Friday, July 6, 2012

Jeff Whelan: the IAN Interview


Jeff Whelan was born near Chicago and did his growing up in the smallish town of DeKalb, Illinois.  Taking time to travel up and down the east coast with a carnival in his teens and spending a good part of his 20s living and working in San Francisco, Jeff returned to DeKalb and, to his surprise, found himself settling down and starting a family.  Jeff worked 20 happy and fulfilling years in the field of special education.  Then, thanks to the high cost of day care, he became a happy and fulfilled stay-at-home parent.  Now that his children are both full-time schoolers, he has made his triumphant return to work by day as a special education paraprofessional and remains, by night, a home-based medical transcriptionist.

From an idea born in 1982, Jeff's first full-length novel was finally completed in 2001.  Ten years later, he discovered the wonders of e-book self-publishing and is delighted to have a way to share his story with readers hungry for a departure from adolescent wizards and teenage vampires.  Matters of life and death, it turns out, don't have to be so serious all the time.

IAN. Please tell us about your latest book. 

JW. Space Orville, a young Earthman of 16, is relishing his new life as an independent "grown-up".  He has just been accepted as an apprentice with Morphean Gaming Systems and has moved into an Earth-orbiting apartment with his companion, NeutroFuzz, to test holographic video games.  As a result of a questionnaire he answered in the back of a magazine, Space Orville finds himself recruited by the Universal Protection Service to rescue a brilliant inventor who has been kidnapped by a group of diseased refugees seeking a cure for their malady.  But these exiled aliens may have more nefarious plans for this inventor's device.  Initially perplexed, Space Orville becomes thrilled at being recruited for this dangerous mission.  He is therefore bummed to find himself partnered with a warrior dwarf.

Meanwhile, two agents from the OmniCosmic Alliance are in pursuit of a dangerously powerful and deranged scientist, one Bizmo the Inconceivable, who has escaped from prison with a device that can alter reality and enslave every living mind.  When these two missions collide, Space Orville must find a way to work with this new team of real "grown-ups" while maintaining a hold on his newfound independence. 

"Space Orville" is not only a rollicking, interstellar adventure loaded with mind-altering concepts and wordplay, but an exploration of how learning to work with others is a large part of learning to be one's self.


IAN. How long did it take to write the Space Orville?

JW. About 18 years. A very early version was started in high school, back in 1982.  The story continued to grow in the back of my mind until, around 1999, I decided to take a crack at finishing it. Two years later, there it was.


IAN. What inspired you to write the Space Orville?

JW. I was originally inspired by the brilliant writings of Douglas Adams, most notably his "Hitchhiker's Guide" series. I also found inspiration in the sci-fi concepts of Doctor Who and the zany comedy of Monty Python. I was inspired to polish up and finish the book by my beautiful wife, who always believed I could do it.

IAN. Talk about the writing process. Do you write at night or in the morning?
JW. Oh, I am most definitely a night writer. That seems to be when my mind turns on. I don't work well at the computer, though. First drafts are done in longhand. Revisions begin at the keyboard. 

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft? 

JW. A little of both. What passes for an outline is usually a page or two of incoherent notes and non-sequiturs scrawled down as they occur to me in notebooks or on whatever scraps of paper I have handy in my back pocket. Mostly, however, after staring at those notes for a minute or two, I put them away, pick up the pen and let the story take over.

IAN. How is Space Orville different from others in your genre?

JW. I think that the humor, the inventive language and philosophical concepts and, especially, the young adult protagonist help to set it apart from traditional science fiction.

IAN. Is Space Orville published in print, e-book or both?
JW. Currently it is only available as an e-book.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Space Orville?

JW. My biggest hope is that they come away with a smile on their face, a new idea or two and a desire to read more.

IAN. Where can we go to buy your book?

JW. Space Orville is available through Amazon US (http://amzn.to/GP7Eps), and UK (http://amzn.to/QRN75H), Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/H95HR4), Smashwords (http://bit.ly/GSUSVJ) and Lulu (http://bit.ly/KVEVkX). 

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

JW. There is definitely a "Space Orville" sequel in the works with the working title "Methuselah's Cradle". I have also been asked to expand on an autobiographical short story I wrote called "Greyhound", which concerns the year I left home and found myself travelling with a carnival for 8 months. "Greyhound" is about the night I left. People who have read the story on my blog have been asking what happened next.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?

JW. I do have a Wordpress blog at http://bit.ly/H2U4cH which has many excerpts from Space Orville as well as some of my short stories and poetry. I have a Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/H435Ia and Space Orville has one at http://on.fb.me/HIgvVB (visits and likes are appreciated). My Twitter profile can be found at http://bit.ly/LQUTON and I have a page at Goodreads at http://bit.ly/K7qF4F.  Also, Lia London recently asked me to guest blog on the use of nonces and inventive language at http://bit.ly/Nc4pG3. Finally, I have had two other author interviews, one with Joey Pinkney at http://h1t.it/MwLb10  and one with Kevin Rau at http://bit.ly/Hhw3Pu. Reviews of "Space Orville" can be found at Amazon or on Goodreads.


