Henry Schmitt wants nothing more than a quiet life and a daily ration of instant noodles. At least until he learns the terrible secret that drove his father awayÂ—the Plague that killed his mother and ravaged his country was created by those now in power. He has one chance to help expose the conspiracy: a ragtag band of rebels needs a pilot for their hot air balloon, where they can launch a broadcast revealing the truth. If Henry accepts, he can experience his dream of flight. But he would have to leave his safe, tranquil life behind ... and bring the wrath of a corrupt government upon his head.
I’m happy to have the chance to interview Claudie Arseneault about book Viral Airwaves. I love how she talks about how she connected to her own experiences when she was writing this book. Also, the way she talks about her main character, Henry, reminds me a lot of how Bilbo Baggins is at the beginning of the Hobbit; happy and complacent until forced into an adventure. That alone makes me want to read this book!
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Claudie-Arseneault/e/B00SZ0IGA8/
1. How do you develop your plots and characters?
I always start with characters. Long before IÂ’ll have a book idea, I will have a rich character in my head, with a voice and story and desires. Usually the plot starts to appear when I think about what this character wants, or how he comes into conflict with another character, etc. Â“How can I ruin this characterÂ’s life?Â” is a very fun question to ask.
I do sometimes have the barest idea of a plotline (in the style of Â“IÂ’d like to write something where X happensÂ”) but when that happens, the first thing I do is develop the characters involved in X. I find it a lot easier and organic this way, as I really enjoy character-driven stories and plots.
2. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Viral Airwaves has a slow beginning. Not that nothing happens for a long time, but youÂ’re well into the book when some of the major elements happen. ThatÂ’s because the MC, Henry Â… well, one of his biggest characteristic is how he doesnÂ’t want to be involved. He likes his cozy home, his instant noodles, and his tranquility. Let me tell you, that made writing an entrancing beginning really effing hard. I managed, and I love what I have now, but wow I must have rewritten the first third a ten times? Reworking the start and extending the changes into the rest of the book accounts for half of my rewrites on this novel.
3. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Oh gosh there are so many to pick from! The whole ending sequence is intense and it was incredible to wrap everything up in such a great dramatic fashion.
But Â… I have to give a special shout out to Chapter 2. The very beginning of it, when Captain Vermen smashes down HenryÂ’s door in the middle of the night, and heÂ’s just sitting there, 3 am, so stunned there are noodles hanging from his mouth Â… The whole scene is both intense and hilarious. HenryÂ’s kind of pathetic, but wouldnÂ’t we all be? And thereÂ’s the whole face-off between Vermen and Seraphin, which was a tough cookie to have this early on, because it carries years of history. Tough but fun. I love that scene (and itÂ’s a great excerpt because early, and perfect concentrate of who these three characters are!)
4. Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Everything. I wrote and rewrote Viral Airwaves over the course of six years (nine drafts!) and it took so long because I was teaching myself to write during that time. I learned about story structure. I learned about internal and external conflicts, about tension on the page, about stakes and rising them. I learned to use quirks and details and make them do double/triple dutyÂ—from characterization to themes to plot. I think thatÂ’s my favorite. I love bringing back tiny details and using them to create an echo through the story, and also crush the readerÂ’s feels.
So yes. Basically I would learn major elements of storytelling, then practice the theory by rewriting Viral Airwaves and integrating it. Everything from word-by-word writing to large scale changes. I do think thatÂ’s what makes it such a polished debut (yeah, I wrote that. I love the book itÂ’s still excellent).
5. What were you like in school?
In high school I was the shy nerd with tons of hair. I read a lot, played on my Gameboy, talked to as little people as I could (except close friends) and had incredible grades. Then cÃ©gep came (cÃ©gep is a two year between high school and university, kind of. A nice in-between where you kind of learn to be yourself. Perfect New Adult grounds too, haha). But basically I blossomed in cÃ©gep. Started talking, really coming into the unashamed, hyper-feminist geek I am today. Still growing in that direction (IÂ’m 26 now).
6. What was your favorite subjects in school?
MATH. Everyone hated maths but I find it sooo fascinating. Obviously, school as a whole was really easy for me, so that didnÂ’t influence my favorites, but I loved Maths to pieces and always gave it my fancy binder with the bright orange side.
