We were very excited to interview Ed Ryder, the author of In Vitro Lottery. Shell read his book in March, so she put together some questions (along with our standard questions) for him. The links to everything will be at the end of this post! ~ Kailei
I write stories in my head when I’m bored or travelling to work, and one day I decided to see if I could write a novel out of one of them. It’s been a very steep learning curve, but lots of fun!
I’m not the most photogenic person in the world, so here’s a picture of me riding my horse Molly instead!
- What should we call you?
- How many books have you written?
Just one so far; In Vitro Lottery
- Where are you from?
I was born and currently live in the UK
- When did you start writing?
About two years ago - I started late!
- What/who is your biggest motivator?
Wanting to tell a story, and to get characters and scenes
out of my head. Writing things down seems to do the
trick in that regard.
- What inspires you?
Looking at what's possible now and pushing it beyond its limits, both practically and ethically, to see what could happen in the future
- Do you have any pets (children included)? If so, what are their names?
My wife and I have two cats and two horses between us.
- What’s your favorite genre to read? Write?
I like to read dark fantasy and science fiction, and write science fiction
- What’s your favorite line from a movie?
“I’ll be back” (or pretty much anything Arnie said in 80s action movies)
- What’s the secret to juggling real life and writing?
You have to give up doing anything superfluous. When I'm writing, I stop watching any TV shows that I have to pay attention to, and stop playing computer games (although I fall off the wagon occasionally!). The animals, however, always demand attention! If writing starts to feel like a chore or I'm not inspired, I'll take a break for a while.
- What do you tend to snack on when you’re writing?
Chocolate cake and crisps. Anything unhealthy!
- What three words would those closest to you use to describe you?
Self-contained, OCD-prone and probably stubborn!
- When you walk into a bookstore, where is the first place that you go?
Either the sci-fi section, or the reference section.
- What is the most difficult part of being an author?
Finding the time to write when it’s not your main job.
- Besides being an author, what would your dream job be?
I love being a scientist, but my dream job would to be to write and direct movies.
- What’s the funniest/oddest thing you’ve been asked in an interview?
This is my first interview!
- When you have time to sit down and enjoy someone else's work, what do you find yourself reading?
I’m a huge Clive Barker fan; his stories and the worlds he conjures up are fantastic, I’ve also recently been reviewing books by other self-published authors on the BooksGoSocial Facebook group.
- If you could be anyone, who would you be? Why?
Jenson Button (F1 Driver). That, or Homer Simpson.
- If you could look back and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Take more chances in life. (or “hire a proper copy editor before releasing your book, instead of trying to do it yourself”)
- What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Passive aggressive people
- What do you do during your free time (when you’re not writing)?
I try to fit in horse riding, photography, watching genre TV
and playing computer games. My favourite TV show of all
time is Babylon 5, and like most people these days I’m a big
Game of Thrones fan too.
I love playing games with a strong narrative and great characters
(The Last of Us is one of the best recent examples of this).
I’m currently about 80+ hrs into The Witcher 3, which has an
epic story and a whole world to explore.
- Assuming you enjoy starbucks, what do you usually order? (if you don’t enjoy starbucks, how do you take your coffee/tea?)
English Breakfast Tea
- What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?/What’s something you want your readers to know about you?
I enjoy riding in dressage competitions
In Vitro Lottery's Blurb: "We are the last natural generation Kate. What happens next will be in the hands of others."
Decades after the Norwegian Death killed over half the world's population, the children of the survivors can only reproduce via complex fertility treatment. Some can afford it, but for everyone else in a vigilant and isolated Great Britain, there is the In Vitro Lottery. Kate is happy with her own small existence working in a coastal power station, but when her numbers come up and tragedy strikes she is sent on a collision course with the clinic head Victor Pearson, the political pressure group IVFree and the Government to answer two simple questions: who really controls the future and how far will they go to protect it? A dark and dystopian tale, In Vitro Lottery explores the consequences of when desire and grief turn to obsession, and asks at which point do scientific ethics end and pragmatic necessity begin?
- Where did the idea for In Vitro Lottery come from?
To be honest I have no idea! I work in a genetics research lab for my day job, so I think much of the science aspect of the story formed as a result of that.
- Where were you when it (the idea for In Vitro Lottery) come to you?
I had scattered random scenes in my head for quite a while, but I think the bigger picture came when I was driving to work one day. I tend to do most of my writing in my head while commuting, so when I have a chance to sit down with Scrivener I already have a good idea of what to write.
- Did you have any prior knowledge of traditional In Vitro Fertilization?
I knew a bit about it from general education and work, but I had to do a lot of research on the internet and a few science papers to get the details nailed down.
- About how long did you spend writing In Vitro Lottery?
