Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Godspeed, Carry My Bullet: Interview with Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis prefers not to be bound by a particular genre. Though the inspiration for his work varies, it often finds roots in something he dreamt. He strives for a gritty realism and maintains an interest in the humanity of his characters. His hope is that readers find themselves haunted by his stories in the sense that the narrative sticks with them long after they've finished reading, leaving them with a subtle restlessness for more. Mr. Lewis is the author of The Camaro Murders, Lady in Flames, and Power in the Hands of One, all novellas. His first full length novel, Godspeed, Carry My Bullet, was released in April of 2016. He has been writing since 2002.

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Title: Godspeed, Carry My Bullet
Author: Ian Lewis
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 325
Genre: Thriller
Bobby Clyne has nothing to lose. Two illegitimate governments have taken the place of the fallen United States: The Directorate in the East and the United States Valiant in the West. And he's just learned that a man who once terrorized his family as a low-ranking member of the Military Police is set to become the Grand Marshall of the Ohio Region. Armed with his father's Dragunov sniper rifle, Bobby embarks on a mission of revenge with consequences far more reaching than his personal vendetta.

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Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work full-time for a software company and have two small children who are only fifteen months apart. So in some respects, my life is controlled chaos. I try to keep in shape and I enjoy reading when I can find the time. I also enjoy cooking, but anymore it’s “eat to live” rather than “live to eat.”

When did you start writing?

I started writing in college. I had the creative urge to do so, but didn’t have any good ideas at the time. Most of what I wrote began as meandering slice-of-life type stuff that never really solidified into anything interesting. Then I got busy with a new job and stopped writing for three or four years. Around the time I got the idea for my first novella, The Camaro Murders, a friend invited me to her critique group. I started writing again and have been doing so ever since.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

Joining a critique group stands out because it’s what gave me motivation to write. Because writing is a solitary, introspective task, being surrounded by fellow writers who have an interest in honing his or her craft is encouraging. It had never occurred to me that such groups existed.

Getting a contract offer for my first novella was huge too. Though I haven’t quit my day job yet, being vetted by a publisher was validation for me that I was in fact a published author.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

I would go somewhere familiar where the environment wouldn’t be a distraction. I need to be at an even keel mentally and emotionally in order to write. If I feel out of my element for any reason, my creativity and ability to focus go right down the drain.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

I would either sleep or write, or perhaps both. I don’t have enough time to do either, and often one comes at the expense of the other.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

I can’t say that I have plans for a story in a location other than what I’ve done so far. The Camaro Murders and Lady in Flames, my first two novellas, are part of a loose series that take place in a fictional county in Ohio. Future installments in that series will continue in that location. I’m currently working on the sequel to Godspeed, Carry My Bullet, and so it will obviously take place in the United States. I do have the desire to write a 1950s spy thriller in homage to Ian Fleming’s 007 novels. Perhaps I will be able to work in an exotic locale with that one.

Back to your present book, Godspeed, Carry My Bullet, how did you publish it?

This book was my first foray into self-publishing. Because I wrote it for fun (more on that below), and because I’d gone the independent publisher route with my previous three releases, I didn’t feel obligated to leave it to the subjective whims of a publisher or agent. I felt like it was great storytelling, it had page-turning qualities, and was the most accessible thing I’d written to date. So why not self-publish it? My discovery of put me over the edge. Pronoun is really slick platform that helps authors get their manuscripts converted into .mobi and .epub formats and then uploaded to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Google Play. The best part? It’s all free. Pronoun doesn’t take a cut. And their services don’t stop there. They build professional looking landing pages for the books ( and provide sales analytics and other genre stats as it pertains to your book. The site is modern, responsive, and easy to use. And did I mention it’s free?

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

I travelled virtually courtesy of Google Maps. I’ve never been to many of the locations in the book, and so I relied on Google and Wikipedia to nail down the details of each locale. I found that unless you’re writing something where setting is as important as the characters themselves, you can establish veridical details just by doing a little research.

Why was writing Godspeed, Carry My Bullet so important to you?

In one sense, it was important to see it through to completion because I set out to do it. I won’t start something unless I know I can commit to finishing it, and I was determined to write my first full-length novel. Plus, I promised friends from work that I would write it. The basic concept of the story was rooted in an inside joke amongst my coworkers; it wasn’t something that was spawned from what I call “official Ian Lewis canon.” It was just supposed to be a fun exercise to do something a little different. As I got into it, the story really took off and grew into something bigger.

It’s now a 100,000 word thrill ride that features a would-be assassin, a nomadic survivalist, a preacher turned vigilante, a rookie spy, and a single mother trying to provide for her family. However, at its heart, the book is an allegory of failed partisan politics. That’s really the takeaway—that as long as we’re voting the party line, we enable the same crooks in either camp to remain in power. They’ll continue to sow divisiveness, keeping us all at each other’s throats over issues that they’ll either never do anything about, or issues that aren’t really the government’s business to begin with.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get my best ideas from music and dreams, primarily because I’m a very visual person. Music can be very atmospheric and moody, and the tone or vibe of a song creates a picture in my head of a character or a scene. Sometimes lyrics can take on a meaning entirely different than what was intended by the songwriter. Not that I intentionally try to interpret an artist’s lyrics to fit my purpose, but sometimes something grabs me as poignant and my mind runs with it. A great example of this (and a very literal one at that) is the song “Meatplow” by Stone Temple Pilots. The music just sounds like a stinking hot summer day whereas lyrically I picked up on what felt like a little bit of paranoia and hopelessness. Lyrics like “Fine place for a day full of breakdowns,” “Throw a tack on the road, stop the meatplow,” “Got a bullet but in ain’t mine,” and “They’ve got these pictures of everything, to break me down, yeah to break me down” all fueled the opening scene. Bobby, one of the viewpoint characters, is overlooking a stalled supply truck that’s surrounded by a feverish mob in the afternoon heat. He’s wary of the government and contemplates lashing out with his sniper rifle. At the end of the scene, there’s even the arrival of a Military Police infantry vehicle nicknamed “a Meatplow.”

Dreams, if I remember them after waking, are obviously easy fodder for ideas since they are so abstract. There are no rules in dreams, so it’s very easy to come away with a basic concept that can be built on and enhanced. Everything from world-building to ideas for characters can be mined from dreams.

Any final words?

Thank you for letting me participate in the interview. I would encourage readers to pick up a copy of Godspeed, Carry My Bullet since we’re in an election year. Many people are disgusted with politics in general, and so the book might serve as a subtle reminder of what’s wrong with our political system. That being said, one could read the book for pure entertainment value. I don’t beat the reader over the head with the “moral of the story.” If you do choose to read, I always appreciate constructive reviews regardless of whether you liked it.

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