It's rare to be able to get excited for a new book to come out when it's from a first-time author. Peter Ryan is an exception. His novel, Sync City, is a powerful, hard-hitting sci-fi romp through a dystopian future, and I have been patiently waiting for this book through its early production stages. Sync City grabs the reader from the opening lines and does not let up. If you enjoy hard-nosed science fiction, this is a book you do not want to miss, and it comes out on February 28th. Here's the book's pitch:
"In a post-apocalyptic future, fractured timelines are wreaking havoc on the world. Only a tough, hard-drinking enforcer named Jack Trevayne can hold things together. This is gritty, hard-boiled sci-fi with attitude. The future is complicated. Jack is not."
I had the opportunity to interview Peter Ryan about Sync City, being an author, and what it takes to be a writer.
How did you come up with the idea for Sync City?
I love sci-fi and hard-boiled detective fiction. I'm also a huge fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings. I wanted to combine all three of these. The main character, Jack, came first. I was in Saskatoon, Canada at the time, and this provided the initial backdrop. Then I just started to write. The idea evolved as I went along.
What inspired you to pursue novel writing?
A party with a few mates of mine - we were lamenting the lack of originality in TV and movies. The next day, November 27th, 2013, I started writing a story titled Godspiracy. I've pretty much written every day ever since. Before this, I'd never even written a short story.
Who are some of your influences?
For Sync City, Richard Morgan in terms of concepts, William Gibson in terms of background/technology and James Crumley (a fantastic hardboiled crime writer) in terms of characters. My influences seem to change depending on what I write.
Did you have any moments while writing Sync City that you thought you might give up?
No, quite the opposite. I loved writing this story. So much so it's ended up as a trilogy.
Give us an idea of your writing process.
Generally, in my writing day, I start writing strong and finish weak. So the first thing I do is tweak the stuff I've written the previous day. With my stories, I don't work to a plan, so I don't say no to any new ideas. I just write them until I write myself into a corner. The next day I find a way to write myself out of the corner and keep the story going. Some of my readers have commented that Sync City is almost serial in nature, which makes sense given the process.
Did anyone in particular inspire any of your characters, particularly Jack, Sync City's protagonist?
Jack pretty much jumped fully formed into my head. In retrospect, he's a combo of few people I know and a few characters from stories and movies. Clint Eastwood's character William Munny in Unforgiven has to be a significant inspiration, as well as Mel Gibson's Mad Max. The voice in my head when I write Jack is a mix between Harrison Ford in Blade Runner and Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica. Hmm, lots of movies there and not many books.
What were you doing when the idea for Sync City first struck you?
Sitting at my mother-in-law's kitchen table getting slightly stuck on another story I was writing. I wrote the opening passage to Sync City imagining the events to be happening in her basement. I'm pretty sure she doesn't look at the basement the same way anymore.
What other stories have you written or are you working on?
I've just finished the first draft of Destiny Imperfect, a video game based story. I'm doing the second draft of the follow-up to Sync City (working title: Sync City Jack), and I'm going to take a look at my very first story attempt (Godspiracy which is an American Gods-meets-The X-Files type thing) and see if I can hammer that into shape. I like to work on two stories at once if I can.
What advice do you have for writers working on completing their first novel?
Have an understanding partner or be single. Seriously, you have to have a lot of time to write. There's no way around this. Stick your butt in front of a computer on a very regular basis and just keep writing.
What quality do you have that makes writing such a great fit in your life?
A strong enough ego?? Is that a quality? Deliberately or not, you put a bunch of yourself into a story. You then need to be confident enough that people are going to read it. You also need to be confident enough to deal with criticism of your work.
In what ways has your experience living in a country where the native language is not your first language shaped your writing?
Interesting. Probably not so much the language - my Korean is terrible, but definitely the culture. A few sections of Sync City are based on the experiences I've had while living in Seoul and the interactions I've had with Koreans in general. I also do a lot of writing in Sri Lanka. If you read Sync City and the background is all gray and urban, then I wrote it in Seoul. If it's all leafy and green, then I wrote it in Sri Lanka - I only realized this after I finished the story.
All of the books on the planet are being destroyed. You can only keep three hidden and safe for you to read. Which three do you choose?
Right now? Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Burning Chrome by William Gibson. The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley. I owe them all another good read.
Sync City is released upon the world February 28th. Follow the links below to learn more and pick up a copy.
Peter Ryan's bio:
Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, soju drinker, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia. He has traveled much of the world and done a variety of jobs along the way, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai. Peter lives with his Canadian wife in Seoul, and has done so since 1999. There is no synchrotron in Seoul, though there is plenty of soju.