Today we are celebrating the release of Nemesis, by VCFA student Brendan Reichs and recently listed on the New York Times Bestseller List for Young Adult Fiction.
Recurring murder, nightmares, lies, a vast conspiracy and an enormous asteroid threatening life on Earth -- Nemesis gives us Orphan Black twisting with Lord of the Flies in a riveting new thriller from the co-author of the Virals series.
Welcome Brendan. What a plot line! Tell us, what was the spark that ignited this book?
I really wanted to write a conspiracy book. I grew up on shows like The X-Files and Lost, so my goal was to recreate that feeling where the world around my characters might not be what it seems. I also wanted to explore the fundamental concept of the permanence of death. What would it feel like if suddenly that didn’t apply to you? How would you live your life?
You have a cast of great characters here. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
With apologies to the guys, Min is my favorite character to write. I like her most because she’s strong but flawed. Min is highly suspicious of what’s happening around her, and has a hair-trigger temper, but she never loses her empathy. While I think Tack’s dark sarcasm is vital to the story, and Noah brings a fragility I found somewhat novel to explore in a male point-of-view character, Min in the heart of the book.
It's a wonderfully complex story. Can you tell us what was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?
I had to cut a lot of information I’d included about the vacation town of Fire Lake, its history, its economy, and things like that. I spent months diligently constructing and building up my imaginary community, and I wanted it all to go into the book. But, sadly, including it made the first part read like a travelogue and slowed the plot, so it had to go. But if anyone wants to know more background on the townships of the northern Bitterroot Mountains, know that I have it all on file!
Well, on that topic, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?
How long does it take quicklime to dissolve a corpse?
Right, moving along, do you have a nugget of craft advice that has been especially helpful to you?
Don’t neglect the emotional side of planning a story. I now like to plan my characters’ emotional arcs just as thoroughly as their plot arcs, so that they are growing (or collapsing) in more ways than one. I map out my entire book on a whiteboard in my office, and keep it up during the entire process so that I can refer to any scene or chapter at a glance. I’m sure this strategy isn’t for everyone, but after seeing results in my last two projects, I won’t do it any other way going forward. If nothing else, it clarifies my thoughts.
Let's talk about your process a bit. Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?
Dead silence. Tomb silence. How people work to music baffles me.
What about your writing community? Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?
My wife Emily proofreads and critiques everything I write before anyone else see it, including my editor. I couldn’t imagine doing things any other way. I love Twitter for the watercooler feel of being able to talk to other authors, mainly because writing novels can be such a lonely job. And I have great colleagues that serve as my early readers, and tell me bluntly if my WIP is garbage. Priceless, really.
Is there something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work?
I keep my law degree on the wall right next to my desk, to remind me of the existential horrors that will await me if I get slack and don’t focus on my writing.
You are a current student at VCFA, graduating in January 2018 with the Tropebusters. How has attending VCFA affected your writing life?
Attending VCFA really got me to dig into my work. It opened my eyes to deficiencies I hadn’t realized existed, while teaching me to push boundaries. I could feel my writing getting stronger as I worked with so many talented other people. I’m a more thoughtful, diligent, and prepared writer because of my time spent in Vermont. There is no writer on any level that wouldn’t benefit from study of this nature. I’m like a kid at Christmas every day.
Who have been your advisors at VCFA?
I’ve been blessed with three amazing advisers so far. I started with Tim Wynne-Jones in my first semester, and still cringe about my inconsistent use of available light. Next I had An Na, who taught me how to slow down and hit those crucial emotional beats. I’m currently working with Kekla Magoon, who kicked my critical thesis into shape and even got me to write a (bad) picture book. These are genius, folks. I get to work with geniuses.
What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?
I would advise everyone coming to VCFA to fully embrace the hothouse environment afforded by the residencies. Rarely in a writing career will you find yourself so fully immersed in pure work, and with such an incredible cast of talented people around you. Attend everything you can drag yourself out of bed for, don’t shirk the traditions, or chances to explore the town, and, most of all, open yourself to the incredible sense of community VCFA offers. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to live in a literary colony. Take advantage of every minutes of it!
Thanks so much, Brendan. It's been great to get an insight into your process and the mind behind Nemesis.
Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Nemesis, and co-author of the Virals series, written with Kathy Reichs. Brendan lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.
You can find out more about Brendan at www.brendanreichs.com
Nemesis was published by Penguin/Putnam March 21, 2017. http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/534092/nemesis-by-brendan-reichs/