Sunday, June 30, 2013

Featured Author: Trey Copeland

I'm happy to be talking to Trey Copeland, the author of Known Afterlife, Volume 1 of The Provider Trilogy, a  Speculative Fiction novel with equal parts sci-fi & fantasy.



About the book:

Stalling and Steffor inhabit different worlds, yet they are connected. With the fate of both realities in the balance, they each navigate knife-edged paths between utter darkness and universal salvation, paths that bring them to the same mind-bending dilemma. Do we have a moral obligation to pursue enlightenment at any cost? 

Antium is a world ruled by an ancient and merciless theocracy. The pervasive grip of stratification and elitism paralyze man's ability to grow, to dream, to aspire for a better existence. Armed with the motive, the technology and the capital means, Stalling Alterian stands ready to impose transcendence upon a stagnant society. Can Stalling and his cadre of gifted conspirators complete a technological miracle before the noose pulls tight? 

Meanwhile, Steffor wages an all together different battle to save his utopian world- an arboreal planet known as The Provider. As a Guardian of The Provider’s Citizens, Steffor exists to protect against an ancient and once believed vanquished enemy. With the very nature of reality at stake, can he salvage the bedrock mysticism that defines him? 

The two adrenaline-fueled narratives form the parallel tracks of a roller coaster that tosses the reader back and forth from a futuristic world of nearly recognizable technology and timeless corruption to an exotic fantasyland of magic, mythical beasts and romance beset by world-changing events, all while racing towards an inevitable if unimaginable collision.

Interview with Trey Copeland:

Trey, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I have been writing fiction for about five years now. For me, the decision to write was less about conscious choice and more about imposed call to adventure. Prior to that juncture, I had relegated my muse to a means of combating insomnia: imagining worlds, characters and stories until sleep finally conquered an over-active mind. A string of dramatic events occurred in my life over a short time period that motivated me to capture these ideas on paper. Despite this new-found compulsion, my confidence as a writer was far from high. So, in tandem with my nightly ritual of dumping ideas onto paper, I read several “how to” books (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Teaching and Writing Fiction by Wallace Stegner being two of my favorites). Soon after, I found the courage to start writing and set out upon my new journey with mule-like determination. Outline soon emerged from brain-dump, sentences formed into paragraphs, paragraphs became chapters. One piece at a time, the giant puzzle took shape.

What do you like best about writing?

Writing does not come easy for me, it is a true labor of love. Storytelling, by comparison, comes natural. The best part about writing is when I have tapped into that vein of imagination, mined the story therein, and made it come alive on the page.

What’s your least favorite thing?


My least favorite aspect of writing is whenever I have to wage battle with my inner critic. Writing can be a lonely occupation and my inner critic never seems to miss an opportunity to instill doubt.

How did you come up with the title of your book?


The title for the book did not emerge until well after completing the first draft of the manuscript but, in hindsight, choosing the title was one of the easiest steps in the process. The title captures the essence of the book’s spiritual themes, directly addressing the open-ended question that started it all: “If the mysteries of the divine Universe were revealed and quantified for all to see and experience, how would our world change as we know it?”

How did you create the plot for this book?

Personal frustration with and a genuine desire to eradicate human ignorance created the plot for Known Afterlife. Not ignorance in and of itself, our journey almost ensures all of us remain ignorant relative to our growth. No, ignorance imposed and propagated by a narrow yet influential few spawned the plot of Known Afterlife. What happens when a technological miracle wipes out mass ignorance overnight and in doing so, destroys the primary tool leveraged for thousands of years to rule and oppress the masses?

Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

I am big outliner. Before writing the first sentence, I had all three books mapped out in an outline consisting of 75,000+ words. The writing software I use enables me to break the outline from overview, to ideas, events, locations, characters, references, etc to the eventual transition of chapters and overarching trilogy. I’d be lost without it.

Tell us a book you’re an evangelist for.

If I were ever evangelical about a book, it would be Journey of Souls, by Michael Newton.  For a myriad of reasons, this book was a personal game-changer. That prefaced, I do not recommend it to everyone; the subject matter of life between lives and reincarnation does not resonate with everyone. 

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?

Typically, my characters reflect strong personality traits of people in my life, be it family, friends, co-workers, or business partners. I am drawn towards people strong in their convictions, whether I share them or not. Good or bad, our convictions define us and reveal ones true character.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

Great question, one I have pondered many times. Every time, despite having an intimate connection with so many different scenes, I come back to the scene of Steffor’s father retelling the story of the maiden trek across the Constunkeen Prairie Bough. The scene practically mugged my imagination, demanding its birth. It was the first piece of writing to silence my inner critic, if only for a moment. More importantly, the scene became a key pivot point towards the climax and in many ways the book’s foundation.  

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson, in hardback.

Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow?
Meditation prior to writing is a tried and true practice for me. In addition, I listen to a variety of entrainment programs while writing that aid in the creative process. 

11.    What are you working on now?
Volume 2 of the Provider Trilogy (the title is a work in progress). I am pleased with my progress and anticipate completing the first draft soon.


Excerpt from Known Afterlife
(from Chapter 11):

A strapping ten year old, already bigger and stronger than many young adults, Steffor's station in life remained undetermined.

