How long did it take Michael Dow to write this book? How much research was involved? Does he believe there is a secret organization deciding what is best for mankind? What is his biggest fear as a writer? What advice does he have for aspiring writers?
Including outlines, rough draft, research, editing, etc., how long did it take you to write Dark Matters? Which part of the writing process took you the longest?
It took about two years from the time I first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, more precisely…), to book publication. The longest single step was probably the editing process–I spent over six months with an editor, refining the plot, characters, and overall story arc. For a first–time author, it was amazing to work with an editor that had also worked with Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, and so many others. So that part was the longest, but also the most fun.
Did you have to do a lot of research while writing this book? If so, what did you have to research? What did you already know because of your career and life experiences?
There was a lot of research, mostly on three areas: the topic of dark matter (the stuff our universe is made of), future technology and what the world might look like in sixty years, and then the subject of “dark matters” (income inequality). All three of the topics are fascinating to me, though my business background gave me more of a leg up on the topics of future technology and income inequality, and in particular the rise of corporate America and its role in shaping today’s politics and economic discussions.
Did you just pick names out of a hat for your characters, or did you dive into baby name books and search to find a name with the perfect meaning for each one of them?
I was very deliberate in picking names. There was some initial structure in knowing a “theme” or meaning behind a character’s name, but from there it was more of a gut feel. I did the usual Google search and bought a few books, especially for foreign names. Then it was just a matter of scrolling through them until the right name jumped out at me, which it almost always did. The only exception was Jonas, the physicist. His name was David in the original manuscript. But it never felt quite right, and during the editing process, I went back and took another look. By then his personality had been flushed out, and the name Jonas really resonated with me.
Do you have a favorite among the characters in Dark Matters? Which one? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite. People ask if any of the characters are modeled after someone I know, and the answer is that they’re all an amalgam of many people I know, including me. Monique, for instance, comes from some of the amazing women I have worked with and for over the course of my business career. I’m been fortunate to work with some very talented female business leaders.
I could understand a painting selling for five million dollars, but a plane ticket for $89,611.00? How did the world reach the point where a plane ticket cost so much? How much did things like groceries cost? Were they priced outrageously high too?
I spent a surprisingly long time getting comfortable with the cost of things in the year 2075. In 60 years, inflation alone will turn today’s $100 dinner–for–two into a $600 affair… assuming annual inflation continues at 3% or so. So today’s first class international ticket of $10,000 becomes a $60,000 ticket for the exact same service. Then, you have to balance the potential cost savings of new aircraft technologies and cheaper fuels against the fact that this is now a hypersonic flight, traveling thousands of miles per hour. So a $90,000 ticket seemed like a good deal!
Do you believe that there is a secret organization operating behind the scenes who is deciding, in their opinion, what is best for mankind?
Do I believe that there is a Consortium–like organization today, doing the kind of things that happen in Dark Matters? To that extent, probably not. But do I believe that it’s possible in the future? You bet.
Is there an organization that you based the Consortium on?
The Consortium isn’t really based on a single organization, just as my characters didn’t come from a single person. Mostly, I would discover fascinating new technologies for the world of 2075, and then imagine how someone who wanted to control world events could use that technology from behind the scenes.
How did you decide which quotes to put at the beginning of each chapter?
It’s a bit like my writing: some initial structure that eventually devolves into a free-for-all. I’ll start with the chapter content, and pick a few themes that might work for the quote. Maybe the quote should have something to do with power, or with truth. Then I’ll hunt for quotes of that type. From there, though, it’s anyone’s guess where it may lead. I might see a quote I like that doesn’t fit, so I’ll look at more quotes from that individual. Or I’ll find a related topic (leadership instead of power) and head down that path. In the end, though, it’s a slow, deliberate process that only ends when I find the perfect quote. The good news is, when I find it, I know it. Somehow, it just feels right.
How would you explain dark matter?
Great question. That’s question, in a nutshell, is the whole reason for the Dark Matters trilogy. So unfortunately, you’ll have to read books two and three to discover the answer!
In Dark Matters, asteroids are mined to obtain the rare elements they possess. How far into the future do you believe asteroid mining is?
Not as far as people think. There are already entire companies (and billionaires…) devoted to the effort, such as Planetary Resources. I really do believe that we’ll be well along in mining asteroids by the year 2075. There are plans to land probes and do some test mining before the end of this decade.
Monique and her friends have the ability to move objects and people just by thinking about it. Have you ever seen such a thing done? Have you done it yourself?
Nope; but I constantly imagine how cool it would be!
Is there anything you can tell us about what will be in the next book in the series? How long before it is released?
Readers should expect more of everything, of course! More of Monique’s determination to understand her visions, and her true purpose. More of Rudy’s attempts to reconcile job and family, amidst the ever-increasing demands of the Consortium. More unexpected twists. And it’s not your typical book two of a trilogy–several unanswered questions get resolved, including the significance of dark matter.
How do you feel about self-publishing? Do you feel that self-publishing has benefits for the author that traditional publishing does not?
I really enjoyed self–publishing the first book in the Dark Matters trilogy. But I also feel very fortunate to have had the time and resources to do so. But the initial decision was as much about the timing; I really wanted to release the book into the 2016 presidential election cycle, when income inequality would be center stage. And since I didn’t finish the manuscript and the editing until late 2015, I really didn’t have much choice.
As a writer, what is your biggest fear?
Since I’ve only published one book so far, my fears are still in their infancy, I fear. But certainly that the next book won’t be as good as the first one, or that I’ll lose the passion and energy (or the time…) to finish the series. But so far so good!
What types of books do you like to read?
I’ve been a science fiction/thriller fan since childhood, with some fantasy thrown in for good measure. I grew up on Asimov, Bradbury, and of course Tolkien. More recently I’ve enjoyed “technothrillers” from writers like James Rollins and A.G. Riddle. And of course The Martian. Loved that book.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
First, read Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. It was a huge help to me and a revelation to discover how he does things–especially for someone not classically trained in writing. One of the things he and many others recommend is to write every day, and I try very hard to do that. And to keep reading, of course. I feel so much better after a week where I’ve written 1,000 words every day, versus a week where I only wrote a few times during the week–even if I cranked out thousands of words on those days. There is a momentum to writing, for me at least.
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