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Wednesday 9 October 2019

ℚ♫ Harvest - Olga Werby

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Harvest (, Pipsqueak Productions LLC, 420 pages), a Science Fiction.

"Author Olga Werby writes with excellent pacing to deliver a detailed and engagingly deep science fiction plot as well as a fast and action-fuelled novel that keeps the reader wanting to turn pages." K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

“The story ending is totally subversive and can be read in different dimensions. What is the future of humanity if not the combination of the contributions of our old and new human race's stories? Almost prophetic.”
~ Amazon Reviewer

"This novel is a deep and meaningful exploration of the complexities regarding the origins of the human race as well as the intentions of an alien species. [...] Harvest is an engaging and intriguing science fiction novel which I highly recommend."
~ Amanda Rofe for Readers' Favorite

|| Synopsis || Trailer || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Olga Werby; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in Harvest , or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?
"I have visual boards and music lists!  I post all of my visual mood boards on Pinterest
And here’s the list of song/albums that I’d played to put myself in the right mind-set for “Harvest”:"
What was the inspiration for Harvest?
"I became interested in the idea of galaxy’s first star-fairing civilization a few years back.  I wanted to use all of the science I knew to extrapolate the implications of being the first intelligence and the first civilization and then the first space-fairing culture to arise in the Milky Way.  There had to be the THE first.  What if it is NOT us?  How would we, humans, handle first contact with such people?  Would it go well for us? Would it be like “Star Trek?”  I had a feeling that it might not really play out that way…

The story of Vars, a professor of socio-biology who studies human origins and civilizations, came from my exploration on these ideas.  I wanted her—a “soft” scientist—to try to solve the puzzle of communicating with someone very different from us, whose motivations we simply don’t understand.  For when the time comes, it won’t be the physicists and mathematicians who will be on the forefront of interfacing with aliens.  It will be diplomats, sociologists, linguists, and lawyers! (perhaps teachers…)"
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"My background is in astrophysics and psychology.  Granted, it’s not a very likely combination for a career…a regular career.  But it is perfect for a writer of science fiction!

“Harvest” is a book about first contact between an old alien civilization and the people of Earth.  It’s all about physics and psychology!"
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for Harvest - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The cover you see on Amazon now is the second cover for “Harvest” since it came out in print.

Covers are very tricky.  Except for one cover, I designed and illustrated all of my books myself.

Several lives back, I went to art schools and had my painting hung in museums and won awards for my art…  Then I became a scientist. But I didn’t lose my graphic arts skills just because I switched tracks in mid life.  I can illustrate by hand, I am very proficient with Adobe suite of products.  I do all of the book production work myself as well (my husband helps with digital versions).  I help other authors put together their books and get them into a format for self-publishing.  It helps to have the skills…

That said, what I like in a cover is not the same as what my readers might like.  “Harvest” is a good example of this.  Allow me to share the evolution of the cover for this book.  It started like this:
You might notice it had a different title back then, too.  My beta readers STRONGLY disliked “Gardeners” as the title for this story.  After two years, the title became “Harvest”—same theme, different focus. 

The next cover looked like this:
I was experimenting with capturing the story in a graphical form.  I settled on the cover version shown below last April, and the book was published with it:
After I noticed that the sales weren’t up to my expectations, given stellar professional reviews, I decided to take advice and change the cover as part of an experiment.  I kept the print version the same, but I made the ebook cover different.  I made it lighter.  I put the main character in a spacesuit to signal that the story has something to do with space.  And this is what it is now:
I hope this cover sells my book!"
Why should we read Harvest and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"“Harvest” is what one would classify as “hard science fiction.”  “Hard” doesn’t mean it is hard to read or understand, just that it has a lot of fun (and accurate) science in addition to a great story.

