Hey there folks,
I am so excited we have another Saturday Spotlight with author Kaz Morran today. I love science fiction with some darkness and thrill. He is sure to deliver this. He is also a very well traveled individual living in many places like Canada and Japan. Let’s dive right into this interview shall we? And read about Kaz not from my perspective but from his:
What inspired you to start writing?
Aside from it filling an inherent need for a creative outlet, writing–and science fiction in particular–is the logical intersection of my loves for science, space, and adventure (writing is as much an adventure as the real-world physical type).
When did you decide that you wanted to publish your first story?
After the 2011 triple disaster (quake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown) here in Sendai, Japan. Of course, the disaster wasn’t a non-event for me, but it wasn’t nearly the life-defining moment that it was for the people around me. It’s then I came to realize that I’ve had a rather unique life, filled with varied experiences, mishaps, and adventures–and not usually of the positive uplifting kind–which combined to grant me a perspective I’d be foolish not to share. Though my stories are fiction, there’s always an underlying feeling of something more authentic, something gritty and dark.
Describe your writing space.
Usually at home in a traditional Japanese room with tatami (reed mat) floors and shōji (sliding wood-framed doors covered in translucent paper) leading out to a deck and small but jungly ecosystem of a backyard, from which I can see a giant Buddha statue and the calderas of volcanoes. I also write a lot on the shinkansen (bullet train) and in the woods and mountains.
How do you do research for your books?
It’s important for me to get the science and physics right and make the tech real or at least plausible. Wikipedia is great, but it only gets you so far. I teach English to a wide variety of people (aerospace engineers, nuclear physicists, yakuza detectives, etc.) so I often get the inside scoop, so to speak. A good story has to have a human angle, so whether in person or by listening to podcast and archived interviews with astronauts and whatnot, I try to soak up as much first-hand accounts as I can.
What motivates you to keep writing?
For one, I have so much bouncing around in my head (and in my computer) I want to get out there. I don’t know what writer’s block is, and I never feel dread or despair at the sight of a blank page. I’m an obsessive person when I start a project, so even after twelve hours of writing it pains me to have to call it a night. Specifically, what’s been motivating me to actually learn the craft well and focus on it with a deeper passion than the hobby status I’d once kept it relegated to, is a desire and need to shift careers. I’ve been teaching in Japan for 14 years, but I have a child now, and for all Japan’s good points, its painfully obvious that it’s not the best place to cultivate a young mind. Writing is what I love anyway, and as a career it is far less constrained by geography (and less subject to AI takeover, at least in the near term). For anyone who thinks that a writer who thinks of writing in career (i.e. greedy profit) terms, I assure you in my case at least that the perspective shift as greatly enhanced the quality of my writing, not compromise it.
Writing can be emotionally draining and sometimes stressful- particularly when stepping into the publishing realm of things. Any tips to share for the aspiring writers out there?
I’m far too new at this to be giving advice, but it only makes sense to try and balance the ego. Learn as much as you can about the business to go into it with a measure of confidence, but at the same time don’t have so much pride in your work that you aren’t open to criticism. Then again, maybe an element of naivety is good for a newbie—I bet a lot of writers would never have started if they’d known how consuming the publishing and marketing part of it would turn out to be.
Tell me about the books you write.
I write dark science fiction. “Dark” to me means stories that take the reader somewhere uncomfortable. There are no good guys or bad guys per se, but there are characters propelled to act in ways we might not approve of but can understand the motivation behind. My stories are meant to make you cringe and swallow hard, and maybe a little scared to turn out the light. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy inflicting my characters with moments of visceral, unspeakable horror if its fits the plot. I like it better when the situation is the main threat (though a character may make it worse) like in my first published novel, 550AU, where an earthquake traps astronaut candidates in a cave with a terrestrial predator. Also, I like to show how hard science and engineering are, and how it often takes teams of thousands of people to make a project happen or solve a major problem. To write otherwise would be lazy and disingenuous. I try to infuse a sense of global collaboration or competition, and, without getting political, a hint of the nasty world of money and politics behind an endeavour like a pioneering space mission. For instance, in book two of the 550AU series, protagonist Taiyo is caught up in the dynamic between China, Japan, the U.S.
