Please welcome GT Almasi to the blog! He’s the author of the brand new cyberthriller Blades of Winter and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
You have a background in graphic design, and copywriting. What made you finally decide to take the plunge and write a novel?
I’d had a few ideas kicking around in my head for years, and I was at a place in my life where I was ready for a new challenge. But the most immediate catalyst that got me started was reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash one right after the other. I’d always figured writing a novel would be tedious and unpleasant because you’d have to use, you know, good grammar and all that nonsense. But the romping prose of these two books showed me that writing a novel could be a fun as reading one.
Your new novel, Blades of Winter, is cyberthriller at its best! What do you like most about writing in this genre?
I love how I get to mash-up all sorts of things; advanced electronics & old-fashioned bullets, carbon fiber & rusted metal, skinny geeks & beefy thugs, futuristic capabilities & ancient anxieties.
I just got a new smartphone, and the first thing I did was put a full-resolution copy of Blade Runner on there, just to see how it looked. It looked fantastic, but I couldn’t make myself turn it off and I wound up watching the whole thing and loving that juxtaposition of past and future. Something that strikes me as another example of this kind of mash-up is the Millennium Falcon, with its souped-up, hot-rod, hyper-space engines all banged into place with an old hydro-spanner.
What would be your elevator pitch for Blades of Winter?
“It’s a fast-paced, espionage cyber-thriller set in an alternate history where the Germans win World War Two.”
Alix Nico, your heroine, is quite young (19). Why did you decide to make her so young and was it tough writing from a female point of view?
Alix’s youth was inspired by watching the athletes at the Olympics, especially the gymnasts and figure skaters. Those kids are amazing, and I thought that if kids can do those acrobatics there isn’t much they can’t do.
Writing Alix isn’t like writing a “normal” female character because Alix is so enmeshed in the masculine world of being a covert-action agent. Another question might be, “was it tough writing from a sociopathic point of view?”
Where I tried to retain more of Alix’s femininity are the scenes she has with her mother. While nothing in the books actually happened to me or my family, these scenes are informed from when my sister and I were teen-agers and I was watching her and my mother learn the lessons a lot of girls and moms have to learn together.
A further source could be the brief but close friendship I once had with someone I was working with. She and I spent a lot of time talking together because we had a big thing in common; we both dated women and they were driving us nuts. What was most interesting to me was that her perspective was exactly the same as mine. It gave me the idea that the gender gap may have been purposefully manufactured to distract all of us away from things that actually matter. Maybe Mars and Venus are a lot closer to each other than we’ve been sold.
Did your career in graphic design help you visually in writing action scenes for Blades of Winter?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid, and that translated into my graphic design work. I’ve got a really visual sense of things, and pretty good recall. One of my college friends still remembers the first time she saw me successfully paint a sky from memory. Perhaps a corollary here is that I remember a lot of the action scenes, fight scenes, and martial arts scenes I’ve watched in movies or played through in video games.
But mostly I think what makes my action scenes fit together is that I act them out when I write them. I move around the room and brandish pretend weapons at pretend adversaries. Then I do it again from the other side. For driving sequences I call upon my vivid memories of driving like Bo and Luke Duke with my high school friends. I pretend to act these out too, which is why my characters get thrown around inside a wildly swerving car because that really used to happen to me. This play-acting may help me capture the details of what’s happening to the characters. Plus it’s totally fun.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I did a ton of research for this book. I came to writing with a decent foundation in history, but everything else — science, espionage, all the locations, in-depth details about historical events — saw me starting at square one. Half my time on this book was spent doing research of one kind or another.
I know that some of your favorite authors include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. Which one of their books (or another’s) would you like to read again for the first time?
Cool question! The two books I mentioned for sure, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Snow Crash. I’d love to re-live that sensation of being blown away by something I’d never seen before. Like when I first listened to Nirvana’s Nevermind, or the first time I saw Star Wars.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
If someone were just dipping their toes in the sci-fi / thriller genre, where would you personally recommend that they start?
The Matrix, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and Virtual Light by William Gibson, in that order. Then Blade Runner, Frederick Pohl’s Gateway and Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, and then Neuromancer by Gibson.
What’s one of your favorite lines from a book or movie?
I absolutely love quoting movies and books, so I can’t stop at just one:
One of all-time faves is, “As your attorney, I advise you to drive at top speed,” from Fear and Loathing. My friends I still say this to each other, especially when we’re running late for something.
I once got to say “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges,” in a context where it really made sense! It was one of my movie-geek highpoints.
When my wife or I aren’t very impressed with something we do our Colin Firth-Mr. Darcy impression and say, “It’s tolerable, I suppose. But not handsome enough to tempt me.”
So, so many more, but I’ll stop here.
Casablanca, La Femme Nikita, The Professional, Blade Runner, Moonstruck, Godfather, Apocalypse Now, My Favorite Year, Racing w The Moon, Matrix, Bourne Identity, Daniel Craig’s Bond movies, Blazing Saddles, Aeon Flux, Stalingrad, Cabaret, Singin’ In The Rain, and many more. I love movies 🙂
If you could pick anyone alive or dead to have coffee or drinks with, and pick their brains, who would it be?
It’d be Jesus. So much stuff has sprung up around his life and teachings that I’d love to get the straight dope from him and find out what really happened. I must admit part of me hopes he’d say that Christopher Moore’s book Lamb is completely true.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
During the day I like to go out to breakfast with my wife, get together with friends, or take our dog for a walk in the woods. At night we go see one of friends’ many bands, or I catch up on my reading while my wife noodles around on the Xbox (or vice versa).
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The second book, Hammer of Angels, will be out in Spring of 2013, and I’ll be at NYC Comic-Con on October 13th and 14th (the Saturday and Sunday). The author-wranglers at Random House will set up my schedule for me, so I have no idea what I’ll be doing besides trying to get my picture with Mad Moxxie and Predator.
Keep up with GT: Facebook | Goodreads
Purchase Blades of Winter: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
About Blades of Winter:
Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.
Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.
About the author:
G. T. Almasi graduated from RISD and moved to Boston to pursue a career as a graphic designer. While he built his design portfolio, he joined a band as the bass player, and wrote and designed the band’s newsletter. Once his career as an art director took off, he continued to supplement his design talents by writing copy for his clients.
As a novelist, his literary influences include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. He also draws inspiration from John Woo’s movies and Todd Howard’s videogames. Almasi lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his wife, Natalie, and their lovably stubborn dog, Ella.