Thursday, January 21, 2016

Indie Author Spotlight: Jody Rawley

When a futurist leads a team on a secret mission to the moon, some of them find themselves stranded in the Shackleton Crater while the rest are setting up shop on the Central Bay on the Moon’s equator. As political tensions rise back on earth, the fate of everyone may rest on the shoulders of the people a quarter of a million miles away.

Shackleton Crater is the very definition of science fiction. There is a lot of scientific lingo/jargon going on in this story, and it’s clear that a lot of research was put in to make sure that any and all scientific elements were well written and accurate. This could be a bit of a turn off at times because I’m not super into that kind of thing, but it definitely made the story feel a lot more real so there’s that. Overall, this was a really interesting story about space survival with a generous helping of hope that makes you root for the poor souls trying to survive.

If you like Apollo 13 or Gravity, you’ll like Shackleton Crater.

So buy a copy here!

Now let’s meet the author!

Jody Rawley considers himself to be an out of work newspaperman. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with regular, extended stays, in North Carolina and Florida and points in between. His early formal education was in political science. He holds degrees in philosophy, communications and theology.  He worked in daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, AM and FM radio, cable and broadcast television, and independent film, "which is to say I failed in each," he points out. "But I learned a lot and had a really wonderful time." He reads… mostly he reads, and he writes to share his discoveries.

Let’s begin with a Twitter synopsis of the book (140 characters or less):

S. C. is a hard science fiction lunar crash and survival story with existing and or currently in development equipment (plus a little retro Apollo gear).

Where did you get the idea for Shackleton Crater?

I read SOUTH in 2009, saw the anniversary years approaching, and noticed international political parallels between that era and the 2014 I expected.  In further reading I found Apollo era personality parallels. I set out to write a book that would teach about the Moon, about lunar exploration, and lead my readers to seek out and read SOUTH and the other books I list in my introduction.

How much research was put into the more scientific aspects of the story?

Beginning when I photographed the July 1976 opening of the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum, and ending in the late '80's I worked as a free-lance aerospace journalist, covering events and hawking articles (not financially successfully). My best work was live launch coverage from the Cape for WMYB radio in Myrtle Beach (now defunct). I had 35 or 40 years of space study before I wrote Shackleton Crater. There was of course some catch-up work that needed to be done. I read the latest on the crater itself, used the new mapping for orientation, and learned how hopeless the crater's cold trap would be - that is the most fictional aspect of the book really, only poetic license keeps the astronauts alive there in modern suits. I loved every second of the research.

If I can, I'd like to take this opportunity to say to readers put off by a science fiction book set in 2014, that they can read it as set in 2025 or '35, or '45. The 2014 date was to match Shackleton's anniversary. Orion derived, currently developing equipment, will be online for a long time coming and the lunar science will not change and by 2035 maybe we'll have suits that will work in the cold trap.

What sets Shackleton Crater apart from other sci-fi novels?

It is intentionally educational, I mean, you can assign it for space studies, exploration, history, or science classroom reading, other novels attempt that but not many of the popular ones. It intentionally teaches history by matching and melding two events 1914-16, with 1969-72 (narrowly 1914 and 1971). And I dare say you won't find many "big five" publishing house sci-fi books (written in 2009-10), that predict a trouble causing, anti-American president in 2014.

Who is your biggest writing influence?

Conrad tops a long list. A what, not a who, is second, I am intrigued by Dramatica Theory. It's for screenplays but I usually refer to it at some point in every project.

What lesser known sci-fi author (other than yourself, of course) do you think everyone should know about?

That is one of the best questions I have ever encountered. It really gets me because I do not have an answer. In speculative fiction it would likely not be a science fiction, but a futurist work as I read more 19th century political books than contemporary science fiction, so, a timeless, The Man Who Was Thursday, kind of thing, not that Chesterton is a lesser known. I like the thrill of accurate analysis and extrapolation that you find in a book like Jules Verne's Life In The 20th Century. Without a good answer one defaults to what they've read most recently and that would be Scott Carpenter's two undersea sci-fi thrillers. The writing style is woefully dated (muy macho), I could imagine women readers screaming, "sexist!," but the story structure is classic, solid, cinematic, and the science fiction, the part I cared about, is compelling. It inspired me to outline a SCUBA story. Carpenter isn't exactly lesser known, or contemporary, so I fail for you on this question and apologize.

Who was your favorite character to write?

I read right much about Ernest Shackleton, watched the movies (Branagh got it dead on), and combined Shackleton's personality with that of my "space community" friend, Dr. David C. Webb. I've known him since we met at the United Nations Space Conference (UNISPACE), in Vienna in 1982. My main character, Timothy J. Caird, named for the lifeboat, James Caird, named for Shackleton's Endurance Expedition financial backer, was easy and great fun to write because it was like spending time with David and Shackleton.

What can we expect next from Jody Rawley?

I have an unusual African travel novel set in northwest Tanganyika in 1938 that features four brass era cars (including a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost). The novel is finished and needs only a pre-publish copy edit, but I think the market is not right so I am holding it for now. I am working full-time on a Civil War epic. It follows Confederates in the last months of the conflict, two groups, one group travels into Mexico and the other sails for Brazil. It is historically accurate and will surprise readers in many ways.

For science fiction, I can't seem to get away from thinking about Scott Carpenter's undersea world and the SEALAB experiments. I asked Florida International University if I could dive to their experimental habitat off the coast of Key West (where they are training astronauts), and they were amenable, so I might make that trip some day, do that research, find something really neat, and write a SCUBA novel (I have the cover art already). Until then, until that happens, it's all 1865 for me.

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