Friday, August 26, 2011

Interview with Cyrus Keith

Today, my guest is science fiction author, Cyrus Keith, talking about his MuseItUp release, Unalive.

AUTHOR: Cyrus Keith

      1.Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
Well, I like long walks on the beach, quiet evenings with a glass of wine, and my turn-ons are fictional people in misery.
No, seriously, I'm a Midwestern boy in heart and a proud Air Force veteran. I've walked in some very dark places in my life, and persevered, and I'm looking forward to a much brighter future with m family. Been married twenty-two years and together we have four little buckaroos who ain't so little anymore (teenage drivers and antique Cadillacs… what a mix)
I love science fiction and military fiction, as well as military history. I write sci-fi thrillers mostly, but I have some hard science fiction in the works as well, along with a dark comedy and a couple historical novels.
Science fiction is an awesome challenge, because to be credible takes insane amounts of research, and I am a science geek from way back. I learn something new from each project.

      2. Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

Unalive is my second novel published with Muse It Up Publishing. It continues the story of Nadia Velasquez, a transhuman built to be the most powerful and unstoppable assassin's weapon in history.
  1. How long have you been writing?
That is such an unfair question. I wrote little stories when I was but a wee lad, mainly one- or two-page typed adventures. But I wasn’t what anyone could call "determined" until 2003. A friend of mine (fellow sci-fi buff) told me about a space opera concept he had, and four years later I had a horrid little train wreck of 80,000 words. By the time NADIA came calling, it was too late. I was hooked.
  1. What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
I'm not sure why I decided to write out my friend's idea. It just seemed like something that would be fun (All you other writers out there…shush!). He was trying to be a writer and got swamped by all the details of writing (I know; when you're up to your elbows in alligators, it's hard to remember you came there to drain the swamp). So me, being the sly, quick-thinking man that I am, opened my fat yap and said, "Hey, buddy, lemme have a crack at 'er."
  1. Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I like to start with an outline, or at least a couple pages of notes. I'm not organized enough to actually lay out an "outline" (as I hide in shame from the ghosts of my English teachers), but before I invest the time in a project, I need to know:
A) Where am I starting?
2) Where will I be when I've finished?
Scribbled in the margins) What kind of misery can I inflict on my characters between the start and the finish.

  1. What comes first: the plot or the characters?
No rule of thumb. With The NADIA Project, the plot is the main character, and her desire to find a purpose for her existence. For the first book in the series, Becoming NADIA, the plot and the character came along at the same time, literally the same moment. For Unalive, the plot was there first. Then I rounded out the cast as needed. When the moment comes along, the character will come to fill the gap.
7.     7. Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I know the story line is more about Nadia, but two characters are my favorites, for two very different reasons. Bunny Kalinsky is the guy who says what we all wish we could and get by with it. The poor guy just can't hold back. 

Jenna is the other, because of just who she is. I can't say all the girls want to be Jenna, but she is independent, strong, smart, and damaged. Just what we all love in an anti-heroine. 

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
You mean besides editing? (EDITING! Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch…) Okay, back to reality. The hard part is connecting the dots. I have these "waypoints" that I use as I go along, certain things that WILL happen or the story flies into a million pieces. So I connect the dots as I go. Sometimes my characters try to change the waypoints. They don't want to go to Point H. They want to go to a pub instead, and have roast beef sandwiches and wine.
9.     9.  Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?
The main research in this book was geographical. Part of it takes place in Papeete, Tahiti, and in Prague in the Czech Republic. Since first-hand research was more expensive than the budget allowed, I had to dig deep to get details of both places so someone reading the book would feel like they've been there. I hate reading a book with glaring errors and details that are obviously pulled off the top of the writer's head. I want to be taken away to those places, and it follows that I want to take my readers to a place that screams "Gauguin was here!!"

As for how long it takes, I just don't have consistent information. My first book poured out of me in fifty-five days, but took another two years to learn about writing so it could get published. There's a difference between writing a story and being a writer. Unalive took about two years, but I put it down for almost six months because I was attacked by time gremlins.

  1. What are some of the challenges in your writing process?
The big one is time. I work full time as an avionics systems tech for corporate jets, which is much less glamorous than it sounds. Plus, I have a wife and four little (okay, not so little anymore) buckaroos who need a husband or a dad. I'm also a musician, and for a while, I was an assistant scoutmaster.