The kuwani season was at its peak and yet another long day of harvesting the exotic fruit had ended. The fruit's sweet aroma mixed with pungent sweat, each steeped into weathered smocks and worn breeches, hung thick in the air, trapped by the canopy of colossal leaves overhead.

Steffor and his father wended a narrow branch as thoughts of a warm meal and peaceful sleep crept in, motivating weary bodies to forge toward home. Dozens of harvest Shifters—their family, neighbors and closest friends—each worn to the bone and exhausted from the day's labor, joined their commute along adjacent leafstalks; gratification with the day's work was displayed on every face and bent back.

By nightfall, the multitude of stalks had merged into one branch, herding them together to form a loose line, two to six abreast. The deep canopy thinned to reveal the sky full of early evening stars and the rise of Ginllats. The day's harvest hovered a few hundred feet above, packed into a large freight car suspended by thick haulage vines. The cylindrical satellite, its silhouette accentuated by the moon's bright green illumination, trudged along in silence, casting a long shadow over their trail.

Having left for home prior to the car, it had finally caught up with them and was slowly pulling ahead. The young Steffor watched the car pass by, making its way toward Razum City. He visualized the burly vine Shifters, their naked trunks glistening from the coordinated and strenuous movements, tirelessly shifting the elongated vines over miles of prairie bough. Hours of labor later, they would deliver the car filled with thousands of kuwani to market that would in turn disperse it around the world.

They watched the car whisper by overhead, shameless pride displayed across his father's weathered face, Steffor, grimed head to toe and reeking, content with the day but restless in the spirit.

"Why did you and mother choose to settle Maseriah?" Steffor asked as he turned his attention back toward the trail.

"Maseriah chose us, not the other way around." The ardent glint in his father's eyes, so familiar whenever he spoke of higher powers, stifled Steffor's chortle at the thought of a place having the ability to choose anything, much less a Citizen. Instead, he nodded as if understanding and arched his brow with respect, imploring his father to elaborate.

Taking a long moment to ensure his son devoted all his attention to what he said next, his father continued his story. "Your mother and I had been partnered for less than a year. We were contributing as novice Shifters, our raw skills relegated to the mundane but important: I, maintenance of Razum's plethora of decks, stairways and ramps; your mother, her budding gift for food put to use as preservative Shifter at the Market. We were active, honing our craft and staying patient. When the call of the Provider came, we were prepared to follow without hesitation."

"The sign came from the Mysticnet when our minds were flooded with the images of a young Guardian named Maseriah, safely returning home after being lost and presumed dead for over six months. His disappearance was big news and his return even bigger. Your mother and I were instantly mesmerized by his tale."

"Maseriah had discovered an uncharted branch while surveying the Constunkeen prairie bough, the very branch we travel today." His father spread his arms wide, turning side to side, to emphasize the novelty. "The branch had avoided detection over the years due to how it jutted strait down before spreading outward to mingle just below the bifurcated branches located at the bough's end. His keen Guardian eye followed the camouflaged branch for miles and was elated to discover a thriving complex of unique flora. Being the young and confident Guardian he was, and a fine Dive competitor to boot, Maseriah chose his path and leaped toward history."

"Looking back at it, he admits to not giving much thought to how he would return. The impulse to explore had overwhelmed him and he was now acting on instinct. Nor did he give much thought to the perilous act of getting down to the secluded branch." By the tone of his voice and spark in his eye, Steffor sensed his father admired the young Guardian's temerity. "Maseriah's point of entry was a low cliff found midway in the expansive fork and the path he chose was no less intricate or harrowing than a championship dive chute."
"Starting with a thousand foot free fall into a copse of stalks and leaves, Maseriah punched his way through leaf and stem, forming a Source sphere at the last second on a stalk not a half mile from where we stand, no wider then you are long." Steffor had seen the images and from his young point of view, the success of Maseriah's dive was nothing short of a miracle.

"Safely on the branch, Maseriah set to exploring. True, our branch displayed many unique and unseen growth patterns and foliage but after several days, fear began to grip the young Guardian as his search for food, water and a means to return to the prairie bough came up short. By the twenty-eighth day, exhausted, his provisions gone for over a week, Maseriah lay sprawled on his stomach, lost in the catacomb of stalks and began to prepare himself to join the Provider."

Somaht, their village Mystic, had shown this story to Steffor dozens of times, both with and separate of Maseriah's in-person narration. His father knew this, sitting in on most of the communal recitations, and yet told the story as if for the first time. Out of respect and partially because he had learned to be patient whenever he asked his father a question, he chose not to point out this obvious fact.


About the author:
Born in 1969, Trey Copeland was hooked on science fiction the moment he watched his first Star Trek episode (a rerun of "The Enemy Within"). Trey folded in a love for fantasy upon discovering Dungeons & Dragons during his early teen years. Since, he has stoked his passion for speculative fiction with the greats: J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Frank Herbert, Tad Williams, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, L. Ron Hubbard, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Terry Goodkind and many more. The works Trey admires most entertain while sharing a vision.

The primary inspiration for Trey's writing comes from the belief that the purpose to life is to learn and grow from individual and shared experiences. If he can communicate that deceptively simple pillar of faith while entertaining, if he can move a reader to "what if?" explorations of their own than he has achieved his aim as an author.

Born in Central Virginia, Trey currently resides in North Carolina with his loving, supportive and patient wife, where they both do their best to prioritize raising their three boys.

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