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Me: Anthem's Fall is your first novel and took you five years to perfect and get into publication. How has your experience getting your first book published prepared you for your next book? What was the greatest lesson you learned about writing?S.L: I’ll admit that I ultimately learned to write as I wrote Anthem’s Fall. It was my first time stretching a Microsoft Word document beyond ten or twenty pages, and the more I wrote the more I fell in love with the process. After I finished the first draft, I recognized that the story I had conceived was very powerful and promising. Yet as I went back and reread the novel, I felt that my narrative voice wasn’t quite there. I would classify myself as my own worst critic, and my editing process was utterly relentless. Anthem’s Fall will be published at around 145,000 words, but in total I wrote about a half million.It was during that journey from first-to-final draft when I truly learned how to write. I evolved my style and voice during each edit run. I still have my first printed manuscript sitting in a cardboard box, and every now and then I flip through it and have to sit down in disbelief of how far my narrative voice has come. I spent a considerable amount of time with Anthem’s Fall, but I can look back on my debut novel and say with absolute certainty that it is as good as I can possibly get it.Any given writer can only speak to his or her own unique experience and process. Nevertheless, I would say that the greatest lesson I learned is the ability to “surf” the highs and lows inherent in the process. Some writers are really good at simply pumping out words and not getting caught up in their own head. In a way I’m envious of them. But for me, writing is a constant balancing act between delusion and despair. Over time I’ve developed a strong resilience to my own doubts, and an ability to embrace my critical eye without getting myself dejected.As I write the next book of the series, the process is immeasurably easier because I’ve retained the skills and editorial acumen I developed while writing Anthem’s Fall. I’m happy to say that my pace has skyrocketed, and I am already halfway through the second book in the series! I guess you could say that someone has to learn to walk before they run, and so it has been with my journey.Me: You clearly loved "superheroes" from an early age (Superman t-shirt worn for 2 years). Other than Superman - which other "Superheroes" made a big and lasting impression on you?S.L.: Hah, yes I’ll admit I did wear a secret Superman t-shirt under my normal clothing when I was young. I have a penchant for superheroes, along with most larger-than-life characters in genre fiction.It’s compelling to envision a world where an individual can change the lives of people not with a great speech or a hunger strike, but with bolts of lightning from his fingertips! Superhero stories are by their nature fun. They’re an almost humorous metaphor to the responsibility of being an individual in our society, and yet at their pinnacle these stories also can arouse great emotion in their themes. They can stand as an exaggerated reminder for what’s really at stake in our day-to-day lives. My hope with Anthem’s Fall was to incorporate a touch of that thematic fun into a plot that also has other powerful attributes as well.Sorry, I’ve been equivocating. My favorite superheroes are Batman, V and Magneto. I have a framed print of Marko Manev’s Master of Magnetism (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/168040629820129658/) hanging above my desk. Powerful daily inspiration.Me: I know you are currently writing a sequel (Herculaneum) for Anthem's Fall. Will we see more books set in this imaginary world you've created?S.L.: Yes. Anthem’s Fall is the first book of a series, so it is safe to say there are several more books on the horizon. Though I’ll admit I do have some other completely unrelated stories cooking in the oven as well.Me: How have your degrees in anthropology and biology helped your development as a writer?S.L.: They were a huge inspiration to Anthem’s Fall.At the heart of the novel is a dialogue heavily influenced by anthropological thought. Nearly the entire novel goes back and forth on the notion of might vs right, along with the ideas of cultural and moral relativity. On Anthem that takes shape in the blatant and literal omnipotence of some warriors. In New York City the outward appearance of might is not so clear. The distinction between the brazen power of these gods and the power of intellect and technology becomes blurred as the plot progresses. It is up to the reader to define his or her own protagonist and antagonist.A large portion of the “science fiction” I introduce in Anthem’s Fall is (very) (loosely) based on the work of Craig Venter. He’s a famous synthetic biologist who created an artificial cell in 2009. Yes, you read that correctly. I read every book written by Craig Venter and some other big scientists in the field of synthetic biology in order to make my science fiction come as close to real science as possible.Of course, I push the real science into the realm of fantasy, but the influence behind the Vatruvian