esther mathison, the device, hoverboard, beatrice blinks

Interview: Esther Mathison

esther mathison
Esther Mathison (Photo: Jim Ulness)

When I started Esther Mathison’s book The Device I could not put it down. I eagerly read her second book and was honored when she asked me to edit her third book The 3.14 Device. Her steampunk time travel books are a fun read. Her main character, the borderline agoraphobic Gloria is a fresh break from the stereotypical time travelers.

Esther’s books are as thought provoking as they are fun. She tackles subjects such as ethics and personal morality and how they relate to technology. Her books would be a good fit for a book club, or even a school classroom that encouraged deep discussion.

It is my pleasure to work with Esther. Check out some of her other writing on Kittysneezes. You can also buy her books at www.thedevicebook.com – Zoe Omega

Part the First

At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?

“A Little Respect” by Erasure. I can be having the worst day ever, and that song will still cheer me up.

What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?

In the steampunk community there are so many. Like Dogwood, this quirky and adorable ukulele player who writes songs about Greek mythology.

What’s the strangest thing you own?

A hoverboard, which I made from scratch in under 2 days.

Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?

When I was 17, I wrote a song called “She Is” for sexual assault survivors. I sometimes tell people it’s the greatest song I’ve ever written, and will always be the greatest song I’ve ever written no matter how many songs I write during my life. Many of my fans have told me these really heartbreaking stories from their own lives and then tell me that my song helped them process their pain.

Who’s your favorite novelist (excluding yourself)?

Terry Pratchett with his Discworld series.

What’re your top three movies?

Princess Caraboo, Hudsucker Proxy, and Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.

What is your favorite game?

Pandemic. It’s a cooperative board game where all the human players are trying to eradicate 4 global diseases. Either everyone wins, or disease wins. I always feel like a hero when I win.

What is your favorite meal?

Broccoli with cheese sauce.

What sort of pie or treat do you enjoy baking?

I don’t really bake anything sweet. But there’s a savory treat I like baking: crescent rolls with tofu dogs and cheese inside them, like a vegetarian “pigs in a blanket.”

What are your five most favorite books in the world?

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Princess Bride by William Goldman, 1984 by George Orwell, Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, and Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.

If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?

As a kid, I joked that I’d name a daughter “Macaroni and Cheese.” These days, I’d probably go with “Beatrice.”

What is reality?

First of all, it’s overrated. But if I have to define it, I’d say reality is the shared experience that exists outside of our imagination. And yet reality is filtered through everyone’s prejudices, so probably we’ll never know what objective reality is.

Part the Second

What was the genesis of The Device series?

In case you haven’t  heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s the worldwide challenge to write a novel in a single month, and it happens every November. The goal is a 50,000 word novel, but my novels are usually around 30,000 words. The Device was the first successful NaNoWriMo book I’d written, and the first book I’d written at all. The whole concept came out of my love of science fiction films, and yet I thought Marty McFly from Back to the Future and Doctor Who were too much alike: Both gregarious dudes who can charm the pants off of anyone.

So I realized I wanted to write a time travel story, but have a character I’d never seen before in any time travel film. Gloria has social anxiety disorder with borderline agoraphobia. That is a unique enough concept that sometimes strangers will buy my book just from hearing the premise briefly. The book was popular enough that I turned it into a series. I have written 3 books in The Device series so far, and I am working on a 4th one (Robots Without Lasers) that is a spin-off. So it can be read all by itself, or it can be read along with the other books since it takes place in the same universe. Since it’s November, that means Robots Without Lasers will be done November 30th.

How have you dealt with your critics?

Most people love my books. I’ve only had 3 bad reviews, and all 3 were “retracted.” In one instance, a reader called my book “boring” but then retracted it by saying he thought ALL books were boring which is why my book was the first one he’d read in 10 years. One bad review came from another author, who retracted it by admitting he was a little jealous of my success and that colored his review. And the third bad review amused me a lot. This guy was only halfway through my book and said “The love story feels incomplete.” Then he reached the end of the book and said “Oh! I get it now! That’s a wonderful romance. I am going to read your book again because I will really enjoy it the second time, knowing what I know now.” Whoa, that was an awkward sentence.

You have mentioned sometimes the character will tell you about themselves. Can you go into how that occurred in this series?

In the first book, I was trying to reach 50,000 words to meet the NaNoWriMo challenge, and all of my characters collectively screamed at me, “Enough already! Wrap it up! You’ve put us through hell and we deserve a rest.”  In another book, I was typing away when a character said to me “You know, I’m gay, right?”  My reaction was “I do now! But I guess my parents will never read this book.”

Who are your biggest influences?

Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams are the two authors that inspire me most with their humor. Gene Roddenberry taught me how to weave morality into my science fiction. Joss Whedon is great at dialogue and writing strong female characters. As for being influenced as a human being, you can’t go wrong by following the example of Mr. Rogers.

How long have you been writing books?

I have attempted to write books since NaNoWriMo in 2005, but my first successfully finished book was 2011.

If I recall, you’re a patient navigator for the Affordable Care Act. Do the people you work with know about your books?

Yes, and a couple of them even bought my books. We’re all so busy though, that they are only a few chapters in.

What initially drew you to that profession?

I really believe healthcare is a basic human right. I know the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but I’ve seen it save lives. The sliding scale clinics I work for (Country Doctor & Carolyn Downs clinic) at had over 50% of our patients WITHOUT insurance before I started working there. And thanks to the efforts of me and my co-workers, that number has dropped to 30%.

You’re about to finish the 4th book in the time travel series based on The Device. How far in advance do you have The Device series plotted out?

I have a little bit of the 5th book planned out, but I don’t know how that book will end. In the NaNoWriMo world, there are “planners” and there are “pantsers.”  The “pantsers” write “by the seat of their pants” and that is very much my style.

Other than The Device series, have you done any other books? 

Last year I took a break from time travel and wrote Beatrice Blinks, about a woman who loses her memory every 1,000 blinks. Everyone has liked it so far. I haven’t gotten a single negative review.

Is there anything you’d like to add about your projects?

I have an indiegogo campaign because I’m trying to earn enough money to do something really special for my next book cover. The Beacon Light Rail station is this magical place that feels like you’re underwater in the distance future, and I need to earn enough to rent it. If you feel like contributing anything, you can get standard perks like books or my music. But you can also get special things, like a makeup tutorial from me, a song written by me (on the topic of your choice), a poem or short story written by me (on the topic of your choice), or you can buy my awesome hoverboard. Even if you miss the deadline for contributing to this project, indiegogo will still accept donations after the campaign is over, and you can still get all the same cool stuff. 

Do you have any other projects you’d like to mention?

I sing and play original music at open mics sometimes on Tuesday nights with my ukulele and cat piano. For more info on my musical projects, visit www.facebook.com/polyestherogen

For more info on my books, visit  www.thedevicebook.com and www.facebook.com/thedevicebook

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