Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature: Shawn Phillips author of The Doppler Affect


Shapeshifters Control Our Lives!

The frightening power of vampires, werewolves, and lycanthropes has lived within our nightmares for centuries, failing to be reasoned out by the rapid advances in science and technology. The truth is that they are very much a part of our reality. However, they are merely the genetically inferior offspring of a more powerful race, known as doppelgangers, who evolved alongside humankind. These shapeshifters adopted a secretive yet manipulative approach when dealing with us, feeding off the sexual desires of men to sustain their society…until desperate times forced a new order.

Christopher Sands, a rising investment banker, was just another victim in a long list of doppelganger schemes. Framed for a crime he wouldn’t commit and watching his family fade farther and farther from his prison bars, Chris makes an unbelievable discovery; shapeshifters aren’t the only race with supernatural abilities. Can he find the strength to accept an even worse fate than prison to not only save his son, but all humankind? Will Michael Sands be able to control the spirits that haunt him to finish what his father cannot?


Author Interview


What inspired you to write this book? 
I keep a laundry list of book ideas that come to me during my daily, desert commute. None of them seem worthy enough to center an entire book around. However, I found that by combining these ideas I build a story that is enticing and unique. For The Doppler Affect it started with the ending of my first book, where a mythical doppelganger had taken over the identity of a key character. I began to wonder what a modern-day, science-based doppelganger would look like, how it would act and what its motivation would be. I knew it wasn’t enough to build a story from, so I let it nest in my mind for almost a year. Then one day I toyed with combining it with a spirit-walker idea I had a couple of years earlier. If I say anymore it would be a spoiler, but trust me when I say it makes for an exciting story.

Can you give us an interesting fact about your book that isn't in the blurb? 
The timeline of the book is purposely disjointed, with the novel even containing two stories separated by twenty years. It was a challenge to piece together, but also a lot of fun. Perhaps the most critical point is that the book was written for the broken timeliness, meaning it wasn’t just jumbled about after the fact. I’m curious to hear what readers think.


How did you choose your title? 
I was hoping you would ask this question, as the nerd in me is dying to explain it.  Many of my colleagues think I mixed up my homonyms, but it was carefully chosen. The Doppler Effect is a scientific principle where sound or light frequency changes when the source and observer are not in equal motion (e.g., one hearing the speeding up of an ambulance siren as it approaches). The book title is a play on both the words and the principle. The Doppler Affect is the influence (affect) doppelgangers, or dopplers, have on humankind; this affect being more pronounced as they get closer and less pronounced as they move farther away. Incidentally, each chapter title was built in this same vein.

Tell us about the cover and how it came to be. 
Now, that was a funny and very humbling experience. My original idea was to have a picture of a woman morphing into a man. I worked with a graphic artist to turn my vision into the book cover. When finished, I polled friends and strangers to see if they liked it. The responses were fantastically….horrible. People were disturbed, confused, or embarrassed for me. Luckily, a friend suggested that I meet with a local tattoo artist. I initially rejected the idea, but it grew on me as I really had no other options. A few weeks later I met him at a restaurant and described a critical scene in the book, and then left him to create. When he came back with the drawing, I was stunned at how perfectly he captured the scene while also creating an incredible cover. I give Cliff Gregory all the credit, and will be working with him for years to come.

Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why? 
Self-published. When I self-published my first book it was because I received 44 out of 44 canned rejection letters (deservedly so). Six years ago it was a stigma to self-publish, but I took my lumps and accepted the only path available to me. I learned so much by publishing my own book that I’m glad I had no other choice. With The Doppler Affect, I worked hard on the query letters and received over a dozen requests for more information and even three follow-ups for the full manuscript. Two agents were still reviewing it when I decided to move forward with self-publishing (I’m not very patient). The process of creating your work, working with an editor, developing a book cover, publishing, printing, getting reviews, marketing/advertising and selling books is exciting. The self-published author controls it all, which can be good or bad. Now, would I say no if an agent came back with a good deal? Probably not as I still have a demanding full-time job and two young boys that keep me very busy.

What do you consider the most important part of a good story?
Oh. So many things are zipping through my mind. Well….it’s a close call between a creative plot and well-crafted characters. I guess I would have to say well-crafted characters, as I need the reader to believe in their existence in order for the story to move forward. In fact, when I sent my book out to Facebook friends across the country for pre-screening I put together a questionnaire. In it I described four types of characters. The first was the page character, being two-dimensional in traits and usually lasting less than a page. The second was the cartoon character, who was not a main character but would appear enough times in the book that she needed to be memorable. Her character traits were limited in number but over-expressed in order to be memorable. The third was the antagonist(s), who also had over-expressed character traits but possessed a multitude of complimentary character traits. The last was for the protagonist(s), who not only had a multitude of complimentary character traits, but often grew or changed as the story progressed. The last is the most challenging, but also the most rewarding if one can get it right.