cell lies in current synthetic biology.Me: During your childhood, which authors were your go to writers? Writers you'd read over and over and over again?S.L.: My childhood revolved around the standard acronyms, (J.R.R., George R.R., J.K.,) along with Phillip Pullman, Brian Jacques, C.S. Lewis, Frank Herbert and Orson Scott Card.Me: What is it about science fiction/fantasy writing that drew your attention as a writer and made you want to create in that vein?S.L.: My taste as a reader is quite eclectic, but I tend to get passionate when it comes to the fantastical. Anthem’s Fall is science fiction, but it also has strong aspects of fantasy. It’s a genre-bending novel, with many different inspirations.There was never any question in my mind of writing anything other than science fiction or fantasy. It takes so much momentum to gather up the ambition and sit down to start a novel. And in that sense, science fiction is the only genre that intrigues me enough to devote such a sheer volume of time to a singular task. It’s a genre where a familiar world can be introduced and then thrown for a loop.I can’t think of a more exciting undertaking, for both a writer and a reader, than to conceive of a relatable world and then cast it into an exhilarating plot. I can’t imagine writing about anything else when I have the choice to write about characters thunderously soaring across a cityscape and shattering the sound barrier between skyscrapers to fight for the salvation of a world. Come on!Me: Where do you hope to be as a writer in 5 years?S.L.: I would love to have several more books published and an accompanying readership that connects with my writing. That’s all a writer can hope for: the gift of spare time to write, and readers to appreciate that writing.Get to Know You Questions:Me: Favorite beverage?Any craft beer or whiskey. At the moment I’m on an Elysian brewery kick.Me: Favorite superhero movie adaptation?Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies or V for VendettaMe: Name one place you'd like to visit on your bucket list you haven't been to yet?I’m ashamed to say that I have never been to Europe, so anywhere there. I’ve been watching a lot of Rick Steves’ travel guides on PBS recently…Me: Name a living author you are dying to meet?George R.R. Martin, so I could explicitly threaten him against doing something bad to Daenerys. * Me too….I really want the end of the series with Daenerys on the thrown – not sure who I want for her consort but yeah…she needs to be thereJMe: Name an author no longer with us you'd like to meet?Ultimately, Tolkien.Me: If a movie studio were to buy the rights to Anthem's Fall and Herculaneum. Which actors/actresses would you like to see play the key characters in your book.
Hah, don’t tempt me. Too many options!
By S.L. Dunn
Anthem’s Fall, Book 1
Publisher: Prospect Hill Press
Release Date: July 31, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: 377 Pages
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About the book:
Above a horrified New York City, genetics and ethics collide as the fallen emperor and a banished exile of the same herculean race ignite into battle over the city’s rooftops. In the streets below, a brilliant young scientist has discovered a technology that can defeat them both, yet might be more terrible than either.
Set both in modern New York City and in the technologically sophisticated yet politically savage world of Anthem, Anthem’s Fall unfurls into a plot where larger than life characters born with the prowess of gods are pitted against the shrewd brilliance of a familiar and unlikely heroine.
EXCERPTThe sharp knife of apocalypse struck without warning, burying itself into the unsuspecting skies of a sun-swept afternoon.In the northernmost continent of Anthem, the remote city of Municera abruptly reported massive and inexplicable reports of rioting and hysteria. The limited transmissions that came out of the city were fragmented and unclear. Imperial Army regiments were at once dispatched to restore order to the city of Municera, yet all troops lost radio contact within minutes of their arrival. Powerful reverberations shook through the surrounding lands, reaching miles in every direction. It felt as though the gods themselves were hammering the very world with furious impacts.From a distance, billowing black pillars of smoke could be seen reaching high into the sky above the smoldering city. When the smoke and cloud of ash dispersed in the northern winds, the glimmering skyscrapers that had long been an icon of the elegant Municera had vanished from the skyline. Their steel and glass splendor was replaced with a blanket of alarming ruin. By midafternoon, the once prominent city was nothing more than wreckage against the horizon.Most disturbing were the spreading rumors that a number of Imperial First Class soldiers had flown into the chaos of Municera and had yet to return.The migration out of the region—an anticipated exodus for which the Imperial Council had quickly prepared—never arrived, and as a disquieting sun set on the remaining cities of the Epsilon empire, the truth became increasingly clear. There were no survivors.Municera had been home to seven million Primus.