Boy with an overly complicated name. Not so much of a boy at 32. Coffee addict. Cat cuddler. Myopic cynic. Multi-ethnic melange. Queerer than a two-dollar bill. Firefly chaser. Lover of sunflower seeds. Book devotee. Music junkie. Encyclopedia reader. Game geek. Ridiculously socially awkward. Sleeps better during thunder storms. Looks much too femme for his own good. Doesn't do it on purpose. Bites his nails. Doesn't drink nearly enough. Occasionally transforms from mild-mannered reporter into Lewis Black. Collects out-of-print books. Has a crush on Craig Ferguson. Crochets like a little old granny. Makes writing playlists. Listens to squeaky Korean girlpop. Sings along off-key. Dances like a white boy who thinks nobody's watching. Takes things apart. Reassembles with a 67% success rate. Thinks IHOP always tastes better after midnight. Loves old movies. Reads romance novels with zero shame. Engaged to an ordinary Joe who isn't so ordinary at all. Lok'tar frickin' ogar.
Learn more about Adrien on his webpage, facebook and follow him on twitter.
difficult time knowing what to call you even going so far as erroneously
referring to you as Mrs. or Miss. What do you prefer to be called?
Adrien or Adri. I'll even take "emo boy in the black nail polish." You can call me Mr. Sanders if you want, but only if you're--okay, I'm about ten years too late for that joke to be in any way relevant.
Immediately the first thing I noticed about From the Ashes is how
intelligent Tobias is. He is studying aberrant genetics at UC Berkley.
Do you have some background in science and medicine to understand and
write so well on the topic?
Somewhat, yeah, mainly in that I've been studying everything from genetics to advanced robotics to Plato's Theory of Forms since I was a kid. I was that nerd in the spiked leather collar who was in the library reading books on genetic epidemiology and jet propulsion systems while the other kids were out at the movies or at prom. Don't ask me how I managed to keep a boyfriend in high school. When other kids were on summer break, I was taking college courses in special summer programs. I was a hospital volunteer for years, and spent more time shadowing ER doctors and surgeons than filing paperwork or filling ice cups. In college I was one of those people who could never settle on a major, and I bounced through everything from programming to English lit to neurosurgery to animation--and even spent a summer as an intern for the NSA. Even now I'm constantly learning, and will end up on obsessive kicks where I won't stop until I've learned everything I can dig up on protein folding or something similar. So yeah--I went through a phase where I buried myself in human biology and genetics, and picked up a lot on that front. I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I'd hope I know enough to get the details right in a story.
Tobias “wants to know what makes people like me and my father
different. I want to know if it’s true that we’re predisposed to go
bad.” Several times throughout the book ethics is discussed at length.
One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is because it makes the
reader think about these topics and form an opinion of their own. Are
you somewhat of a philosopher? Or do you enjoy pushing the limits of
those around you and making them evaluate their ideals?
I don't know if I'm a philosopher so much as a chronic insomniac whose brain never shuts off, and sometimes in the sleepless hours of the night it'll wander onto philosophical topics. I wouldn't say I enjoy pushing people's limits and making them evaluate their ideals, either, but it tends to happen anyway just because I constantly question everything; it recently even got me into a buttload of trouble with my TA in my psychology class. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm the messed-up sociopath, rather than my character. I do enjoy when people share their ideals with me so we can have interesting discussions about what shaped our foundational beliefs. It gives me a chance to see things from their perspective, and let them see things from my perspective. Sometimes that causes a little self-evaluation and even change, on both sides. I'm constantly re-evaluating my own ideals as I learn new things, meet new people, and adapt to new experiences. Occasionally, I'm the "new thing" that makes someone re-evaluate themselves, and I'm okay with that.
What is your opinion? Are you a nature or nurture type of person?
Both? That question's really hard to answer, as we aren't a product of one or the other, but both. We aren't born as fully-formed adults, our natures fixed in stone, but more a blueprint of an adult that will change at the base chemical and molecular levels constantly as we grow up and grow old. Much of that blueprint is defined by our genetics, but that blueprint can also be changed by life events. Severe childhood trauma can actually rewrite the chemical functions of a developing brain, though PTSD-inducing incidents can often do the same to an adult brain, making it part of the blueprint in ways that may even affect successive generations. Things like diseases and their treatment can alter a person's genetic code as viral RNA is incorporated into the human genome, with changes persisting in their offspring, but whether or not that happens depends on the treatment they receive and the medical resources available to them, and even the beliefs they were raised in affecting their views on modern medicine and its use. So in many ways nurture can change nature, though you can't change hard-coded things like a person's height, sexuality, eye color, etc.
But at the same time predisposed behavioral tendencies can be hard-wired from birth--things like inherited congenital behavioral disorders that, no matter what nurture the person receives, without chemical intervention will continue firing certain signals in the brain to trigger certain behaviors. Nature and nurture are too complexly interwoven and codependent to ever really separate one or the other out as the primary influence. That's part of what drives Tobias in From the Ashes, trying to figure out if it's in his nature to be evil because of his behavioral disorder, or if it's because he was nurtured in an environment where amoral, ruthless behavior was the standard, with a psychotic dictator for a father figure and role model. In the end he never really decided on a concrete answer save to realize that he had a choice: to choose how he dealt with his nature, and broaden his understanding of himself beyond what he was nurtured to believe.
