Sunday, August 4, 2019

Ashley M. Jackson, Author of The Xenon Tech Archives

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Today we are interviewing Ashley M. Jackson about her new sci-fi/dystopian fantasy novel, “The Xenon Tech Archives.” 

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Ashley Jackson. I am a (currently) 26-year-old writer from Columbia, Maryland. I have been writing since I was a child, however, I became serious about my writing around age 18. I always created stories to occupy my overactive imagination and as an outlet for overwhelming emotions. Whilst "The Xenon Tech Archives" is my first official series, it is not my first published piece. In the past, I worked on a few anthologies as well as co-written with one of my close author friends.

Science Fiction and fantasy are my two favorite genres to write because there is so much that you can do with it. The possibilities are endless.

Describe the plot of your new book, “The Xenon Tech Archives,” in a few sentences.
This is one of the hardest things for me to write, but I will try to make it brief:
The story centers around Scarlet; the 16-year-old only child of the infamous rebel leader, Lyrik Hakimi. Ever since Scarlet was born, he only had one purpose - To kill their world's leader and restore balance. As Scarlet begins his journey and starts to look deeper into his mission, instead of just taking it at face value, he begins to notice that he doesn't have the entire story. He, however, might be the one that the world needs protecting from.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?
I would definitely say that this would be a perfect fit for anyone in their teens or even 20s. While a few topics are rather heavy in the series, the writing itself is easy to follow and would be an easy read for "not-so-active" readers.

What do you like about the sci-fi genre? What inspired you to write a story about intelligent nanotechnology?
As I mentioned, I've always been a fan of science fiction, and I've always loved entertaining the ideas of "what-if". What if the world suddenly ended and robots were the only things that could save us? There is so much unknown with AIs and technology, and I feel that unlike most other fantasy genre types, this is the one that could potentially come true someday.

Tell us about your protagonist, Scarlet.
Scarlet is your average cheeky, flirty, over-the-top, big brother styled teen. He knows that he's different, and while he would never admit it, he likes to entertain the idea of what it would be like to be a normal boy. He cares about people around him but becomes weary and paranoid when people try to care for him in return. Like most teens, he's just trying to find his way and do what he feels is right.

I created Scarlet with this one thought in mind - How would a child/teenager react to being thrown into this type of world?

There seems to be a lot of concern these days about the danger of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence – even people, such as Elon Musk, have voiced concerns about the potential for AI to get too powerful for humanity. What are your thoughts on this fear? Has your writing been influenced by tech / science news?
Oddly enough, fear like that fuels my book. That is truly a big part of the reason why I love science fiction so much. My book plays off of those fears as a true "worst-case scenario". What if AIs were the only thing keeping mankind from destruction? Would mankind be able to truly survive and thrive without AIs? What would happen if AI's surpassed us and became truly self-aware? Would mankind and cyberkind truly be able to live in harmony?
Without giving away too much, I can tell you that all of these questions are brought up and, in one way or another, answered throughout my series.
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Who was your favorite character to write?
Scarlet was, of course, one of my absolute favorites, but he was also the most difficult. From when I started eight years ago, to now, I have redone Scarlet's character at least seven different times. So, when it comes to my favorite (and least stressful) character, I would honestly say Faylin.

The funny thing is that Faylin was never supposed to be a character. I never had him planned or anything. I was just writing a scene and I needed a character for a certain spot, and I just had the idea of a cute, feminine-looking, white-haired android. Next thing I know, Faylin is following Scarlet in the next scene, and bam, now the two of them are inseparable. Faylin was the best mistake that could have happened!

Is there an author that you cite as an influence on your writing style?
I fell in love with the Percy Jackson series written by Rick Riordan. It was one of the first series that I binge read from start to finish. The way that he wrote it made it feel like we were flies on the walls of Percy's life, watching him grow up and change from a confused little boy into a great young man. It was honestly nothing short of magic. I remembered crying at the end of the series. Percy wasn't just a character, Percy was my friend.

Ever since then, I realized that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to create a character that could make someone else feel that same way!

How do you think you've evolved as a writer since when you first started?
I was very shy about letting people know what was going on inside my head. I was constantly watering my words down and censoring myself. But as I began writing more and more, I realized that my writing wasn't "mine" anymore. I wanted people to have the raw version. I wanted them to see the exact type of picture that I was painting. That is why I honestly like the way that book 2 is written more than book 1.

How have your readers responded to the book so far?
So far, I have gotten all good reviews. People enjoy the fact that it is an easy read and that it has engaging characters and an interesting storyline. It's the perfect read for a stormy day or even while sitting on the metro.

Dystopian Fantasy Teen books, dystopian fantasy, xenon tech archives, dystopian scifi, Ashley m jackson, Ashley Jackson author

Have you ever had writer's block? If yes, how'd you deal with it? If you have not had writer's block, why do you think you haven't?
Yes! All of the time! Sadly, writer's block is just an unfortunate part of life. Typically I wait for it to pass. I give myself a week or so to get my head straight, and then I start slow. I draw pictures of my characters, daydream, listen to music that reminds me of my series, anything to get the juices flowing again.

An excerpt from "The Xenon Tech Archives":
Faylin reached his hand forward and grabbed the tip of
my cigarette. For a moment, nothing happened, but then a quick spark
ran up his hand and between his fingers, lighting the tip with a teal
“Oh.” I caught the stick quickly before it fell out of my mouth. I
popped it in and inhaled slowly, tasting something I couldn't quite
name. It was odd and tasted slghtly like rainwater. Like the smell that
gets trapped in your nose on a stormy day. It wasn't great, but it wasn't
Faylin leaned back in his chair and lit his own in the same fashion. The
way he pulled it from his lips and blew out a stream of teal smoke
looked much more elegant than the way I did, like he belonged on a
billboard in the West.
I laughed, taking in another breath. Mother always ended up on those
billboards. One thing I could truly say about her was she was
something beautiful.
“Mr. Scarlet.” Faylin faced the window in an odd air of causality as he
spoke. “This journey has taken quite an interesting turn, has it not?”
He glanced in my direction.
I hummed in response. “It has. I feel like we're just running deeper and
deeper down a hole right now.” I blew out the smoke. “And I'm
not seeing a light at the end yet.”
“Yes, I agree.” He went silent again. “Do you regret this? Regret
digging and searching to find this to be your truth?”
“No, not at all.” I chuckled. I knew this was the truth behind Neutopia. I knew the foul secrets that hid behind the veil of a supposed utopian society. I just didn't realize how far it had gone, just how bad it truly was.
I shook my head. “There is still something I'm missing, I know it. Something is holding all of this together.” 
“An unknown element...like a catalyst.” He added fluidly. 
I watched as the burning bits of ash vaporized into a blue mist. 
“It all goes back to Xenon Tech.”
More Information
Buy book 1 on Amazon.
Buy book 2 on Amazon. 
Visit the author's website. 
Check out the author on Tumblr. 
Like the author on Facebook. 
Follow the author on Twitter. 

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