Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Interview with Paul Tassi, author of The Last Exodus

Please welcome Paul Tassi to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Exodus is published on September 11th by Talos Press. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Paul a Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Paul:  Thanks for having me! I wrote my first story in probably fifth grade. It was about a magic pencil where its drawings came to life, and sadly, it did not secure me a publishing deal. I ended up seriously considering writing as a career in college when I wrote for my student paper. I graduated with an economics degree, but I went straight into writing about pop culture full time. I'm still a journalist to this day, but I also love writing novels. I always had a million ideas bouncing around in my head, but it was only after my cousin finished his first novel and self-published it on Amazon that I set a similar goal for myself. I swore that within the year, I'd finish my first book, and that ended up being The Last Exodus. Once I was done, I fell in love with the process and the world I created, so it evolved into a trilogy. Now, I write because I almost have to. There's simply always a book in my head I have to get down on paper.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Paul:  Probably a hybrid. I don't freestyle entire books, but I don't sit down and write pages and pages of outlines either. I have a clear idea of the end I'm going for, and certain major plot points along the way. But how I get from point to point is variable, so sometimes I will end up writing scenes spontaneously within the larger framework I have in my head. I believe in having a clear end goal, but how I get there can be a bit up in the air.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Paul:  Sometimes it's hard to stay motivated to continue writing a book after writing all day for my regular job. If I've already put in 10,000 words for work, it's a bit challenging to put in a few thousand more. Lately, I've also had a tough time picking a specific project and sticking to it. I have so many ideas I want to get down, and I can find myself jumping between two or three different books which makes it difficult to commit to one and see it through until the end.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Paul:  For The Last Exodus specifically, I was influenced by many different books (along with a few movies, TV shows and video games for good measure). Cormac McCarthy's The Road was a heavy influence during the initial earth sections. I still have never read another dystopian book like it. Joe Haldeman's Forever War influenced some of the space aspects. As the series evolves in books two and three, it's probably influenced by Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, John Scalzi's Old Man's War and a whole bunch more. Other favorite authors include Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, William Gibson, Max Brooks, Margaret Atwood, George RR Martin, HP Lovecraft, James SA Corey, Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Orson Scott Card and others.

TQDescribe The Last Exodus in 140 characters or less.

Paul:  Traveler, bandit, alien. All want to kill each other, but none of them wants to die. They must leave a ruined Earth together, or not at all.

TQTell us something about The Last Exodus that is not found in the book description.

Paul:  The description implies that The Last Exodus mostly takes place on Earth in a post-apocalyptic hellscape, but a fairly big chunk of it actually takes place in space itself. For a while, it becomes a bit of a "bottle" where three characters are stuck on a rather small ship, and conflict comes from that. And once they're in space, that's when they start to be pursued by the book's ultimate antagonist, who is absent for quite a while in the beginning. I wanted to make sure the entire first book didn't have the characters trapped on earth for the entire duration, so in essence, it kind of switches sub-genres midway through.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Exodus? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Paul:  I had the initial scene where Lucas finds the wrecked ship in the crater wall written for years before I finally picked it up again and turned it into a book. I've always liked dystopian sci-fi and alien invasion stories, but I just had the idea for a simple premise of "what if the world was destroyed, but one man had the chance to leave it all behind and go somewhere unknown?" Not some mass exodus into survival ships. Not some plan to rebuild society and fix the world. But just a handful of (very) different people trying to survive. I like science fiction specifically because it gives you the freedom to develop your universe however you want. Working in the "real" world comes with many more limitations, but with sci-fi? You can be as creative as you want. The same is true for fantasy in many ways, but even that has its limits. I think sci-fi is one of the only truly limitless forms of fiction.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Exodus?

Paul:  This is not "hard sci-fi," so I do not spend loads of time describing the minutiae of the tech. I'm okay with saying "this ship generates its own gravity" without going into exact detail as to how that could be physically possible. I recently heard someone describe James SA Corey's The Expanse as a series that doesn't spend a ton of time describing how a transmission works in a car. They just step on the gas, and go. I did do research into the locations I talk about in the book, Portland, Norway, etc, and a bit about the solar system.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Paul:  Lucas was probably the easiest because the voice just came naturally to me. I also really liked writing for Alpha. Originally, he wasn't going to speak at all, and Asha didn't even exist, which would have made for a pretty boring book, I imagine. Asha ended up being my favorite character by the end of the series, though I always question if I'm writing a woman well or not as a male author. I really wanted her to be a complete and utter badass, but I realize there are also certain tropes that come with that too, so it's a tough balancing act. While she was probably the hardest to write, I liked her the best out of anyone by the end.

TQWhich question about The Last Exodus do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Paul:  I'm surprised no one asks me what Alpha's voice actually sounds like when run through a translator, because I don't want people thinking it's just flat and monotone and robotic. There's actually supposed to be a lot of emotion that translates through the tech. I've always though of it like if Kiefer Sutherland's voice was run through a bit of electronic filtering.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Last Exodus.


"Why did you come here?"
The alien looked out the black viewscreen.
"Why we always come. To conquer. To pillage. To strip your planet bare to fuel our war."
"Your war? The war against Earth?"
The alien paused.
"I did not say our war was with you."

The last voice was not any of their own, and sounded as if it had been spoken right beside his ear. His eyes darted around as the voice continued.
"It appears I have misjudged your taste in allies, traitor."
The voice was deep and dark, speaking in perfect English. It was coming from inside Lucas's own head.
"They will have to be studied and dissected instead of destroyed. This species subset is the most violent we have encountered to date. And these two, to fight on your behalf with such devotion and ferocity? Fascinating."

TQWhat's next?

Paul:  There are two more books in the Earthborn trilogy, The Exiled Earthborn (#2) and The Sons of Sora (#3), which will also be released in a few months, as I've had the whole trilogy written for a little while now. I'm also deep into my fourth book, a new story that has traces of dystopia, but is only set 20 or so years in the future. After that, I have one high fantasy book and another full sci-fi book planned out, though I'm not sure which of my new projects will spawn sequels, if any.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery

Paul:  Thanks for having me!

The Last Exodus
The Earthborn Trilogy 1
Talos Press, September 8, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 348 pages

The Earth lies in ruins in the aftermath of an extraterrestrial invasion, the land devastated by a desperate war with no winners between mankind and a race of vicious, intelligent creatures. The seas are drying up while the atmosphere corrodes and slowly cooks any life remaining on the now desolate rock. Food is scarce, trust even more so, and the only people left alive all have done horrific things to stay that way.

Among the few survivors is Lucas, an ordinary man hardened by the last few years after the world’s end. He’s fought off bandits, murderers, and stranded creatures on his long trek across the country in search of his family, the one thing that drives him to outlive his dying planet. What he finds instead is hope, something thought to be lost in the world. There’s a ship buried in a crater wall. One of theirs. One that works. To fly it, Lucas must join forces with a traitorous alien scientist and a captured, merciless raider named Asha. But unless they find common ground, all will die, stranded on a ruined Earth.

Combining gritty post-apocalyptic survival and epic space opera, The Last Exodus is the beginning of a new action-packed science fiction adventure where the future of the human race depends on its survivors leaving the past behind.

About Paul

Paul Tassi decided after years of consuming science fiction through a steady diet of books, movies, TV shows, and video games to try writing his own stories in the genre. He didn't imagine he’d ever actually finish a single book, but now that he’s started writing, he doesn't want to stop. Paul writes for Forbes, and his work has also appeared on IGN, the Daily Dot, Unreality, TVOvermind, and more. He lives with his beautiful and supportive wife in Chicago.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @PaulTassi  ~  Google+


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