Atom is here to talk about his new book, Herc & Pyotr.
Released with MLR Press. Purchase it HERE.
Released with MLR Press. Purchase it HERE.
I gave him a few standard interview questions, which he adapted to this book and answered in the middle of the night. Crazy Atom. I don't recommend that, but Atom apparently never sleeps because I see him posting at all hours of the day, or night. (haha, I'm joking. I'm sure he sleeps at some point.)
WADE: Where did you draw your inspiration for Herc & Pyotr?
ATOM: I drew my inspiration for Herc & Pyotr from several sources, notably 70’s disaster movies such as The Poseidon Adventure and Meteor. In Meteor, the US and USSR have to cooperate and set aside their differences to destroy a large meteor that will destroy Earth—they do this by using their “Star Wars” missile system, which was originally aimed at the opposing country from space, and target the meteor. The names of those missile systems? Hercules for the US, and Peter the Great for the USSR, which is where I got the names, Herc and Pyotr.
WADE: You’ve said on your Facebook and author page that Herc & Pyotr isn’t exactly sci-fi, but that’s it’s actually contemporary romance. Can you say more about that?
ATOM: I have nothing against sci-fi—in fact, I’m a huge fan and you’ll find many geeky references to sci-fi in my work. However, some people aren’t so hot on the genre, and told me had they not enjoyed my last book (“Red Envelope”) so much, they wouldn’t have read Herc & Pyotr because they just didn’t read science fiction! They quoted the book cover and blurb as leading them in this direction, and I don’t blame them (the other four authors in this Storming Love series all wrote about aliens and space stations). After reading my story, though, they told me they were surprised it was contemporary—focused on relationships rather than technology, adventure, or extraterrestrials. And really, that’s what my story is about: how ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives, deal with a natural catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions—and fall in love while they’re at it.
WADE: You have more characters in Herc & Pyotr than you did in “Red Envelope.” Did you have a favorite?
ATOM: I should say that I love all my characters equally, but the truth is, I felt myself drawn to Nestori as I do to all my “best friend” characters—because they’re best friends. We don’t get through life alone, and it’s often the best friend in gay people’s lives who get them through the tough times, so they’ll always have a special spot in my heart.
WADE: How early in your life did you begin writing?
ATOM: I remember a story I wrote in second grade using the song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” I also wrote a science fiction piece in third grade called “Incredible Harry” about a boy inventor who makes a spaceship, and this was the first time I was paid for my writing because two classmates (they were girls, so I should’ve recognized it as the start of a trend) put together their allowance and gave it to me, saying, “We believe in you.” In fifth grade, I wrote a fantasy about a band of misfits fighting an evil wizard that I also illustrated and was a big hit. However, I didn’t really start writing in earnest until high school—my father had forbade me from taking any more drama classes and dreaming of becoming an actor, so my creativity had to find an outlet, and I went into writing, specifically poetry, on a lark.
WADE: What question would you ask yourself here?
ATOM: I’d ask myself, “What do you want your writing to do?” And my answer is, I want it to transform the reader. I want to offer insight or a new, unexpected perspective—turn things on their heads. Remember how Anne Rice changed how we all perceived vampires? Like that. That’s what I want my writing to do. Cause a change in consciousness—which is what the author Starhawk would call magick. Writing and storytelling were the original magicks, the origin of “spells” (spelling) and “enchantment” (to sing to). Huh. I didn’t know that clearly until I asked myself this question, which you really asked me. Thanks! Writing is neat.
WADE: If you were writing your life as a romance novel, what would the title be?
ATOM: Here He Comes Again.
WADE: Thank you for stopping by and answering a few questions, but I bet readers would like to read an excerpt!
I took care of my car.
Regular maintenance, oil changes, carwashes--the works. I figured I'd sell it one day, and I didn't want it to have a scratch or a sticker to drop its value, let alone anything wrong mechanically. Everything worked on it--the power windows, radio, CD player...until today.
"Great," I said, staring at the fist-sized hole in the hood. I clicked my key fob and turned off the alarm. A few of the neighbors came out and turned off their car alarms, too, that had been set off by the very loud boom that shook all of our windows early this spring morning.
"Jeez, Herc, what happened?" Nestori, my friend and neighbor down the way, stood there with his blond bed head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wore a rumpled white tee, sweatpants, and socks--we were dressed alike except I had slippers. Maybe I appeared as lost as he did. Or worse, since I hadn't changed my clothes since the beginning of the week.
