This terrific guy is one of my favorite people. Adam Heine is a talented writer and amazing dad whose debut, Izanami's Choice, is coming out THIS WEEK. I am blessed beyond measure to have Adam for a critique partner (he is invaluable), and his sense of humor is the kind that makes me laugh out loud when I'm sitting in an empty room reading an email from him.
I'm delighted to offer you this exclusive interview! And stick around until the end, because I've got a SPECIAL PRIZE FROM ADAM that's begging to be given away.
AUTHORESS: So, first things first. What was your inspiration for writing Izanami’s Choice?
ADAM: I had a lot of inspirations (as you might imagine from a story about artificial intelligence, retired samurai cops, and Meiji-Era Japan). The idea to mix genres in this particular way came from an occasional recurring series on the Penny Arcade webcomic called Automata, which combines sentient robots with 20's noir. Those comics were really the spark that catalyzed this whole thing. Other strong inspirations include Gibson and Sterling's classic steampunk novel The Difference Engine as well as James Clavell's fantastically detailed Asian Saga books. The first is a must-read for steampunk fans and the second for Japanese history nuts. Both are required reading if you want to combine the two.
AUTHORESS: Clearly you're both passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to Japanese history and the other elements of your story--steampunk, martial arts, etc. From where does this passion stem? Why write this particular story?
ADAM: Some of the elements you mention -- steampunk, martial arts, artificial intelligence, evolutionary programming, etc. -- are personal interests that get thrown into a melting pot of ideas until a story comes out. But the passion comes from the elements that are personal to me: fatherhood, fear of losing my own children (and how I might react if I did), exploring difficult concepts like prejudice, free will, what it takes to fix a screwed-up world, and whether that price is worth it. These elements make it into a lot of my stories.
As for why Japan? The easy answer is that Japan has always captured my imagination since I was a boy -- the culture, the history, the stories and worlds they think of that are so unlike the average Western tale. In particular for this story, Western and Japanese cultures have such different outlooks on machine intelligence. I thought it would be interesting to look at it from a new point of view (to Americans at least). I also chose Japan because I want to see more diverse books and as an author I have (a teeny, tiny amount of) control over that.
At the same time, I'm acutely aware that -- although my wife and kids lie along a spectrum from Asian to Asian American to Half-Asian American (long story) -- I am not on that spectrum at all. I love reading diverse books by diverse authors, and I love that we're seeing more of them, but I can only write books by me. So I choose to write diverse books, though only in areas where I feel like I have a chance of getting it right. And I will always strive very, very hard to get it right... and to learn from where I screw it up.
AUTHORESS: Well, I think you've gotten quite a bit right here! You know I've always marveled at your world-building skills, and Izanami’s Choice is no exception. Will you share an elevator pitch, and let us know why Itaru's story is so compelling?
ADAM: I'm flattered you think I got some of it right! So Izanami's Choice is a sci-fi story set in an alternate Meiji Era Japan. Instead of an industrial revolution, Japan has undergone a cybernetic revolution, importing advanced Western technology and adapting it as their own. Robotic automatons serve at every level, as laborers, soldiers, couriers, shopkeeps, personal servants, and more. Japan has embraced androids as part of life.
But Shimada Itaru frowns on Japan's reliance on androids, distrusting for rational -- but perhaps too personal -- reasons. A domestic droid called Gojusan shows up on Itaru's doorstep in the middle of the night asking for help. Before he can turn it away, though, they are attacked by military assassin droids, and Itaru finds himself on the run from assassins and the police. The only way to clear his name is to find out what really happened to Gojusan's dead master.
Of course, the truth is something neither of them expect.
AUTHORESS: I'm pretty sure the life you're currently living is something you never expected, either. Can you share some of this amazingness with us?
ADAM: Heh, the "long story" I mentioned, right? So my wife and I live in Thailand where we take care of "kids with nowhere to go." That means children with no relatives to take care of them, or in some cases the relatives that do exist would be genuinely dangerous for them to stay with. Right now, we have two biological children, one (recently!) adopted daughter, and seven foster children.
AUTHORESS: And now my readers know why I have you on a very high pedestal.
So, no interview would be complete without letting us know a little bit about Torment: Tides of Numenera, which is yet another creative endeavor into which you pour pieces of your soul. Share a little about this exciting RPG and your involvement in it as a writer.
ADAM: Right! So Torment: Tides of Numenera is a single-player, story-focused RPG to be released early next year. It's a thematic successor to Planescape: Torment, which continues to be listed as one of the best RPGs of all time seventeen years after its release. T:ToN is a science-fantasy story set on Earth one billion years in the future, where people live among the ruins and detritus of inconceivably powerful civilizations that rose and fall before them. It's the embodiment of Arthur C. Clarke's famous quote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
I'm the game's Design Lead, which means I'm in charge of system design, game rules, player stats, and stuff like that. I also got to do content design for about a third of the game (designing scenes, quests, and characters) and write several of the games conversations (of which there are a lot -- the game clocks in at over 1,000,000 words!). Torment is the main reason I've written only novellas and short stories these last couple of years.
(By the way, T:ToN is available now as an Early Access game on Steam. If you like role-playing games where dialogue and player choice is more important than action and stats, set in a weird and awesome blend of sci-fi and fantasy, you should totally check it out.)
AUTHORESS: Adam, it's been a delight, as always. Will you please let our readers know when and where they can grab their copies of Izanami’s Choice?
ADAM: Absolutely! Izanami's Choice will be released on September 1st, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon or directly from Broken Eye Books. (You can also ask your local bookstore to order it for you, if that's the way you like it).
Thank you SO much for having me here, Authoress. It's always a pleasure!
AUTHORESS: Thank you, Adam! Truly wishing you all the best with this debut.
And now for the contest!
If you PRE-ORDER your copy of Izanami’s Choice prior to this Thursday, you will be eligible to enter a drawing to win a 30-page critique from Adam. Trust me -- YOU WANT THIS CRITIQUE!
- Pre-order Izanami's Choice from the online bookstore of your choice.
- Forward your sale confirmation email to me at facelesswords(at)gmail.com. NOTE: Please change the subject line to ADAM HEINE CRITIQUE.
- That's it! On Thursday, I will enter all eligible email addresses into a random drawing and will announce the winner.
Good luck! And thank you for supporting one of my favorite people/writers/superheroes.