Monday, June 24, 2013

Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013

Please welcome Jason M. Hough to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) will be published on July 30, 2013 by Del Rey.  The second and third novels in The Dire Earth Cycle, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge, will follow in August and September.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Jason:  After I left the game industry I'd been looking for a creative outlet, and writing felt like a good choice because success or failure would be almost entirely up to me. That was around 2004, but after only producing eight pages in the next four years, I knew I needed get my rear in gear or just stop pretending. So I tried Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2007, and finally realized the benefits of turning off all editorial instinct and simply writing. I participated again in 2008, and that was where The Darwin Elevator was born. I've written almost every day since.

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

Jason:  To proofread I take a 50 page chunk with me in the car, park at the beach, and read aloud while listening to the waves.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jason:  A plotter! I tried the pantser lifestyle with my 2007 Nanowrimo effort, and it all fell apart around the halfway mark. In 2008 with The Darwin Elevator I spent the month leading up to November coming up with a solid outline. It really works well for me. I keep my outlines simple now, just three to five words per chapter, so that there's plenty of room for creativity during the writing stage. I think the process really helped me once I was under contract with Del Rey, because there was simply no room in the schedule to ditch a half-done manuscript and start over.

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

Jason:  I'd say my instincts are still a little off when it comes to providing the right amount of emotional response to big events. A lot of the notes my editors gave me went something like, "this is a HUGE moment and he barely flinches. C'mon, more MORE!"

TQ:  Describe The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) in 140 characters or less. 

Jason:  A ragtag group must unravel the mystery of failing alien space elevator that is the only thing keeping the remnants of the human race alive.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Partly my own desire to see more stuff like "Firefly" in the SF world, and also more accessible novels like the works of John Scalzi. Other authors had certainly gone through that door before John, but for me he's the one who kicked in the door and shouted "LET'S ROCK!" while firing twin machine guns from the hip.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Lots of research on Darwin, Australia where most of the book is set. It's a place I've never been, and even though the novels are set well into the future, I still felt it important to have a reasonable grasp of the location. I studied space elevators plenty, too, but not enough to where I'd be tempted to bog the book down in the real science of such a thing. The device in the book came from mysterious origins, so I felt it was important that the characters were just as amazed and puzzled by it as readers would be.

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

Jason:  Samantha was the easiest because she's based on a friend of mine (hi Sam!). Blackfield was the hardest because he's such an ass, and also very random -- he lives by the mantra "vary the pattern." He's basically a guy who does the opposite of me in any situation. He was also the most fun to write.

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

Jason:  Hard to do this without spoilers! There's a scene where Neil Platz has to, well, let's say delete something important. It's a chapter I added late in the third draft, and I love how it flows and the extra dimension it adds to the whole story.

There's another scene where Skyler and Sam are sharing stories about a fallen friend. It's short and not really germane to the story, but I've always been proud of it.

TQ:  What's next?

Jason:  As of now I've finished all three books in the trilogy, so I'm working on some short stories that will be used to promote the books and flesh out the backstory a bit. Once those are done I'm planning to dive into a fantasy I've been wanting to write for a while, until I know if the publisher wants more Dire Earth books.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  My pleasure!

The Dire Earth Cycle

The Darwin Elevator
The Dire Earth Cycle 1
Del Rey, July 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

The Exodus Towers
The Dire Earth Cycle 2
Del Rey, August 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

The Exodus Towers features all the high-octane action and richly imagined characters of The Darwin Elevator—only the stakes have never been higher.

The Plague Forge
The Dire Earth Cycle 3
Del Rey, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

The Plague Forge delivers an unbeatable combination of knockout action and kick-ass characters as the secrets to the ultimate alien mystery from The Darwin Elevator and The Exodus Towers are about to be unraveled.

Check out the 'Books' section of Jason's website to see the UK Covers.

About Jason
(from the author's website)

Photo by Nathan
Jason M. Hough (pronounced 'Huff') is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others).  Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession.  He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels.  The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, will be released in the summer of 2013.

He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons. Currently he works at Qualcomm, Inc. designing software that uses machine learning to make smartphones more efficient and user-friendly.

Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  G+  ~  Blog


  1. I actually finished reading the novel, The Darwin Elevator, today. I have to say that it is quite brilliant. A few flaws here and there but a solid novel otherwise.

  2. Great interview. I pre-ordered this this a while back after I saw a blurb comparing it to Firefly (plus I dig space elevators). Really looking forward to this series.

  3. I hope he finishes this series one day. He left a HUGE cliffhanger at the end. I still feel like I only got half the story after finishing the 3rd book.

    Anyways, it is very good story and all the characters are fleshed out pretty well. It's hard to pick one over the other, even the bad guys.

    I listened to the audiobook and Simon Vance once again does a most excellent job of narration.