"I don't know." I gawked at the smoking hole. "Lightning?" I pieced together the evidence I had, and only came up with a timeline that started with a crash, followed by my car alarm, then a couple of minutes later the aforementioned boom, and finally the other cars being triggered. "A frozen turd from an airplane?"
"Are you serious? Holy shit."
"What?" His golden eyebrows crinkled together, and then he grinned. "Oh."
"To be fair, it did fall from the sky." Everybody huddled closer to peer into the puncture. "I don't know. I don't even know who I should call about this."
"What about Jason?"
Nestori's innocent question should've felt like a sucker punch, but the numbness from seeing my killed car protected me. "He left last week. We're not together anymore."
"Bro. Why didn't you say anything?"
Because you would've wanted to get me drunk and laid.
"I would've totally come over with a bottle of Jack and helped you get some D, man."
"So that's why I haven't seen him jogging for a while." Pihla, the widow who lived across the street, had the perkiest personality--and breasts--in our neighborhood. "I thought he left on a business trip." She wore a pink satin robe over a pink nightie with matching pink slippers. A small, thin, gold cross on a gold chain stuck out sideways from her cleavage and wobbled back and forth, unable to rest flat. Her son, Sami, clung to her leg, his head just above her knee, avoiding eye contact like some toddlers do. This suburban Madonna in pink held a mug of expensive coffee I could smell and envy from where I stood, and rested her French manicured hand on her shy boy's head. By the way she had batted her eyes at Jason during block parties, or how she happened to pick up the morning paper from her driveway when he'd jog past, I always thought she had a crush on my partner.
Ex. I meant ex-partner.
"Yeah, he didn't leave on a business trip. He just left me." I wondered if I died inside my home from choking on a chicken bone while eating, single and alone, how long it would take for my neighbors to notice my dead, bachelor body. I thought I smelled something funny, one would say a week later. Jeez, what happened? another would ask. Who the hell cares? my ghost would spell out on a Ouija board, life sucks.
"Meteorite," said a faintly accented voice from the crowd. Slavic, I would guess.
"Whoa! You think a meteor hit Herc's car?" Nestori asked. "How do you know?"
"Meteorite," the voice gently corrected. "It's a meteorite when it lands. I saw everything as I was jogging this morning."
"Meteorite," I mumbled. My geek brain fetched a personal wiki page from when I wrote a report in sixth grade about asteroids crashing into Earth and destroying all life, because I've always been a cheery person. The word "disaster" comes from the Italian disastro, meaning "ill-starred event."
Why couldn't it have been a pretty shooting star that vaporized all sparkly in the atmosphere, so I could make a wish? Instead, it'd dropped a deuce on my perfectly maintained car.
The hole in the hood gaped back at me, and I thought about the day Jason left. He had requested I park on the street instead of in the garage, so he'd be able to get his things out of the house without too much trouble.
I should make a wish anyway.
Something realistic, not like true love and a happy-ever-after ending with a handsome, emotionally intelligent man, because that obviously doesn't happen. How about a nice pair of shoes? Good shoes are more reliable than men.
"I'm sorry this happened," the voice said, this time to my left. "There have been worldwide reports of meteor strikes over the past few weeks."
I turned and came eye to eye with the concerned face of a middle-aged man only slightly taller than me. He wore a red baseball cap and his black hair, lined with a few strands of gray, escaped his hat around his ears and a little over his forehead. His color-coordinated stubble, speckled with silver, defined a square jaw and framed full lips. Perspiration darkened his loose, gray shirt, forming something like a Rorschach inkblot in the center of his defined chest. Despite the smell of engine oil and gasoline coming from my mortally wounded car, the scent of his clean sweat cut through and woke me from my daze.
"Hi, I'm Pyotr. I moved here last week." He offered me a firm handshake and a smile, and returned to surveying the damage to my car, his hands on his hips. "You should probably call your insurance and not your ex. I work from home a few days a week, so if you need a ride, let me know? I live down the street." He started running lightly in place. His feet were bare, which I hadn't noticed.
"Thanks for the offer...Pee-yo-ter. I may take you up on it."
"Please do." Pyotr smiled again, nodded a succinct farewell, and trotted off.
"Yeah, if you need a ride..." Nestori and a few neighbors offered, but I didn't pay attention.
I was busy making an unrealistic wish. And it wasn't for shoes.
Thank you Atom! If anyone else would like to host Atom to talk about his new book, please comment below or contact him directly! Congrats, Atom, on your new release!
BIO: Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it'd be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too--so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He's named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.
Atom's books can be found on MLR Press!
Here is the LINK to the Podcast featuring Atom!
Thank you all for stopping by!