Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Interview with Madeline Ashby - August 1, 2012

Please welcome Madeline Ashby to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. vN (Machine Dynasty 1) was published on July 31, 2012 in the US and Canada. Look for vN tomorrow in the UK and RoW. You may read Madeline's Guest Blog - Gynoid Trouble - here.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Madeline:  I can't write without headphones on. It's weird. I just can't focus without the music being right up close and personal with me. I use Sony MDR-EX57LP earbuds. They deliver good bass sound and surprisingly good noise cancellation. I won't wear anything else, unless it's an upgrade to that off-centre earbud model from Sony (like the MDRNC100D). They're the perfect headphones.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Madeline:  I think I subscribe to the "candy bar" school of thought. I have certain scenes in mind and I write my way toward them.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing to you about writing?

Madeline:  Sitting down in the chair and getting it done.

TQ:  Describe vN in 140 characters or less.

Madeline:  It's the heartwarming quest of one little robot to discover why she's a born killer.

TQ:  What inspired you to write vN?

Madeline:  It was a lot of different things. I had worked on a thesis on anime and cyborg theory, so I was reading a lot about replication and authenticity. I was also watching a lot of anime in which replication played a big part, everything from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to Naruto. So it was on my mind a great deal. Eventually I had an idea about a man who discovers that his wife and daughter are self-replicating humanoids. Then I realized that was a really old-fashioned idea, and it would be more intriguing if he already knew and had accepted it, but didn't quite know everything. So that was how the prologue to the novel was born.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for vN?

Madeline:  I spent time looking at artificial muscle and polymer-doped memristors and cyanophageous algae and how it photosynthesizes. Plus I had to find out a lot of about the Cascadia fault line. And I was a consuming a lot of robot-related media, so it was all fresh in my mind. I knew who I was in dialogue with.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in vN?

Madeline:  I actually re-read the ending quite a lot. I was so happy to finally get there, and to finally get it the way I wanted it. Not to give anything away, but it felt great to see where everyone ended up.

TQ:  Who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?

Madeline:  Amy was tough for me, at first. I had to do a few passes before I felt like I really knew her. Portia, her grandmother, was much easier. Portia is also very fun to write. She's pure spite. She's everything you wish you could say but choose not to. So actually once you open that valve, it all just comes spewing out. What's harder is shutting it once you're finished.

TQ:  What's next?

Madeline:  I'm working on the sequel to vN, titled iD. It's from the perspective of Javier, a supporting character in the first novel. He's on a quest for redemption and revenge, and it takes him to a lot of interesting places, particularly in the American Southwest. I just watched The Wizard of Oz again recently, and it was amazing how helpful that was in helping me understand the structure of those types of stories.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

About vN

Machine Dynasty 1
Angry Robot Books, July 31, 2012 (US/Canada)
August 2, 2012 (UK/RoW)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed… Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Von Neumann Sisters | Fail Safe Fail | The Squid & the Swarm | Robot Nation ]

About Madeline

Madeline Ashby is the author of vN, available July 31 from Angry Robot Books. Her fiction has been published in Nature, FLURB, Escape Pod, and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has appeared at BoingBoing, Creators Project, WorldChanging, and She works as a foresight consultant in Toronto.

Website : Facebook : Google+ : Twitter


  1. Thanks.

    My comment eaten. Twice. I need to check vN out, having missed an early opportunity.

  2. From the moment I saw this cover I have been intrigued. Thank you for taking the time to share with us today. Definitely have vN on the wishlist :)

  3. This book sounds so good, I'm definitely adding it to my wish list. And that cover is fantastic!