  1. Describe your writing space.
*Looks around sheepishly* You really don't want me to do that.
  1. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Time with the family is important. We take drives, go for walks, and in general annoy each other like normal families do. But we spend time together, and none of us would trade those moments when we catch each other just being themselves.
  1. What books or authors have influenced your writing?
Robert Heinlein and David Weber are my favorite science fiction authors. I study their techniques and use them. Heinlein weaves a world so subtly, you never burn your eyeballs on useless wanderings about "Let me explain how my world works." Weber uses huge casts of characters and somehow keeps them all individuals. His characters are real people, not stock cardboard cutouts.

Louis L'Amour paints scenes like a grand master. You breathe the dust, hear the squeak of leather, smell the gunpowder. And Frank Peretti puts the cookies on the bottom shelf. He writes with a free and easy style that is, for lack of a better term, "obtainable" for the reader.

       14.  What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
Print books are not going away. If they do, it will be a dark day, because sure enough some jackwagon who's read 1984 too many times is going to come up with a way to rewrite our history. We need print. eBooks are awesome, because I can carry a municipal library with me everywhere I go. The drawback to eBooks is the initial investment in the reader. I have probably about a 3% to 5% audience who have readers. All the rest are waiting for me to go into print.

Now, as how that affects publishing, I can only speak as one with very limited experience. But from where I stand, I see the relationship between author and house changing. I think writers are going to have more to say, especially on contract terms. Publishing houses will soon realize they don't have the monopoly they once enjoyed, and will have to give writers incentives to work with them.

  1. What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for release?
Becoming NADIA is out now. You can get the scoop on that one at Unalive is available at The third and final chapter of the NADIA Project is Critical Mass, and it’s a work in progress. I shuld have it buttoned down in the next few weeks and get the ball rolling on edits (EDITS!!!! Slowly I turned, step by step. Inch by inch…)

      16.  What is your marketing plan?
A-a-a-a-a-ah…. To sell books?
       17.  What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Keep your sense of humor. It's not easy, but it makes the difference. Rejection is a way of life. Don't let form letters determine the quality of your work.

      18.  Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Well, I have a Facebook page, and readers can add me over there. In addition, my work is all available from Muse It Up Publishing, Lea Schizas' Powerhouse of epublishing. Check us all out at Join the reader's group and get premium goodies like free eBooks, talk to the authors and get to know them, get news on new releases, and all kinds of fun stuff. 

Here's the backjacket blurb:
In the second installment of The NADIA Project, the potential stakes are raised even higher. The lab where Nadia was built is no more. But when The Pinnacle strikes back at the government agencies trying to crack its secrets, a horrible truth emerges: The evil cabal of kingmakers is still building living weapons of mass destruction somewhere on the globe.
Jon Daniels and Nadia Velasquez must find the lab and stop it before a new wave of terror erupts across the world. In order to succeed, though, they must get through The Pinnacle's most deadly weapon: Jenna Paine. 
All who stand between evil and the innocent are two ancient warriors, a misfit genius, a rogue FBI agent, and a living antimatter bomb named NADIA.

Thanks for having me, Penny.


  1. Cyrus not only has a sense of humor, but he's a prolific writer. His series, The NADIA Project, is truly a thriller that readers won't be able to put down. Book One, Becoming NADIA introduces the hook, plot, and main character, but in book two, Unalive, the action and suspense ups its pace.

    Bravo and tons of kudos, Cyrus. May you have continued success in your career.

  2. I have to say that sci-fi is not my usual read, but I loved Becoming NADIA the minute I picked it up (and actually read the first 20 chapters in one go because I couldn't put it down). I can't wait for the third installment and my husband (also a David Weber fan) is getting ready to read them too.

    I should also mention, as his editor, that Cyrus is wonderful to work with.

  3. Lea and Fiona, thanks for stopping in. It's always a pleasure to hear from people who have read the featured author's work.

  4. It was great meeting and hearing more about Cyrus. Thanks, Penny. And Cyrus, best of luck, though I suspect your talent will take care of that.

  5. Great interview. And without humor, how would we survive?

  6. Great interview! So nice to meet you, Cyrus. Definitely some solid advice for those of us who happen to be newbies. Oh, and best of luck with UNALIVE. Sounds like an awesome story.

  7. Gail and Joylene, thank you both for stopping to comment. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

  8. Diana, I'm sure Cyrus will appreciate your stopping to comment.

  9. Nice interview Penny & Cyrus. It's great learning more about a fellow Muse author. Congratulations on Unalive, Cyrus.
    I'll be seeing you at my place soon.

  10. OOOh, Kay Dee...that sounds intriguing. Your place, eh? Just kidding. Thanks for stopping to comment. Good to hear Cyrus will be making the rounds on other blogs.