A Conversation with Author Hieronymus Hawkes

Can you tell us a bit about the story and its main characters?

It takes place about 15 years from now, when lifelogging has become mandatory. A lifelog is when a person records their daily life and activities, comprehensively, through the use of wearable tech or smart phone usage or something that can record stuff. The Vitasync neurochip has become all the rage, like the iPhone did at the turn of the century. The main character, Cole, is one of the developers of the neurochip, but discovers something nefarious is going on with it and wakes up the next day with his chip removed and his memory missing. Desperate to recover his stolen memories, Cole relies on a renegade group to unravel an assassination plot before they kill him first. A fast-paced sci-fi thriller infusing complex characters with rapidly growing technology threatening to drag society into a cyberpunk-like surveillance state.

Cole’s fiancé is Tesla Carrick, an incredible programmer and department head for the same company. She is a world class narcissist but is used to getting her way. 

Eva Spangler is a former paramedic turned attorney. She does a lot of pro bono work for an organization that supports the disenfranchised, and she represents Cole in court.

The antagonist is Phil Chestnut, an agent for the newly developed Federal Department of Fidelity, who’s on a mission to fix a problem with their assassination program.

What inspired the idea for your book?

I read the blog of Charlie Stross, a Scottish science fiction writer, and he talked about the keynote address he gave to the USENIX 2011 conference in Boston, talking about what the future is going to look like up through the next 500 years. He talked about lifelogging and how it will be a disruptive technology within 20 years.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?

Just how much of a bias I have, despite thinking I could write a woman with anxiety disorder. The original main character was female, and she wasn’t likable or relatable. I ended up doing a gender swap years later and then my bias was revealed. It was shocking and humbling. I have two very strong daughters and my late wife was a good role model for them, and she was afflicted with anxiety disorder. I thought I knew what I was doing, so it was an impactful learning experience for me.

Tell us about a favorite character from the book.

One of my favorites is a woman named Kasia, who runs a halfway house for the less fortunate. She is sure of herself, compassionate, straight forward, and badass. She speaks her mind and damn the torpedoes. She doesn’t like how society has given up so much freedom in her world.

Where did you come up with the names in the story?

I have a document I keep with interesting names that I come across. I also use baby name websites. The characters’ names changed many times in the development of the novel.

If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together?

Maxine Belrose throws huge LAN parties for her friends. I used to be a bigtime gamer and that would probably be a lot of fun.

How do you define success as an author?

I got into a deep discussion with an artist at a convention a few years back and he asked me why I wrote and what I hoped to accomplish. I think deep down we all want to be a NY Times bestseller, or to write the seminal book in our field and win a Pulitzer, but realistically I just wanted a little respect. I didn’t want to put out my book and have the reviewers say how horrible the writing is. I feel like I’ve achieved that level of success. Effacement currently has a 4.4 rating on Amazon and most of the reviews say the writing is good. I got a review from someone I really respect, a professional book reviewer and writing mentor, and he gave it a glowing review. That really meant a lot to me.

What difference do you see between a writer and an author?

Publishing a book makes one an author in my opinion. It’s easier than ever these days. If you decide to do it on your own, do everyone a favor and use a professional editor. If you write you, are a writer. Not everyone writes to be published.

What was the defining moment that made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish.”?

I was 44 and realized I had spent that much of my life without creating anything lasting, other than my children. I spend most of my free time playing video games. I had a successful military career, but I wanted to spend my time more fruitfully, and I had done a little writing for fun, so I decided to try in earnest to write a novel. It took me almost 5 years to do it. And it wasn’t very good, but I did it.

How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block?

The hardest thing for me is avoiding social media and the internet. I sit down to write and often find a thousand other things to do. I think true writer’s block is probably a sign that there is something else going on in your life that you need to deal with. If I’m struggling with writing a particular passage, I take a shower or go for a walk and let my brain sort it out on its own. I find that the shower is a great place to think.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

The best advice I can give is to write as regularly as you can. It doesn’t have to be every day, but if you can get into a rhythm, it is easier. And don’t stop. Keep going until you get to the end. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? But most people want to rewrite the beginning over and over and never get past chapter 3. Read a lot and study your craft. I am still learning.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals?

Not really. I do like to listen to music when I write. I like movie soundtracks or stuff that is not going to make me sing along. Radiohead, the XX, melodic stuff.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?

For me the plot has always come first, then I try to figure out who would be the best person to tell the story. Then I work hard on developing interesting characters and once I have a very basic outline I let the characters tell their story.

As an author what do you think makes a good story?

