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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Interview With Environmentalist and Award-Winning Writer M.E. Parker



Author of Jonesbridge: Echoes of Hinterland

1.    Your book addresses an issue we all cringe about, showing a futuristic world where our digital history can't be accessed. What inspired you to write this tale? My wife often laments, in her photography business, that the growing trend with many of her portrait clients is to request digital only files instead of prints. She reminds them that that if their adult grandchildren are searching their attic someday and discover a chest of DVDs or hard drive backups, it’s’ likely they will be disappointed when they can’t access the contents. The cloud addresses some of this, but in the event of loss of cloud, that too is a puff of wind. It is true that photographs fade and turn yellow with time. They are susceptible to fire and flood damage and your grandmother’s attic may have a family of squirrels nesting in the photo box, but we are storing an increasing amount of our information in digital only format, which is subject to configuration, encryption techniques, decryption technology, hardware and software constraints, OS versions, drivers and dependencies and hackers. We have become more and more dependent on digital media, and at our immediate disposal, the vast amount of information about anything--conditioning us to search instead of learn. What happens if this is lost? Finding an old book or cache of papyrus in the desert can offer a wealth of information. Finding a thumb drive without the means, format, or power to access the information renders it useless.

The world of the Hinterland Trilogy originates from an inexplicable fascination I had a as kid with drawing factories and chimney stacks belching smoke into the sky. I drew them tall and short and in perspective, no drawing complete until the the smoke filled the page. Thirty plus years later, I ran across one of those drawings in a stack of keepsakes at my mother’s house, and my eye was drawn from the edge of the page to the world under the smoke, a future world in a dark age where technology has been lost and with it the information we’ve amassed in the digital realm. I wondered whether I would have found those old drawings had my mother scanned them and stashed them into a raid backup drive years and three generations of computers ago.  

The predicament the world of Jonesbridge finds itself in rises from the growing trend and inevitability of all new information being store digitally and what knowledge might be lost in a catastrophic failure of computers and devices. When knowledge is lost only speculation remains. A dark age. The characters Jonesbridge know what they have been told by others who know as little as they do and the world is once again discoverable.

2.    Is there anything we can do to insulate us from an online apocalypse? I don’t know. The incredible amount of redundancy in our online infrastructure make it unlikely that a civilization-altering loss of data can occur unless there is a catastrophic EM/nuclear/solar event that culls a good bit of the population with it--when advancement falls in favor of survival. The hard copy information might survive. The digital might not. But it’s called speculative fiction for a reason, I guess.

3.    What challenges did you overcome to pen this story? The world of the Hinterland Trilogy originated from a short story I wrote called, “The Harlot of Baltimore,” first published in 2009 in the MacGuffin. I wrote Jonesbridge: Echoes of Hinterland, the first novel in the Hinterland series, in response to the interest generated by this short story, but it was long process. As most novels, Jonesbridge endured numerous drafts at the request of my agent and editor, but in the case of Jonesbridge, it took “many” drafts of the ending before I found the one that truly fit. I believe there was only one ending for Jonesbridge, and it was there, but it took a long time to unearth it, I knew it when I finally found it.

4.    Speaking of digital meltdowns, could ebooks one day be unreadable or inaccessible to us?  I think this is something that could definitely be a problem. I have many old books, some hundreds of years old, and numerous books out of print. There are many scenarios by which digital only books could be lost, especially if the devices used to read them no longer have power or become inoperable or incompatible.

5.    Where do you see book publishing heading? I personally love books. I collect antiquarian books and I hate to think of them disappearing (which luckily I don’t think they will). I do think publishing will continue in the digital direction because it is a much more efficient and economical business model and it is more environmentally friendly. There is still a large demand printed books, a demand that re-gained ground on digital books last year. It will probably be a push and pull, digital vs. print, for a long time, but the economic models will become more creative.

6.    Any advice for struggling writers?​ It’s never as good as you’re sure it is when you’re writing it and never as bad as you think it is when you read it back for the first time. Write the book you would want to read. And tenacity sometimes goes farther than luck.  

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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