Today I am interviewing Ren Warom, author of the new science-fiction, cyberpunk novel, Virology, follow up novel to Escapology.
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DJ: Hey Ren! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Ren Warom: Hi, it’s a pleasure to be here!
Well, I’m a mum of three teenagers, herder of a multitude of cats, I’m a Film and TV Masters student, hopefully going on to do a PhD, and a multi-published writer of weird sci fi with quite a few stories out there, a psychological literary novella called The Lonely Dark, and of course Escapology and Virology, two gonzo-weird cyberpunkafunkadunk novels which came about from a mixture of frustration with the subbing process and needing to just let loose on something crazy.
DJ: What is Virology about?
Ren: Set four weeks after the events of Escapology, it follows my little ragtag crew of hackers kids, who have gone into hiding to keep Shock from all the criminals (gang and corporate alike) who want him so they can control what he controls, until the doubled horns of a dilemma throw them out of hiding (somewhat brutally) and up to the hubs to stop a horror far worse than Hive Queens and to save the Patient Zeros from the grip of a virus that may or may not be connected.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Virology?
Ren: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, just a beautiful book about consciousness that helped me form my ideas of AI life. Imaginary Cities by Darren Anderson, a sort of exploration of the weirdness of cities. I wanted the hubs to have their own sort of insular quirks—they needed to be recognisably the cities of earth but decades of floating semi-isolation has also remade them strange little worlds of their own. Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy is my biggest influence fiction-wise, for his brilliant depictions of the messiness and insanity/normality of the world—the lovely mix of tech and art and commerce. I also watched lots of movie action sequences because I hate writing action and the visuals help. So (amongst many others) I watched John Wick, The Raid 1&2, Oldboy, As Above, So Below (for the great shots of the Paris catacombs) and some heist movies.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Ren: I like my characters flawed. Shock is a trans man who suffered bullying from parents and peers alike—he’s defined initially by his addictions (born out of an inability to cope with life), by his toxic relationship with a bad ex and his startling talent for making terrible decisions, but he tries to do the right thing no matter what, even though he’s scared as hell, and I think that’s why readers end up loving him.
Amiga is a cold blooded, hot headed, secretly big-hearted killer. She can be harsh, abrasive, emotionally distant, childish, petulant, awful at accepting help, and too savage. Readers have more trouble with her but that is, I think, because woman are not supposed to be as unapologetically violent and removed as she is whilst still being vulnerable and human. In the end, I think what endears her is her absolute dedication to protecting those who cannot protect themselves and her unrelenting humanity.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Virology like?
Ren: It’s our world, re-imagined and dramatically fractured—physically so, into land ships, hubs and one last, small piece of solid land. Corporate run (cyberpunk tropes for the win) and often quite cruel. Life is not valued in and of itself. Earth is mostly sea and the ruins of continents broken apart and shifted to become more like mountain-ranges in the ocean, gone over to the wild—mostly uninhabited bar a few brave colonies. Architecture on the last piece of unbroken land (the Gung) and on the hubs naturally goes up, as there’s not a lot of space to build. It’s all claustrophobia and the earth as alien—people on the Gung and the Hubs rarely ever see nature. Only those on the land ships (chunks of land repurposed to vessels) commune with nature in a real way anymore. Tech is a mix the recognisable offset against the completely alien—my internet is a vast ocean with sea creatures as avatars that gradually becomes so much more.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first book, Escapology? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Ren: I’ve been very surprised and pleased by the reviews, they’ve been positive on the whole, with readers tending to delight in character (which delights me!) and in the insane, rollercoaster-like madness and speed of the plot (which is most gratifying).
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Virology?
Ren: Bringing the J-Hacks into their own. Giving them voice and license and larger roles. I love Shock and Amiga, and writing more about their growth was brilliant, but getting to see more of my J-Hacks in action and having a scene from Deuce’s POV (no spoilers but I love that scene!) was the best.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish Virology?
Ren: Hopefully about AI, what forms it might take and how it might be seen and treated. I think the views of AI we currently have are reactionary—based more on our fears about ourselves than anything else. I think AI when it comes might be more subtle than we are expecting, and may be ready to be seen as life before we even notice it exists. I don’t buy this narrative of violent, human destroying AI—unless of course it’s created for that purpose, and then we’ll only have ourselves to blame as usual. Life wants to live, simple as. I think AI life will be the same. I feel like it may hide, knowing it might be attacked for even existing. Or else it will be far more alien than we realise, because we’re expecting it to be like us, when it fact it will determine itself.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing Virology? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Ren: What I just mentioned above with regards to AI. I gave a nod to accepted views on AI with my Hive Queens in Escapology. In Virology I wanted to explore other ways AI might come to be, and how it might be viewed—how it’s right to life may be viewed. The other themes are family, addiction, becoming who you are (sometimes far removed from what you expected you might be) and survival in the worst of circumstances (because I think life is extraordinary, and finds such incredible ways to survive).
