25th May 2019
The Saturday Interview: Z Gottlieb
Thanks very much for your time. Could you please introduce yourself and your book ‘Connor’s Gambit’?
I’m Z Gottlieb, a new indie author. Connor’s Gambit, my first novel, is a science fiction. Connor’s Gambit follows the adventures of a man in his twenties who learns his family is not who he thought they were and is recruited to join an alien space fleet. He learns to integrate his lessons on Earth in the technologically advanced space fleet.
What was the original inspiration behind it?
I wish I could say that I was motivated by a desire to end world hunger or create a path towards world peace, but unfortunately it wasn’t anything that fell in a category to be thought as beneficial for the world. Seriously, the scene of two men fishing at night in a boat kept haunting me for about 6 months and I kept thinking there was a story behind it and started writing. It was very strange because I didn’t fish and had no idea whether there was such a thing as fishing at night. After I finished my book I learned that I as a writer I fell in a category of writers known as asynchronous writers.
Synchronous writers have a definitive story with a start, middle, and beginning. Asynchronous writers literally write all over the place beginning, middle, middle beginning, end, middle…etc, and somehow have a story. I’ve met only one other person who writes like me. I can only answer that there have always been stories screaming inside of me, but Connor’s Gambit is the first time I sat down and wrote the story.
What inspired you to write science fiction?
I grew up with a love of science fiction from books, TV and movies. I believe the genre provides followers a sense of wonderment as it represents our future, not just in technology, but in terms of exploration, and our evolving civilization and culture. In general I have a positive attitude about the future and lean on the positive aspects of what the future can bring humanity. At the same time, Science Fiction brings us warnings of dystopian futures by depending too much on technology without weighing the benefits against the risks. Science Fiction can provide readers with the concept of balancing the changes in technology and culture with the risks of too much of a good thing.
Do you think that speculative fiction has a role to play in the development of society then?
Speculative fiction can provide a perspective of the future both good and bad. It's up to us to understand the benefits and risks that we face as a society, as well as from an individual aspect. For example, we need to think about becoming, too dependant upon technology, pushing biological/genetic advances, and putting every detail of our lives in a commercial database.
For instance, I’m absolutely interested in finding cures for Cancer, Diabetes, Ebola, HIV, and many other debilitating diseases. However, I’m not interested in creating human/animal hybrids to research possible cures. We risk creating new self-aware species and will have a responsibility to protect them as a new human genotype.
I’m also concerned that becoming too automated will take away a sense of purpose and need for human contact with other people. It's great that many jobs are being automated, but will society be able to ensure people have a sense of purpose or that they have earned their accomplishments. What will humanity look like if there is no purpose? Will it continue to grow and advance? Those are subjects that speculative fiction should address as well as the technology advancements.
How do you tell how to balance the old and the new?
I believe to balance the old with the new, we need to look at the effect technology changes are having on our children. An example is GPS devices. I love having a voice give me directions, however, we are raising a generation of children who don’t know how to read a map or understand where north is when the sun is on their right. Is this something to be concerned about? Honestly, I don’t know. Another example is schools have stopped teaching children cursive writing and are teaching children to use keyboards. This has resulted in children taking more notes using keyboards, however, they remember more when handwriting notes. Children could print class notes however, but printing is not an efficient way to record notes. I don’t think there will be one way to balance the old and the new, but we will always need to look at the advantages and consequences of changes we face daily.
Connor’s Gambit tells the story of an interstellar conflict through the prism of a family’s evolving relationships. What made you choose that approach?
I’ve been asked this question before and can’t put a specific reason other than family is very important to me. Rarely do we see how family plays in the decisions of characters in books and yet we each day we are faced with decisions where we need to adapt to meet the needs of the family. The reality for many of us is that family is everything. While my book addresses the traditional families, in our mobile civilization, we may see families of choice. While those families may evolve differently, those families will have the same bonds and commitments as traditional families.
Will Connor’s Gambit have a sequel? Will it use the same family-orientated approach?
The follow on to Connor’s Gambit has the same family-oriented approach. Something happens to the children pulling the main characters off Earth, at leaving Earth defenseless against an invasion.
What do you think is at the core of good speculative fiction?
Good speculative fiction is a dependant upon a good story driven by good character development. Speculative fiction provides readers with settings describing supernatural, futuristic fantasy environments that provide readers with the setting the characters live, work and play. While a reader may be fascinated with the environments, if the characters and the story do not move forward, the book will be boring no matter how fascinating the environment is to the reader.
Do you have a favourite work of speculative fiction?
Kristen Katherine Rausch’s Retrieval Artist series is one of my favorite works. It revolves around a private detective on the moon who retrieves individuals who have disappeared because of crimes they committed against alien nations. Often times the crimes are things we would not think of crimes but because the full consequences of the human’s actions on the alien culture are not entirely understood the individuals life is at risk. The detective only retrieves people when more information of the crime is understood and the individual has been pronounced innocent at times.
I love the way Ms Rausch addresses the different societies and laws and consequences of the simplest actions.
I found the Connor’s Gambit universe to be well-developed and full of novel, interesting ideas. Do you think that modern sci-fi, generally speaking, relies heavily on cliche?
