Thursday, March 17, 2011

Welcome Hallie Ephron!

 One of our favorite people stopped by! Hallie, thanks for being here today. Hallie's new book, COME AND FIND ME will be available on March 22.
Visit Hallie's Web site here to pre-order!

Thanks so much for having me on Working Stiffs! 

The most terrifying time for me, as a writer, aside from the weeks of ominous silence before the first reviews come in, are when I've finished one book and haven't yet started the next. Now I know there are writers with ideas, stacked up like planes at LaGuardia. For whom it's a matter of WHICH one to tackle next. But for me the question is: will I ever again come up with an good idea enough to sustain a 300-page novel.

I was in just such a funk, sure that I'd never be inspired as I was (at a yard sale) for "Never Tell a Lie," and wasting my time shopping on the Internet. There I tripped over an ad for a year supply of dehydrated and freeze-dried food. 5,011 total servings. 84 gallon-sized cans with a shelf life of up to 25 years. The photo showed a pyramid of cans in lovely pastel colors.

The chirpy ad copy explained: "...this package will give you variety, nutrition, and peace of mind."

Now maybe if I lived on the San Andreas fault or on a flood plain I might have sent in my check for $999.99. Instead I sat there scratching my head, trying to imagine who in the world would buy it.

The answer was someone like Diana Highsmith in "Come and Find Me" -- she's a recluse, afraid to leave her own house, traumatized by the sudden death of her lover and best friend in a climbing accident in the Swiss Alps. When she returns home alone, she barricades herself behind locked doors with video surveillance, security alarms, and electronic fire walls to protect her--though even she isn't sure from what. She "lives" on the Internet in a virtual world where she conducts business meetings, investigates security breaches, hangs out with avatar friends, and "climbs" Alpine mountains without ever leaving home.

Of course the challenge in writing a high-tech virtual world is to make it seem uncomplicated. To do that, I needed to research Second Life, the real virtual world like the fictional Other World I created in the book. So, armed with enough information to be dangerous, I created an account in Second Life. Then I created an avatar me: young, brunette, skinny jeans. Hey, why not?

So far so good. But I'm so not a gamer. The mouse and arrow keys are not my friends. So even though I knew my avatar should be able to walk, run, fly, sit, and teleport, I couldn't keep her from bumping into furniture. When I finally got her aloft, it was exhilarating, watching like I was perched on her shoulders (think Harry Potter on riding Buckbeak the hippogriff) as she soared over the island at the entrance to Second Life. Not so exhilarating, seconds later, was when she plunged into the blue (very blue) ocean. I actually found myself gasping for breath, then panicking when I couldn't figure out how to get her out.

So, most of what I learned about Second Life was gleaned by riding shotgun beside a few generous souls who let me watch as they went about their business in virtual reality. I learned that even bucolic corners of the virtual world can be infested by "griefers," mischief-makers who enjoy raining down toasters or flying phalluses or dropping cages to trap the avatars of unsuspecting players. It can turn from safe to scary in a heartbeat, which was perfect for the book. And, of course you never know who you're dealing with. Just for example, it turns out that a good percentage of the female avatars in Second Life have been created by male players. My favorite story about Second Life is that although avatars are designed to be virtually indestructible, a woman somewhere managed to kill her ex-husband's avatar.


David Spence said...

I really empathize with the dread between projects. I'm kinda in that valley right now, actually. And the book sounds great, I'll definitely look for it next week.

C. said...

Come and Find Me - love this title and the concept. Cannot wait to read it. Sure hope I can get it for my Kindle.

...Kindle denial about how much I'm reading in public...

C.L. Phillips said...

True Confession : I've looked at those one year food supply packages. Then again, I bought 128 cans of tuna for Y2K.

Maybe Second Life is for me. Looking forward to reading Come and Find Me. Love the cover!

Joyce Tremel said...

Welcome back to the Stiffs, Hallie!

The new book sounds fascinating. I'm not a gamer either. I couldn't even play the old Nintendo games my kids had when they were little. The best I can do is an occasional game of Spider Solitaire.

I have a couple ideas for my next project, but I always worry that I won't be able to turn the idea into a book.

PatRemick said...

Welcome Hallie! And thanks for sharing the fascinating premise for Come and Find Me -- and also the intriguing glimpse into Second Life. Very much looking forward to reading this next best-seller of yours!

Jenna said...

As someone with more ideas than I could possibly write in a lifetime, I'm a little envious of people without them. Sounds like you might not always have people banging on the inside of your skull insisting on being heard.

"Come and Find Me" is actually one of mine, too. Sort of. An agoraphobic Nero Wolfe-like character who spends his/her time at home being a cyber sleuth. It's one of those ideas I'll probably never get around to writing.

Good luck with the new release; it sounds fascinating!

Annette said...

Welcome back to Working Stiffs, Hallie! I'm looking forward to seeing you next month at Mystery Lovers Bookshop...not to mention reading the new book! Sounds great. I'm totally lost in those game worlds. I watch a friend's kids playing them: jumping, kicking, shooting, blowing things up...and I'm in awe. I'd be like you, crashing into the ocean. Glub glub glub.

Hallie Ephron said...

Oh, David - if only someone would start The Writers Pity Party... I know I'd be the first to sign up. Best of luck with YOUR writing!

Hallie Ephron said...

C - It's on Kindle! One of my goals in life is to get addicted to a Kindle. Have to buy one first.

C. L. Did you really?! So funny, because I told a reporter about it and she sheepishly said that she'd actually bought the year's supply. ... for her father (she said.)

Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks, Joyce! Ah, Nintendo. Confession. We made our daughter save and save to buy her first Nintendo. Then my husband and I BOTH got addicted to Super Mario. This goes back a ways...

Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks, Pat! (Wasn't that Anne LeClaire workshop fabulous?)

Hi, Jennie - what is it someone said, there are only something like 8 plot ideas in the world? Possibly true, but there are an infinite way of writing them, thank goodness.

Hallie Ephron said...

Hi Annette -- See you in Oakmont I hope! Love love love Mystery Lovers Bookshop.

Kids are so annoying - they 'get it' so effortlessly. Sometimes I feel like my mother-in-law who couldn't get the hang of our shower (it had a dial fixture instead of faucets)

doreen said...

I find myself working on 3 projects at a time. One I will fall in love with.
This book sounds like it took a great deal of research.

Paula Matter said...

Thanks for being here today, Hallie, and best of luck with the new book! I can't wait to read it!


Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks for sharing the inspiration behind this novel. It's a very different premise.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse