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INTERVIEW | Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Rob Ziegler is a name that you may not be familiar with as he only has a couple published credits to his name, but his debut Seed is poised to make a big impact in the Sci-Fi genre. Combining elements of near-future Sci-Fi, bioengineering, and post apocalyptic life-style Seed ventures into a world that is all too close to what our own could turn into.

MH: Thanks for joining us today Rob. To start us off can you tell us a little about yourself and your road to becoming an author?

ROB: I live with my wife in rural western Colorado, where I mostly grew up. My day job is property management, which is great because it allows me lots of time to write. And hike. My wife and I hike a lot in the mountains during the summer.

My road to becoming an author was fairly straightforward, if long. I knew as far back as high school that I wanted to write fiction, so I was able to focus on writing a lot in college. After college I let all kinds of career opportunities slide so that I could stay committed to writing. Mostly I wrote short stories. I only tried to sell a few, and almost all of them were rejected. It was like that for the better part of a decade: it just felt like practice.

I didn’t start trying to write novels until I was about thirty. I wrote two, and they were both horrible. There was so much I didn’t know...You can write a million short stories and it won’t teach you how to write a novel. I could tell they were bad books, but I knew so little I couldn’t even come up with a framework for how to do it better, so things could have gone on like that for a long time.

Fortunately, in 2008 I won a short story contest put on by the Rocky Mountain News. It was the first sci-fi story I’d written, and it got me connected with other sci-fi writers, namely Sarah Kelly. She invited me down to Flagstaff in 2009 for her Starry Heaven workshop, modeled after Charlie Finlay’s Blue Heaven workshops, basically a week of total immersion in the craft of novel building with a dozen sharp writers.

It was revelatory for me. I brought an early draft of Seed, and my Starry Heaven compadres took me straight to school. They gently let me know what I was doing wrong, and taught me some real fundamentals, stuff that’s obvious once you know, but that I probably never would’ve figured out on my own. I owe those folks a huge debt. Without their help I doubt I would’ve gotten Seed or anything else off the ground, probably ever.

MH: I've heard of Finlay's group, but didn't know it has inspired off shots. It seems like a lot of today's writers are coming from Clarion or groups like Blue Heaven. Now can you tell me a bit about Seed? Would Military Biopunk be an apt short descriptor?

ROB: Military Biopunk is a great phrase, I might steal it from you. It definitely describes certain aspects of the book. There are commandos, railguns, battles, so it’s definitely military. There’s a lot of bio stuff, an entire bioengineered city, actually, and parts of the story have a punk “fight the man” sensibility. Another big part of the story is about an orphan boy and his younger brother scraping by as scavengers and highwaymen in the lawless badlands of an American southwest that’s been ravaged by long drought, the result of climate change. All of that has a bit of a spaghetti western vibe. So maybe Military Spaghetti Bio Ecopunk. With heart.

MH: Very cool. I don't think I've seen any sort of Spaghetti Western themes used in Sci-Fi before. One term I've always like is Greenpunk, but it hasn't caught on just yet. What drew you to incorporating environmental concerns into your fiction?

ROB: I guess I don’t think of Seed as an environmental book, exactly. Incorporating environmental devastation was really just about the world building, looking at our a world today and wondering “where are we going?” And obviously there are some big problems on the table at the moment. Things like resource depletion vis -a -vis an exploding population; climate change, with all its nonlinear weirdness; the toxification of our food chain—things that will, it seems to me, end up defining our future if we don’t start making smarter, more sustainable choices. Seed takes place in that future where people have continually failed to make the smart choices, until there really are no choices left to make. It’s a scary, depleted place. But for me that’s also an aesthetic choice. I wanted that wild west feeling, a world where the characters all have to deal with scarcity and lawlessness, and where they get by on this odd mix of victimization and the humane helping hand—small moments of grace, to use the term of a friend of mine. So although the world is defined by environmental catastrophe, the story’s not really about that. Mostly, it’s this soldier trying to save her country, and in the process, her lover. And about this orphan boy trying to find a better life for his little brother.

MH: Now you've told us how you came to write and workshop Seed, but what is your publication story? Was Night Shade your first stop or was it shopped around? 

ROB: The selling of Seed was pretty standard, I think. My agent sent it to several houses simultaneously, Night Shade among them. I have a couple of friends who also have books with Night Shade, and I really like NS’s aesthetic, so I was quietly hoping it would be them who came through with the best offer. And they did!

MH: The cover to Seed is pretty incredible. What was your first thought when you saw the cover to Seed?  

ROB: My first thought when I saw the cover...I just laughed. I was so happy. Ross, my editor at NS, had told me Cody Tilson was the artist they were going with, so I’d scoped out Cody’s other cover art, and knew Seed was going to look good, because everything Cody does rocks. But I was still blown away. I couldn’t be happier with how it looks. I don’t actually know Cody, but I hope someday our paths cross. I owe that boy a beer.

 MH: What makes Seed's main character Sienna Doss special? 

ROB: I passed this question along to my wife and she says, “Because Doss is a kickass woman!” Which is true, Doss is tough, and kicks all kinds of ass. It made her scenes a lot of fun to write. But I’d go further, and say that what makes Doss special is her unwavering sense of duty. She’s utterly dedicated. To her country, to her lover, to her fellow soldiers. She puts herself on the line, again and again, without hesitation, even when the odds are hopeless. It takes a terrible emotional toll on her, but she finds a way to keep going. She’s heroic like that.

MH: Now that Seed is only months away from publication what else are you working on? Is Seed intended to be a standalone?

ROB: Seed is intended as a standalone. I have some ideas for a sequel, but right now I’m far more interested in other stuff. At the moment I’m working on a new sci-fi novel tentatively titled Angel City. It’s about a kid growing up in a weird future L.A. where all media is beamed straight into the frontal lobes. He’s determined to get rich by building the ultimate semi-sentient porn search bot—a bot whose personality, you’ll be happy to know, is based on Carroll’s White Rabbit.

MH: Now on to the important stuff. What is your favorite type of hat?

ROB: This type, definitely:
Image from
MH: Nice. You might need something to brush the hair off with though. What are two things most people don't know about you? Do you keep a garden full of monkey statues? 

ROB: Two things most people don’t know...I hate snakes. I love dumb knock knock jokes.

MH: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Is there anything you'd like to say to close us out?

ROB: My pleasure. Seed will be out November 1st. The first three chapters are available for free at my website: Thanks for having me.

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Pabkins said...

Ok - sounding good! interest is peaked.
Pabkins @ Mission to Read