I'm really jazzed about today's guest: the one and only Alex Hughes. She's the creator of the fabulous Mindspace Investigations, a new series that I really enjoy. I recently re-read CLEAN, Hughes' debut novel, and was struck anew by how much I loved it. Hughes has put together a really interesting techno-phobic near-future society that I love to read about but would probably hate to live in. I've also had a chance to sink my teeth into SHARP and I've put this author on my auto-buy list as a result!
I hope you'll enjoy the interview I got to do with Alex Hughes, and make sure to check out her books the next time you're at your local bookstore or library!
Welcome back to Tynga's Reviews, Alex! To start, can you tell our readers a bit about your Mindspace Investigations series?
Thank you! I’m excited to be back on the blog.
The Mindspace Investigations series is about a telepathic detective (and recovering addict) who helps the police in future Atlanta solve a series of crimes.
Can you tell us a bit about Mindspace and the different levels and types of telepathy?
Sure. Mindspace is the space in which human minds act and interact. It’s constrained by a lot of the same physics that controls the rest of our universe, including the Inverse Square Law and the occasional quantum effect, and it interacts with electromagnetic fields. Human minds and emotions leave traces in Mindspace even after they’ve gone, so reading the space correctly can tell you a lot about, say, a crime committed there a few days ago.
In this world, there are many forms of Abilities including telekinesis, teleportation, pyrokinesis, and telepathy. Telepathy is by far the most common Ability, and the strongest of the telepaths can both read Mindspace (and human minds in it) and interact with it, though some people can do only one or the other. Telepaths are also subdivided into strength (how strong the waves they can make in Mindspace are) and control (how fine a structure they can read without disturbing). All telepaths have at least a few people whom they cannot read well; the waves of their minds don’t mesh, something called “having poor valence.”
Why did you choose Atlanta as your main setting for the series?
Atlanta is home to me; I’ve lived in one section or another of the metro area since I was eight, and Decatur (where the story was set) was where I was living when I came up with the original concept. There was something really cool about the mix of old and new in the area when I lived there, and I loved picturing that mix in the future.
One of the things I found most interesting about your debut novel CLEAN was that you don't tell the reader the main character's first name until the very last paragraph of the book. Can you talk a bit about that decision?
For me, I was using a literary device deliberately to try to make a point. In a very real way, Adam’s identity is up in the air until he makes the decision at the end of the book. When he decides who he wants to be, he gets a name. Before that, the lack of name reflects his emotional state. To make that device work, however, was a great deal more work than I expected! It needs to be “transparent,” something the reader doesn’t notice until the very end when the key turns and he gets an identity. Making that happen without being too circuitous was very challenging.
A lot of authors who use first person narrators tend to write characters of the same gender. As a woman, did writing a first person story from a male character's point of view result in any challenges or discoveries?
In the beginning, it did, and I had to lean on other people, particularly male writers and beta readers, to keep me within the boundaries of a male protagonist. But after awhile, I got more comfortable with Adam and his way of seeing the world. It helps that he’s not a super macho man; Adam is an intelligent human being who happens to be male, not one to whom male is their primary identity. As long as I’m careful around the edges and add in the occasional male thought pattern or observation, I have a lot of freedom.
What has been interesting to me as a writer is the comments people have made about gender once they know I’m a female writing the piece. When someone read the first scene of Clean under the author name Alexandra, they pinged me on Adam noticing Esperanza’s clothes. People claimed that men didn’t notice clothes. But when they read the same scene under the author name Alex Hughes, no one noticed or cared. My writer’s group has also claimed some pretty crazy things for men as I’ve gone through writing subsequent projects--they claim loudly that real men don’t care about Christmas if they’re single, and that all men act a certain way while dating, or think a certain thing about a woman who’s large breasted. I’ve met very manly men who love Christmas even single, and men who have a variety of responses to women in various contexts. Gender is a continuum more than a binary system, I think, and there are as many different kinds of men as there are women.
There's a bit of sexual tension between Adam and Cherabino but they haven't gone beyond being work partners. Can you give us a teaser about what's to come for their relationship?
Would you really want me to? :)
You mentioned yummy food a few times in your "When I'm not writing" post. =) What are some of your favourite dishes?
This answer changes depending on when you ask me. Today I’ll say Thai food, particularly a coconut chicken basil soup that I get at a tiny little family-owned Thai restaurant near me. That soup is amazing! I love curry as well, pretty much in any form you bring it to me, but I’ve been experimenting with a Thai green curry at home and it’s turned out very well. With the coconut milk base, I can take a lot of hot peppers, and I do. A LOT.
Lately I’m also obsessed with spinach. It’s terrifically good for you, plus it adds a warm earthy flavor to a lot of amazing food. Spinach pesto, for example, is very good. And I love to make a red-wine and tomato sauce with turkey hot sausage and sundried tomatoes that gets incredible when you add a little carrots and a lot of spinach. Plus salad with baby spinach leaves, walnuts, goat cheese, squash, and raspberry vinegrette is incredible.
What are you currently reading?
I’m working my way through the Liaden universe by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller - amazing classic scifi that’s finally available in electronic form. I’ve also got Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and a one-act play book sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read. I’ve been so inspired by the dialogue and characterization of great classic plays over the years, and it’s been awhile since I’ve read them, so I’m excited to dive back in.
What would our readers be surprised to find out about you?
I’m big into knitting these days--I’m about to finish up my first sweater project! Plus I knit socks a lot; it’s a fun project, and you can wear them later for warm toes.
Finally, can you give tell us what to expect in SHARP, the latest Mindspace Investigations?
Sharp picks up about six weeks after Clean. Cherabino is avoiding Adam due to what happened in the last book, and he is struggling to recover from an injury which is affecting everything--and which he has not told the police about. He shows up at a crime scene, and the victim is one of his old students from the Guild. Plus parts for illegal Tech are being hijacked all over the city. Plus Paulsen says with recent budget cuts unless he pulls out a miracle, he’s likely to lose his job. It’s a rough week.
Thanks very much for visiting Tynga's Reviews again, Alex, and best of luck with the rest of your blog tour!
Thank you for having me!
You can also see the rest of Alex's blog tour by clicking on the tour button below.
And here's the scoop on SHARP, available now!
As a Level Eight telepath, I am the best police interrogator in the department. But I’m not a cop—I never will be—and my only friend on the force, Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino, is avoiding me because of a telepathic link I created by accident.
And I might not even be an interrogator for much longer. Our boss says unless I pull out a miracle, I’ll be gone before Christmas. I need this job, damn it. It’s the only thing keeping me sane.
Parts for illegal Tech—the same parts used to bring the world to its knees in the Tech Wars sixty years ago—are being hijacked all over the city. Plus Cherbino’s longtime nemesis, a cop killer, has resurfaced with a vengeance. If I can stay alive long enough, I just might be able to prove my worth, once and for all…
To see what I thought of what came before, click on the cover:
One (1) lucky reader will win a copy of CLEAN
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