Q&A with AK Alliss

AK Alliss takes us behind the scenes of his book and his writing influences.

Q: Frame is such a unique book. Where did the inspiration come from?

A: Social media is such a huge part of our world, however I’m still fascinated by what people are interested in and drawn to. Largely, it is a celebrity culture that we have created that orbits around wealth or the accumulation of it. I wanted to explore that in greater detail, but from the perspective of someone who was only involved in that world on the peripheral.

Q: Is this the future as you envisage it? Seriously, we can’t go back so are we going to be slaves to the tech world?

A: Not necessarily, I think it’s a possible future but what comes next is unwritten and always has been regardless of where we were in history’s weave. I would like to imagine that we are already more savvy in some ways and that we are learning to develop more useful relationships with technology. If that continues, then the future will hopefully become more of a utopia rather than the slightly dystopian present that we find ourselves in now.

Q: The concept of the inhibitor is kind of scary, but I can see how it could work for good too in a future society. Can you explain its power and your thoughts on it?

A: In the world of Frame, the inhibitor was a way to distance the protagonist from her client, acting like an automated censor that prevents her from finding out too much about him. This goes south pretty quickly when she accidentally stumbles across something that she shouldn’t. I guess the danger of having something like the inhibitor to repress bad things is that the victim would not be able to experience the release of divulging whatever they have been through. By the same token, that would then protect the perpetrator of the crime. We are definitely in an age where censorship doesn’t require technology to enforce it, and ultimately, I would rather it stay that way than introduce a manufactured method.

Q: For those that have read the book, the ‘chair’ that lets you connect with a virtual reality replica of a deceased one is both sad and beautiful. But should it exist or does it stop us from moving on?

A: Grief is potent, it can heal and destroy, and so perhaps using it in the way it is used in Frame is not that beneficial, because it does stop the protagonist from moving forward. I would imagine that it would be personal choice really on whether a person would want that access. The real question for me, though, is if the copy is intelligent, then is it right to hold them prisoner to your grief?

Q: You write a great female lead and your next book Future’s Orphans has a female protagonist too. What’s the go?

A: I think women make infinitely more complex characters (for me anyway), most of my friends are female and I really enjoy that interaction because they often think so differently to myself. I wanted to explore that in more detail and figured that the best way to do it would be to try and put myself in that situation by writing female protagonists.

Q: Have you always been a writer at heart or is it a creative outlet?

A: I’ve written since I was ten and get a lot of inspiration from the world around me, I see a documentary or a news report, or even something in my own life and it inspires me. I like to create things that could actually happen but do indulge in the fiction by adding slightly “ahead” concepts that still fit within the world without reducing that reality.

Q: What’s your writing routine/discipline?

A: Generally, I write late and after everyone has gone to bed, setting aside about two hours a night from ten until midnight where I just get to it. I usually start my stories with a character and then try to think of where they have come from. The rest is built upon the foundation of their experiences and then shapes where they might be headed.

Q: Who do you read? What do you watch? Basically what are your motivators?

A: William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, is probably my most direct influence and he has got a very unique way of extrapolating the future from the past. James Ellroy, author of LA Confidential pushes me into the more noirish / detective elements of my work, his work is gritty and uncompromising. Generally, I like books that make you feel as if the events and characters are real, even if they involve something beyond the realms of possibilities. Visual drivers are documentaries, the news or dramatic television like Bloodline, House of Cards, Black Mirror, Humans and The Night Of .

Q: Is there a book or a character that changed your life or your thinking?

A: Probably All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson – it was set in the very near future (well, it was near then, it’s come and gone since) and it reads like a detective novel. I liked that it was a future that I recognised, and so therefore I could relate to it more easily. It also challenged me to be a better reader and writer, which is invaluable on both fronts when you’re an author.

Q: You self published some of your original stories. How do you feel about the self publishing experience?

A: Self publishing was good for me because it made me hold myself more accountable to the content I was producing and also provided me with the real reason why I was writing. I stopped thinking about how to become a commercial author and instead focus on being the best writer that I could be.

Q: If you had one tip for ambitious writers, what would it be?

A: Don’t let your ambition be monetary, instead, let it push you to become the best possible writer that you can be so that when you read what you’ve written, you’re proud of it. If you do that, everything else will follow.

Q: Where can fans catch up with you next in person?

A: I’ll be at the Margaret River Readers Writers Festival in 2017 and will also be holding a book launch for Frame in January at Planet Books, the details of which will be announced on the usual social media channels.