Thursday, May 4, 2017

Interview with Jonathan Ballagh

Jonathan Ballagh is the author of the middle grade Sci-Fi series, The Quantum Worlds. He has been writing software since he was five, created his first online game at fourteen, and has a deep love of all things A.I. (artificial intelligence) and robotics. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three kids.

In November I did a review on The Quantum Door, the first book in his series.  I enjoyed this book very much.  What stood out to me was that I could not predict what was going to happen, the universe he created was awesome, and he was able to write about technology in a way that I could understand.  I am excited that The Quantum Ghost, the second book in the series, has just been released.  Jonathan assures me that the book will be on the way to me by the end of the week.  I will be reviewing it in May or June.  In the meantime, I have asked Jonathan to do an author interview.

Me: What inspired you to write young adult books?

Jonathan: I started writing about five years ago, mostly disjointed fragments of stories here and there, just dipping a toe in the water. I had a good time hammering out ideas on a keyboard, so I set a more ambitious goal of completing a novel. At the time, this felt overwhelming. I thought I’d write one book and that would be it. Forever. And if I could somehow convince at least one person (outside of my family) to read it—well, that meant success.

I knew that if I had any hope of finishing a book, it would have to be about something I love, something fun. I’ve always been passionate about robotics and A.I. (no doubt the result of watching too many sci-fi films in the 80s). Robots quickly became the nucleus of the idea. Also—I have three young children. I wanted to write something they would enjoy reading. So, I wrote for a middle-grade/YA audience, hoping to impress them. But cool father is an oxymoron, isn’t it?

Me: The Quantum Door was a fantastic adventure.  How do you think The Quantum Ghost compares?

51rdo7d0CjL._SY346_.jpg (230×346)Jonathan: I’m glad you enjoyed The Quantum Door. I had a lot of fun writing it, but I really wanted to shake things up in the sequel and not adhere to the continuum.  The Quantum Ghost is darker and leaner, with a bit less science and tech, and a lot more fantastical elements—even a new protagonist. It’s told from limited 3rd-person perspective, which is a switch from the omniscient point of view I used for the first novel.

Even though The Quantum Ghost is the second volume of the Quantum Worlds series, I tried to write a novel that could be enjoyed as a standalone. The story is set in the same universe, and there’s some overlap between the characters, but that’s where the similarity ends.

In many ways, I think The Quantum Ghost is the stronger of the two. I’m proud of them both, though—they’re very different reads. I just hope readers have fun with all of the reality hopping!

Me: What was the greatest challenge you faced writing The Quantum Ghost?

Jonathan: I’m fascinated by puzzle-box stories, and wanted to write one with The Quantum Ghost. This proved a lot harder than I thought, even though the base mystery isn’t particularly complicated. My past outlines, if I used them at all, were very rough. Getting things right forced me to plot at a very fine granularity, with constant revisions and re-writes for story cohesiveness.

In The Quantum Ghost, clues are dripped out slowly, often out of chronological order. I really struggled with keeping track of everything, trying to distill the ideas and story flow down into something that younger readers could track. Honestly—I’m not sure the pieces fit together perfectly, but I’m at least happy with where it ended up.

Me: Have you learned anything during the process of writing either The Quantum Door or The Quantum Ghost?

34808945.jpg (317×475)Jonathan: The Quantum Door was my first long form fiction project. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I was fortunate enough that reviewers were gracious enough to give the novel a chance. Their feedback was very constructive. I took it all to heart—especially while writing The Quantum Ghost.

Me: Something that I loved about The Quantum Door was that you wrote it in a way that a “non-tech” person (like me) could understand.  Was this difficult for you to do?

Jonathan: I’m relieved the technology and science presented made sense. I was worried it wouldn’t, that the dialogue would come off as incoherent. My background is in engineering, and my natural inclination is to speak technically—to a fault! I tried to tone it down even more this time around.

Me: Will there be a third book in the series?  

Jonathan: I think so. I’d like to take a break first, though, to work on a new serial that I hope to get out there soon. And then, maybe I’ll come back to it—if I can think of an original idea that keeps the series fresh.  The Quantum Ghost took me almost two years to write, and during that time I filled up few pages with new ideas.

The story of Brady and Felix isn’t finished yet.....

The Quantum Ghost can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


You can follow Jonathan on twitter @JonathanBallagh or visit his website