It was our pleasure this week to interview Cy Wyss, author of Dimorphic. Her latest book, released in November of 2015, is a suspenseful thriller with something of a twist.
Ms. Wyss is currently on tour with her book, making stops across the internet. You can find the schedule here at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
Does your computer background inspire plots for you? Do you include high level technology in them? Sounds quite useful for crime solving.
These questions seem to go together so I’ll answer them both at once. My background in technology definitely influences the plots I write. For starters, I don’t shy away from cutting edge technology in my books, such as the GPS trackers or surveillance system of Dimorphic. One thing I like to play with is to take today’s technology, push it a little bit further, and then give it to the bad guys. This way the good guys need to know something about the technology and its possibilities in order to figure out what’s going on.
While I am new to your stories, I see that you write both urban crime stories and science fiction or paranormal. First there was Eyeshine which sounds a bit paranormal and a lot fun, now we have dimorphic. Which do you enjoy writing more? Crime and Mystery or Sci/Fi?
I enjoy both. Most of what I’ve written to date is fairly straightforward mystery/thriller works, but at the moment I am hashing out the first draft of a true science fiction book called Queendom Vuor. It is about a society in which a preference for males was codified into their DNA with all the problems one can imagine that entails.
For Dimorphic, I wondered about the situation of being both male and female and what that might look like. Judith has this idea that what’s holding her back from being a hero is being female, well she figures out that might not be the case as she ends up having to save her brother’s “stronger” body more than once. Both works explore gender issues, but as different genres. So, really, I’m writing similar stories, just from different perspectives.
Can you share how a science fiction, fantasy, paranormal idea builds? That is, I don’t mean to ask where you get an idea, but more once you have the idea how do you take it down the road to a novel?
That’s a good question. I like to start with a concept question, such as “what if someone could be both male and female”? From there, I start thinking of characters. With Dimorphic, I knew I needed the main characters (Judith and Ethan), a mentor (Jack), and a sidekick for both Judith (Blaze) and Ethan (Goom).
Once those characters started to take shape, the plot came with them. Judith is a dreamer, and a bit of a klutz. Her one wish is to be a hero. Thus it became natural to have her run into Jack and convince him to train her. After that, I needed a bad guy (Viktor Volkov) and a reason for him to be after Judith (Msti is that reason). From there, the plot unfolded from the characters’ interactions.
The final draft of Dimorphic hardly resembles the early drafts, however. The way I said it above makes it sound like it was a linear process, but really the characters emerged from the drafts I wrote organically. My advice is to draft, and redraft, and redraft again—all until your characters finally converge on who they’re really supposed to be. Once your characters sing, the plot will sing with them.
Do you have a complete idea created in your imagination before you start writing? Or does it, like mystery fiction, often take off on its own as you write?
Dimorphic was my first book and as I mentioned above, the final draft doesn’t resemble the first draft at all. The characters and plot emerged over several revisions. With later books, however, I am more able to move from a concept question such as “What if a person could change into a cat?” to an outline, to a completed novel. With Eyeshine, the process was much more linear than Dimorphic, and the first draft very much resembles the final draft. (I went through about three drafts.)
Are you an outliner, a ‘generalizer,’ or a free writer once you start?
As I mentioned above, for Dimorphic I was more of a free writer. For Eyeshine I was more of an outliner. I think my work process has matured significantly since Dimorphic (I wrote the first draft in 2011). Now I am able to move from a concept question to a list of characters and an outline of the major plot points, then I am able to largely stick to that outline.
Of course, once a full draft comes out the outline will change inevitably so in some sense every draft is an exercise in free writing. I use the plot points of my outline to ground myself so I don’t get too far off the path.
Any plans to make a series from either Eyeshine or Dimorphic?
Both lend themselves to sequels. I have a sequel to Dimorphic in a first draft. For Eyeshine, I have some ideas about another volume, but I haven’t started writing yet. Partly it depends on what interest I get in the books. Eyeshine was a lot easier to write for me than Dimorphic.
How long did it take you to write Dimorphic?
I wrote the first draft in November 2011 for NaNoWriMo (November is National Novel Writing Month). From there, I wrote two more drafts in 2012 and self-published an early version in June of that year. Then I let it sit for 2 years.
I took it down, unhappy with it, and went through another series of drafts in 2014 and 2015. I also got a great editor to help me with the final draft. Now the new, improved version came out in November 2015, four years after the original was started.
Are you strict with a writing schedule? Say an office for 8 hours, or a certain number of words a day?
I wish I could say I was strict with such a schedule. Lately I’ve been very undisciplined. Thank goodness for the write-ins at the Indiana Writing Center and the informal write-ins that friends from NaNoWriMo here in Indianapolis have been organizing. Somehow getting together with others makes me able to write. I’ve been going through a rough patch in terms of getting myself to write regularly, but I do exercises and read craft books to keep sharp in the meantime.
What do you like most about the writing process? What is your least favorite part?
I like the creativity that goes into the process, especially where inventing characters is concerned. It is a great feeling to craft a fully formed protagonist and all of their supporting characters. I often find the plot comes naturally from interactions between the characters.
My least favorite part is writer’s block. I get it when revising, when writing, when planning, or even when thinking. For me, writer’s block is when I start to question my decision to write at all, let alone what I’m currently looking at. Being self-published is tough, it is hard to get any kind of recognition. If I let it, that can get me down on writing and I’ll put it off endlessly.
It seems that you have a lot more fun writing than computing. With your humor, do you find it a good outlet?
It is a good outlet. Judith has a wry sense of humor and is good at laughing at herself; I would like to think I have that same ability. On the other hand, writing code is not an exercise in humor. Computing is serious, although most people I know who are techies tend to like a good joke.
With references to comic books, superheroes, and all that goes with that, are you a fan of graphic novels? Did they influence your writing?
I’m definitely a fan of graphic novels. While writing Dimorphic I was reading Kickass and Sin City and I’m sure some of the feel of those crept into Dimorphic. When I was younger I used to subscribe to many titles, including the greats: Spiderman, Superman, and Batman. One of my favorite graphic novels is the story of Bane’s origin (in the Batman canon). I mention it in Dimorphic and it is no accident.
Is there a particular lesson or message you want your readers to understand after reading Dimorphic?
I’m not a man but I have played one on the Internet. That sounds bad, but it’s really simple. I’m a gamer and when people meet you they assume you’re male. I just don’t correct people’s assumptions of me if that’s what they assume. All of those games have female as well as male avatars and, unlike in real life, they’re completely interchangeable. I guess I wanted to capture some of that same feeling in Dimorphic.
Judith says it best when she is talking to Goom about it. He wants to know what the big differences are between being male and female. I think in this day and age of civilization the biggest difference is how other people treat you. For most contexts the big difference is other people’s opinions of you. Even with Judith’s power, she still finds people treat her differently as a man than as a woman, even when the situation is (for all intents and purposes) the same and, of course, she’s the same person underneath.
I could go on, but I’m sure you have lots to do with your tour. Eyeshine is already in my cart to read next. Can’t resist. Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you! It’s been a great opportunity and I’ve really enjoyed these questions.
by Cy Wyss
on Tour Jan 25, 2016 – Feb 29, 2016
It’s easy to become a superhero.
First, discover a superpower. It might take a while to get used to, though — especially if it’s something as weird as being your twin brother half the time.
Second, recruit a sidekick. Or, two. It’d be nice if they weren’t a pyromaniacal sycophant and a foul-mouthed midget, but you get what you get.
Third, and most important, hire a mentor — preferably not a vicious mobster with a God complex, however, this may, realistically, be your only choice.
Finally: go forth and fight crime. Try not to get shot, beaten, tortured, or apprehended in the process.
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC
Publication Date: November 4th 2015
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 0996546510 (ISBN13: 9780996546515)
Note: Dimorphic contains Strong Language
Read an excerpt:
I live and write in the Indianapolis area. After earning a PhD in Computer Science in 2002 and teaching and researching for seven years, I’ve returned to the childhood dream of becoming an author. I better do it now because I won’t get a third life.
Behind me, I have a ton of academic experience and have written about twenty extremely boring papers on query languages and such, for example this one in the ACM Transactions on Databases. (That’s a mouthful.)
Now, I write in the mystery/thriller/suspense genres and sometimes science fiction. I know for some people databases would be the more beloved of the options, but for me, I finally realized that my heart wasn’t in it. So I took up a second life, as a self-published fiction author.
Online, I do the Writer Cy cartoon series about the (mis)adventures of researching, writing, and self-publishing in today’s shifting climate. I also love to design and create my own covers using GIMP.