This is one of my favorite topics to debate, if you can't tell. I'm going to hush now before I start beating my favorite dead horse about societally enforced gender roles and stereotypes versus chemically/hormonally wired gender differences and their variants.
From the Ashes is Book one in the Fires of Redemption series. How many
books will there be?
I've planned three total, and am currently working on Into the Dark, the second in the trilogy. Without being too spoilery (I hope), Into the Dark is about Sean's brother, Keane, and an aberrant who changes his life--though we also spend a bit of time interacting with Sean and Tobias from Keane's perspective, finding out a bit more about Sean's history and giving us a little more detail on their relationship after the end of From the Ashes. Especially Tobias's struggles with overcoming his conditioning, as it's definitely not an easy road for either of them. Nor is it an easy road for Keane, who can't accept Tobias as calmly as Sean does. He's very protective of his brother, and thinks Tobias is a monster who'll only hurt him and who shouldn't be forgiven for his past crimes. Keane's desire to break out of magazine editing into field journalism is even partially fueled by wanting to expose Tobias for what he is, as well as feeling like he should be more involved in the building war between humans and aberrants rather than hiding safely at home. He wants to tell both sides of the story, as he's fascinated by aberrants; Tobias is the only one he really hates.
If you were an aberrant what would your power be?
That's really hard to pick. I only get one? Um...shapeshifting, then. Definitely. Being able to change my appearance at whim. The trouble I'd get into...oh, man. It'd be epic. Though self-healing/regeneration to the point of immortality would be a close second, I think. It makes me sad to know I won't be around in a hundred or two hundred years, to see where technology and scientific development have taken the human race. I can only imagine (and write about it).
Do you have any writing rituals?
Other than threatening my husband with sharp, pointy objects if he doesn't stop interrupting my train of thought? I create writing playlists--building something of a soundtrack for my main character and my story, both to block out outside noise and to keep my own emotional responses heightened so that I can better empathize with my characters. I do most of my rough draft work in Textroom, which is a full-screen text editor that blocks out everything but you and the words; there are tons of them, like Darkroom and Q10, but I like Textroom best because it lets me set a custom background. Before I start any story I'm usually in Photoshop creating a background to fit the story and my Textroom layout, as well as customizing the Textroom fonts and colors to the general mood of the story--so when I flip over to that Textroom window, all these visual signals are there to immediately dump me into the story and switch my brain into writing mode. It also helps me separate my editing mindset from my writing mindset, as I do all my editing in Word. I totally screw with myself with Pavlovian conditioning, but it makes it easier to focus, and focus quickly. I don't get much writing time save for a few minutes stolen here and there, and I try not to waste a single second of it.
Other than that, guilty secret? When I copy the story from Textroom into Word for editing, I create book layouts. Open-facing spreads on mass market paperback-sized pages, special chapter headings, page embellishments, special fonts, layouts, drop caps, everything. It kind of gives me a little thrill to see it that way, like it's a finished, published book laid out on my screen, and it motivates me to push toward the finish line. (Though it also feels a bit like silly hubris, hence why it's my guilty secret. That isn't so secret anymore.)
You are an artist as well as an author. Do you draw as a hobby or do you
sell your work?
Halloween is my favorite time of year and all authors who interview in
this month get ask the same thing. Do you dress up for Halloween and as
what? (Spark maybe?)
I haven't dressed up for Halloween for a while, but you know, I think I just might this year just because you asked that and it made me remember how much I miss it--to just relax and be a kid again for one night. Heck, I can still pass for 17; maybe I can go trick-or-treating and score some free candy. I think the last time I dressed up was four or five years ago. I went as a male version of Storm from X-Men, and made a mess everywhere spraying temporary silver coloring over my hair. Maybe this year I'll try Kadaj from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. I'd dress up as Spark, but honestly? Sans the mask, that's almost how I dress every day. Black shirt, black jeans, boots. Tobias and I share a preference for simplicity and practicality, at least in clothing. The only thing missing is the trenchcoat, but I went through that phase in high school. (Yeah. I was one of those kids. My black nail polish. Let me show you it.)
What is your favorite old movie?
Without a doubt, The Charge of the Light Brigade. I still remember staying up until ungodly hours of the night just to catch that on Turner Classic Movies.
I’m jealous you can crochet like a granny, did you learn from someone
or did you teach yourself?
I learned from someone. I was a latchkey kid, and I lived in a house at the end of a long, winding road deep in the woods, with the only other home being a trailer situated in a clearing close by. The old woman who lived in the trailer would let me stay with her until my mother or sisters came home, when I got spooked sitting at home by myself. If I wasn't buried in a book, she'd teach me how to crochet. Her trailer was full of all these afghans and pillows and such she'd crocheted, in all these intricate patterns. I never got to be that good, but I loved sitting with her while she taught me how to chain, double-chain, etc. Sadly, she's passed away in recent years, but I still have some of the granny squares she showed me how to make, sitting in a keepsake box upstairs.
cat, 35 pounds on a diet that is afraid of the nine pound Pixie cat. Is
he the inspiration for Tobias’ cat Samadhi?
Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford—antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.
One kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. But when his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile deeper, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean—or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?