I think lots of people read as a form of escapism—they want to be completely enveloped into a magical story full of wonderful people, living exciting lives.  The movie that best captures that dynamic is “Romancing the Stone” in which a young Kathleen Turner plays a romance novelist who has to go and rescue her sister from evil people in far away lands with a help of a handsome rogue, Michael Douglas."
"But in addition to escape, I think people also read to experience something new, to learn something outside of their daily lives, to feel something different.  I embed real science into all of my stories (sometimes more, sometimes less).  I find that the easiest way to learn something new is through fiction, by forming emotional connections to characters and their dilemmas.  Those dilemmas don’t have to be written at the first-grade level.  Readers get complex ideas; they want to understand the world around them.  I do; I’m a reader too.  I value books that not only tell a good story but also give me something new and juicy to chew on.  I love that!  I write for readers who love those kinds of books too.

Harvest” in particular is written for people who are interested in human origins and the births of civilizations.  I wanted to answer the question of “why”—why did some peoples succeed and some didn’t?  Why did some civilizations flourish for many centuries while others burned out in but a short flash in history?  What is that makes the difference?  Does it simply come down to luck?

Harvest” starts with a discovery of a very old alien artifact buried in ice on one of the moons of Saturn.  Scientists and the military have to quickly make an assessment: what do these aliens want?  Are they dangerous?  If so, how could humans protect themselves?  But how can we tell when something wants us harm?

Some of the biggest cultural mistakes on Earth came about from simple failure to communicate, to understand the alien other.  When the other side is overwhelming in power and knowledge, making a diplomatic mistake can end human civilization.  It’s a fun premise and a good story.  I guess what makes it truly unique is the science—it’s all true!"
Can you tell us something quirky about Harvest, its story and characters?
"There are hidden jokes in all my books.  They are not “ha ha” jokes, just little things that would make someone in the know smile.  Mostly, I hide things in the names of characters and places.  Little Easter Eggs!

This book is also fully illustrated.  (Why should kids’ book have all the fun?)  Here’s a montage of a few illustrations from this book:"
Who would you recommend Harvest to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"As you can see from the illustrations, bad things happen to good people in this story.  Is that a warning or an encouragement to read more?  I don’t know.  I like books that make think.  “Harvest” is certainly one of those books.  I hope that people will remember back on the ideas they’ve encountered in this story, think about them, discuss them with friends and family.  There is a lot to digest here."
If you could / wished to turn Harvest into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"My husband and I were once flown to Hollywood to discuss turning one of our stories into a movie.  It didn’t go well.  The producers and scriptwriters kept asking us: “Who is Dr. Balis?”  We had no idea what they meant.  My husband tried going with “conflicted?”  I said “Liam Neeson?”  That turned out to be a wrong answer too.  We should have said Jim Carrey—he was the “it” boy then.  They thanked us for coming and told us not to attend further meetings!  We were good that.  It was a complete failure to communicate!

So given this experience, I have a hard time with “who is your dream team?”  I would want someone who gets the story.  Someone who won’t dumb it down because “smart” doesn’t sell in the box office.  Who would that be?  I have no idea.  I would have said Steven Spielberg before I saw “Ready Player One.”

I did make a book trailer for “Harvest”.

Who should direct the movie? You tell me!"
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I write science fiction and magical realism.  I believe that regardless of genre, a story needs characters that are believable and to whom people can relate.  I find that the books I like least have one thing in common—characters that are not sympathetic.  If a reader doesn’t like the main character(s), how are they going to enjoy the book?

When we read, we place ourselves into the fictional world of the book.  We try on for size the problems and joys the characters experience in the story.  If there is no one in a book worth caring about, then the story is ultimately a failure, in my opinion.  That’s true for movies and TV shows, too.  People like to read about people they admire or empathize with.  Take that away, and what are left are some flat caricatures of people, explosions, and perhaps some interesting locations.  That’s not enough to hold the reader’s interest.

I’ve written nine full novels to date:

They are either science fiction or magical realism, depending on the readers’ perception.  I like to include real science and novel scientific ideas in all my books, even those leaning more towards magical realism genre.  So here are few words about my other books:

Suddenly, Paris:

What if the world is not made out of atoms?

Would it change your high school experience?
Would it change how you love?

This story focuses on a high school student, Julie Vorov, who suddenly learns something about herself and that turns her world upside down.

