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Interview with Deborah Munro: On writing, science, and merging worlds

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I recently had the opportunity to speak with Deborah Munro, author and biomedical engineer. Deborah’s debut novel Apex is currently in production and will likely be released in 2019. Let’s dive right in shall we?

Welcome Deborah! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming book, APEX?

I grew up in rural California in the historic gold mining town of Placerville. I spent much of my childhood outdoors, playing, camping, hiking, and fishing, and my parents were land surveyors, a family business I helped out with from a young age. I developed a strong appreciation for nature, and the animals in it. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008 to teach biomedical engineering at a local university, and the beauty of this state quickly won my heart. When I decided to write my novel, APEX, I chose rural Oregon, because the setting was similar to my hometown, but remote enough to support the theme of the book—genetic engineering gone horribly wrong.

Your book APEX deals with genetic engineering. Can you tell me about how the plot has been inspired by your real-life work as a biomedical engineer?

I am an avid reader, and I love science, so when I came across an article about walking stick insects and their extraordinary evolutionary history, I was intrigued. Scientists have discovered that walking sticks have had and lost wings at different points in time. As far as I know, this is the first example of a higher life form re-evolving a significant characteristic after losing it. My mind immediately starting thinking, “What if an animal could re-evolve a characteristic?” and APEX was born.

Science, technology, and innovation are all prominent themes in your book. What is the process like for you when you come up against a subject that isn’t in your wheelhouse?

My mind is like a sponge when it comes to learning about science and technology. I am an inventor myself, and I have almost a dozen patents. Whenever I learn about something new, I’m curious to learn more, and I’ll dive into the research with glee. I’ve read countless journal articles and books about the science in my book, and it was fun for me to do.

One of my goals with my writing is to educate people about science in an entertaining and exciting way. Our future on this planet has many challenges, most of them related to finding a balance between the needs of humans and those of other life forms. APEX explores one of those topics, which is right to life. Do all animals have an equal right to life, even if they were genetically created?

Your book is currently in production and expected to hit shelves in late 2018 or 2019. What have you learned during the editing process?

Everything takes longer than anticipated. My book has gone through an extensive rewrite and only partially resembles the manuscript I originally wrote. I just submitted my third draft to my editor, and I have no idea how much more work will be required to make it my best story possible. I think the key is to be patient and trust the process. My book has a birthdate, but I don’t know what that is yet.

What does your writing routine look like, and do you think there will be more novels in your future?

I’m not a fulltime writer, and my day job also requires a lot of critical thinking and writing, so I find I write in spurts. A week may go by where I’m unable to write on my manuscript at all, but I keep my writing brain active by participating in social media writing prompts, creating blogs, and posting newsletters. I find I make the best progress, however, when I work piecemeal. I set a goal of 1000 words per day, and I often break that up into two or more sessions of just fifteen to twenty minutes. That ends up being an impressive 7000 words a week, and it keeps the story fresh in my mind, so I don’t have to back track and reread before beginning again.

I fully intend to keep writing. I’ve set APEX up to have a sequel if I want, but it’s a standalone novel. I also have another partially completed manuscript that is waggling its eyebrows at me, and I’ve done the research for a third novel that will likely be a romance, but with lots of environmental issues thrown in.

I have a technical book coming out in June on DIY microfabrication. It’s a guidebook on how to collaborate with open-use national laboratories to design and build your own microsensors for use in medical devices, etc. I will be hosting a seminar in Chicago in mid-June, so I’m self-publishing my book to be ready in time for that.

What advice would you share with authors out there working on their first book?

The most shocking thing I’ve learned about becoming an author is that it’s not about your book. Yes, you have to write the book, but the key to success is marketing yourself (not your book) on social media and via email blogs. There are thousands of people out there who would love to read your book, but they don’t know you exist unless you advertise yourself. It is so important to invest your time in building a following several months to a year before you start promoting your book. People need time to get to know you as a person, and you want to become a trusted source of content. So post, post, post about topics in which you have a personal interest. If you’re funny, use it! I’m not, but I have a strong science background and a love of nature, and with that, I have gathered more than 5300 Twitter followers and 8000 newsletter subscribers in just six months.

When I finally get word that my book has been passed on to the copy editor, that’s when I’ll start pushing for pre-orders, but not yet. For now, it’s all about audience building, as I know some percentage of my followers, however large that number ends up being, are going to want to buy my book. The larger the number of pre-orders, the larger the pool of potential reviewers to boost my book’s ranking, and I’ve heard as a general rule of thumb that your book will sell double the number of pre-orders once released.

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If you would like to learn more about Deborah, you can follow her through her website – deborahmunroauthor.com. Her novel, Apex, can be pre-ordered here.

Interview first published on JacquiCastleWrites.com

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Jacqui Castle
Jacqui Castle is a professional freelance writer and first-time novelist, living and writing in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Jacqui's debut book, The Seclusion, was named one of Kirkus Reviews' "Best Science Fiction Books of September 2018" and is now available at all major retailers.
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