matt sinks to the mat beside me and gives my hand a squeeze.
“That was a good takedown, J. Grant. Well done,” he says.
I think he means the lunge, but I’m not entirely sure.
Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?
I haven’t had writer’s block, it’s maybe the opposite. I have had to delete 10,000 words at a time because I couldn’t stop the overflow of words. But each deletion resulted in a much better rewrite. Sometimes I think I need to get the idea out, however badly written, so that I can work with it and turn it into something decent.
Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?
Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?
Oh, man. I can’t answer this. There are any number of books that I love and can reread multiple times. There are books that I only want to read once, but they are still impactful and stay with me. But do I wish I had written any of them? No. I love those books written by other people but I wrote the book I was meant to write.
Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?
Oh, I’m the worst person to ask for this kind of advice. Against my own best advice I change my mind about how publishing works on an hourly basis. I guess that’s it, that’s the advice. You need to be flexible, you need to be able to adapt to an ever changing landscape without jumping on every new ‘must-do’ that is being spouted. A year ago ‘platform’ was the mantra, now I’m hearing agents and publishers say authors don’t even need their own website if facebook and Goodreads will do the job. The experts don’t necessarily know what they are doing either.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Deborah. We wish you much success!
Thanks for hosting me.