This book was placed on the Long List for The James Tiptree Jr. Award in 2016.  You can read the first few chapters here.

Coding Peter is a sequel to “Suddenly, Paris.”

It tells the story of Julie’s younger brother Peter.  Peter has some very difficult choices to make. Would he be pressed to make the right ones?

Read the first few chapters here.

The FATOFF Conspiracy is a social satire on the cultural obsession with fat and what happens when the government intervenes… You can be rich and thin, or you can apply for government assistance for fat-reduction procedures…

This is a pretty dark, but funny story.

You can read the first few chapters here.

Twin Time is a story of identical twins, where one is autistic and the other’s not.

It is also a time loop story.  I wanted to explore the psychology and family dynamic of a family with a sick child.  I wanted to give autism a voice.

You can read the results here (the first few chapters).

Like many of my books, including “Harvest,” “Twin Time” is fully illustrated. “Twin Time” got an honorable mention in San Francisco Book Festival.

Becoming Animals is another story of overcoming a life-long illness…by escaping it!  The science in this book while extraordinary is not really very far in the future. 

If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be a rat or a bird, this is your opportunity. Have a peek here.

Becoming Animals” won multiple awards to date.

Lizard Girl & Ghost is one of my strangest creations.  It is a story of an avatar in a digital world left adrift when its owner becomes ill.

It’s fantastical and strange and ultimately very emotional story of life and death in cyber space.  You can read the first few chapters here.

I have posted the first three chapters of “Harvest” on my blog.

As for what I read, I read everything…well, not histories or biographies or horror.  I usual discover an author I like, and then read everything they’ve ever written!  It is so much easier to know that the book will be good than to be disappointed.  I know this sounds crazy.  But I read a lot.  I have thousands of books at home.  I have books shelves in my bathrooms, bedrooms, hallways, kitchen, living room… I have books stocked on most flat surfaces and up the stairs. 

I’m not allowed to buy physical books anymore…unless I really want to. I do most of my “fun” reading on the phone—Kindle App.  Now I have thousands of books on my phone as well.  The good thing about that is that the phone is always in my pocket.  I can whip out a book while I wait in line, while I sit in a doctor’s office, while I exercise…  It’s a perfect delivery mechanism for reading."
What is your writing process?
"By the time I actually start writing a new novel, I’ve usually spent a year or so taking notes and doing research.  I tend to have a general idea of what the book will be about. But that said, I’m the seat-of-my-pants kind of writer.  I write to find out what happens next!

Once I know my characters and understand their predicament, the story is written by them.  They decide what they want to do and how to proceed and how to solve problems that I throw at them.  They drive the action.  I know this sounds crazy, but it works well for me.  I’m always surprised by the end of the story—the finished book is nothing like I’ve imaged it…but it does contain all of the elements of my research for the story."
What is in store next?
"I’m currently finishing up “God of Small Affairs.”  In some ways, this is the opposite story from “Harvest.”

While “Harvest” focused on real science and extrapolated it as far as possible, “God of Small Affairs” is about mythology, about gods who walk the earth and help shape the human race into what it has become.  It is a more intimate story.  It focuses on a small town in Wisconsin and its aging population that is in the process of becoming irrelevant due the pressures of progress.  During a murder investigation, a god tries to find the best path into the future for this community.  It’s a human drama with a mythical twist.

You can read the first few chapters of “God of Small Affairshere."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"I have a pet tortoise.  You can follow her Instagram at #cucumberprincess.  She is adorable!"
She is gorgeous! I really miss having a pet tortoise...
Olga, you have been great; we hope you are having a great tour!

"Thank you very much for this amazing opportunity to connect with your audience!  I love all the little extras you put into the interview.  I think it makes a huge difference to reader and a writer.  I’m truly grateful."
The first galactic civilization comes back to harvest Earth. Deadly nanobots unleashed in human blood. A shy anthropologist is the world's only hope.

Available NOW!

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1 comment:

Olga Werby said...

Thank you for the wonderful interview. It was a blast! I hope your readers enjoy it as much as I did.