New Science Fiction Mystery by Author E. E. Giorgi
Science Fiction Mystery Author E. E. Giorgi
Today I welcome E. E. Giorgi author, photographer and scientist. Elena is a sci-fi mystery author. I met her back in April 2014, when I hosted her debut book, Chimeras: A Track Presius Mystery Book 1
I have to admit that I am now an avid fan, after reading that first book. Elena has a unique and imaginative voice. The language is colorful and lively giving you that old movie noir feel, but Track is modern day detective with an unusual problem. He is something more than human, since a dormant gene was activated as a child. The pace, the characters, the science and the writing kept my eyes glued to the page. The second book in this series just released Sept 5th, Mosaic: A Track Presius Mystery Book 2.
Welcome Elena, I am so thrilled to have you back on my blog. I love this series. I jumped at the chance to read Mosaic, when you offered the ARC as a free read in exchanged for an honest review.
EEG: Thanks for having me, Juneta!
JK: My first question is actually about one of your secondary character, Satish. He is Track’s partner and friend. I love the way you use him to reveal things about Track. The way he just casually uses his “sage” life experiences to lecture Track without lecturing him to make his points. Where did the idea for this character come from? What is your inspiration?
EEG: Track is an intense character. You may love him or hate him. So, I knew I needed to counter-balance him with a very likable support character. All major detectives in literature are unsociable and grumpy. Think of Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and so on. Yet, we all love them because of their lovable support characters. To play on the chimerism theme, it occurred to me that Satish had to be a cultural chimera with his double African-American and Indian background. I have many Indian friends and I love the culture and the stories. The rest came along as I kept writing.
JK: I know Track has his own inner demons about his genetic makeup. He believes he is not really human anymore, but Track comes across very human, despite the changes in him. Can you tell us a little bit about this without giving too much away?
EEG: I am constantly struggling with this, actually. I wanted Track to be a Dexter with emotions. Dexter kills, but he’s never affected by regrets or empathy or anything like that. I wanted Track to be just as dangerous but at the same time I wanted him to struggle with his inner demons, constantly fighting them and constantly losing his battle. My books, though, are not fantasy. They deal with real problems and themes that are close to people. So, making the main character a real threat is tricky. There has to be some humanity in the mix or readers won’t relate to him. At the end of the day, the message I want to come across is that when it comes to people, there’s no black and white. Good and evil aren’t always clearly cut apart, and sometimes you can’t do good without doing some evil, too. I want people to reflect over this. Because if we are more understanding of the complexity of human nature, then maybe we can also become more willing to forgive one another.
JK: What gave you the idea for Mosaics?
EEG: It started with the title. Since chimerism and mosaicism are linked together, I knew the sequel to CHIMERAS had to be titled MOSAICS. I also wanted to play with the word and use both its meaning in art as well as in genetics, sort of like what I do in the first book, where I use both the mythological and genetic meanings of the word “chimera.” That’s how I got the idea for the titles. The rest came from my work, actually, but I can’t share without revealing spoilers. 😉
I also did a lot of research on serial killers while writing MOSAICS. I thought that thrillers and movies were always exaggerating the gore around serial killers. Sadly, they’re not. Reading the true, gruesome stories of the most psychotic serial killers was not a pleasant part of my research for this book.
JK: I know you are a scientist. Can you tell us how this genetic disability as Track views it, might actually be possible?
EEG: Well, it’s not 100% possible without a bit of a poetic license. These are the facts: (1) We all share a great deal of DNA across species; we have many of the genes our predator ancestors had, except these genes are inactivated in our cells; they are called pseudogenes. (2) Even though our genes do NOT change throughout our lifetime, the way genes are expressed does indeed change. A change in diet, a trauma, a virus — all these things can affect our genes, turning some on and others off. For example, people often ask me: how come autoimmune disorders can happen at any time in life? If it’s in our genes, why aren’t people born with the disease? People aren’t necessarily born with an autoimmune disease. The disease can actually “happen” later in life through the changes that I mentioned before, changes that do not affect the DNA, rather, the way the genes are expressed and function in the cells.
So, with Track I imagined that the inactivated genes we all share with our predator ancestors got suddenly “activated” and turned him into an epigenetic chimera. The reason why I say “epigenetic” and not “genetic” is because Track’s DNA is not in any way altered. The predator genes were already there, they just weren’t working.
JK: Is it hard coming up with all the mystery murder ideas connected to science? How do you work out the mystery?
EEG: I think it’s hard to come up with a solid mystery plot in general. I had never done it before prior to working on CHIMERAS and I remember the first few months I was very frustrated because every time I realized I had to make even a tiny change, the change would have domino effects everywhere else in the plot. A mystery plot is very much like a puzzle, and that’s the hardest part. On the other hand, the ideas are not hard to find. I work on genetics, so I get plenty of inspiration there. And I see a lot of struggles among scientists: fights over ideas, feuds over money, races to scoop one another, etc. etc. In this, science is no different than any other field, but it just happens to be my field and I know it so well because I’m an insider.
I usually start with one concept I find intriguing. For example, a while ago I blogged about optogenetics. For experiments like that, scientists use viruses to deliver certain genes to the brain and affect the way the brain works. You can see how something like that could lead to all possible scenarios. So I think of the crime first and then I start writing. I don’t outline, which makes things harder in a way (that’s why once I have to make a change I often find myself starting over again), but the advantage is that I don’t know the ending until I write it. And that makes the mystery a lot less predictable. 🙂
JK: What is the one thing you want readers to know about this new release Mosaics?
