LIST OF INTERVIEW Q&A's
1. What was your inspiration for this book?
Star Wars meets Enders Game meet X-Men. There are many subgenres in Science Fiction and I pulled from some of my favorites as I wrote I Am Sleepless: Sim 299. I brought in a little of the Military SciFi, mixed it with some Space Opera and added Comic type super powers.
But originally the idea for I Am Sleepless came after I had a dream about kids with super powers, but they all had physical handicaps. Around that same time, I was also thinking a lot about how much I could accomplish in life if I never had to sleep. Mash those two ideas together and the story for I Am Sleepless sprang to life.
2. Who is your favorite character in your book?
Ooooh, that's tough. Part of me love's the Director because he's crazy and I have some fun stuff planned for him in book 2. But even so, I have a soft spot for Fig. A lot of my natural humor and sensibilities come out in Fig's character.
3. What is your favorite meal at the Cheesecake Factory?
I've had a few dinners at the Cheesecake Factory, but surprise surprise, I really I go there for the Cheesecake. And my favorite cheesecake is Chocolate Peppermint Bark, though the Tuxedo Cream is a close second.
4. What is your favorite scene in your book?
The trials in the castle, specifically when they face their fears. Those scenes wrote themselves and my fingers couldn't keep up with my mind as I wrote them. Not only were they fun to write, but they brought more depth to Aidan, Zana and Dixon's characters.
5. How long have you been writing?
Three years. It took me two years to write my first book, which is currently a trunk novel and needs a total rewrite before it's close to being publishable. But I learned so much in the process of writing that first book. When it came time to start I Am Sleepless, I felt much more confident and comfortable in my writing. So much so that instead of taking two years, I finished the first draft in 3 months.
6. If you had to be one person from the novel, who would you be and why?
Aidan. Not only does he have multiple powers, but he's just a nice guy. He still has a sense of humor, but he can also be a leader and keep calm in tense situations.
7. What is your favorite of the prime types?
Agulators, hands-down. I came up with the name from the word coagulate, which means to change to a solid from a liquid. The way Agulators can change their density and weight, and how they use it to fight and fly through the air is just an awesome Prime power.
8. How did you come up with the ideas you used in your book (i.e. the aliens, animals, etc.)?
At the time I was writing this, my kids were watching a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra (which I probably enjoy as much as my kids). They had all of the mixed half-breed animals in the show and I jokingly started coming up with my own mixed-species animals like the Hippophant, Corcobull, Spidergeese, etc... These were quickly added into the plot and will have a more important role in the storyline for book 2.
The alien Splicers were written to be the antithesis of the Primes in their powers and strength. Book 2 and 3 will go more into their background as the conflict between them grows.
9. Any other interesting facts/info you would like to share about you or your book?
Interesting facts about me
1. I play a mean blues harmonica, along with guitar, bass, piano, a variety of hand drums, and the trombone.
2. I once met the Yankee Hall of Famer Joe Dimaggio in a Martinez, California mall parking lot. I was only 8 years old and my dad pointed him out to me as we were getting in our minivan. Naturally, I snagged my dad's softball mitt out of the back of our van and ran up to Jumping Joe, who was in his eighties at the time, and asked for his autograph. He was amazed I knew who he was, gave me a big smile as he shook my hand, and happily autographed the glove. Sadly, the signed softball mitt was later stolen. There went my college fund.
3. I've visited 46 of the 50 United States of America.
Where did you get the idea for this book? (I AM SLEEPLESS: SIM 299)
Most of my book ideas come from dreams I have at night, which are a mashup of events that happen in my daily life combined with the books, shows and media I take in. So basically, my dreams are about me being a super hero and so are my books.
For I Am Sleepless, I had a dream about kids with super powers, but they had physical handicaps. Around that same time, I was also thinking a lot about how much I could accomplish in life if I never had to sleep. Mash those two ideas together and that’s where the idea for I Am Sleepless sprang from.
Will there be more books in the series? (I AM SLEEPLESS: SIM 299)
Yes, the series is a trilogy and I have two more books planned. Search for the Reader is next and The Splicer King is the final book.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a mini novella series titled 4 YEARS TRAPPED IN MY MIND PALACE. I'm about 3/4 through the first draft and have a release date of May 2016.
You can download the first 5 chapter sampler (remember it's a first draft) at my website http://iamsleepless.weebly.com/4-years-trapped-in-my-mind-palace.html
4 YEARS TRAPPED IN MY MIND PALACE SYNOPSIS:
Diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis, eleven-year-old Aaron Greenburg is paralyzed from head-to-toe. He can't move a muscle or any part of his body, including his eyes or his eyelids to blink. Although he is alive, his doctors believe he is brain dead and unaware of his surroundings. But Aaron is not brain dead. He is very much aware of everything, trapped in his own mind with no way to communicate with anyone, including his parents.
