Thank you, Debra, for this opportunity to appear on your blog.
Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
I am excited that my new book Crystal Rebellion, the third full-length scifi thrill-ride in The Crystal Series, is now available on Amazon. I love the story, think it’s my best work yet, and am anxious to learn if others agree.
The first two books, Crystal Deception and Crystal Conquest, established the series characters and defined their world—Earth in the not-too-distant future with aliens at our door and AI helping with our defense. This new book is different because it introduces our heroes as an established and functioning team rather than one in the process of formation and self-discovery. I’ve written the story as a stand-alone book so new readers can start with it and enjoy the fun.
The setting is on Mars, and the bad guys are three AI crystals left behind after the last alien invasion of our solar system. The story contains all the grand elements of The Crystal Series tradition—aliens, spies, artificial intelligence, romance, and battles in space! Our heroes struggle to save the world and soon realize they need to save themselves. I’ll leave it at that as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. I invite everyone to give the book a read and enjoy the fun!
Do you have a favorite character?
I love them all. Central to each tale is, Criss, a four-gen AI crystal with the cognitive ability of a thousand humans, and the overarching personality in the series. Hard-wired to protect and serve his human leadership team, Criss is able to project his awareness through the web, and so we find him at the center of each story’s intrigue.
The team includes Dr. Jessica “Juice” Tallette, the crystal scientist who created Criss; Cheryl Wallace, an ex-captain of the Fleet space cruiser Alliance; and Sid, a one-time covert spy for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who now helps Criss protect Juice and Cheryl.
Crystals that think? Are these fantasy stories?
No, they are science fiction in the tradition of Star Trek and I Robot. It turns out that the chips in our computers, smartphones, and even cars are computer processors made from crystalline silicon. And artificial intelligence researchers around the world write software programs that run on clusters of these silicon crystal chips. Once refined, the final architecture will be shrunk to fit on a single chip. So to me, “AI crystals” seem like a predictable technology. The “AI with sentience” issue is the wild card. But hey, these are alien crystals.
What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your books?
I chose to become an indie author for a number of reasons: I’m eager to get new works out to readers in a timely fashion, I want to maintain long-term control over the work, and I’m excited by the entrepreneurial challenge. Self-publishing has all aspects of the small business enterprise, including product creation, branding and marketing, finance, project management, and intellectual property concerns. I love exploring ways to pull those levers to advance my writing career.
Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Absolutely. I am sensitive to the oft-cited notion that self-published works are too-often released without proper review. So all my books move through the same process: detailed beta critiques by a couple of experienced writers; a developmental manuscript evaluation by Tammy Salyer, a talented book editor found at http://www.inspiredinkediting.com; then a line-by-line copyedit by Tammy; and then a final proofread by another professional editor. I make refinements between each step, and the process helps me produce a book that is technically sound so the reader can focus on enjoying the story.
Were you involved in the creation of your book covers?
I wanted the book covers to evoke the same general sense one might get from reading the story: teammates, or perhaps they are lovers, on a futuristic shoot-em-up adventure in space.
I worked with the talented designers at https://damonza.com. I suggested the idea that each cover show silhouettes of a man and a woman in a vague military-space-style setting, and hinting at a retro vibe. From that, they developed the covers. I love what they did, and I also like that, lined up, the covers themselves show a story progression in the action of the characters.
Do you belong to a writers group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I belong to a writers group—in a parallel universe—and it has indeed improved my writing. This past summer, while I waited for others to read and comment on Crystal Rebellion, I started an online journal—a fictitious story about me participating in a writers group. I challenged myself to post a humorous bit every few days. The results can be found at http://crystalseries.com/writers-journal-humor. I put up 20 stories—more than ten thousand words—as I struggled to be humorous on a tight schedule. I had so much fun this summer that I will continue adding stories, but at a slower pace than before.
Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I begin with an idea in my head and then start writing. I don’t plan, and in fact even prohibit myself from thinking too far ahead, because my joy comes from the creative process of writing into the unknown.
I write each scene in the order it will appear when published. The fun thing about this is that my stories follow a rotating point of view among the characters, and don’t always follow a straight timeline from chapter to chapter. So, I write a story that does not follow a strict timeline sequence, and that rotates among the viewpoints of the central characters, in page order.
And to really make it fun, I don’t allow myself to go back and change a previous scene to help me solve a challenge with the current one. To me, plot development is like solving a puzzle. I enjoy being at a particular point in an adventure, with characters deployed here and there, all with histories and in certain situations, and now I must move forward in a plausible and entertaining fashion.
It’s a slow process, but my key to success is persistence. I write every day for a few hours. And slowly but surely, I write books. In this manner, I wrote Deception, Conquest, and now Rebellion, taking just over a year to write full-length stories (ranging from 96-99K words each, for those who think in word count). The editing process adds another four months before publication.
What have you learned during your writing journey?
That writing is an art form. If I make it personal, it’s a joy to pursue.
How does your day job impact your stories?
My day job is Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. In that role, I get lots of practice presenting science and technology in a manner accessible to a broad audience. It’s become second nature and reveals itself in my writing.
As one example, readers in the USA are familiar with units of distance being inches, feet, and miles. Elsewhere, readers are more likely to use centimeters, meters, and kilometers. So, to avoid the issue altogether, I use analogies. “The pole was as thick as his thumb,” or, “he could touch the ledge by standing on his toes,” or “keeping a steady pace, she walked to the farmhouse in just over two hours.”
I do this because I don’t want readers to be pulled from their immersive experience trying to picture a scene in their head using unfamiliar units. And while I’m not sure it matters in the end, it shows the level of detail I consider when crafting a story.
What’s next for you?
The epilogue of book II, Crystal Conquest, suggests the premise for this new release, Crystal Rebellion. And Rebellion’s epilogue suggests the premise for the next book, Crystal Escape. That’s all the clues I’ll give to my wonderful readers. I’m three scenes in on the new book and already know it will be the best one yet.
Crystal Rebellion buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KDWYXS4
As a child, Doug stood on a Florida beach and watched an Apollo spacecraft climb the sky on its mission to the moon. He thrilled at the sight of the pillar of flames pushing the rocket upward. And then the thunderous roar washed over him, shaking his body and soul.
The excitement of the moon landing inspired Doug to pursue a career in technology. He studied chemical engineering in college, and he now works as a professor and entrepreneur when he is not writing. His passions include telling inventive tales, mentoring driven individuals, and everything sci-tech.
In the books of The Crystal Series, Doug swirls his creative imagination with his life experiences to craft science fiction action-adventure stories with engaging characters and plot lines with surprises. He lives in Connecticut with his darling wife and with pictures of his son, who is off somewhere in the world creating adventures of his own.
Author Web: http://crystalseries.com/
Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/Doug-J.-Cooper/e/B00F7IJBP0