Let's get on with it, shall we?
Q: Tell us a little about yourselves.
Carlyle: I am diametrically opposed to myself. What does that mean? I like Mixed Martial Arts, and I like the Symphony. I love Jay-Z & Chopin, football and musicals, going to events filled with people but only the ones where the point isn’t to socialize like movies & concerts, talking to myself and answering myself (normally in the voice of our insane cat who is of the species Impus Demonicus). I could go on. No don’t you’ve said to much already like always.
Suki: (He really DOES talk to himself in the imaginary voice of our cat.) I love weird people (obviously). I’m an outgoing, gregarious people person who, ironically, can’t tolerate people. I’m a borderline synesthete with odd-number-phobia, and I’m really annoyed that I’m too sensitive for scary movies because I love scary movies (Carlyle actually covers my eyes and says, “don’t look!”). My super power is to ask questions about a TV show exactly one second before it’s answered, an uncanny yet entirely useless skill.
Q: How did you two meet?
Carlyle: We met on the Internet at an online writing workshop. We loved each other’s work, and that turned into loving each other. You might say it was love at first write.
Suki: I’m going to find it impossible to forgive you for that pun, Carlyle. It was wonderful while it lasted. Bye! (Kidding, of course.)
Q: How did you both get interested in writing?
Carlyle: Everyone I knew, who watched me piranha through books and had designated me the group tale-teller told me I should write for a living. I finally took a creative writing class at a junior college and wrote a story the class really liked and I thought, hey I loved writing it and they loved reading it, so why not make a living out of love? Suki was already an accomplished poetess but reluctant to commit to fiction, calling herself dabbler when in fact she was dazzling with a sparklingly original “voice.” So, I badgered and beguiled her into focusing on fiction.
Suki: He really did, and I’m so glad. Fiction is a lot more fun and a lot less high-brow. Plus, now people can actually understand what I write.
Q: What are your writing processes like?
Suki is methodical and exacting and she needs to know how everything fits before she proceeds. She’s a perfectionist and cannot be rushed. Carlyle favors the spray-n-pray technique. He just gushes out everything that skitters across his noggin, and then goes back and scalpels out all the stuff that doesn’t work. Coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, our conversations about writing can get, shall we say, passionate, but that makes for passionate writing too.
Q: Is there any particular kind of music that you like listening to when writing, or that helps inspire you?
Carlyle: I mostly listen to classical or jazz because anything with words distracts me. Suki requires absolute silence. Absolute. Under pain of death-glare, which Carlyle has experienced time and time again much to his chagrin.
Q: What inspired you to write this novel and why did you choose to write it?
This is always the tough question because telling exact thing that inspired The Apocalypse Gene is a big spoiler. I can say that Suki is a medical transcriptionist, and the inspiration came after a long day typing medical report and Suki playing the what-if game. What if the world was is in the grips of a Pandemic, and the cure had nothing to do with medical science? I came on board because Suki was struggling with the plotting of the novel. I thought it was a brilliant idea. In fact, I was jealous I hadn’t thought of it myself, so it was a no brainer for me to team up with her.
Q: Why did you decide to write urban-fantasy for teens?
We actually never made that decision. We just wrote the story we had in mind without thinking about how to classify it. As it went along, it dawned on us that if fit perfectly into the teen urban-fantasy genre, even if it didn’t have vampires or werewolves. We like to write fast-paced, dynamic scenes which the YA crowd enjoys, so it was natural fit.
Q: Where did you get the idea for the title?
Again, that’s a spoiler so we can’t really explain it, but title makes a lot of sense. Saying more would reveal the crux of the story.
Q: What was the hardest thing to write about in this book?
The hardest part was weaving in a rich backstory, which the reader needs to understand to fully appreciate the novel, without being boring or slowing down what Kirkus referred to as our “break-neck pace”.
Q: What was the easiest?
For Carlyle, it was the action sequences and the humor, two things he really loves. For Suki it was creating vivid descriptions in as few words as possible (her poetic roots) and delving into the emotional worlds of Mikah and Olivya.
Q: What was one of your favorite scenes to write about in the book?
To avoid a spoiler, we’ll pick an early one, which is when Mikah and Olivya first meet in the flesh after an online romance via their holo-sims (avatars). Kids in this world rarely get a chance to meet face to face because the streets are dangerous and everyone goes to virtual school, so it meant a lot to them.
Q: Your characters; tell us what inspired them.
They sprang almost fully formed from a single conversation. We were wondering what a romance would be like if you couldn’t hide your feeling from the other person. Olivya and Mikah have that ability. They know, without doubt, when someone is lying. They can see and feel the emotions of others, and when someone lies, they know it. When the meet, they’re instantly attracted and they can’t back away from feeling vulnerable because they’re totally onto each other from the first moment.
Q: Why did you choose to create characters with these characteristics?
We found their talents fascinating, and it was an adventure to take them through all the conflicts we threw at them. We gave them these characteristics so we could watch them grow and change, and give them compelling character arcs.
Q: What do you hope that the readers of your novel take from it? What should they learn?
What we hope you take smiles and good memories of a wild, fun ride. Most importantly, we want you to realize that it’s not only okay to be different - it’s wonderful.
Q: Can you tell us anything about upcoming titles you're writing/have written?
Carlyle is working on an adult literary-meets-noir crime thriller with a working title of The Black Song Inside, which was a semi-finalist in this year’s Faulkner-Wisdom Awards for novel-in-progress, and a YA High Fantasy, working title The People’s Champion. He hopes to have both done by the middle of next year.
Suki has two novels in the works, a literary fiction story called A Constellation of Outcomes, and a YA urban fantasy called The Simpleton.
Both Suki and Carlyle have begun working on the sequel to The Apocalypse Gene, which will be completed next year.
Q: What books are you guys currently reading?
Carlyle is listening to the audio book The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks during his commute and while playing fetch with their German Shepherd, and is reading Canticle by Ken Scholes.
Suki is listening to Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which is her prime motivation to get up and run in the morning. She is also reading Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay in the rare times when she has a spare moment.
Q: What is your favorite book?
Now that is really, really tough, but Carlyle will have to go with Burning Angel by James Lee Burke. Suki would have to say Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi.
Q: What authors do you look up to most?
Carlyle: Oh man, that’s a long list so I just list the few that I have read or will read everything they write, James Lee Burke, Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson.
Suki: Leo Tolstoy for his ability create characters so you understand them on every level and Dean Koontz for his ability to tell a complex story in a very simple way.
Q: If you could spend one day with any one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Carlyle would spend a day with Spartacus and ask him why instead of fleeing for freedom when he reached the Alps he turned back to march on Rome. I like to think it wasn’t for revenge but for freedom for everyone. The again maybe I don’t’ want to ask him. Sometimes it’s better to dream.
Suki would spend a day with her Mom who passed away before she had a chance to tell her how much she loved her.
Q: Can you share some advice for aspiring authors?
Carlyle: Don’t follow the so-called “Write what you know” advice. It makes no sense, especially if you are writing speculative fiction. Write what you are passionate about. Join writers’ groups or online writers workshops (like we did) to get feedback from people who aren’t influenced by being your friend, or you mother, or your spouse, etc.
Suki: Be open to criticism. The critiques that hurt the most are the ones that can also teach you the most. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The sting in any rebuke is truth.”