Please welcome Gerald Brandt to The Qwillery. The Operative, the 2nd San Angeles Novel, was published on November 1, 2016 by DAW.
TQ: Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Operative (San Angeles 2), was published on November 1st. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Courier (San Angeles 1) to The Operative?
Gerald: It's great to be back! Things have definitely changed between The Courier and The Operative, but they are mostly based around time management rather than actual process. Things change once you're under contract and have a deadline, and the pressure quickly begins to mount. In the last interview, I mentioned I used Post-it notes on a white board to get my scenes organized. I did the same thing this time, but I really only hit the high points. Instead of having 65-75 scenes done in advance, I only had about 35 done. What was missing was the glue between the them. When I transferred from the white board to my spreadsheet is when I filled in the missing scenes and the details. I may slowly be leaving the white board and Post-it notes behind!
TQ: What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Courier came out that you know now?
Gerald: The short answer is everything! What I didn't know about book publishing could have fit into a library. The problem is, it still can. That being said, I know far more now than I did before. If I was to hit some high points, I'd say I wish I knew more about the editing process and timelines, from the initial editor's comments to the copyedits to the final page proofs. It is significantly easier to do edits at the early stages than at the later ones, but if serious issues arise (as they did for The Operative), it is still possible to do some big changes in the copyedit stage. For The Courier, I entered the publishing process with some trepidation. I wish I knew then that everyone (and there are quite a few) involved in the process wants to make the best book possible, and they are all on the author's side. Everyone from the editor to the copyeditor to the proof reader to the layout people and the artists and the publicists want the book to succeed as much as I do.
TQ: Which character in the San Angeles series (so far) has surprised you the most? Do you have a favorite character?
Gerald: Being in the middle of revisions for The Rebel, book three in the series, that's a tough question. At this point in time, there are really no surprises left for me. If I think back to when I wrote The Operative, I'd say there were two characters that took a slightly different path than I had envisioned for them. I won't say what role they play in the novel (no spoilers!), but I'll give you their names. Janice and Pat. They both grew into more than I had expected, especially Pat.
My favorite character still has to be Kris. She's the reason I wrote The Courier in the first place. A lot of fans have said that Kai is one of their favorites, and I really struggled with him in The Operative. I think the end result is something that does justice to both of them.
TQ: San Angeles is a multi-level corporate controlled mega-city. How did you come to create San Angeles? Do you see any of the antecedents for such a mega-city happening now?
Gerald: What a great question! When I created San Angeles, I wanted a place that physically reflected the social status of the people that lived there. I also wanted a background thread on over population and limited resources. Both of those points precluded any sort of sprawling city. When I first designed San Angeles, it was only three levels, and there were three basic social status's a person could be (minion, middle class, upper class). I soon realized that was far too simplistic of a model, and the city grew to seven levels with the addition of geosynchronous satellite cities. The physical difference between Level 2 and Level 3 is minor, but the people on Level 3 still think of themselves as better than those on lower levels.
One interesting piece I put in was the inversion of the social status inside buildings. In the city, a higher level equates to more status, in a building (on everything except Level 7), the higher the floor you work or live on, the lower your social status. I ended up doing that because I had to keep people alive. The lower levels are essentially enclosed spaces. Massive, but enclosed. I had to get air recycling and pollution removal into the city, and the best place to put them, where you wouldn't lose valuable real estate, was on the ceiling. So the closer you are the the infrastructure, the worse off you are. The reason the inversion rule doesn't apply to Level 7 is because it is open to the sky, there's no ventilation or plumbing or lights to avoid.
In many of today's larger cities, huge skyscrapers reach for the sky, and they are stacked side by side by side. Granted, every floor is roughly only three meters high, but it is still a proven method of getting a lot of people into a small foot print. I essentially extrapolated that idea into a full size city. As for the corporations running almost everything, you simply have to look at the power current corporation have with their lobbyists and support of politicians. That one wasn't as big a leap at the city itself.