Something interesting, or something that hits the emotions. The best stories do both. The very best don’t feel like you are reading them, but more experiencing them.

What are you working on in the near future?

I am working on a space opera trilogy…vampires in space! I’ve finished the first book and am currently writing the second one. I plan to release them all close together. The working title for the first book is Vim Dicaré.

What has been your favorite reader feedback?

That that couldn’t put it down. That is really what I was striving for, a page-turner, and I’m fairly satisfied that I did that. I’ve had friends read it that have known me for years and to see how shocked they were that it was actually good was gratifying.

How do you interact with your readers?

I have a website, a Facebook page and a twitter presence. I actually set up my website for the purpose of interacting with my readers. One of my favorite writers does that with her website and I wanted to do the same thing. I’m open and easy to reach and I want to interact with my readers.

https://firefliesandlaserbeams.com/2021/

https://www.facebook.com/HeroHawkes

tps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56908595-effacement

What is your all time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing?

Hard to pick just one, but Merchanter’s Luck by CJ Cherryh is probably as good a choice as any. I love her Alliance/Union stories. I am actually relistening to Regenesis on Audible. She is amazing. I also love just about everything from William Gibson. They have both influenced my writing.

What do you look for in a story as a reader?

It is usually an intriguing premise that gets me interested, but emotional tugs and interesting characters are what hook me.

Who is your audience?

For this book, it’s anyone that likes a thriller or enjoys science fiction. It’s a true technothriller, so I think it has pretty wide appeal and it isn’t too jargony so it should be an easy entry to science fiction if that isn’t normally your thing.

What is the first book that you remember reading?

Probably a Dr Suess book, but not sure which one. I do love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland though and have read it many times.

What is an underrated book, series or author that you think everyone should read at least once?

The book I always recommend is Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati. It is a continuation of the Longstalking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper with a little more romance. 

What are your top 5 favorite books or authors?

I actually posted an answer to this on my blog a couple of years ago: https://firefliesandlaserbeams.com/2019/08/09/5-things-friday-favorite-authors/

William Gibson, Caroline Cherry writing as C. J. Cherryh, Rosina Lippi writing as Sara Donati, Hannu Rajaniemi, and Anne Leckie

What would the title of your autobiography be? 

With Enough Bananas even a Monkey Can Learn to Fly

What are you reading now?

Light Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton

Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests?

I love music. Mostly, alternative rock or old 70s light rock, like Bread. I like most types of music though and own several guitars that I can’t play. I sang karaoke for the first time a few weeks ago and now I’m hooked. I also draw in pencil and pastel chalk, and blog or surf the web. I used to play a lot of video games, but that has waned a lot as I’ve gotten older. I enjoy poker as well.

Describe yourself in as few words as possible.

Bearded, Bald, and Kind

If you could have lunch with 3 authors (past or present) who would they be and what do you think you would all talk about during lunch? 

William Gibson, Mark Twain, and Max Berry. We would talk about how ridiculous modern politics are and how things change but they tend to cycle back to the old. The impact of the internet on society. Music for certain.

What would your dream library look like?

Like the Library of Alexandria if we are talking dream library. If we are talking slightly more realistic, I would fill it with first editions of all my favorite writers and all the old original manuscripts of the first fiction novels.

If you had your own talk show, what would the topic be and who would be your first guest(s)?

I would do a talk show about books and music. I would probably have Dave Grohl as my first guest because he is doing amazing things in the music industry, and I love him. And bonus: It would be a great way to meet all my favorite novelists and musicians.

f your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

  • Cole: Ryan Gosling
  • Tesla: Karla Souz
  • Eva: Jennifer Lawrence
  • Kasia: Michelle Rodriguez
  • Maxine: Rashida Jones
  • Lounis: Giancarlo Esposito
  • Agent Chestnut: Karl Urban

Now I want to see this movie!

Name three fun facts about you or your work.

I flew jets for the Air Force for 30 years.

I’ve written my novels from Spain, Qatar, Turkey, and here in the United States

When I first started writing I got a chance to have my manuscript reviewed by one of my favorite novelists, Sci Fi Master CJ Cherryh. She was wonderful and kind, and actually set up a phone call with me to go over her notes. It could have been the end of my writing career, but she was so gracious and encouraging, despite the lack of quality of that first manuscript. I will never forget it.

If you had a secret room that opened by pulling a book on a shelf, what book would you choose?

I love this question! But if I didn’t want other people going in there it would have to be something boring, like maybe Eshbach’s Handbook of Engineering Fundamentals. We called it Eshbrick when I was a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

If you went on a road trip with any author who would it be?