Placed in a rest home for full-time care, Aaron retreats into his mind to cope with his imprisonment. But after one year alone, Aaron receives a roommate in the form of an outspoken, old, Jewish jazz musician named Solomon. With the blanket diagnosis of dementia, everyone thinks Solomon is crazy, especially Aaron. But when Aaron talks to Solomon in his mind, carrying on the normal one-way conversations he has with all of his visitors, something strange and unexpected occurs.
If you had a superhuman ability, which one would you like?
Touch someone and take away their greed. Think of how much better this world would be if you could take away greed and selfishness. Say so long to wars, murder, broken families, etc...
Who is your favorite author?
Brandon Sanderson. I’ve been hooked on his books since I read his Mistborn series a number of years ago. I’m pretty sure I’ve read every book he’s published, some of them multiple times. The worlds he creates, the magic systems, and the intrigue/mysteries he runs in the background make for amazing stories.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to play instruments and create music. I play/dabble in a number of instruments including guitar, bass, trombone, blues harmonica, piano and percussion. The best part is my kids are getting old enough that they are starting to make up songs on the piano and we have Family Jam Sessions. We also have Family Fight Nights. My oldest children take martial arts and we like to put on the sparring gear and go at it. The kids take turns coming at me two at a time, (even my 3-year old daughter), and they practice their strikes, kicks, blocks, etc... Basically, they get to hit dad and we have a lot of fun.
My wife and I also own and operate the online retail store www.playfullyeverafter.com. We sell toys, games, costumes and home décor items. It’s more than a full-time job, but luckily we have a handful of wonderful employees, (most of them family members), and we get to work from home. This gives me a little more flexibility to write.
When and why did you begin writing?
My writing journey started as I became involved with Anti- Human Trafficking non-profits. (You can learn how I became involved at blog http://abolitionistjb.blogspot.com). As I learned about modern slavery and met former slaves, I realized I wanted to tell these stories. But some of the stories are so raw and unnervingly sad that they are hard to read and wrap your heart and mind around without spiraling into depression yourself.
So I set out with the goal to write a fictional story that gives the facts of human trafficking, showed you what was going on around the world, but gave hope through a hero, almost a super hero of sorts, that fought back. I wanted to make learning about these tragedies palpable to help spread awareness about what’s being done to combat modern slavery.
This became my first story, ABOLERE (which is still a trunk novel). I learned a lot about writing and my own process with that first book, but Abolere still needs some TLC to make it publishable. My goal is to finish it by Dec 2016. You can read the first chapter sampler on my website at http://iamsleepless.weebly.com/abolere.html.
What genre do you consider your book(s)?
This is tough because I have books planned for multiple genres including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction and Crime Fiction. I also have two non-fiction books I want to write.
That’s why I decided to create the pen name Johan Twiss. I plan to use the Johan Twiss pen name for all of my SciFi/Fantasy books and my real name, John Burger, for everything else.
The problem is I have a backlog of book ideas and I get more each week. My wife lovingly smiles and nods her head, sometimes rolls her eyes, every time I say, “So I had a dream last night and I’ve got this great idea for a book.” Maybe someday I will be a full-time writer and my writing will slowly catch up to my list of ideas.
Do you write an outline before you write?
Yes, but it’s very bare bones. I have a long list of book ideas that I let simmer in my mind. When one of them starts to combine enough “cool scenes” in my head, I move it to the outline stage. My outlines consist of a few bullet points, with very few details, and they are usually incomplete sentences. It’s basically a list of the scenes I’m excited to write about, put in order for the story to take place.
This is where my addiction to writing is fed. I love the discovery process of filling in the gaps and creating a story from these scenes. I’m always surprised and fascinated by the ideas that pop into my mind and exploring where those take the characters and plot. It gives me goosebumps. It’s the drug that keeps me writing.
Please fill in the blank:
Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate-- unless you're allergic, in which case I will eat your chocolate and mourn for you.
What advice would you have for writers?
As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But in the case of writers it’s, “Just keep writing, just keep writing.” The more I write, the more I learn about writing. I have a couple of trunk novels that may never see the light of day, but I learned quite a bit from the discipline of writing them.
Tell us three things no one knows about you.
1. I play a mean blues harmonica, along with guitar, bass, piano, a variety of hand drums, and the trombone.
2. I once met the Yankee Hall of Famer Joe Dimaggio in a Martinez, California strip mall parking lot. I was an 8 year old kid and my dad pointed him out to me. So naturally, I went up to Jumping Joe as he unlocked his car and asked for his autograph with my dad’s softball mitt that I snagged out of the back of our minivan. The signed softball mitt was later stolen. There went my college fund.
3. I’m Batman- wait, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Writing is an addiction for me, and it's one that I wholeheartedly feed. I love the discovery process creating a story from scratch. I’m always surprised and fascinated by the ideas that pop into my mind and exploring where those take the characters and plot. It gives me goosebumps. It’s the drug that keeps me writing.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Honestly, I have not experienced writer's block yet. I'm sure I will at some point, but for now I have dozens of ideas for books and exciting scenes I want to write in my current works in progress. Right now I wonder if I will ever be able to write all the stories I want to tell.