Ironically I didnÂ’t like French so much. I live in CanadaÂ’s French province and French is my first language, by the way, so the French classes would be like the USÂ’ English ones, basically. Mostly grammar was boring, I always ended up with the dull books to read, and we did little creative writing (always in the same structure too) so it wasnÂ’t until cÃ©gep that I discovered that was a thing I adored.
7. Is any part of the book based on someone you know or events in your own life?
Yes. I cannot give details without spoiling the ending, but in 2012 QuebecÂ’s government threatened to hike student tuition, and we went on a massive strike to stop it. Massive, bigger than had been seen in the province for decades, and Quebec has a long history of strikes and protests, with unions and student associations alike. In Montreal there would be a protest every single night, and I know it lasted for more than 100 nights (I think it stopped at 130-150?)
Soon enough, the protests turned ugly. Tear gaz, sound grenades, riot gears. The whole deal. There are tons of incidents of wounded students during the strikes, and one in particular inspired events in Viral Airwaves. Plus, I was in some of those Â‘illegal gatheringsÂ’ as they called it, so the whole protest in the ending sequence? I lived that, down to a lot of the details in it.
8. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
You bet I can! Currently working on a high fantasy trilogy, full of political multi-layered plots. Everything happens in the same city, and centers on an elven noble family. Mostly. ThereÂ’s a lot going on. XD
So this family is led by Diel Dathirii, whose concentration of idealism/pound is too high for his own good. HeÂ’s telling the familyÂ’s guard captain (Kellian, a cousin) to drop everything because he just provoked the villain. The narrator is Jaeger, DielÂ’s steward and lover. And wow I should have taken an excerpt that didnÂ’t require so much explaining. Sorry!
“IÂ’m afraid we cannot wait,” Diel said. “He wonÂ’t, after the threats I made.”
“YouÂ—” Kellian stopped, rubbed the bridge of his nose, shook his head. “Of course you did.”
“Of course.” DielÂ’s tone had no trace of guilt or shame. He never apologized for standing up to wrong doings, even if it put the whole family in peril. “He was torturing his apprentice right before my eyes.”
Jaeger could imagine the scene without problem. He had seen this same scenario happen times and again. Diel spotted an injustice, flushed red, then called out. It didnÂ’t matter if he was jumping in the middle of dangerous business, unguarded and unprepared. He always interrupted. His name often sufficed as a shield, but he had been wounded in the past. Jaeger wouldnÂ’t change that for all the gold in the world, but judging from KellianÂ’s annoyed frown, he might. The guard clacked his tongue.
“Has anyone ever told you, Lord Dathirii, that you are this familyÂ’s greatest peril?”
DielÂ’s laughter once more filled the room. He put his hand on his heart in mock hurt, then met KellianÂ’s gaze with a confident smile. A strange light burned in DielÂ’s eyes, like a man about to jump down a hundred feet while certain he would survive the fall. Despite his chirpy disposition, Lord Dathirii knew what he had just unleashed.
“Greatest peril? You do me a disservice, Kellian.” He leaned forward a little. “IÂ’m its greatest challenge.”
9. Do you have a set writing schedule that you adhere to?
I adhere to the whole Â‘write every dayÂ’ advice. Let me just say, though, I donÂ’t think that works for everyone. It does for me, which is great, but every writer has their technique.
I donÂ’t have a definite schedule (like, fixed hours) but I can easily write 3-4 hours a day, every day. At the moment I do 2000-2500 words a day when IÂ’m busting out my first drafts. I can edit twice that unless it needs complete rewriting (then I basically go just as fast as actual writing, if not slower). I kind of want to kick it up to 3000 words/day over the next month (I donÂ’t have a job at the moment, that helps).
This works for me because the more I progress in a story, the more excited I am about it. It becomes its own fuel, because IÂ’m deeply immersed in the story and canÂ’t think of anything else. IÂ’ll almost completely stop gaming and reading when IÂ’m drafting.
10. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The best is through my newsletter. You get advance news of my projects, you can download Viral Airwaves for free, I give excerpts and news of my life too. I mean to be more regular with it, too, because I think itÂ’s a neat way to keep in touch. IÂ’m also on twitter (ClH2Oars) and I have a blog/website (claudiearseneault.com) so that works, too!