What is your writing process? 
I start with an excessively-detailed outline (the scientist in me), and then switch personalities to where I rapidly slap the keyboard for hours and hope it makes sense. This style means that intensive editing is required, but it fits who I am. I can’t slow down long-enough to craft the perfect sentence (and am jealous of those who can).

How long have you been writing? 
I wrote my first scientific journal article when I was twenty-two, but I don’t think that counts. I’ve been writing non-science based works for about nine years.

How did you get started writing? 
Nine years ago I had turned down a contract to write a book on nanomaterials after my boss asked me to take on a new leadership job. I was torn even after the decision, and only realized later that it was because I wanted to write. The new job was intense, so my long commute to work became a time to create stories in my head. When I got home I would write down my thoughts, and a few years later I had completed my first novel. It was not only a great way to unwind, but has become a healthy addiction.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? 
This question makes me think of the Aesop’s Fable about the scorpion that stung the frog who was carrying it across the river. My nature is to be a pantser, but my scientific training and daily work with hundreds of engineers has made me understand that I must have a certain amount of structure in order to focus my pantser nature. I’m sure it’s no surprise that if I’m exhausted or exited the pantser dominates.

What part of the writing process is the hardest for you? 
Setting the scene. Being a pantser and impatient means that I want to jump right into things. It was one of my biggest criticisms from my first book (ok, one of many), so often times I have to go back and rewrite those parts of my chapters.

What tips can you give on how to get through writers block? 
I really believe its personality driven. For some it’s going to a peaceful place, others need to get away and focus on something else. For me it’s a combination of long drives and working on another story, as I need to keep writing.

What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?
None, unless I’m writing a romantic scene. Then I’ll put on rock ballads.


Who is your favorite author?
Is it sad that the answer hasn’t changed since I was a teenager?  It’s Piers Anthony, and I often go back and reread books from the Xanth series.  Second up these days is Hugh Howey.

Who is your favorite character from a book?
Ender Wiggin, hands down. As a boy I could relate to the character, and dreamed of going to the stars. It surely ties into why I became a rocket scientist.

What is your favorite book? 
Talion: Revenant by Michael Stackpole. It may seem strange, but for a self-published author’s first book, it captured me from beginning to end. I believed in his main character and felt the internal struggles as his beliefs were turned upside down.

Read anything good lately?
The Martian. The main character is the perfect sarcastic, intelligent engineer. Hey, did I mention that I’m surrounded by hundreds of engineers every day? If you really want to be bored, I can expound on the differences between a scientist and an engineer.  No? Ok, next question.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? 
I’m a professional exerciser, which really means I am not very athletic but enjoy physical activity. I like to run, hike, lift, do martial arts, and camp. Oh, and watch football…way too much football.

What advice would you give an author just starting out? 
I’m only on my sophomore book, so I still have a lot to learn. But at this stage in my writing career I would say keep learning and applying the knowledge you gain. Whether it be a book you read, advice from a workshop, or reader reviews. It all will make you better at your craft.

Have you had anything else published?
Yes, my first book, Dillon’s Dream: Water and Earth. I have to admit that I’m a little embarrassed by the quality of the writing. However, I’m proud of the storyline, the depth of characters, and the crafting of the numerous meditation routines that are embedded in the book.

 What's your next project? 
I have two that I’m working on. The first is the sequel to The Doppler Affect, and is called Perfect Shape. The second is titled, Darkened Demigod. A story about the first modern-day deity, and how a diminutive libarian helps him with his internal demons. That one started when I had writer’s block on The Doppler Affect.


Shawn Phillips wrote his first book, a young-adult fantasy novel titled Dillon’s Dream: Water in Earth, in 2009 before following it up with his adult paranormal fiction novel, The Doppler Affect. In addition to the sequel to The Doppler Affect, he currently has two other projects in progress, which he plans to complete in 2015.

He spent his younger years living in southern Michigan farming communities before moving to Holland, Michigan to pursue a chemistry degree at Hope College, which he completed in 1992. After relocating to California, he continued his chemistry studies and obtained his doctorate degree in 1997. After a brief yet enjoyable stint at DuPont, he signed on as a civil servant for the United States Air Force. He has spent more than fifteen years conducting and directing propulsion research at the historic Rocket Lab, located on Edwards Air Force Base.





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