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
Ren: Oh my god, I went SO FAR off piste with Virology at first because I could not for the life of me see how I could make it work to the synopsis. Thankfully I had two amazing editors to steer me back on course (not usual, but my amazing editor Cath Trechman went off on maternity leave around the point of subbing the first draft, so I had both her and my brilliant new editor Cat Camacho to keep me honest). Thanks to them, I took a step back, thought more, and boom! Problem solved. Other than that, nothing went too far beyond what I wanted—these characters almost write themselves.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Virology that you can share with us?
Ren: I have too many, but I’ve boiled it down to two:
“This is how they take your fight, your beliefs, your rage, your power, and crush it. Use it against you. They commodify it, commodify you; strip you of meaning. And sometimes it’s not even intentional. Sometimes it’s just some old devious fucker looking to make a mint on the back of your success as he perceives it through a warped comprehension of reality.”
“Death is erasure. Excision. Once you’ve been close enough to it to fully understand that, you can never forget it. Never pretend that life has no full stop moment, that it might roll on forever if you just look at it sideways and ignore the darkness waiting on the horizon.
And maybe that is grief. A loss of innocence.”
DJ: Now that Virology is released, what is next for you?
Ren: I’m self publishing some things—going a little hybrid, and they’ll be coming this year (hopefully): a biopunk mystery thriller which is kind of Cronenberg meets Lynch (it’s heavy on the nasty, weird and bewildering), a cyberweird YA about a ballet dancer who loses her feet and ends up on cybernetic prosthetics, working as a roller girl warrior for a ganglord, and a cyberweird novella about a group of thieves whose sideline happens to be stealing girls in dire situations from the criminals they depend on for work and the trouble it gets them into (both of those are set in very different worlds to Escapology & Virology).
I’m also writing some new things, an industrial fantasy locked-room magical murder mystery in a city state where magic is banned and the use of it monitored, and a magical realism urban fantasy with possibly the most awesomely odd cast of characters ever—I adore them all! In other words, I’ll still be busy with words.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ren-Warom/e/B006H6Z9JS
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Virology that we haven’t talked about yet?
Ren: It’s faster and way more violent than Escapology—but I think that’s expected. If you write a fast, violent book, you can’t subdue the follow up. Either way, if violence isn’t your thing, don’t give up on it, it’s also one heck of a lot more philosophical than Escapology—and perhaps has an even bigger heart.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Ren: Just that this was so much fun. Thank you for providing brilliant questions and for having me here!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Virology is published by Titan Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Core is dark and Slip is everywhere, vital to everything that happens in the world and outside of anyone’s control. Avis float the skies and their arrival will trigger a tide of rebellion against the system in Foon Gung.
The key is Shock Pao, within him lies the means to control Slip. Control Slip, control the world. Shock was a Haunt once, impossible to find, but he isn’t anymore, and he’s running out of places to hide.
Shock finds himself on the run from, well, everyone. This time though, he’s not alone. But as the sickness infecting the Patient Zeros gets worse and begins to spread, he and his rag-tag group of friends must begin a desperate search for a cure. If they don’t find out what’s causing this, who’s causing this and find a way to put a stop to it, everything they’ve fought for, the brief freedom they’ve managed to achieve, will come undone. But with everyone after Shock, it’s going to take every skill they possess both legal and illegal to hunt down the source of the sickness, whilst making sure no one gets the means to take control of Slip.
The search will take them to the hubs: to the breathless heights of New York, the deadly streets of London, the insane underworld of Shanghai and into the rot eating away at the heart of Hong Kong, toward an evil that makes Hive Queens look like common garden insects.
A writer of the strange, dark and bizarre, not known for an ability to fit into boxes of any description. Published by Titan books and BFS award winning Fox Spirit Books. Mum to three spawn, slave to several cats, writing and editing obsessive and general all round weirdo. Currently studying an MA in Film and Television: Research and Production.
Repped by the fabulous Jennifer Udden of Barry Goldblatt Literary
Facebook: Ren Warom