Dr. Shawn Phillips is the author of The Doppler Affect
1) What originally inspired you to get into writing?
As a kid I creating my own small newspapers on alien invasions and fantastical events, but left it behind as my interests turned toward science. Honestly, it dropped completely out of sight and mind for over two decades. Then in 2004 I transferred into a management position outside my technical field. I had a two-hour commute along desolate desert roads and needed a way to unwind from a high stress job. It started slowly, like a pleasant mental illness, where random thoughts of a fantasy world based on chi festered. It then grew tendrils that seemed to spread throughout my body, and character’s developed with their conversations springing forth (and those who passed me on the road must have thought I was ill, as I often acted out the scenes in an animated fashion). The complexity of the story built to a point where I couldn’t keep it all in my mind, so I began to write down the scenes after my wife and kids went to bed. That was when my childhood passion for writing was reborn. Now, a day doesn’t go by where I don’t satisfy my writing addiction.
2) Where did the idea for The Doppler Affect first come from?
The original idea came from my first book, Dillon’s Dream: Water & Earth. In the Young Adult novel, which The Doppler Affect definitely isn’t, there is a chapter where mythical doppelgangers play a key role. When I decided I wanted to write a paranormal adult fiction novel, I asked myself what modern-day, scientific-based shapeshifters would be like. How would they gain their ability, what would separate them from the mythical doppelgangers, and would they have weaknesses? But it wasn’t enough for a novel, as doppelgangers have been written about in thousands of stories. It took another year before I was able to integrate it with a spirit walker idea I had been toying with. From there it only took ten months to write (it sounds like a long time, but I also have a 60-hr a week job).
3) Did you like or dislike any characters in particular?
Hmm, I hadn’t thought about my feelings toward the characters before you asked. Let me see…I guess my favorite character was Mors, the male dole (dole is the name I gave doppelgangers who were born without the shape changing ability). He had a quiet confidence and reputation that was respected by the entire doppelganger society, even though he held no powers. He started as a page character (limited character traits, and meant to have a small role), but became an integral part of the novel.
Now, who did I hate? It was definitely the lead villain, Theresa. Every time I sat down to write about her, I had to delve into a character who inflicted pain on others just for pleasure. She was an incredibly sharp character, a visionary leader, but sadomasochistic. Readers will love to hate her.
4) Were there any scenes that were hard to write? Or any that were particularly easy to write?
Actually, it wasn’t one particular scene but rather the concept behind the science-based doppelgangers (or dopplers, as I call them), which caused me to walk a line that wouldn’t cross with my personal beliefs. The dopplers are a matriarchal society, and feed off the sexual desires of men to advance their race. Because of this premise, I was afraid that readers might falsely interpret the story as an extension of my beliefs about women. So I worked hard to stress that the dopplers were an alien race, and not akin to human women. The first thing I did was to call them females, instead of women. I drew on the differences between calling your place of residence a house instead of a home, with a home evoking emotions. There’s a lot more in the book, and I’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether I was successful.
5) Were any of the characters inspired by real people?
Great question! There were only two characters that I molded from real people, and it turns out that one is a retired Air Force colonel, and the other is a retired senior master sergeant. The prison librarian used the catch phrase, ‘What do you mean?’ in a high-pitched squeal. That was taken from Col (ret) Greg Reynolds, who owned that phrase like no one else I ever met. However, it should be noted that Greg is not in prison nor has he ever done anything illegal…that I know of.
I added in SMSgt (ret) Richardson just as he left the Air Force and joined the civil sector. In the story, he encounters a doppler during his first day on the job with the FBI, and it doesn’t end well. In real life, Richardson loved the character and felt it fit him to a tee.
On a side note, Christopher Sands’ wife is of Mexican descent, like my wife. I have lived in a Mexican family for two decades and wanted to capture part of the culture, and an important part of California culture. However, I made sure that the two were nothing alike. Hopefully she agrees, else I may be in trouble.
6) Do you intend to write any more books following on from this one?
Absolutely! I’ve really enjoyed the overall doppler story, and promised myself to see it through to the end…regardless of the popularity. The follow-on title is Picture Perfect. I’ve completed the outline (~twenty pages) and already written the first 20,000 words. My goal is to be two-thirds of the way done when 2014 is in the rearview mirror.
7) Have there been any particular books or authors that have inspired you?
Ender’s Game. As a teenager I related to the main character, and loved how Orson Scott Card wove the story. So far, all my main characters have some part of Ender inside, as I just can’t get away from it…yet.
The other is Piers Anthony. His style is simple, but every book of his pulled me in and kept me dreaming long after I put it down. That’s my goal with writing; I want to pull readers in and make them dream of or believe in the world I created.
8) Do you have any advice/pearls of wisdom for budding writers?
I don’t have any advice for writers who followed a traditional career path (they are way ahead of me), but rather for those people that called out by The Gotham Writers’ Workshop book. Meaning, the hundreds of thousands who come from different careers, but are unified in a passion for writing. My first piece of advice is to finish what you’re writing, whether it be a shorty story, novella or novel. It seems like every day someone tells me that they have wanted to write a story, and often that desire has been a dream for decades. Your dream will never succeed or fail until you take action, and failure is just a starting point for success.
The other piece of advice is to do everything possible to get honest reviews. In my professional career, I teach people to be self-reflective as it is the key to personal and professional growth. However, if you are starting a new career then it is hard to baseline where you are. You need others to help point out your strengths and weaknesses, and you need to be open to their critiques no matter how much they hurt. With my first novel, it took many months before I found a way to get honest reviews (Goodreads & book giveaways are a great start), but through persistence I learned the things I needed to work on. In fact, I think I have a good decade of work ahead of me.
(Amazon buy link)
(social sites, including blog & website)