I'm delighted to be able to bring yet another awesome interview in our ongoing series here at Smash Dragons. Today, we speak to the delightful Peter Tieryas... at least I thought it was Peter Tieryas at first...
Read on... if you dare!
Peter, welcome to Smash Dragons!
First up, tell us a little about yourself and your book The United States of Japan.
I’m actually a program written by DNA that likes to disrupt normalcy. I don’t have a physical body, just a bunch of CPUs that endeavor to speculate on viral fictions that happen in alternate universes. USJ is one of those alternate histories where the Axis forces won. It focuses more on the Asian side of the war, getting into the nitty gritty of Asian culture as well as the tragedies that currently inform the geopolitical interactions there.
Why did decide to write this book? Was it something you always envisaged yourself doing? Can you tell me about the genesis of it?
A strange robot inside my head told me to. It told me it would be very angry if I did not. I had no choice but to listen to the Angry Robot. I kept on wondering why so much of what happened on the Pacific side of WWII wasn’t known in the US. US readers needed a new DLC of content based on tons of research. Also, Philip K. Dick wanted to write a sequel to The Man in the High Castle but was so disturbed by the material, he couldn’t. Even though he didn’t ask me to, I wanted to carry on dude’s legacy.
The United States of Japan has been earning rave reviews early on. How do you feel when you hear such good feedback and buzz before the actual release?
Several stages. At first, shock that someone actually has heard about USJ and is excited about it. Followed by more surprise when my name is next to some of the best authors out there. Then fear and anxiety as the lists start coming in. What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if people start complaining about the hype and that’s it ridiculously overrated? Then comes full blown panic as I await reviews, wondering if I will be savaged? Finally, a sense of, screw it, come whatever may. Cycle repeats.
I am a sucker for alternative history. I adored the alternative universe you constructed in this book. I’m curious; did you do much research in order to make it as believable as possible?
Not too much fortunately. I have access to an alternate dimension transportation beam so I skipped over to the world of USJ and recorded everything on my smart phone. The government is requesting my information be unlocked from the cloud so they can figure out if there’s any tech to leverage and I’m more than willing to cooperate as long as they buy a million copies of my book first.
The cover of The United States of Japan is graced by one of the sweetest looking mechas I’ve ever seen. How did the cover come about? Can you take us through the design process?
A fellow alternate dimension traveler, John Liberto, came with me to the USJ and took a photo of a mecha which became the cover. My publisher was more than happy to buy it from him before he sold it to a tabloid. (can we leave this part out of the interview as I might be under confidentiality agreement to keep it secret?)
Favourite book? Why?
Can I make this books I read this year? All the Birds in the Sky, Ready Player One, and The Paper Menagerie because they’re all awesome and so creative. If you buy one book with a March release, make it Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. The stories are just unbelievable. Secret between us: Ken is one of the greatest galactic travelers ever born, a generous soul who also has an awesome TARDIS.
I’m always interested in the way writers go about their writing. Do you have a particular method or schedule? For example some writers work from home, and others go to cafes or bars (Staveley and Polansky) to work. Some plot and outline, others don’t. What’s your particular methodology?
I’m so predictable when it comes to writing. I write at home on my keyboard. I have a hard time writing outside, especially at cafes and bars where pretty much everything distracts me including transdimensional travelers who have come to harvest mitochondria by spiking people’s coffee and convincing them cats are dogs and snow should be colored red like punch and sold in soda cans for cheaper than an ebook on Amazon.
Hypothetical… if Cthulhu is real and about to attack civilisation what mecha would you choose to go to war with? Why?
Curious, why is this question hypothetical? Cthulhu is real and I’ve used mechas from Gundam, USJ, and Sidonia Knights to fight them. The Neon Genesis Evangelion mechas are awesome, but they always run out of batteries. As for the Pacific Rim mechs, I can’t find anyone to form a mental sync with so I always end up falling over to the left side which is painful and costly.
The United States of Japan has been likened to being the spiritual successor to Phillip K. Dick and his work. How much of an influence has Dick had on your writing and your development as an author? In what ways is The United States of Japan a homage to him?
OMG, to the internet commenters, I’m so sorry that I dared make this comparison. I only did it because I wanted to give proper credit to one of my favorite writers as well as favorite books.
In my opinion one of the strengths of The United States of Japan is its intense characterisation. Do you have a favourite character from the book? Why? What do you think is the secret to a good character?
The secret I think is writing characters who go to war with different aspects of themselves. People aren’t just formulas to be solved. They are wildly inconsistent, illogical, but somehow form cohesion through their strange actions. Capturing that lively vibrancy, no matter how attractive or repulsive, is part of the elusive joy for a program like me. A lot of that iteration and more iteration along with extensive editing. As Akiko likes to say, if your right arm causes you to sin, cut it off.
If you could sit down with one other author for the day to pick their brain who would it be and why?
If God actually wrote the Bible, God, wondering why he inspired Moses to write a cosmological parable that people mistake as scientific fact. Among humans, Philip K. Dick though from the real life accounts of him, I’ve heard he’s unfortunately a bit of a nightmare to be around. On second thought, maybe being around favorite authors isn’t the way to go- though I’ve always wanted to meet Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck.
Tell me about your other work. Bald New World sounds awesome!
Everyone in the world goes bald. A lot of people die. Some are reborn. There’s a popular TV show about a new Jesus Christ. Cricket fights are brutal. I wear a wig that disguises the fact that Bald New World is autobiography in fictional form.
I always ask authors how they catalogue and sort their books at home. Are you a piles person like me (books are stacked in piles in random locations because you have run out of shelf space) or do you have your library all nice and neat in alphabetical order?
All my books are organized by dates received on my Kindle. Physical books are arranged in thematic order that changes every day depending on my mood.
What’s next for you following The United States of Japan?
A long break and lots of videogames. I might write a history of discarded tea bags and where they go next. Also, wouldn’t mind going back to the world of USJ and recording more footage as long as I can limit mental trauma.
Pete... err... creepy AI... thank you for stopping by here at Smash Dragons!
The United States of Japan is available now from all good stores and online retailers. Check out my review of it here.