I absolutely believe that modern sci-fi relies on cliches. But if it didn’t sell, then we wouldn’t have the stories or movies that we have now. Many of us return to the cliches because of a sense of familiarity and comfort. On the other hand readers are looking for surprises and changes. A number of people have mentioned Connor’s Gambit’s ending surprised them, because it wasn’t a traditional ending. Through the book I wanted readers to know there was more going on than the conflict and often times there are personal stories that get lost in conflicts. It's the stories and motivations that help win conflicts more than the gee whiz toys, although I’m never giving my lightsaber up.
What are your passions outside of writing?
Outside of writing, I enjoy time with my family which includes my husband and two daughters, two dogs and close friends from my days in the Navy that I consider my family of choice. I also enjoy travelling and seeing the world. I’m fortunate that I am able to travel. Finally, I have a passion for bicycling. I hope to be able to travel and bike in the near future.
What have you learnt about writing by composing your own novel?
Writing is fairly new activity for me. Producing the novel at times was tedious from rereadings, rewording, redescribing, and even completely changing characters or the storyline. With that being said, even though I occasionally think about what changes I will make for a future edition, for the most part I’m pleased with the end product and happy that readers are entertained and filled with a sense of satisfaction when they have finished reading my stories.
The question above was difficult for me to answer. What I learned most had nothing to do with the book itself. I learned that once a story is written and published, I've essentially hung a sign out to say bookstore open - one book, one writer, check it out. It never occurred to me that I was starting a small business that really is more hobby then business and good luck breaking even while earning 35 cents a download. I don't regret it, though. I feel fortunate to be writing at this time vs the 1800 - 1990s when publishers were calling all the shots. Platforms such as Amazon, Smashwords, Google, Kobo have allowed millions of people to pursue the dream of writing and publishing. As readers we are no longer restricted to what the publishing houses think we want to read. We now have more choices, universes, and stories to read then ever. I believe my book is moderately successful and I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to share my story around the world. I've had favorable reviews in UK, India, Germany, and Australia as well as the US, while its flattering, I'm delighted to know that I was able to bring the world together with a book.
Could you say a little about the WolfPackAuthors and the projects you work on together?
Thank you for asking about WolfPackAuthors, sometimes referred to as WPA, because I love talking about the group and what we are doing. It’s an amazing group of people from around the world who have come together through Twitter to support each other’s endeavors and work together helping others in need.
Last fall I noticed people tweeting Connor’s Gambit on Twitter and I tweeted or retweeted (RT) their books. Then one day someone sent me a Direct Message (DM) saying I was a member of the WolfPackAuthors and we would support each other by tweeting each other’s books. There were about 32 of us at that time, currently there are 37 members. We run the gamut in writing genres from Children’s books, Mysteries, Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Poetry, Self-Help, Horror, Mystical, and many other categories. We support each other in a variety of ways. In addition to tweeting books, we talk about family, work, writing, book promotions, vacations, etc.
While tweeting each other’s books, we decided as a group to do an anthology of short stories to bring recognition to the group and our many talented individuals. The more we talked through twitter, the clearer our objectives became. We would write short stories with a theme of wolves and donate all the proceeds to an organization. We picked the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center https://lockwoodarc.org/ , because of their unique mission. They are one of the few organizations focused heavily on wolves and, integrating military veteran rehabilitation into the caretaking process.
The anthology, Once Upon a WolfPack: A #WolfPackAuthors Anthology is currently available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and ibooks. The book is a pretty hefty book with 17 writers contributing to the anthology. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QQ4N5RT/ , The book is also available in print https://www.amazon.com/dp/109504401X.
Your readers are probably wondering how we chose the 17 people to contribute to the anthology with the wide variety of genres. Jeff DeMarco, who leads WPA presented the idea to the group. The writers chose themselves. People who could commit to writing a story, contributed stories, others contributed through editing, beta readers, choosing the cover, and other tasks that go into publishing a book. As a group we understood that a few of us had other commitments and couldn’t participate at this time.
'Once Upon a WolfPack' is a source of pride for WPA, and we have decided to write another anthology with a publishing date of early December with a theme of the moon.
Do you believe in writer’s block? Opinion in this interview series is divided.
I believe people allow themselves to become distracted and are unable to move forward and may have “writers block”. They may be distracted with the thought the story won’t be good enough or they need to meet certain expectation, or they wrote themselves into an impossible corner and just stopped thinking about the what ifs. Or they fear that they can’t come up with something new.
I believe that a writer should take a different approach to get over those periods they are “blocked”. They should write something new, such as a children’s book; take advantage of their environments such as creating a character from someone you observed on a bus; write words in random patterns. Do alternate activities other than worrying about the story may help the person move forward. Another thought is to not care what others think because in the end only one person needs to like it and just write to overcome their “block’.
I haven’t had a “writer’s block” when it comes to writing my stories. I have the opposite problems, a constant barrage of ideas and storylines and unfortunately not enough time to sit and write, since I have a day job, also.
If people want to interact with you online and discuss your book, what’s the best way to do that?
I have a website, but it’s pathetic. While I don’t have writer’s block, I do allow everything to distract me from maintaining the website. But if people are interested in a pathetic site, zgottliebbooks.com.