SPACE ORVILLE by Jeff Whelan
About 237 pages (Kindle edition)
Humorous, young adult, science fiction adventure


       A sudden chirping whistle from behind him on his right made him whirl around in surprise.  It was the VisoPhone.  Not a sound he actually heard very often.  Contact with the outside had been mostly limited to reports to Morphean on his gaming research and the obligatory calls home.  But rarely did the VisoPhone ever ring on his end.
Hmm, thought Space Orville.
“Hello?” he said, his voice silencing the ring and activating the screen.
A wholly unfamiliar face came slowly into view.  It was a man; quite possibly what one might call a gentleman.  His face was rather dark and hawkish with a sharp, angular nose beneath unusually large, widely set eyes.  A pencil-thin moustache traced his thin upper lip and his jet-black hair lay plastered back on his round skull.  His clean chin came to a severe point.
Space Orville thought: Now who on Earth is this?
“Space Orville,” the man addressed him in a neat, British tone.  “And NeutroFuzz.”
NeutroFuzz zippled quizzically.
“My name is Dr. Lunchwrap.”
Well, Space Orville thought, that explains everything.
“Dr. Who?”  Space Orville asked.
“No, no.  Dr. Lunchwrap,” the man replied, peering from the VisoPhone into Space Orville’s Digimatic kitchen.
“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your breakfast, but we must speak at once.  It’s a matter of universal security.”
Space Orville looked at NeutroFuzz.  “Am I still dreaming?  Why am I feeling less and less coherent about all this?”
Dr. Lunchwrap continued.  “If you’ll allow me, Space Orville, I can explain.  But I must do so quickly.  The clock is watching.  First, I’ll have to secure this line.”
The image of Dr. Lunchwrap faded for a moment.  Then, there was a bright flash from the VisoPhone screen accompanied by an ear-splitting, eye-flinching snap.  Dr. Lunchwrap now appeared nearly three-dimensional, a quality standard VisoPhones didn’t normally allow.
“Now then,” the doctor began.  “You have no idea who I am, do you?”
“I’m really trying to get there,” Space Orville said.
“I am Preeminent Yoo-Hoo of the Universal Protection Service.  We are a covert agency whose sworn duty is to keep the universe safe for all life forms.  We have agents in every layer, most acting as emissaries to promote peaceful conflict resolution.  Sometimes, however, we do encounter crises.  That’s where you come in.”
“Oh I do, do I?”
“Based on your more remarkable attributes, you have been selected as our newest agent.  Your first assignment involves considerable risk and concerns nothing less than the safety of the entire universe.”
The doctor paused for dramatic effect while Space Orville stood slack-jawed and frowning at the screen.
Dr. Lunchwrap went on.  “The Candy-Apple Weezle Bums have kidnapped the noted Novean inventor and philanthropist, Miles O’Teeth.  O’Teeth is the owner and inventor of the universe’s only Irreplaceable Fog Napkin, a device capable of stopping whatever it comes into contact with.  These Weezle Bums are afflicted with Mylorrhea and have been exiled from their home planet, Brox.  Our sources indicate that the Weezle Bums have kidnapped Miles O’Teeth, along with his Fog Napkin, in an attempt to halt their own decrepitude.  However, should the Weezle Bums misuse the Fog Napkin, the results could be catastrophic.  And, if their minds have already begun to rot, they may have more nefarious plans in mind.
“Space Orville, will you rescue Miles O’Teeth and retrieve the Irreplaceable Fog Napkin from the sticky and uncertain clutches of the Candy-Apple Weezle Bums?”
Space Orville’s jaw now hung closer to the floor and his brow was one huge knot over his wide, unblinking eyes.  Even NeutroFuzz could only hover silently in the air.
Dr. Lunchwrap politely cleared his throat.  This got Space Orville’s eyelids working again.
“Waitaminute,” he said, pushing up his glasses.  “Is this some new Morphean game?”
“It is no game, Space Orville.  We recently received . . .”
“You’re spouting off about candy coated fruit and some guy with big teeth who has a magic hankie.  I’m supposed to take this seriously?”
“It is very serious, Space Orville,” Dr. Lunchwrap said.  And then something quite odd began to happen to the VisoPhone.  A solid square of iridescent purple slowly replaced the doctor’s image.  Odder still, the bright purple color began to ooze from the screen in a luminous blob.  It spilled down off the counter and onto the floor, where it made a beeline for Space Orville’s G-boots.  Behind the purple came a layer of pink, followed by orange and then green.  The colors began to form translucent bands that proceeded to crawl up Space Orville’s legs.  He scooted and danced around the kitchen, but the liquid light followed, enveloping Space Orville from the boots up.  Dr. Lunchwrap’s now disembodied voice continued.
“As I was saying, we recently received your application and we found you to possess many ideal qualities.  You have volunteered for duty, Space Orville.  The universe now depends on you.”
As the liquid light, now in bands of brilliant yellow and white, crept up toward Space Orville’s neck and shoulders, the doctor concluded.
“We’ll discuss further details of your assignment at Morova.  The Lethelight coming from your VisoPhone will see you safely there.”
Lethelight, Space Orville thought.  Why not?  He felt tingly and strange all over; ticklish pins and needles vibrated along his entire body and his head began to feel hollow and floaty.  And what about my breakfast, he thought, sleepily.
NeutroFuzz was slowly spinning in place, also wrapped in the Lethelight’s seeping glow.  The numbing bands soon closed over them both and, as the voice of Dr. Lunchwrap had vanished, so too did Space Orville and NeutroFuzz.



1 comment:

  1. Jeff, you're AWESOME! Wishing SPACE ORVILLE sells lots and lots! Thanks so much for all your support, MG

    ReplyDelete