Stephanie Jacob: Tether is a gritty, flawed character who has the ability to get under your skin. He is the kind of character that resonates with the reader and stays with them even after the story is told. Can you tell us about Tether’s development and what motivates him?
Gra Linnaea: In the first draft Tether was more sympathetic, but less competent. The story wasn’t quite working, he just lucked into Ejiri and Namaste, but the more talented and jacked-in I made him, the more mercenary and disconnected from the world he became. I sat back and said, “Wow, how incredibly lonely this guy must be.” I realized that underneath the indifference, there had to be part of him that desperately wanted to believe in something.
SJ: Tether chooses jobs that offer the most financial benefit. “He shook his head. Either way it didn’t matter, as long as he came out okay, and got paid.” In his quest to destroy or save Namasté, a cyber version of the afterlife, he undergoes a fundamental shift. Do you think his encounter with Ejiri raised profound questions that caused a change in action?
GL: Yeah, for me that’s the crux of the story. When I first wrote that scene I still had no idea how it all would end. That was when I realized there was still the old crappy version of him out there, the one that had never been offered a chance to do something meaningful and selfless or even been given a reason to care. To me, Tether’s entire character arc really starts after he meets Ejiri.
SJ: Tell us a little about Ishvara, the predominant world you created. “Other planets were disturbingly subdued compared to the crazy visual assault of Ishvara.” When you are writing science fiction what do you use as inspiration?
GL: I have pretty serious A.D.D, so Ishvara was the one place that would actually overstimulate me. This story began with the image of a place where everything, advertisements and music and lights were all so constantly intense that if one was born there, the worst thing they could imagine would be silence and the space to look inside. Most of my story ideas come from emotional reactions, imagining how people cope with specific situations and problems. Science fiction is perfect for that, I love extrapolating, “If technology went here, then culture would go here and how would people deal with that?”
SJ: I was amazed at the ease with which you created a complex world with many layers in so few pages. Do you have a length in mind when you start a story or do you just write until the story is told? Do you prefer writing short fiction?
GL: I adore short fiction. Before this story, the longest thing I’d ever written was 900 words! So my ideal length is about 500 words, but some stories just won’t behave. One of my favorite things is to try to pack as much into as few words as possible. I like stories that are just on the edge of bursting. Of course this tendency makes novel-writing a real challenge.
SJ: Are there any authors who have influenced your style?
GL: I desperately wish I was the lovechild of Ray Vukcevich and Kelly Link, but sadly I’m not. Nalo Hopkinson, William Gibson and Douglas Coupland have also had a deep impact on my writing.
SJ: In your bio you mention that you have traveled three continents and twelve countries. Do you derive inspiration for your stories from the different people and cultures that you have interacted with?
GL: That was just last year! I expected to immediately lift whatever was in front of me and use it in my fiction. “Now for my Kazakhstan story.” “Now for my Turkey story.” etc. But actually I found it impossible to write about a place while was in it. I think there’s something about my mental makeup that I can’t consciously use my experiences, they always sneak up on me from my unconscious mind.
SJ: You have a very active social media presence. Have you found this to be a good way to connect to fans and other authors and do you find it to be a valuable promotional tool?
GL: I do? Whenever I think about that stuff, I get neurotic about it. If I work at maintaining a web presence, I get worried that it will become forced and artificial. So I generally just throw out quips and links to things I’m excited about. Nina Kiriki Hoffman is one of the most networked people I know, but she never does it in a forced way, she just likes people so she talks to them. I feel the same way about people online.
SJ: Thanks for being such a great guest! Where can we go to learn more about you and your works?
GL: Thanks! You can find fiction, art and music on my website: https:www.gralinnaea.com/.