EEG: It doesn’t have to be read after CHIMERAS, it can be read as a standalone book.
JK: Can you give us any hints what the next mystery in this series might be about?
EEG: I can, but there’s no guarantee it will be in the final version. 😉 I’ve noticed a rise in number of trials where the defendant is accused of deliberately infecting people with a virus. Guess who gets called as expert witness in those trials? People in my field, who work on viral genetics. The idea is to look at the virus in the defendant and compare it to the virus found in the victims using a technique called phylogenetics to prove whether or not the two viruses are related. I would love to exploit these concepts for the next Track Presius book, but I’m a little daunted by the juridic aspect of the story. I really need to find a criminal lawyer whose brains to pick. Any volunteer out there? 🙂
JK: Tell us how this series was born?
EEG: I talked about it in another interview: as ridiculous as it may sound, the “inspiration” was a vampire book that I found so disappointing I couldn’t stop thinking of how differently I would’ve written the story had I been the author. Around the same time, I discovered that most of our genome is made of genes that have lost their function. I was reading a paper on these “silent genes,” when it occurred to me that while vampires do not exist, predators like lions and wolves not only exist–their genes are still embedded in our genome. And that’s when that alternative story brewing in my head took a completely new angle.
JK: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
EEG: I don’t think it ever was a “decision.” I attempted writing my first book when I was 8. I never finished any of the books I started as a child, though. I think I always ended up spending way too much time drawing very detailed sketches of all my characters instead of writing. In high school I switched to short stories and two of those were awarded first prize in some contests (one was a national contest, made me very proud). But I didn’t finish my first book until 2008, and believe me, that’s a book nobody will ever read. 😉
JK: How long did it take you to write the first book and then this book?
EEG: I wrote the first draft of CHIMERAS in 4 months and it was a very poor draft. The book went through two major rewrites before it came to be what’s out now, and the whole process took about one year. MOSAICS also took one year to write but it was a very different process. I stopped several times, researched stuff, thought I would never finish it, then went back to it. In March 2012 I returned to Los Angeles, scouted several locations with a friend, and also visited the LAPD headquarters thanks to my cop friend Tim. When I returned home I finished the book.
JK: Tell us about your photography?
EEG: My passion for photography started as a much needed distraction to writing. CHIMERAS was on submission through my agent and I was very frustrated with the feedback I was getting from the acquiring agents (you can read the whole story on my blog). So I picked up the camera, posted a few pictures on line and was overwhelmed by the positive response. I started following other photographers and every day I would learn something new from them.
JK: What does your family think about your series, or your writing?
EEG: LOL, my husband at first thought I was nuts. Then he became very jealous. Then worried. Like I said before, my first book sucked big time. So, needless to say, my husband thought I was wasting my time writing. Then he read the first draft of Track Presius and loved the idea. He’s still my harshest reader: sometimes, when he reads a chapter of mine, he gets so upset that I think, “OMG, I completely screwed up and I have to redo everything.” And then it turns out it was some minor thing on a minor chapter that can be easily fixed by deleting one paragraph. As for my kids . . . my teen daughter now thinks her mom is cool. Which, coming from a teen, I know it’s the highest praise I’ll ever get. 🙂
JK: Now that you have published your second book in the Track Presius series, and getting ready to publish a third in a new series, Gene Card: A Skyler Donohue mystery, how has your view about Indie Publishing changed?
EEG: I love it! I absolutely love it and regret spending two years with two different agents. I would not go back. I love making my own covers, I love getting my readers involved in the making of my books, I love launching my books when I want and how I want. And I love having absolute freedom on my stories, which was the reason I turned to indie publishing in the first place.
JK: If you knew you had only three years to live, what would you hope to achieve personally and professionally?
EEG: I know I’m awfully predictable, but. . . yes, I would want people to read my books and remember me as the one who wrote the Track Presius murder mysteries.
JK: What is a day in your life like?
EEG: Oh, my days are boring! That’s why I write thrillers! I spend my days in a cubicle looking at genetic data. Then I go home, walk for half an hour, make dinner, and after dinner is when all the magic happens and I get to pretend I’m somebody else. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, though: I love my day job. The stuff I learn at work about viruses and genes is my greatest inspiration.
JK: Do you have a routine when you sit down to write? A ritual or something you do to get you in your grove?
EEG: I often think I should have one and maybe I’d be more productive. My only routine is walking, because usually that’s when I get my best ideas. I write mostly on week-ends and at night after dinner.
JK: Anything you would like tell or say to your readers, before we go?
EEG: I just want to share a bunch of links and encourage people to get in touch because I do love to hear from readers, science geeks, and fellow writers. I discuss science, writing and photography on my blog and I try to keep it as interactive as possible. I also have a photography website that I update regularly. And finally, here’s the link to sign up to my newsletter in order to get notified about forthcoming book releases and ARC giveaways. Speaking of giveaways, I have one over at my blog for a signed copy of MOSAICS plus a $25 Amazon gift card, and one over at Goodreads for a signed copy of GENE CARDS.
Thanks so much for having me, Juneta !!
E.E. Giorgi is a scientist, a writer, and a photographer. She spends her days analyzing genetic data, her evenings chasing sunsets, and her nights pretending she’s somebody else. On her blog, E.E. discusses science for the curious mind, especially the kind that sparks fantastic premises and engaging stories. Her detective thriller CHIMERAS, a hard-boiled police procedural with a genetic twist, and second release in the series Mosaic below.