M.A.Greene: Hello. I’m M.A.Greene a YA author reaching for publication. You can follow me on writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene96.
So can you tell us when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Antuan Vance: Let’s see. I started writing a journal of sorts about love and crushes at the age of nine, and superhero stories around ten, but decided I’d write a series of poems when I was eleven. So, I’d say eleven was when I realized I wanted to be a writer, and write a book of poetry. It’s been a part of who I am for a long time. Now, it wasn’t until much later in my life that I truly committed to not just writing but finishing books.
M.A.Greene: That is great your passion has been with you so long. What are your favorite and least favorite genres and why?
Antuan Vance: Favorite genre is most likely science fiction because I grew up on it. I watched Star Trek and Star Wars, read the books. I’ve always loved the idea of the future, better technology, and a more mature society. Not to mention, all the cool toys. It’s hard to choose a least favorite genre, primarily because I simply stick with what I know and like. But knowing myself, I’d say non-fiction, biographies. I don’t like stuffy, dry material. I usually associate that with biographies, except for Stephen King’s In Writing.
M.A.Greene: Science fiction is a genre is never boring for sure. Speaking of science fiction, your novel The Catalyst falls in that category. Was this your first novel? And if so did you take the traditional publishing or self-publishing route?
Antuan Vance: Yes. The Catalyst was my first finished novel, and indie published. Patience proved to not be within my skill set after I finished that book. The whole post-writing process was tedious, confusing, frustrating, and painful. I intend on taking another stab at traditional publishing with the next novel.
M.A.Greene: How long did it take you to write The Catalyst first draft, then to finish the book?
Antuan Vance: I spent a lot less time writing in the time it took to write it, which was about two years. It was really the last three months or so I think where I smashed through half of the book. Finishing it took half the time.
M.A.Greene: Are there any other types of writing you enjoy?
Antuan Vance: On occasion, I’m known to rant or blog about justice, integrity, righteousness, reason/logic, and the typical do-the-right-thing soapbox speeches that I hope will inspire people to make better choices or see things in a better way. I have a blog, The Impervious Soul, which is primarily pointed towards living a better life and being a person who is a benefit to those around you. That writing is a major part of my purpose. Regretfully, I sparingly update it. In time, that will change.
M.A.Greene: In your own words can you give us a quick summary of what The Catalyst is about?
Antuan Vance: It’s about the last stand of evil, kicked around the galaxy, finding its final fighting grounds on Earth. But they’re defeated. Now, they’re desperate and willing and able to completely eradicate humanity while making a new home for themselves. It’s about a father trying to make a cleaner, better world for his daughter and adopted son, even if it means sacrificing himself to do it. It’s about teenagers on the run for their life. Facing unexpected challenges and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. It’s about friendship, obedience, trust, and faith.
M.A.Greene: Back to your novel, how did you develop the characters Levi, Abby, Violet and John Rider? Did you develop them prior to writing the book or during the process? Also, how did you come up for the aliens “The Red.”
Antuan Vance: There’s usually a little bit of me in every story, and Levi happens to be that bit this time. I started with the basic details of who my characters were, knew what kind of choices they were inclined to make, their motivations, and then let it all unfold during the process. Prepared more for Levi, Abbey, and Violet’s journey than John’s. His part of the story took on a life of its own.
The Red were something else. I knew I needed a villain that had incredible resources and influence. That’s why I gave them the powers they have. So they can be a challenge and are worthy of fear. I knew they were aliens, but their origin story wasn’t completely developed until later, when I had my bigger picture moment in chapter six.
But I saw them as evil lizard monsters, like dragons, like the devil in Genesis, but a species of people who turned away from good origins to serve an evil that promised more than he gave, and it turned them into monsters.
M.A.Greene: Speaking of references to the bible. Many of the characters in The Cataylst reference the bible and pray on many occasions. How did these aspects of the bible and God become something so interwoven in this story? Did you know that would central themes to your story beforehand or did the occur as you were writing it?
Antuan Vance: When creating my characters, I knew who was and wasn’t a believer, and that their choices and influence would reflect that. I wasn’t completely certain when certain verses would be quoted, but kept an eye out for opportunities as the story developed. At its core, it’s science fiction. However, I knew it had to exist in a universe with an all powerful God, and reference the story of our salvation. The opportunity to slip that in there was better than I thought. But the central theme was always going to tie into my faith, especially the lesson of obedience.
M.A.Greene: Are you familiar with the author Madeline L’Engle the author of A Wrinkle in Time? She wrote various book including fiction books that reflected her faith along with her interest in science?
Where there any other authors you enjoyed reading who had Christian faith based themes interwoven in what was centrally a science fiction or fantasy story?
Antuan Vance: To the first question, yes. A person of great value and purpose lended a copy. It took me a while to read it, as I’m not keen on books with child protagonists. Yet, I could appreciate the theme and intentions. I wrote a brief book review and posted it on Instagram. Didn’t care for the movie. Haven’t read any of her other stuff. Probably won’t.
This is going to sound odd, but Stephen King, well known as a horror writer, has written a number of books that had subtle and strong Christian undertones. The Stand had an older woman, almost like a prophet of sorts, who believed. The Man Jesus was mentioned several times in the Dark Tower series. Needful Things had a town influenced and manipulated by a devilish figure. I don’t seek out and read Christian books. But can see the influence of my faith in fiction.
