Title: The Immortality Game
Author: Ted Cross
Cover Design: Cover Illustration © Stephan Martiniere
Cover Design: Cover Illustration © Stephan Martiniere
Release Date: 24th November 2014
BLURB supplied by the Author
Moscow, 2138. With the world only beginning to recover from the complete societal collapse of the late 21st Century, Zoya scrapes by prepping corpses for funerals and dreams of saving enough money to have a child. When her brother forces her to bring him a mysterious package, she witnesses his murder and finds herself on the run from ruthless mobsters. Frantically trying to stay alive and save her loved ones, Zoya opens the package and discovers two unusual data cards, one that allows her to fight back against the mafia and another which may hold the key to everlasting life.
First of all, Sandra, thank you so much for having me on your blog! It's tough for unknown authors to draw attention to their work. My name is Ted Cross. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona but moved to Tucson when I was six and grew up there. After graduating from the University of Arizona, I went to work overseas in Moscow, Russia and haven't looked back! I've now lived, for work purposes, in Russia, Croatia, China, Iceland, Hungary, and Azerbaijan.
When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
My grades in school showed me that I was good at writing, but I didn't go further with it for the longest time. It wasn't until I lived in Beijing that some story ideas that had been knocking around in my head for many years finally became insistent, and reading A Game of Thrones gave me the format for how I'd like to write (with each chapter rotating between different point of view characters). That was only about eight years ago. I think I finally felt like a writer once I completed my first novel, an epic fantasy which I plan to publish next year.
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I work full-time as a diplomat. My specialty is communications, so I get to deal with all kinds of areas in my work from radios to satellites to telephones and computers.
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
I'm published by Breakwater Harbor Books, which is a small publisher, but they have been great for my needs.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
With my busy career, I write and edit slowly, so each book has taken a little over three years. I hope to retire in about seven years and write full time, so hopefully I can speed up!
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre?
Books of a different genre? My books are all set in the same 'universe' that I created, which is set in our future. It may seem odd that the first one is a cyberpunk thriller while others are either epic fantasy or adventure sci-fi, but there is a very logical reason for it. I've posted about it on my blog for those willing to dig through my older posts. Actually, this first published novel--the near-future thriller--developed as backstory to one of the characters in my epic fantasy.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
This debut novel was a combination of three things. First was what I mentioned before, that I had developed pretty detailed backstories for the characters in my first novel, and I was especially fascinated with the backstory of the wizard, who had long before arrived as a scientist from Earth. The other two elements came from story ideas I had had long ago but couldn't figure out how to develop them into full stories. One was a Russian mafia crime thriller, originally set in the 1990's (when I lived there) and the other was a set of new twists to old sci-fi tropes that I had come up with. Once I realized I could make my 'wizard' be a scientist who is part of the team developing the new technological twists from the sci-fi story and push the mafia story into the future, making them the antagonists, the story came together quickly and turned out great.
Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I've been fortunate to have many reviewers for this book. I've long been a part of a writing community called Authonomy. The site has its struggles, but I managed to find a handful of especially terrific writers and became friends with them. They helped beta read my novel to point out lots of small things that I couldn't spot myself. Then I was lucky to have a real HarperCollins editor review my book, and the review was really great. HarperCollins asked to see the whole manuscript, but in the end they passed. I don't know why, as they don't say--it could be anything from them already having too similar a book in their catalogue to one or more members of their review board just not liking my book enough. But it was still very encouraging to me to have an industry professional give my novel such a great review.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
After years of only concentrating on writing, the marketing aspect is brand-new to me. Yes, I have been trying to find book review sites and blogs where they like sci-fi, and when their submission guidelines say they are currently accepting, I send them a free copy of my book and ask if they are intrigued enough to do a review. Many of them seem overwhelmed by too many submissions, so I have to hope that my book stands out above the crowd.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
I had a vision for what I wanted on the cover--basically the Pyramid casino and twin hotel towers that make up the base of operations for the Russian mafia gang in the story. I hired a Hugo-award winning artist, Stephan Martiniere, to do the work, first of all because he has long been one of my favorite artists, and secondly because I almost never see him produce anything that I don't like. He was fantastic to work with, and his final product came very close to what I had envisioned.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Mainly I just make them up, at least for the fantasy novels. For this one I Googled Russian, Icelandic, Danish, etc., names since I had characters from these various countries, and picked out ones that suited what I needed. For last names I mostly went with famous chess masters, since I'm a huge chess aficionado.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
Many traits end up being added as I'm writing, but I don't begin to write unless I already have a general idea of what a character is like. I purposely chose to make my American character be Mexican-American, because I don't see them represented nearly enough in entertainment. And since so many books tend to make characters a little too perfect or beautiful, I chose to have him be a former addict who doesn't get out much and is a bit overweight. That gave him a great character arc, going from a person who is down on himself to eventually being a hero.
