Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The End of Ordinary VBT

Drew Bergen is an Engineer. He builds living things, one gene at a time. He's also kind of a doofus. Six years after the Stupid War -- a bloody, inconclusive clash between the Engineered and the UnAltered -- that's a dangerous combination. Hannah is Drew's greatest project, modified in utero to be just a bit better at running than most humans. She’s also his daughter. Her plan for high school is simple: lay low and run fast. Unfortunately for Hannah, her cross-country team has other plans.

Jordan is just an ordinary Homo-Sap. But don’t let that fool you -- he’s also one of the richest kids at Briarwood, and even though there isn’t a single part of him that’s been engineered, someone has it out for him.

Drew thinks he’s working to develop a spiffy new strain of corn, but Hannah and her classmates disagree. They think he's cooking up the end of the world. When one of Drew's team members disappears, he begins to suspect that they might be right. Soon they're all in far over their heads, with corporate goons and government operatives hunting them, and millions of lives in the balance.

“So,” I said when I’d picked the last bit of rind out of my teeth. “What now?”

Nathan shrugged.

“Wait for death, I guess.”

“Huh,” I said. “I see where you’re going with that, but I was actually hoping you’d have some kind of last-minute escape plan to present now.”

“Escape plan?”

“Yeah. If this were a vid, this is where you’d suggest a super-complicated scheme to get out of here. I’d say ‘that’s crazy!’ and you’d say ‘do we have a choice?’ and then we’d do it and it would work somehow and you would totally be my hero.”

He stared at me, downed the last of his bathtub water, and stared at me some more.

“So,” I said finally. “Do you, uh… have a plan?”

“No,” he said. “Unless ‘wait for death’ counts as a plan, I do not have one.”


I looked down at the lantern, and found myself wondering if the battery would give out before we did. A shiver ran from the base of my spine to the back of my neck and down again.

“Hannah?” Nathan said. “Are you, uh…”

I groaned.

“Am I what, Nathan?”

“Are you really gonna eat me?”

I stared at him.


He looked away.

“Well, yeah. I don’t mean now. Just… you know… eventually?”

I dropped my head into my hands.

“No, Nathan. I am not going to eat you.”

“Are you sure? I mean, you might have to, right?”

I stood up, and picked up the lantern.

“You are an odd duck, Nathan. I’m going for a run.”

Edward, thanks so much for stopping by. So, tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m surprisingly tall, and I once spent an uncomfortable hour dripping wet in my underwear in the back seat of a patrol car in Fort Lauderdale. Also, I’m the author of the novels The End of Ordinary and Three Days in April, as well as of several dozen short stories that have appeared in venues ranging from Louisiana Literature to Escape Pod to the newsletter of an Italian sausage company. I live in Rochester, New York, where I write, hang out with my dog, and occasionally show up to my job as a cancer researcher. I have a wife and three daughters. They’re very nice.

How did you get started writing?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I finished my first novel—written in longhand on two hundred pages of lined notebook paper—when I was twelve years old. The reviews were not great. My dad called it “hackneyed and derivative.” I still have the original manuscript in a lockbox in my closet, though. I submitted my first short story to a professional market when I was fourteen, and, after collecting a massive pile of rejection slips, made my first sale four years later. I haven’t looked back since.

What was the inspiration for your book?
Almost all of my fiction starts with a single scene. The End of Ordinary started with this one:

Here’s a story for you. The summer she turned two, we took Hannah to the beach. It was a perfect day, hot and clear, with an offshore breeze kicking up sharp little whitecaps on three-foot swells. Kara and I took her in shifts, one of us in the water, the other watching her dig in the sand.

After an hour or so, Hannah started getting cranky, and Kara told me to take her into the ocean. I carried her out twenty or thirty feet, to where the swells were riding up my thighs, knelt down and dipped her into the water, let her kick her feet a bit and cool off. Then Kara waved to me, held up her phone, motioned for me to stand for a picture. I picked Hannah up, held her face next to mine and waved. Kara raised the phone. I smiled. I just had time to see Kara’s mouth open in a scream when a breaker hit me from behind like a runaway bus, lifted me off my feet, and flipped me forward. My arms flailed as I spun around. I tucked my chin, and hit the sand hard on the back of my neck. There was a moment of fuzzy numbness. I reached out.

Hannah was gone.

I struggled to my feet as the wave rolled back out, my heart pounding like a jackhammer in my chest. Kara was running toward me and I spun once around, searching . . .

And there, drifting past me on the tide, was a fan of blonde hair. I dove for her, snatched her up out of the water, and held her face to mine. Her eyes were wide open, and she was laughing.

Ever since that day at the beach, I’ve dreamed of losing her. Sometimes it’s in the forest. We’re hiking together, talking and laughing, and suddenly she’s gone. I crash through the trees calling for her, knowing that something has taken her, that if I don’t find her soon, it’ll be too late. Sometimes it’s in the city, in the subway or one of the abandoned neighborhoods. I always wake up soaked in sweat and panting.

I never find her.

This book has a lot of stuff in it—humor and cool tech and adventure and suspense—but at the end of the day, it’s the story of a father and a daughter, and the almost-unbearable fear of letting go.

True story, by the way.

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I’ve never done anything with horror before, but I enjoy reading it, and I’d love to take a crack at writing something in the genre at some point. I’ve had an idea floating around in my head for a while about a guy with a girlfriend who’s kind of a giant spider thing. Maybe I’ll give that a go after I finish the next book. Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why? I don’t think I’d do well with romance. Bodice ripping makes me very uncomfortable.

What are you up to right now? Do you have any releases planned, or are you still writing?
I’m currently about three-quarters finished with the first draft of my next book, A Brief History of the Stupid War. This one is set in the same future as The End of Ordinary and Three Days in April, and tells the story of the war between the engineered and the unmodified that serves as a backdrop in The End of Ordinary. I also try to put out a new short story every couple of months. You can find links to most of those on my website, edwardashton.com.

Alright, now for some random, fun questions.
Favorite color? Um… Puce? That’s a color, right?
Favorite movie?
That’s an easy one. The Princess Bride. The clifftop duel between Inigo and Westley is probably the single greatest scene in the history of American cinema. Book that inspired you to become an author? Dying of the Light, by George R. R. Martin. It’s really got everything—incredibly detailed world-building, memorable characters, a plot that winds up somewhere you never expected but that seems inevitable once you get to the end, and a protagonist who winds up sacrificing himself for the happiness of someone who doesn’t even particularly like him. I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever read when I was nine, and (unlike Chicken in a Biscuit) the years haven’t dulled its shine.

You have one superpower. What is it?
Another easy one. Meat vision. Practical and delicious.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Larry, Moe, and Curly. I feel like they’d have a lot of insight into the geopolitics of the 1930s, which I find very interesting. Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why? Despite the fact that The End of Ordinary is speculative fiction, this is probably the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written. In the book, Drew Bergen is a genetic engineer, and a former college runner who’s having some difficulty accepting the fact that his fourteen-year-old daughter is now faster than he is. I’m a cancer researcher, which is at least genetic engineering adjacent. I’m also a former college runner, and my fourteen-year-old daughter is definitely faster than I am. Additionally, I know a lot about eating waffles in diners, which Drew does a great deal of, and like him, I am an acknowledged expert at awkward social interactions.

That’s all from me, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!
Thanks so much for hosting me. It’s been a lot of fun.

Don't forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

Author Bio and Links:
Edward Ashton lives with his adorably mopey dog, his inordinately patient wife, and a steadily diminishing number of daughters in Rochester, New York, where he studies new cancer therapies by day, and writes about the awful things his research may lead to by night. He is the author of Three Days in April, as well as several dozen short stories which have appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Louisiana Literature and Escape Pod.

You can find him online at edwardashton.com.
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