Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Connecting to your muse": interview with Autumn Kalquist, author of the Legacy Code Saga

I've been blogging for two and a half years now and the best part has been the people I met through the blog. You guys are awesome! :-)

One of such awesome people is Autumn Kalquist -- a singer, songwriter, and the author of the Legacy Code Saga. Autumn contacted me some time ago, when she was researching genetics for her novels. And look how far she's come now: the first book in her saga Legacy Code came out this week and is already a hit on Amazon, ranking among the top 10 Kindle bestsellers and hot new releases. Way to go, Autumn !

I'm so impressed by this young woman! Not only she just launched her first book. Together with producer Freya Wolfe, she is currently working on a soundtrack to her books. The first song, titled "Artificial Gravity", reflects the themes and mood of the first book-- feeling "held down" in a place steeped in fear and too many lies. You can listen to "Artificial Gravity" by visiting Autumn's website and download it for free if you sign up for her newsletter. I'm so thrilled that Autumn came to answer a few questions on the blog today.

EEG: Hi Autumn, thanks for being with us today! There's a lot of genetics in your book, Legacy Code:
The last humans fled a dying Earth 300 years ago, but there was something they couldn’t leave behind: the Legacy Code. Every colonist in the fleet carries mangled genes that damage the unborn, and half of all pregnancies must be terminated. The day seventeen-year-old Era Corinth is supposed to find out if her baby has the Defect, her ship suffers a hull breach. And it may not have been an accident. As the investigation unfolds, Era begins to question everything she’s been taught about the fleet, their search for a new Earth, and the Defect. But the answers she seeks were never meant to be found...
When did you start working on the Legacy Code and what was the image/melody/concept that inspired it?

AK: I was actually working on a novel that takes place hundreds of years after the events in Legacy Code. A character in that story opens ancient files titled “Songs and Stories from the Fleet”. In that scene, my character listens to a song that reflects her own life—and the lyrics I wrote became “Artificial Gravity”. Once I wrote the song, I started asking questions. What was life like on the fleet for the colonists--for the original songwriter? I knew I had to write their story before I released the novel I was working on. One of my main characters in Legacy Code, Zephyr, is that ancient unknown songwriter.

EEG: Whenever the topic of outlining comes up among writers, we seem to split in two: the ones who do and the ones who don’t. What about you, Autumn? Do you outline the whole book before delving into the story?

AK: The stories I outline seem to be more cohesive, and the pacing seems better. I spent a few days outlining Episode 2. I also know all the major plot twists for every book in the Legacy Code Saga (and I’ve plotted out ten books). I noticed I’m beginning to internalize plot structure and I just feel it when a story is going right. It’s actually a lot like the structure of a song. There’s an emotional journey from first beat to last, a climax close to the end, and a satisfying outro. I analyze it, but a lot of it boils down to intuition. But I can’t say I was born with storytelling instincts. I wrote the equivalent of three novels before writing Legacy Code, and I wasn’t able to see right away where my stories were going to run into problems (useless scenes, plot holes, thin sub-plots, low tension, etc.) That’s just something that comes with practice and hours spent doing revisions.

EEG: Wow, ten novels in the making! Do writing words and creating new tunes intertwine in your creative process, as in, for example, you start humming a new tune while writing a scene and vice versa a new scene pops in your head as you are creating music?

AK: Well, “Artificial Gravity” was inspired by the mood and circumstances in the scene I was writing, for sure. The song for book two is called “Better World”, and I had to sink into my characters and try to feel what they feel after the events of Legacy Code. I’m currently working on a song that was inspired by another author’s books. I knew right away that I wanted to write a song, but the night I finished the second book in the series, I dreamt the song. It was really crazy, because that’s never happened to me before. I woke up with a melody line, a few lyrics, and the parts for several instruments. I’m posting about the process over on my site.

EEG: Tell us about your inspiration, your muse.

AK: I like to view the muse like it's outside of me. When I'm creating, I feel like I'm dipping into a sort of collective pool of creation. I pick up the ideas and apply my skills and techniques to bring them to life. I feel like these stories are meant to be shared. I think it's a shame that any well-told story should go unread. You don't need anyone's approval to share it with the world.

EEG: There's another aspect of your life that has me incredibly impressed: you were diagnosed with Hodgkins disease at age 15. How did this affect you? Do you think that fighting and winning this battle has made your muse even stronger?

AK: I'm 100% sure my cancer changed me. I was always stubborn and individualistic, but there's a clear line between who I was before it and who I was after it. I have more fear now, because I've already had to face my own mortality, but I now also see how a lot of things don't matter... I see how essential it is that I follow my dreams. I can't say I'm glad I had it, because I worry I'll get it again, but I know it changed how I live life. Connecting with “the muse” is almost a spiritual thing for me, if I’m trying to describe it. I think I’ve always had a connection to that creative part of me. I was a pretty weird, creative kid. ;)

EEG: I just started reading your book and I'm already engaged in the story. One thing I love about your writing is the fact that you thoroughly research everything. Is that what draws you to science?

AK: I think I have that "truth seeker" personality. I'm sure you do too. I started researching religion and spirituality at 12, since I was raised Catholic and decided it didn't feel quite right for me. And I enjoy researching the science behind how things work, or how we think things work. It seems science is the best way to find the closest thing to truth, but we're also held back by the tech and knowledge we don't have yet. There are things we can't test or look for because we don't have the tools, or because we don't even know we should be testing for those things. But that makes finding connections and seeing patterns in the existing data even more exciting. I’m actually attracted to those lines where truth blurs. My stories tend to be rather morally gray. You’ll never see an “evil villain” in my books. Even villains have a reason for what they do. Empathizing with villains can cause some delicious cognitive dissonance and make you question what you would do under the circumstances all the characters find themselves in. Those kinds of stories are my favorite.

EEG: That's something I totally relate to. Thanks so much, Autumn, for stopping by! Your energy is contagious, and I partly owe it to you if I finally found the inspiration to push forward with my own book. Thank you!

The other part I owe to another wonderful woman, whom you guys will meet next week -- stay tuned! And don't forget to check out Autumn's book on Amazon.


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