M.A.Greene: Interesting. I have not gotten around to reading anything by Stephen King yet even though I have defiantly watched many of his movies and mini series. I probably will be examining his stories more so now that you have mentioned that whenever I get to reading it.
Back to your novel The Catalyst, minor spoiler alert, you have ADHD as a possible protective factor against the aliens The Red? How did you come up with that theory?
Antuan Vance: While ADHD has become a commonly diagnosed disorder, not all are equal or accurate diagnosis. I’ve come to understand that there’s a slight variance in how information is processed and stored in an ADHD brain compared to human default. I conceived it was an evolutionary and reactive disorder to combat current or future threats to our species. The variance in brain function is kind of like having a firewall in your brain. It can still be hacked or accessed, but with less ease. If a brain can hyper-focus, it can shut out outside influences. If a brain can shift easily from one subject to another, it’s like constantly changing frequencies or IP addresses, therefore making it harder to “log in” someone’s mind and maintain access or control. A brain is perhaps not so different from a supercomputer. Cognitive security could be the same as cyber security, assuming I have either of the two right in theory. I could just as easily be pulling this out of my butt.
M.A.Greene: That is definitely a unique way to use ADHD in your novel.
How did you decide to have a character like Pisces and why did you give her hands? Can you explain Pisces character?
Antuan Vance: Pisces was an audible. I had no intention of having her in the story. But I put John in a tough spot, sent Sasha on her way. He needed another ally. Someone to help him finish what he started and talk him off the ledge. Pisces was the perfect choice. I gave her hands because it’s more convenient for her. For all intents and purposes, she’s a person. It would be nice if she could make her own tuna sandwiches. Explain Pisces. I’m trying to think of a way to explain her without spoiling the broader explanation coming in the sequel. She’s was injected with the alien nanotech and given human intelligence, sapience. She’s just as much a part of the team as everyone else. Because of her predatory nature, she’s a little more aggressive and straight to the point than others. It makes her a great warrior.
M.A.Greene: She is defiantly an interesting character readers will enjoy getting to know. Would you categorize The Catalyst as a YA sci-fi or a New Adult sci-fi novel?
Antuan Vance: Originally, I thought both. Abbey and Violet are 17. Levi’s 19. Can’t remember if Jeremy’s 19 or 20. But since this is all happening the day before Abbey’s and Violet’s birthday, they’re pretty much 18. And there are some scenes that are more fitting adult readers. So, let’s say new adult.
M.A.Greene: When I was reading it I was curious what category it fell into. So when you write do you write with or without music?
Antuan Vance: With music. Absolutely. Something low, not distracting, and usually nothing with lyrics. Instrumentals. Classics like Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy. Soundtracks and suites from movies I enjoy.
M.A.Greene: Music can defiantly fuel the writing experience. What is your favorite book and your least favorite and why?
Antuan Vance: It’s hard to nail down a singular favorite. What makes a book my favorite is when it excites me to read more. And not just more of that specific book, but more books period. I like books that excite my interests in literature. William Shatner wrote a series of Star Trek novels. I ate those up as a kid. Dan Brown wrote Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code. As a college student, I was sucked in. I’m a big Stephen King fan, aka constant reader. A recent favorite would be Ink Mage by Victor Gischler. We already talked about my least favorite, A Wrinkle In Time. Why? If something is my least favorite, it did the opposite of what my favorite does.Instead of exciting me about reading, picking a book, the books I like the least make reading a chore. If I’m forcing myself through and not liking the characters, enjoying the plot, or appreciating the style, I’m not likely to finish, unless I’ve committed myself to finishing it.
M.A.Greene: That makes sense. Reading books you force yourself to read, such as assigned readings when back when you were in school and dislike the story or characters can be a chore. What advice would you give parents and family members who worry about children and teen aspiring writers striving towards a profession they could perceive as being a “starving artist”?
Antuan Vance: My best advice is to “get a grip”. Writers are versatile, disciplined, and intelligent. Creatives are unique. They can’t be lumped in with the rest of the crowd, expected to have a regular career. But we can do anything, if we have to. I should also point out that you don’t have to have a degree in English or Writing to be a writer. So, choosing to study something “practical” will only influence and benefit what they write.
Also, free marketing, beta reading, and editing are life savers. So, if you’re going to worry, worry with helpful actions and ask what you can do to help.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Antuan Vance: One: If writing isn’t a top priority, and you really want to do this, you have to be willing to sacrifice time and money from something else. Less Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, TV, YouTube, Twitch, video games, mall visits, whatever. Writing is a passion and priority. Take it seriously. Reduce and ignore your distractions. Two: if you’re not writing, you’re thinking about writing. There are a lot of stories out there to tell. It’s best to always have your mind open to the next project. When you’re bored, as if that’s possible, brainstorm. When you have ten to twenty books on the horizon, pour good ideas into other writers/creatives. Three: people will lead you into a mental prison, but only you can lock yourself in. Don’t allow people to tell you what kind of writer you are, what you should write. If you want to write four, seven, eleven different genres in your career, do it, as long as it works. Also, it’s good to know what’s out there, but try not to get too caught up in what other people are doing. You are you. Unique. Special. Beautiful. Stories are bestowed upon you, to tell them as you are meant to.
M.A.Greene: That is wonderful advice for aspiring writers. Thanks for letting me interview you.
If you are wondering where you can purchase Antuan Vance’s The Catalyst, it’s on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Catalyst-Book-One-ebook/dp/B00WET7HR4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542917789&sr=8-1&keywords=the+catalyst+antuan+vance