Jennifer Ellis is one of five authors with books releasing next week under the “Apocalypse Weird” banner. The series started out with The Red King by Nick Cole and is spreading like a firebomb with the next books in the series, which include entries by Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, E.E. Giorgi, and Cole himself with the follow-up to Red King. After reading Ellis’ book Reversal, I knew I wanted to interview her on my blog. The novel is a great read, in or out of the AW series. It reads a lot like a Clive Cussler novel with bits of Dean Koontz mixed in for good measure. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, check out that M.S. Corley cover as well. Wicked.
Oh…and there may be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned in advance.
WS: Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t you start with a short background about who Jennifer Ellis is and your career thus far.
JE: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. I started off as a serious academic and have a PhD in Geography, but quickly decided academia was not for me. I always wanted to be a writer and I could not see how a career teaching at a university and being forced to publish or perish could fit with my writing aspirations. I’m also a bit of a lone wolf. I like working on short-term projects, over which I have significant control, on my own, preferably in my house, in my pajamas, with the option to sneak out for a skate ski in the afternoon. So for the past sixteen years, I’ve worked as an independent consultant doing research, coordinating projects, and writing reports for multiple clients in the fields of sustainability and climate change. I started writing fiction seriously in 2007, and after having an agent and trying the traditional route for several years, published my first novel , A Pair of Docks, in 2013, which is a middle-grade science fiction fantasy. I have published two more since then—the second in my middle grade series, called A Quill Ladder, and a dystopian action adventure novel for adults, called In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. Reversal will be my fourth novel. I also have published two short stories in anthologies—Synchronic and Tales from Pennsylvania.
My writing career thus far has been pretty fun, and I’m so glad I decided to go indie. I have had lots of amazing breaks and met lots of fantastic people. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career, but plan to ramp things up significantly in the coming year. I had just started two pretty major and intense consulting contracts in December 2013, which left very little time for writing over the past year. Those two projects will be done in March, and I’m really looking forward to focusing more on writing.
WS: How did your involvement in AW come about?
JE: I had met Nick Cole and Michael Bunker through my involvement in Synchronic, which I was invited to join by my editor, David Gatewood, and got to know them a bit through the Facebook Launch Party and subsequent Facebook interactions. You know Michael and Nick—never a dull Facebook moment when they are around, beards and all. It’s sort of like working with Iceman and Maverick. And more importantly, they are both seriously great writers. Then I worked with them both in the Tales From Pennsylvania anthology. They asked me to join the AW crew and after doing some quick math in terms of whether I could generate the required word count to produce a complete novel by December, I gave them a resounding yes, and have been thrilled to be along for the ride ever since.
WS: What inspired your story Reversal?
JE: Well, I am Canadian, so I wanted to do something with a bit of a Canadian and snowy spin. I also have friends who have done Arctic research and I thought the Ellesmere Island setting offered a lot of scope to do something a bit different than what the others were doing. Also, since I do have a background in climate change and geography, I wanted to take more of a geomorphological and environmental approach to the apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. I’ve always been interested in the different theories of mass extinction and what from an environmental perspective might finally do us in.
WS: One aspect I was impressed with was the authenticity. Do you have a background in Arctic research?
JE: Thanks so much. No, I don’t have a background in Arctic research. But I did hang out with people who did do northern research in grad school and heard a lot of their stories, mostly about not being able to shower for 45 days. I also spend a lot of time in a snowy climate, as I live in a ski town. We have bears in town and our yard routinely. Regular black bears of course, but I am accustomed to thinking about bears every time I go out for a run in the summer. I also did a research paper on penguins in university, and when I started writing Reversal, I had just finished reading a book about Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic. Pulling the rest together was just pure straight research, which I am pretty used to doing.
WS: What’s it been being a part of the initial AW team?
JE: The best! They are such a great group and have been fantastic to work with. It has also been super exciting to be part of something that is such a revolution in publishing. But it has also been a bit nerve-wracking because of course I wanted to make sure my novel measured up to Nick’s and Michael’s and the other two launch books by Chris Pourteau and E.E. Giorgi.
WS: How about that Corley cover?
JE; I love it. He is a pro and totally worked with me to develop the elements that I wanted to include. It was great fun to be able to imagine what my characters looked like and how I saw the various settings and be able to send him links and have him just produce them with his pencil. That is true talent.
WS: Any hints on your next book?
JE: My next Apocalypse Weird book will be called Undercurrent. Sasha will carry on to the Falkland Islands in search of Murphy and Soren, and then back to the Arctic to retrieve the green folder with the mysterious coordinates with the help of Gregor, who has uncovered some information regarding the polar bear tags. They will encounter more than they bargained for, and discover that all magnetic roads lead to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, the Deccan Traps in India, Parhump, Nevada and the year 1974. That is of course, assuming I get to write it, because that is not a given in the Apocalypse Weird world, as readers have to connect with my writing and characters, so if you want more Polar Wyrd, make sure you leave a review for Reversal.
WS: One last thing…exploding penguins???
JE: It seemed appropriately apocalyptic. I do feel a bit bad about the penguins. No real penguins were harmed in the writing of Reversal, I swear. I might have to have the penguins take over the Antarctic research station in Undercurrent to make up for it.
Seriously — if you love a good thriller, Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal might be right up your alley. A bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, a bit supernatural. All together a great read. It is just one of the five Apocalypse Weird books releasing on February 23.