Note: This post is one in a series where I give a more expanded set of thank yous to folks who were influential in helping me to write my new book, Kotov Syndrome. I wanted to keep the acknowledgments section of the book short, so as to keep printing costs down, but I also have a lot more to say than what I said in the book. Thus, we have this series.
In order to fully explain why I’m doing this specific thank you post and why it’s first in my series of thank you posts as my new book is going live, I’m going to need to give a bit of context. With these posts, I’m going to be thanking a ton of people who helped me write my book — either directly or indirectly. As these posts go along, they’ll get more personal, so I wanted to start with a bunch of people whose work I admire or who influenced me. Thing is, I’ve never met any of them. And with a couple of exceptions I’ll mention below, I’ve never talked to any of them either.
I should begin by talking a bit about my writing process, as there are certain things I do very early on when writing a story that are integral for helping me shape the story. While a lot of that process has changed over time1For example, I’ve gone from being someone who pantses all my stories to being a pretty meticulous outliner., there are a few things I’ve kept with me since some of my earliest short story writing days. The most notable of these that I insist on finding music to match my mood for the story. Sometimes, these become companion pieces as I’m writing — go check out my CYOA story, Project Tasman, on Wattpad if you want an example of that. Other times, as was the case for Kotov Syndrome, I’d use songs as working titles for chapters. This allowed me both to have a mood for the chapter, as well as to help me remember the vibe I was going for in a given story section.
With Kotov Syndrome, a lot of the music I listened to was instrumental rock. Many of the bands I listened to while writing this book, such as This Will Destroy You, Explosions in the Sky, Red Sparowes, and Maybeshewill, were bands I already listened to with some regularity before starting this book. That said, I picked up an interest in quite a few new bands/groups while writing this book, including God is an Astronaut, Cloudkicker, and Plini. Of course, not every song I listened to was instrumental. In fact, one of the songs on heavy rotation during the writing process — Hemorrhage by Fuel — was stuck in my head enough that I made it one of Abby’s favorite songs in the book. I know no one from any of the bands I listened to, but their music was critical to keeping my focus and helping the book move forward.
As I was outlining Kotov Syndrome with my editor, I came to a bit of a startling realization. For someone who was setting out to write a book that could be classified as science fiction, I’d read a surprisingly small amount of sci-fi in recent times. When I started the manuscript in early 2017, I’d read two sci-fi books total in the past five years2Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.. As such, I decided to read a lot of sci-fi and science-related books to help me better understand how I wanted to write what I was trying to create. But beyond that, I was also trying to create compelling characters whose stories made you give a shit about them, so I read a bunch of books I’d been told made you care about the characters. If you get the opportunity to do so, I strongly recommend reading the following books that I found inspired me as I wrote Kotov Syndrome.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
- Computer Machinery and Intelligence by Alan Turing
- Feed by M. T. Anderson3I’d read this book as a teenager as well, but re-reading it as an adult is a totally different experience.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
- When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica
- The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
- A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
- Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
- The Shadows by Jacob Crawford
I want to call out the authors of a couple of those books in more specific detail, though one of them will have to wait for a later post in this series. That said, I want to take a moment to address how much of an impact Hank and John Green have had on my life — both in the context of Kotov Syndrome as well as on me as a person. I became familiar with Hank and John’s work via Crash Course World History, finishing the original series right before World History II came out. I eventually went on to start watching their work on Vlogbrothers, as well as pretty regularly listening to Dear Hank and John4Or at least I did pre-COVID when I had a commute.. And I’ve enjoyed their work immensely. But that’s not why they’re getting a shout-out here — nor is it due to any of the books that Hank or John have written (but seriously, still read their work).
The reason Hank Green and John Green get a thank you for this book is because of how much their advice and their guidance has changed my outlook on life and the way people should be treated. John once gave a speech where he talked about the importance of imagining others complexly. That concept5I could only find this blog post with excerpts of the speech. If someone has the video, I’d love to link it in this post. — one that it appears to me is interwoven in everything the Green brothers do — has radically changed how I treat those around me, how I expect those around me to be treated, and how I think about creating the characters I write in my stories. I owe them a great deal, both as a writer and as a person.
This post would not be complete without mentioning the gratitude I have for a series of folks far more famous than me who have helped me with my writing, my blogging, or even this book directly over the course of the past few years. One of my earliest blog guest posting experiences came writing a piece for Jen Glantz’s blog. I reviewed her book Always a Bridesmaid a few years back and though she’s part of a wedding-filled world I’ll never understand, I still contend her book taught me a lot. I also want to thank Dr. Greg Gbur for taking the time one day to humor my uneducated questions about optics and quantum dots. The man wrote a book on the physics of cats. That in and of itself is cause for excitement. But he also helped me understand where some of my sci-fi had strayed too far from science and more into fiction.
Finally, I owe a debt of gratitude to the famous people I’ve looked to for creative inspiration. In my book of short stories, An Epilogue to Innocence, I thanked Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver for their ability to be funny, insightful, and entertaining. That much is still true and I am still grateful for the laughter and insight they’ve given me. Additionally, Red and Blue from Overly Sarcastic Productions have had an outsized influence on my writing as well, especially with Red’s Trope Talks series. Even though some tropes are unavoidable in writing, that series taught me a ton about how to address certain writing pitfalls, as well as how to avoid and/or lessen problematic connotations in my writing. While I know that I am constantly going to grow and improve as a writer, the Trope Talks series made me think more critically about my writing and its intent than I’d ever had before6Not to leave Blue out, I love me a good Pope Fight.. Finally, a great debt of gratitude is owed to Adam Savage, whose book deeply changed how I feel about my writing, leading me to place more tangible value in the words I put on the page. I don’t think I would have taken this book as seriously as I did as quickly as I did without reading his book Every Tool’s a Hammer.
That’s all for this thank you post. There’ll be two more posts in this series, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. I’d love for you to check those out.
You can pre-order Kotov Syndrome from any of the links below. For a full list of where to buy, go to the Kotov Syndrome page on this blog.