What if earthquakes disrupt life in places without fault lines? What if the tides and sea levels shift significantly? What if those in power refuse to take action despite scientific data? What if dreams provide a terrifying vision of the earth's apocalypse? Marissa Carter's THE TURNING is based on a powerful series of "what ifs."
When unexpected earthquakes appear within a week of each other in Houston and Ohio, both a scientist and a religious leader seek explanations. Elsewhere, Dr. Zoe Frazier offers an explanation to the scientific community. For years she has collected data showing that the earth's axis could shift. Changes in magnetic fields discovered during flight confirm her worst fears. Her documentation is disavowed, however, by senior scientists as well as business and government leaders.
Pastor Ruth Ann Davies, whose belief in God has been sorely tested, sees her church destroyed, then dreams about the coming natural disasters. She follows her instincts and tries to warn people. Tidal waves of epic proportion are coming, but those in authority turn a deaf ear.
Marissa Carter researched the scientific facts carefully and presents the potential for world collapse in THE TURNING. I found myself fascinated by the possibility of a shift in poles and how it would change people's values and needs. People's reactions to natural disasters, their resistance to facts, and their survival instincts all mixed together effectively in this tale. Read about this intellectual scientist's adventures as a fiction writer in the interview below.
LG: Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing? Did you write non-fiction first?
MC: I have been writing for decades, although I only started writing novels in 1992 --THE TURNING is my third. During my scientific career I wrote dozens of articles and business papers. Although that helped my basic writing, I discovered that writing fiction is a whole different ballgame. Learning to build suspense, believable characters and achieving an intense plot is something that only practice and hard work can produce.
LG: What kinds of research about earthquakes, geology, and spiritual thought did you do before writing this book? Could you have done it without your scientific background?
MC: I am fortunate to have a broad science background. It would probably be tough for a non-scientist to write a book like THE TURNING, although not impossible. For example, I read several textbooks on earthquakes, plate tectonics and volcanoes at the graduate level. I wanted to be sure of my facts, and give the reader a glimpse of the geology and physics behind an axis shift. Extracting the right type of information from original scientific papers and textbooks isn't easy, but when done well, lends an authenticity to the book.
As for the spirituality aspect of the book, I have been a spiritual person since my near death experience in 1997 and I included a lot of my personal experience in the text, in essence writing what I knew about. Creating the background for Ruth [the Unitarian Minister in the book] wasn't easy, but I was guided by spiritual principles, common sense and information I sequestered on various religions.
LG: Dr. Frazier's research certainly seemed credible to me as did Ruth's spirituality. Your story is clearly motivated by a "what if." What message do you hope readers will take away?
MC: Natural disasters will always be with us. What I wanted to do the most, was show how human beings react when faced with death and destruction. Some people will deny it, some will commit suicide, some will try to profit by it, and some, the spiritually guided folks, will pull together and try to ride it through. I also wanted to show that science, by itself, does not have all the answers to the world's problems, and that spirituality, a good sense of ethics and values will often go a long way to solving them.
LG: The book effectively blends those ideas. How do you maintain so many character's stories simultaneously?
MC: Plot interweaving is easy if you can maintain continuity. First, I keep all the summary attributes of each major character on a large index card. Second, I try to find compelling personal issues that will mix with the general plot and enhance the character. I read back what I've written frequently to make sure there is self-consistency in each sub plot.
LG: These are good tips. Thanks! Tell us about your writing process. How much do you rely on an outline? Which characters drive the story? Do you edit while in process or after the first draft? Did you get help from a writer's group?
MC: After the preliminary research was done for THE TURNING -- this took several months -- I wrote a four-page outline which included the major events, and characters. Having said that, like most outlines, I only used it as a guide. I like to improvise as I go along, so if I find more interesting and creative ideas for scenes I'll incorporate these, even if they run counter to the outline.
I edit scenes as I go and when the draft manuscript is finished, I edit several times for content, continuity and "flowability." Then I turn it over to my editor. Bonnie Hibschman succeeded in making invaluable suggestions to the original manuscript of THE TURNING as well as doing a fine job of the line editing. Bonnie is also a wonderful person to bounce ideas off as the writing progresses. I don't use writer's groups per se, but I do let some people see portions of the manuscript in progress to see if I'm achieving the goals I want.
LG: How did you pick iUniverse as your publisher?
A friend of mine who is knowledgeable about the on-demand publishing industry suggested it. This approach however, does have some real problems for a prospective author, chiefly in lack of recognition and the fact that most bookstores won't stock author's books automatically.
LG: I appreciate your sharing this information. How have you promoted sales?
MC: I constructed a website (http://4dw.net/strategics/index.php) which has several excerpts from the book, a short bio of myself, and ordering information. Next, I engaged an excellent publicist, Skye Wentworth, who helped in securing book reviews and promoting my presence on the Internet. Last, word of mouth. At every opportunity I talk to people about the book. My sales background helped tremendously here.
LG: What advice would you give to people who want to write science fiction?
MC: Pick an original subject if possible. For instance, killer meteorites are passe. Research it thoroughly. People aren't necessarily looking for something that will happen, but if you can write a scary plot about something that might happen, you will pique their interest. Talk with people who are knowledgeable about science. Often you'll find several interesting ideas worthy of pursuit. Even though I am a scientist myself, when I feel out of my depth I go ask the experts. Many scientists are very approachable and can supply useful background information. Some might be willing to read critical sections if they can get an acknowledgment in the book.
The subject of your book should excite you personally. Don't write about something that won't hold your attention 24 hours a day. Pick something you can dream about, talk about, fantasize about. What if? That should be your mantra.
LG: You are so right when you say that a writer must be passionate about her subject. How can people get copies of THE TURNING? What are you working on now?
MC: THE TURNING is available from all on-line bookstores. Use the author keyword, it will be easier to find it. My web site also has direct links to several bookstores.
I'm in the middle of writing a political thriller called The TRITIUM SPIRAL. It has a hefty dose of science, weapons and espionage at the highest level, as well as murder and mayhem. It should be finished next summer.
LG: You do not need to be a science fiction fan to appreciate THE TURNING. The characters and how they cope should hold your attention. As the earthquakes escalate and the earth's axis shifts, each action becomes more critical. Tension builds. Let the momentum carry you away. Visit http://4dw.net/strategics/index.php to learn more.
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