How do you market/promote your books?
I'm finding this part tough, since I'm new to it, and also because no matter how big a sci-fi fan people are, they don't seem very willing to even take a glance at a book by an author they have never heard of. Just getting them to consider my cover and blurb for a few moments is a real struggle. Of course I'm posting on Facebook and on my blog (and Twitter, though I'm brand new to that). I'm sending out free copies to potential reviewers, and I'm trying to encourage readers to not just read, but if they liked the novel then go one step further and help generate that crucial word of mouth by posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and telling anyone they know who enjoys thrillers or sci-fi to check out the book.
What do you do to unwind and relax?Do you have a hobby?
I have too many hobbies, which is part of the reason I write so slowly. I'm very much into chess, and I also play guitar, do a bit of acting, travel, read, take photographs, and spend way too much time watching movies or playing computer games.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
Absolutely. The main character in this debut novel is based on my wife, as she was when I first met her nearly twenty years ago. No character is ever based solely on one person, though; I take some traits and mix them with others, depending on the needs of the story. I set the story in Moscow because I spent years living there and had so many intense experiences there. All throughout the stories I write are bits and pieces of experiences from my life. I have one character end up in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, because that was the small town outside of Reykjavik that my family lived in for two years.
Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
Lots of authors have influenced me, but the biggest are Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
Paperback. Since I move a lot, I don't like the weight of hardbacks since it costs me more to ship everything. Ebooks are fine for whenever I travel, but when I'm relaxing at home I still prefer to hold a good-old paperback.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
It depends on the director/producer team. Many adaptations have been disasters, but there are exceptions, such as Blade Runner and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Actually, I developed the story of my debut novel in my head as a film first, so I wrote it entirely with the idea of it working well as a movie. I can dream, can't I?
What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I'm re-reading a paperback of Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. I had read his Arkady Renko novels long ago, and recently I read a new entry in the series and it made me nostalgic, so I'm going back and reading the series over again. Smith is just a wonderful writer!
Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
I don't know about encouragement at school, but I think many parents aren't doing enough to encourage a passion for reading in their children these days. Part of it is the internet and handheld devices, of course, but parents have the choice to do something about this if they want. I believe that fiction is the foundation of imagination and helps develop deeper intelligence, so it's distressing to me to meet so many young people who admit they just don't bother reading books.
Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
I typically finish books that I start, but there have been some recent exceptions. I couldn't stand Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, so I got about halfway and then tossed it.
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
I would pick Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, and Patrick Rothfuss. King is the consummate pro, and I've loved his writing for decades. His book On Writing is one that I re-read every so often, because it is fantastic. I'd love to pick his brain about so many things. Martin is my favorite living writer, so of course I'd have so much to delve into with him. And Rothfuss is my favorite newer author, with his first two books being so fabulous, plus each time I see an interview with him he seems like such a fun and interesting person to be around.
Where can readers follow you?
Facebook page: Ted.Cross.Author
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9846871.Ted_Cross