I'm very honoured to have Lisa Von Biela over as part of my five minutes with series of interviews.
Lisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for 25 years, and still claims there is no application she cannot break in testing. She left the field to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2009. She now practices law in Seattle, Washington. One of her legal articles, a research piece published in the Food and Drug Law Journal, was cited in an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court. She currently serves on the editorial board of the American Bar Association’s quarterly publication, The SciTech Lawyer.
After placing 37th in the Personal Essay category of the 1999 Writer’s Digest contest, Lisa began to write short, dark fiction. Her first publication was in The Edge in 2002. She went on to publish a number of short works in various small press venues, including Gothic.net, Twilight Times, Dark Animus, AfterburnSF, and more. The Genesis Code is her first novel.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Which self? There are several. My writing self began writing short stories (mostly horror/supernatural and some scifi) back between 2000-2006. Some were published in small press venues like THE EDGE, Dark Animus, Gothic.net. Then I decided to try writing my first novel-length work. Took me two years of fits and starts and trying to find a methodology that worked for me. And this brings me to my other self. I worked in Information Technology for 25 years, then decided to attend law school. So I wrapped up that novel manuscript, quit my IT job, and began law school in 2006. My fiction took a hiatus during my “law school/relocation/establishing myself in a new city and career” phase. Fast forward to now. One side of me practices law, the other side of me pounds away at my fiction. Life is good.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Dark Fiction. I think it’s more inclusive, and describes my work better. I enjoy writing technothrillers, horror/supernatural, scifi, and combinations thereof. I also like to weave dark ethical questions into my work.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
<Glances at bookshelf.> Well, Stephen King is well represented there. Earlier Dean Koontz. Quite a lot of Richard Matheson. Margaret Atwood. Ray Bradbury. David Morrell. Clive Barker. Carson McCullers. Michael Crichton. Poe. Lots of Greg F. Gifune. Greg published my very first short story—after a number of well articulated and justified rejections. He’s taught me a lot over the years, especially characterization. I both enjoy his books as a reader and learn from them. I’m sure I’m leaving out some other favorites.
What are you reading now?
F9, by Michael McBride. Just started it—very tense. I love stuff that gets into brain function.
Which book do you wish you had written?
That is a really tough question. Within my genre, maybe FAHRENHEIT 451. It’s just a masterpiece. The prose is wonderful, the story is well told, and it has layers of meaning and significance. Outside my genre, probably SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS. It has everything: a romance, a crime mystery, a courtroom drama, historical backdrop, and amazing description. Oh, wait, then there’s BOY’S LIFE. Argh. There are a lot of books I wish I’d written for different reasons.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
That first full paragraph in FAHRENHEIT 451. My God, it’s amazing. Or that raven of Poe’s.
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
The specifics vary, depending on the stage of the work (drafting versus editing). I’m a planner and an outliner, so I start by trying to just mentally work through the major plot points, develop the main characters, then I outline in a fair amount of detail. I even have a special Excel outlining template I developed that specifies POV, word count, and more. And then, I draft. I’m a control freak by nature, so I would outline no matter what. However, given that I practice law full time, I tend to “binge write” on the weekends because of my schedule. Having an outline to work from lets me pick back up where I was pretty quickly, even when I’ve been unable to get back to the manuscript for days. When I’m drafting and really in the zone, I tend to “see” the thing play out in my mind’s eye and I just type along with what I’m “watching” (thankfully, I can type really fast).
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I have some favorites among my short stories, but at this point, I’m most proud of THE GENESIS CODE. It was the first novel length manuscript I ever even attempted to write, and it’s getting some great reviews now that it is out in the world. My other self is proud of my scholarly article, A Disclosure Dilemma: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You, But So Can What You Do Know.” It was published in the Food and Drug Law Journal in 2010, and was also cited in an amicus to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
Well, on the one hand, I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way just improving my craft over the years. That’s natural and I expect that. I expect to continue learning and improving. I think the hardest thing to deal with—but it’s really not something integral to my writing—is accepting that sometimes it takes a long, long time to have your work find the right home. Life is short and you can’t buy back time. That’s hard for me.
What do you like to do to relax?
<Reaches for dictionary. What is that word, “relax”?> Oh, there’s something I need to work on. I’m afraid that even things that should be relaxing, I tend to make into a competition with myself. I enjoy photography, but even then I’m constantly trying to improve and self-critiquing. I suppose the most relaxing thing I do is reading. I love to read, always have.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I would love to. My last book (also my first!), THE GENESIS CODE, came out in May from DarkFuse. It’s a technothriller that asks how far would a corporation go to extract all it could from its workers. In it, megatycoon Simon Harris acquires the technology to create a new, more obedient and efficient workforce for his global corporation, OneMarket. The scary part is, between the time I wrote the manuscript and now, the technology to actually do this is coming closer to fruition.
Next up is THE JANUS LEGACY, coming in February 2014, also from DarkFuse. This, too, is a technothriller, but with more of a biotech flavor. Jeremy Magnusson stands to inherit his estranged father’s considerable wealth—but only if he takes over SomaGene, his father’s highly successful custom organ cultivation and transplant operation. Despite his misgivings, he does—and then discovers the special gift his father left him. Is it a blessing or a curse? What are the implications for the human race?
Then comes ASH AND BONE in May 2014, again from DarkFuse. My first novella, this returns to my horror/suspense roots, with a twist of noir. It takes place in the little fishing village of Cromwell Bay, a place that holds a terrible secret. Eileen Maroni comes to town to start over, and buys the long-abandoned Harbor Motel. Frank Foster stops in town on his way back from his best friend’s funeral, and stays at the motel. They learn the devastating secret of what lies behind the door to room #8.
Currently, I’m in the early formation stages of my third novel. This one’s going to be another technothriller, involving an outbreak of nasty designer bacteria and all manner of skulduggery.
The Genesis Code, the mind-blowing techno-thriller debut novel from Lisa von Biela. Obedience and submission...uploaded directly to the brain... When Mark Weston is hired by OneMarket, the prestigious and premier supplier of global equity trading systems, owned by international business tycoon Simon Harris, he thinks he's found his dream job. Great pay, amazing benefits-and sure, the hours are long and the demands on his time are often extreme-but it means financial security for him and his wife Sheila, a new life and a new beginning, a fast track to success with a great company. But deep within the walls of the enigmatic OneMarket, there is something unthinkable happening that only a select few are aware of, the development of a new kind of invasive technology dubbed THE GENESIS CODE, that could not only expand Simon Harris' empire, but create a new, more efficient and obedient workforce. Mark and his coworkers have unknowingly become part of a horrifying experiment they may never be able to escape, and time is running out. A new kind of worker...a new kind of hybrid...a new kind of corporate slave... The Genesis Code...upload complete.