TQ: Tell us something about The Operative that is not found in the book description.
Gerald: Even though The Operative is as action packed as The Courier, it has a sadder tone to it. The novel delves a bit more into the flaws that make people who they are and influence what they do.
TQ: Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Operative.
He laughed quietly to himself. He’d never thought being tied down and lying in his own excrement would be an improvement.
There were no tears. No more screams. The girl whispered a word. Pat twisted closer, her back shrieking.
“Pourquoi?” It was barely a whisper. “Pourquoi?”
TQ: In our April interview you said that "Currently I spend my time standing in front of my white board with colored Post-It notes for THE REBEL..." Have you moved beyond the white board? Is there anything non-spoilery you can tell us about The Rebel?
Gerald: I think I answered the first part of this in a previous question. I still use the whiteboard, but only for the major scenes and pivot points. The remainder of the scenes I now do in a spreadsheet.
Non-spoilery, eh? A tough one. I'm in revisions with The Rebel, and things are still changing slightly.
There is a person in The Courier that comes back and has Kris changing her opinion about them, and The Operative takes place almost a year after The Courier, while The Rebel leaves only a two week gap from when we last see Kris.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at again The Qwillery.
Gerald: Once again, some great questions that got me thinking! Thank you so much for having me.
A San Angeles Novel 2
DAW, November 1, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
Kris Merrill was a survivor. She’d lost her parents as a young girl, and she’d been forced to flee the dubious shelter of her aunt’s home at thirteen to escape the unwanted attentions of her uncle. She’d lived on the streets of San Angeles, finding refuge in the lowest level of the city. When she got the chance, Kris found a room to rent on Level 2, earning a precarious living as a motorcycle messenger, a courier delivering sensitive materials the megacorporations would not trust to any method that could be hacked.
A year ago, Kris’s life changed irrevocably when a delivery went terribly wrong, and she was targeted for termination by the Meridian corporation, one of the most powerful of the megaconglomerates that controlled the government. Salvation came in the form of Ian Miller, who rescued Kris from certain death, recruiting her for the underground resistance group of which he was a part.
Since then, Kris has been hidden with the resistance, training to become an operative. Just as her training with the anti-corporate movement is nearing its end, their compound is destroyed by surprise attack. Ready or not, Kris and the other trainees are recalled to the dangerous metropolis of San Angeles. But their transport is shot down and Ian Miller, the man she loves, is captured. Someone, it seems, is using him to get to Kris.
With the help of a retired operative with PTSD, and the mysterious man who fled the scene when Kris’s parents were killed, Kris searches for any sign of Ian. As the corporations battle civil unrest—and each other—the city slowly shuts down. Kris and San Angeles are running out of time….
A San Angeles Novel 1
DAW, November 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 1, 2016
Kris Ballard is a motorcycle courier. A nobody. Level 2 trash in a multi-level city that stretches from San Francisco to the Mexican border—a land where corporations make all the rules. A runaway since the age of fourteen, Kris struggled to set up her life, barely scraping by, working hard to make it without anyone’s help.
But a late day delivery changes everything when she walks in on the murder of one of her clients. Now she’s stuck with a mysterious package that everyone wants. It looks like the corporations want Kris gone, and are willing to go to almost any length to make it happen.
Hunted, scared, and alone, she retreats to the only place she knows she can hide: the Level 1 streets. Fleeing from people that seem to know her every move, she is rescued by Miller—a member of an underground resistance group—only to be pulled deeper into a world she doesn’t understand.
Together Kris and Miller barely manage to stay one step ahead of the corporate killers, but it’s only a matter of time until Miller’s resources and their luck run out….
Gerald Brandt’s short story “Storm” appeared in the 2013 Prix Aurora Award-winning anthology Blood & Water. By day, he’s an IT professional and coding guru. In his limited spare time, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, rock climbing, camping, and spending time with his family. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two sons.