I would go on a road with Samuel Clemons, and it wouldn’t matter where we went. It would be fun and interesting regardless.

What is something you can do better than anyone else you know?

I’m better at being me than anyone else. I can compartmentalize extraordinarily well.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

Start a record label and travel the world looking for great new artists.

I share my life with a young science fiction writer/historian, who is obsessed with cyberpunk and all of its varied sub-genres. Yeah, until I became his beta reader I had no idea just how specialized cyberpunk had become. When this book tour was offered, I jumped at it because it covers so many of the same themes I was learning to enjoy thanks to my progeny (who is currently reading this on KU). This book is technically a TechnoThriller with cyberpunk aspirations and it doesn’t disappoint.

It is a thrilling ride from the opening line, to the final word. Like all good science fiction this story explores the human condition. It asks hard questions about where limits should be placed and who should be the ones to make those kinds of calls. It demonstrates how giving up freedoms for the sake of convenience or the illusion of safety can easily become a slippery slope with no real safety net. Like all great science fiction, it doesn’t answer those questions but leaves it up to the reader to mull it around and come to their own conclusions.

It is fitting that it is set in the not so distant future, as the themes and plotlines running the story could have been ripped from any social media newsfeed. Once upon a time that sentence would have read “Ripped from the headlines!” That proves just how plausible this tale is. Change is a constant and not always for the better, and human greed and political power grabs have been around in some form forever. With technological advances in medicine and hardware, it is easy to say “The future is now.” Is it progress though?

I was given the chance for my review copy to be in audio format which is not something I am used to reviewing. I have to say, I really liked it as an audio book. The actors’ narration was top notch and I was sucked into the story as easily as I would have been with the written word. audio is not my favorite form of reading, because I generally read faster than the book can talk to me, especially during particular tense or thrilling moments and the books begin to lag for me. I will give credit where credit is due. With this book, I didn’t once have that dragging feeling I usually get. Whether that is because this is truly a well written story, with epic world building and fully realized characters or the voice actor’s did a particularly good job at portraying the story, I don’t know. Maybe a mixture of both. I did enjoy it though so that is what matters most.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy through The Review Crew for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Effacement
Hieronymus Hawkes

401 Pages
Published January 30, 2021

Purchase Link: Amazon

More than Five Hundred 5 Star Reviews on Goodreads!
A future where offline privacy is illegal. A lethal plot permanently deleting people in power. One determined genius caught in an assassin’s sights.

2037. Dr. Cole Westbay is proud of having helped eliminate crime. Groomed to take over the company that makes the surveillance chip everyone is required by law to have, he’s alarmed by a series of suspicious deaths the hardware caused. And after launching an investigation, the brilliant scientist panics when he awakes with his mandatory neural link ripped out and his recently recorded memories erased…

Arrested for the federal crime of failing to have his life fully documented, Cole struggles to get back online and clear his name. And as his paranoia grows while the bodies continue to pile up, he fears government enforcers, friends, and even his fiancée may be in on the scheme to set him up for a deadly fall.

Can the embattled scientist crack the conspiracy before his enemies hit CTRL+ALT+DEL on his life?

Effacement is a gripping standalone science fiction technothriller. If you like gifted but flawed heroes, deep-state intrigue, and relentless villains, then you’ll love Hieronymus Hawkes’s dystopian vision.

Read Effacement for a hard reboot today!

Author Bio:

Hieronymus retired in 2018 after flying jets for the Air Force. He has a B.S. in Economics from the US Air Force Academy, and in 2015, he completed an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, which inspired him to publish his debut novel, a sci-fi thriller that explores futuristic technology and nuanced personal relationships. Hawkes has broken the sound barrier, won poker tournaments, and owns several guitars that he can’t play. Now he instructs young pilots in the art of flying, writes fiction and poetry, and sings badly in his car.

Author Links:

  • Author website: firefliesandlaserbeams.com/
  • https://www.instagram.com/hieronymushawkes
  • goodreads.com/author/show/20291140.Hieronymus_Hawkes
  • Twitter: @HieronymusHawk4
  • Facebook: facebook.com/HeroHawkes
  • Bookbub: bookbub.com/profile/hieronymus-hawkes
What does it mean to you to be called an author?
It’s something I’ve strived for since 2008, so being an author feels rewarding after all the hard work. I had decided back then that I was wasting too much of my free time playing video games and not really having anything to show for it at the end of the day. Having a book in hand is an awesome feeling. Hopefully, I learn to write faster!

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