How many books have you written so far? Are you in any anthologies? Which book has been your favorite to write? If you have a one that is. 🙂
I’ve written a few novels but only published the one (550AU Buried in Stone) so far. I’m working on the sequel now, which I’m really getting pulled into (in a good way). I have a bunch of shorts I’ll later bundle and release as one book, and a novella that’s about to be published by a magazine as a serial.
Do you have a favorite character that you have written? Why are they your favorite? Are they the main character? Tell us about them.
Ronin Aro, a vulgar amoral bully with a penchant for escaping gulags and fucking people over. As our hero Taiyo’s former professor, Ronin stole the credit for Taiyo’s spacecraft design and the two are now vying to be Japan’s next astronaut. Though Japanese, you’d be hard pressed to find someone like Ronin in Japan. I’ve tried to make everything in the 550AU universe scientifically plausible, so it’s been fun to have a character who’s so unrestrained.
Tell us about your latest writing project
In 550AU Buried in Stone (book one) a rogue planet is grazing the outer solar system. Would-be astronaut and aerospace engineer Taiyo Yamazaki knows how to unlock its mysteries—if he can just get out of the cave to salvage the space probe he proposed for his dissertation. Taiyo is one of six international astronaut candidates on a mock mission in the lava tubes of the Australian rainforest. When a quake seals the exits and floods the cavern, the silence and darkness conspire expose the candidates’ cracks, the mind fills in for the senses, and a trial meant to test their skills becomes a struggle against each other and against a creature of opportunity.
Let’s get to know a bit more about you. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I like to travel. I’ve been to over twenty countries, mostly in Asia and usually alone or with my son. I’m not so young anymore, but I’ll always be a kind of hippy backpacker. With travel comes adventure. I like ancient ruins, night markets, alien landscapes, and long treks. Close to home, I often get happily lost in the thick-forested volcanic hills. Intellectually, I’m drawn by all things space and science related. I’m also a hockey fan and former player, and now I help coach my son’s team. Hockey’s not big here in Japan, but it still exists.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Curious. Adaptive. Adventurous.
If it were possible to have your favorite season all year long what season would it be?
Why did you chose that particular season?
Actually, I can’t really answer without a geographical variable added to the equation. Back where I grew up, in BC (Canada), or in Perth (Australia) where I lived for a while, summer is great. Dry. Hot. Late sunsets. Clear starlit sky. Nature opens its arms. Beautiful. But in a lot of the word, the humidity of summer is hell. I kind of like the fall here in Japan–there’s a kind of poetic tragedy in how beautiful the dying leaves are. Best time for hiking, too. And it’s the start of hockey season.
What songs/ music are on your playlist?
Tool is my go-to, especially when writing. Though more often I prefer silence or the sound of the birds. Some tracks by Grandson are very fitting for my book “550AU Buried in Stone”, in fact I probably subconsciously got the title from one of their songs. Wu-Tang has a way of filling a void as well.
What is your favorite food?
Anything spicy. Sushi, too. I’ll try anything once. I’ve got grasshoppers in my freezer right now, though travels through Asia have turned up a lot weirder foods than that. Even though I used to be cook, I’m not impressed by pretentious meals pretending to be something they’re not—it all goes in and out of the same holes.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Cixin Liu. I’m not sure how much of the unique perspective of his work is because he’s Chinese and how much is just because of him personally, but I find his stories captivating simply because I never know where the ride is going to end up, though I know it’ll be somewhere most authors haven’t explored. What I really like are stories that are dark—dark in the morally ambitious sense, and not in the gore for the sake of gore sense. I guess that’s partly why I write that kind; I haven’t found any one single author that truly and consistently satiates that thirst.
What are you reading right now?
Fiction: Aurora, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and a bunch of random international short sci-fi. Non-fiction: Sapiens
What is one thing your readers don’t know about you?
I’ve suffered from a rare kind of arthritis since childhood and have had an unhealed fracture in my spine for 20 years, but I’m still ticking.
Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Facebook & Instagram: @55AU
Thank you for joining me on my blog today. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we head on out?
Thanks for the opportunity to engage with readers and expand my audience.
And a big thank to you for joining us today.
Well readers and writers what do you think? Any thoughts or comments to share with Kaz and me? I hope this weekend finds you well with great reads.