Ryan Southwick decided to dabble at writing late in life, and quickly became obsessed with the craft. His technical skills as a software developer, healthcare experience, and life‑long fascination for science fiction became the ingredients for his book series, The Z-Tech Chronicles.
Ryan also has a story in the recent anthology from Paper Angel Press, Corporate Catharsis. His story is titled “Once Upon a Nightwalker.”
Angels in the Mist (Z-Tech Chronicles Book 1), is 462 pages long and will be available June 16, 2020.
“…an epic urban fantasy blended with science fiction that will capture readers’ imaginations!”
In the heart of modern-day San Francisco, Anne Perrin becomes the target of an ancient evil. Her only chance—and perhaps the City’s—rests in the hands of a secretive, high-tech organization known as Z-Tech.
Anne Perrin is resigned to a life driven by an adolescent trauma: a strict routine, no socializing (outside of the safety of her waitressing job), and no romantic relationships. When her cautious lifestyle lets the perfect partner slip through her fingers, Anne vows she won’t let it happen again and ventures into San Francisco to find happiness.
Her first night out in a decade becomes a nightmare when her date turns on her with sadistic intent. But his nefarious plans for Anne are unexpectedly interrupted by a mysterious savior. Valiant, smart, compassionate … Charlie is exactly the partner Anne has been looking for. And best of all, he likes her too.
Things go well between her and Charlie until an assailant with unexpected strength plunges Anne into a world she didn’t know existed — nor could have imagined — where super-science and an eclectic group of extraordinary individuals may be the solution to Anne’s lifelong loneliness … and humanity’s only hope against an ancient threat.
How did you come to write this book?
Even when I was younger, I was surprised how many stories (books, movies, or otherwise) featuring bigger-than-life characters relied solely on action or the characters’ unique abilities to carry the audience’s interest. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to have extraordinary/gifted characters that were interesting even without their abilities, and a plot that would draw the audience forward even if “normal” people were involved? The Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t exist back then, which has provided some of that much-needed relief, but my first inspiration came from George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m an epic fantasy fan, and I remember being disappointed—disappointed!—when he introduced dragons because the characters were so well written and the plot so intriguing that dragons felt unnecessary, a cheap trick that would water down an already fantastic series.
That was how I wanted to write. I’d had a cast of heroic characters bouncing around in my head for years along with a cheesy vampire plot. But what if… what if I could do what Martin did? Could I make those characters so interesting that you hardly cared they were superhuman? Could vampires be introduced gently enough—plausibly enough—that even non-vampire fans would nod along because it just made sense?
Five years ago, I decided to find out, and Angels in the Mist was born, followed closely by Angels Fall and Wrath of Angels. I’d love to know from anyone who’s read the first book if I succeeded.
What genre is your series?
Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction. It’s a modern-day adventure in San Francisco. Vampires are the only fantasy element, really. The rest is more science fiction.
Do you consider your series character-driven or plot-driven?
Plot-driven, though all of the major characters (and especially the protagonist on her journey to heroism and healing) have significant problems holding them back and evolve through the series.
What makes your series unique?
A few things. The protagonist, Anne, is a 36-year-old waitress with chronic, debilitating PTSD who has a hard-enough time making it through the day as it is. Then someone tries to kill her. Then vampires attack. Then she discovers her new boyfriend is one of the most influential people in the world, has some super-tech secrets, and isn’t even human. Then she’s hit on by a girl she thought hated her and could at any moment accidentally kill her, introducing an LGBTQ quandary. Anne must figure out how to cope with things that would drive a normal person insane and keep her PTSD from going completely out of control. And that’s just the first book. My guess is you won’t find many stories with that combination.
Another is realism. Yes, it’s fantasy, but I’ve tried to lay it out believably, offering plausible explanations wherever possible, and tying it into extraordinary characters who have real problems and are dealing with them as anyone would.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
Both. I start with scene cards so I have a general idea where I’m going (Scrivener is my writing weapon of choice), but if something cool happens in the story that doesn’t fit with the rest of the cards, I won’t hesitate to throw them away and see where the new direction takes me. Plot is driven by characters, and my characters tend to take on a life of their own. I can try to predict what they’re going to do and plot around it, but when I write the scene, the characters often surprise me and do something I didn’t expect, and I’m loathe to change that just because their behaviors didn’t fit what I’d scribbled on an index card. For me, the adventure of writing isn’t sculpting the words to fit the story but putting interesting characters in strange situation and seeing how they react. In many ways, I’m just as excited to find out what’s going to happen as the reader is.
How do you develop the names for your characters?
Going with the idea of realism, I like to pick ordinary names that resonate with me. Common names are easier to remember. Anne and Charlie are two main characters in the book. William is the bad guy. Why not? For more exotic names, like Zima and Cappa, I reach out to friends or use random name generators on the internet. For the latter, I’ll sift through a hundred or so choices, pull out a dozen that I like, then stare at the list until one floats to the top.
How do you decide on the setting?
For Angels in the Mist, San Francisco was an easy choice. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for… well, for many years. The book has a technology theme, and much of it takes place in a tech factory, which also made Silicon Valley’s heart a natural. Having a vampire outbreak in a densely populated city that’s only nine-by-nine miles also felt like it would be challenging to write. San Francisco also has a rich culture, especially in the LGBTQ community, which worked well with the protagonist’s character arc.
In general, though, I like to pick settings that are interesting to me. A portion of Angels Fall takes place in China. I’ve always been fascinated with that part of the world, so it was an excellent opportunity to do some research and put the characters somewhere picturesque. Some of Wrath of Angels is on an Arleigh-Burke-class missile destroyer, which took weeks of fascinating research to properly portray. Another portion is in an abandoned missile complex, which I’ve always wanted to see, and prompted me to visit an old Nike missile site that was practically in my backyard.
Do you have a writing mentor?
Unfortunately, no. I learn best by studying, doing, failing, and trying again until I get it right. That said, I would love to have started this journey with an experienced author as a guide, but I didn’t know any. I’m starting to meet more, thanks to my editors at Paper Angel Press and Water Dragon Publishing, and am looking forward to learning from them, if they’re willing to share.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I wake up early just so I can do some writing before work, and I’ll write all weekend if my schedule allows. The only time I won’t write is after about 9 pm, when my brain shuts off. It’s the same rule I apply to programming. A friend of mine once said that late at night was when he wrote all his bugs. I find the same is true with writing, so no matter how much I want to continue, I close Scrivener when my concentration starts to wane and save it for the next day.
My favorite place to write is in my comfy chair in front of my computer desk. It’s in the dining room where everyone else hangs out, which is great. I love writing, but I love my family, too. Plus it’s near the snack cupboard.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Only what an incredible journey writing a series has been. It’s brought me closer to my mother, who’s also my alpha reader, as well as my friends who’ve graciously offered their encouragement and feedback. I’ve lost track of the number of hours I’ve spent at the keyboard, writing and re-writing, and I wouldn’t trade a single minute.
You can find out more about my current and upcoming books on my website, https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com
Thank you, Nancy, for giving me this opportunity!
You can find Ryan online here:
Book Links for The Z-Tech Chronicles
Angels in the Mist: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/angels-in-the-mist
Zima: Origins: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/zima-origins
Angels Fall: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/angels-fall
Graven Angels: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/graven-angels
Wrath of Angels: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/wrath-of-angels