From planning to final draft (which turns out wasn’t actually that final, as I’m editing it again now along with someone else!) was about 20 months in the evenings and bits of weekends. That included, however, learning how to structure plots and character arcs in fiction to start with. Luckily I watch a lot of TV shows and films which were a good primer.
I’m used to writing scientific papers but stories are a completely different kettle of fish! Hopefully future novels won’t take quite that long.
- What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing In Vitro Lottery?
How characters take a life of their own in your head and do unexpected things. Rowena was a classic example of that. She was only in it originally because I wanted to try and avoid an info-dump on some of the science. But then she wouldn’t go away, and eventually became a nexus for many of the major scenes in the book.
- Did anything that you really wanted to keep in the book get cut out during editing?
I originally had a prologue about Bjart Lorentzen, who was originally responsible for spreading the plague. I then read a book on plot structuring by K M Weiland which has a very good section on why prologues are often a bad idea. I agreed as mine wasn’t really directly connected to the story I was telling, and so it got cut out. It now lives on my blog if anyone’s interested! (You can find the deleted scene here)
- What’s next? Can we have just a LITTLE sneak peak?
I’m currently planning two new books; a young adult story about predestination called ‘The Ledger’, and a sequel to In Vitro Lottery, which is provisionally entitled ‘Morula’. Not sure which one I’ll do first though!
Here’s a potential quote from Morula as a taster...
“I told you, sacrifices had to be made.”
“And what exactly did you sacrifice, Kate? Apart from other people, I mean.”
“Everything I had, and everything I was.”
- Did you base any of your characters on anyone you know?
There’s a fair amount of me in Kate (although her political views are much more right wing than mine), especially in how our brains try and work things out or get stuck on details.. Also, the woman Charlie, who gives Kate a lift to the farm, is directly based on someone I know and like.
Victor Pearson was loosely inspired by the scientist Craig Venter, who famously tried to patent various genes during the sequencing of the human genome.
Luckily, I don’t know anyone similar to Rowena or Caden!
- In your opinion, how likely is the basis of In Vitro Lottery becoming our future?
The story of In Vitro Lottery is really a paradigm for what happens when the few have control of a limited resource over the many. Today, it’s oil and energy, but in the future that may change. Many environmental factors and chemicals can affect fertility, and nature does like to spring unpleasant surprises on us when we least expect it (we were so busy trying to fight malaria, for example, that Zika has blindsided us completely).
I think you’d need a certain set of circumstances to see the future described in my book become reality, but in Western Europe there is an ageing population and birth rates are already very low compared to the past, so who knows!
- Did the “Death” need to be so brutal? 30 million deaths…
And that was just in the UK! The plague wiped out about half the the population of the world overall.
The Death mainly came into the story as I wanted to describe a world where the economy and balance of power between nations was very different. I also wanted to explore a future where technology is much harder to come by and the standard of living is much lower (nearer post-WW2 levels). There are also various plot-related reasons for the breadth of the outbreak I can’t say without getting into spoiler territory...
Global disease outbreaks are thankfully rare but can be devastating. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, for example, reportedly killed over 50 million people, far more than who’d died in World War 1 just before it.
On a similar note, there is one point in the story where Kate recalls her father talking about the disposal of bodies in large pyres in the countryside. For me, and many people around the UK, those types of images are very real and recent. During the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, over 10 million sheep and cattle were killed and burned in a similar way to stop the disease spreading. Luckily I didn’t see it first-hand; the images on TV were awful enough.
- The most memorable excerpt from the book (for me) was “The world was dying you see. It probably seems incredible to your generation living in these half-empty cities, but when I was your age girl the human race was crumbling under its own weight.” Did that excerpt come easy to you?
When I was growing up in the 1980s, our Grandparents’ generation were full of stories of their experiences during WW2. As children, we knew something huge had occurred and changed the world forever, but we could never truly grasp the enormity of it. For us, we couldn’t imagine the world being different from what it currently was, even though we were often told how lucky we were.
The passage above came out of those memories and feelings.
- How do you feel about “designer babies”?
There are two types of designer babies I think; those where their genetic makeup had been altered to fix a life-threatening disease, and those who have traits altered for lifestyle reasons. I don’t think anyone (including me) really agrees that the second is a good idea, but the first is more tricky from an ethical standpoint. I’ve not made my mind up about that yet to be honest.
The topic of designer babies has come up again recently in the press and ethical debates, mainly because of the new CRISPR gene editing system that has revolutionized genetics research. Where altering a gene’s function in cells or model organisms took a year or more and lots of very complex work, we can now do the same thing in a matter of weeks at a fraction of the cost and effort.
One of the main problems though is that the technology has to be 100% safe for use in humans, and we are not there yet, by a long stretch. There’s no point in fixing a faulty gene if the patient then develops cancer due to off-target effects.For preventing disease, however, there are current
methods which are much more efficient, such as embryo
screening and proper genetic counselling.
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