In the modern era of publishing, where most writers spread their talented tentacles through the more marketable medium of novels, Eric James Stone took the path of the old Speculative Fiction masters. After countless (okay, about 51) published short stories, a Hugo nomination, and a Nebula win, Eric’s first novel released January 5 from Baen Books, and looks to be something hard to forget.
Eric, unlike me, can totally pull off the beard look, and was kind enough to talk with me about UNFORGETTABLE.
SG: Quantum mechanics and espionage play a large role in UNFORGETTABLE. How much research went into writing this novel?
EJS: Most of the research on quantum mechanics was just having read various articles in magazines and online over the years. I did look things up on Wikipedia for specific concepts, like the details of Schrodinger's original thought experiment about the cat. As for espionage, I must confess my research was watching the TV show ALIAS, along with watching various spy movies and reading spy novels.
SG: Who is Nat Morgan, and what makes him unforgettable for readers?
EJS: Nat is the protagonist of UNFORGETTABLE. Due to a fluke of quantum mechanics (detailed in the novel) he's a CIA agent who can't be remembered for more than a minute by anyone he meets. I hope that readers will remember him as someone who took that challenging situation and tried to make the best of it, combining resourcefulness with good humor.
SG: UNFORGETTABLE started as something you serialized for your blog readers. What did you learn from that experience, and can we look forward to any more stories this way?
EJS: I actually didn't intend to serialize it when I started writing. But the original version of the novel was far too short for agents and publishers. So after I gathered a bunch of rejections I decided to serialize it on my blog, while also releasing the full novel in self-published form so that anyone who was intrigued enough by the serialized parts wouldn't have to wait to finish the novel. However, before I had finished serializing the novel, I got an offer of representation from my agent, so I stopped the serialization and took down the self-published version of the book. After some extensive revisions, I had a new version that was not only better, but also long enough that publishers were willing to look at it.
As of right now, I have no plans to serialize future novels on my blog. But you never know.
SG: UNFORGETTABLE is your first published novel. How many had you written before?
EJS: I had written one novel before UNFORGETTABLE, an epic fantasy. I looked at the prologue recently and felt embarrassed at how cliched it was. So it's unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon. Maybe after I'm dead, my family will sell the novel in order to capitalize on my fame. ;-)
SG: You made your name from short stories. How do you approach novels differently from your shorter work, and how does the writing experience differ?
EJS: I have found that I can successfully write a short story without an outline, but I need an outline for a novel. I have several novels I've begun without outlines, and they've all fizzled out after only a few chapters at most. I think the main difference in the writing experience itself is that with a short story, I try to be as direct as possible, while with a novel I feel at liberty to go off on tangents for a while.
SG: Favorite moment from UNFORGETTABLE you can talk about?
EJS: My favorite passage is the first scene I wrote. It was originally the first chapter of the novel, but in the process of revising, I added a new beginning. The scene involves Nat trying to demonstrate his talent to a CIA recruiter.
SG: Favorite SFF archetype?
EJS: I was going to say "The good guys win against overwhelming odds," but that archetype isn't found only in science fiction and fantasy. So I guess I'll go with The Chosen One, because my favorite TV show is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
From the cover:
Out of sight, out of mind.
In the near future, a fluke of quantum mechanics renders Nat Morgan utterly forgettable. No one can remember he exists for more than a minute after he's gone. It's a useful ability for his career as a CIA agent, even if he has to keep reminding his boss that he exists.
Nat's attempt to steal a quantum chip prototype is thwarted when a former FSB agent, Yelena Semyonova, attempts to steal the same technology for the Russian mob.
Along with a brilliant Iranian physicist who wants to defect, Nat and Yelena must work together to stop a ruthless billionaire from finishing a quantum supercomputer that will literally control the fate of the world.