Following on with the “Artificial Intelligence “ genre book theme that I mentioned last week, I had a double dose of AI this week when I read both books of the Spark Chronicles -“ Spark” and “Fire” by author Pat Daily. Although aimed at the teenage/ young adult reader, there is enough substance, interest and thrill factor to appeal to mainstream adult readers too. To my utter amazement, I found the books more riveting than I had initially envisaged. I caught up with author Pat Daily to find out his inspiration behind his books … but first, here’s my book review:
MY BOOK REVIEW/SUMMARY
Book 1 “SPARK”. Solar Prime Augmented Reality Park or SPARK , is a theme park for gamers – a reality complex with quests and games to appeal to all ages. When 16 year old Will escapes from his foster home, he runs to the place where he last found happiness with his parents – SPARK. Playing one of the reality games, a “princess” tells him to “Find Me. Save Me” – ironically his mother’s last words too. What does it all mean? The park has many secrets behind the scenes … which he slowly unravels as he bumps into another runaway, the feisty Feral Daughter, who has made SPARK her home and life. As their relationship grows, and his gaming exploits increase, Will begins to unveil the secrets of SPARK as well as settling in to a new way of life for himself. Add into the mix a terrorist attack, and things turn upside down again…
Book 2 “FIRE” – Terrorist forces are intent on destroying the technology behind Black Grass and the AI that help SPARK to run efficiently. Gamers Will and Feral used to fly under the radar, but their gaming successes has put them in the public eye – which doesn’t help when they are struggling to control an AI who has decided that actually killing humans can be an effective and efficient strategy.
Pat Daily is the CEO of Boundary Layer, Inc., a company dedicated to improving human performance in high-risk endeavors. He is a polymath, serial entrepreneur, gamer,and the author of The SPARK Chronicles, a near future science fiction series. Pat began his professional career as an engineer and Air Force test pilot. After leaving the military, Pat worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on both the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs before launching his first company. He has worked globally as a human performance and safety consultant. Pat and his wife live in Houston. They love spending time with their dogs and cats, but most of all with their daughters, sons-in-law, and grandkids.
Hi Pat ! Who or what inspired you to write “The Spark Chronicles”?
Virtual reality and Artificial Intelligence have fascinated me for years. VR has promise but will always be limiting because of the constraints of actual reality. We grab the controllers, settle the headset into position and begin. Thirty minutes later, we’ve crashed into the TV, punched the wall, and stepped on the dog.
Both my daughters were playing a game called Pokémon Go. I wanted to see for myself. As I walked the dog one morning, I simultaneously searched for the elusive Growlithe rumored to be in the neighborhood, but finding nothing but Pidgeys, it dawned on me. The superimposition of the virtual over real backgrounds solved most of the problems. You could still be aware of the TV’s location and manage to avoid the dog whilst fighting orcs and rescuing princesses.
I loved the characters in your books, and I liked how book 1 “Spark” linked in with book 2 “Fire” seamlessly. It’s so hard to pick a favourite character: I obviously liked Will (WB), but I adored feisty Feral; I giggled at the antics of my namesake Linda in “Fire” and in an odd way, the terrorist Dimitri had a sort of godfather feel about him! Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most? Which character was the hardest?
I select and blend people I’ve known. Will is an amalgam of two young men. The first inspired Will’s physical appearance. The second provided Will’s tragic backstory and fear of the dark. In both cases, a lot of my own imagination factored in.
Feral is a blend of my own daughters. They’d argue that she’s more like one than the other, but that feisty streak is there in both; the trait simply hides deeper in one than the other. Feral is absolutely my favorite character to write. She is unencumbered by filters and the people she encounters have no doubt where they stand with her.
Dimitri is the hardest to write. He thought his days as a warrior were behind him and that he’d be able to live a pastoral life. It is more tedious than he anticipated, and the cows don’t care that he’s cold, tired, or hung over; they expect to be milked every day. I work hard not to let him become a caricature.
Were there any aspects of writing the chronicles that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?
Originally, Spark was to be a single novel. Write it. Tidy it up. Send it off and then turn to the next project. It wasn’t until I wrote the first draft of the final scene that I realized there was much more to the story. That was quite a pleasant surprise. It helped that I had grown very fond of the characters.
Conversely, when my editor told me that Fire was too long and that she felt one of two story arcs needed to be cut, I was unhappy. I refused to cut out the cave scenes because they play a critical role in how the world and Morrigan see Will. I had about seventy pages of questing that I ended up cutting. When I’ve polled my readers, I was surprised by how much they enjoyed seeing Will and Feral in quest mode. Cutting the OrcLand scenes hurt.
Months later, and after continuing to think about those pages, I started reworking them into a novella. It should be available in May 2023.
So, imagine SPARK was a real venue, and you were completing the games/quests – what quest/area would you attempt first? Any quest you would have avoided?
I would head straight for War on Mars. I’ve always enjoyed futuristic adventures and the aspects that frightened Will are those I would crave.
As you travel up the Modern Times arcade, you come to an anchor quest called The City. It’s urban warfare and human against human. It feels a bit too close to reality for me to want to spend time there. That said, it and its themes figure prominently in Ash, the third full novel of The Spark Chronicles. Ash is slated for release next spring.
Following on from my previous question, what would your avatar look like?
You’d find me kitted up like Commander Shepard – a tall, dark, and handsome warrior of the future from the Mass Effect game universe. My avatar would be more muscular and better looking than I am, but still recognizable to my family and friends. I’d have a Desnardian Commander’s blaster on my hip and a wakizashi (the middle of the three traditional samurai swords) on my back.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
Yes, I chew through books at a good clip and always have a stack on my bedside table. In order, I prefer Science Fiction, Murder Mysteries, and cutting-edge nonfiction. In those genres, the last three books I read were:
• Have Spacesuit Will Travel – Robert Heinlein. I re-read this because of a poll I asked on my socials about favorite sci-fi. This came up and I hadn’t read it in decades. It was originally published in 1958 and stands up well, although Heinlein failed to foresee personal computers and smart phones. He does have some scathing comments about the state of public education and where he saw it going.
• Neon Prey – John Sandford. It’s one of his Lucas Davenport series. Great stuff.
• Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge – E. O. Wilson. Wilson makes a compelling case for the interconnectedness of knowledge. If you can’t find the links between Psychology and Biology and Math, that means that we don’t understand them well enough.
I like the heft of a physical book, the smell of the pages, and the ability to search by generally remembering where something was, and on which page – left or right – it could be found.
Are the Spark Chronicles books available to purchase worldwide?
Yes, they are. Buy them now; buy multiple copies they make great gifts. They’re available on Kindle Unlimited, so your subscription (if you have one) covers the cost. Buy some physical copies anyway. It’s very difficult to sign an ebook.
Growing up had you always wanted to be an author, or did you have other career aspirations?
I wanted to be an astronaut first and still; the desire to become an author was born of my love of reading. I think everyone has a good story in them.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
It’s generally warm in Houston. I spend most of my time in shorts and a T-shirt.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Basic Dude Stuff is atop my list of favourite sites at the moment. Pat Mac has a lot of things in common with Robert Heinlein. His videos are less than five minutes and give insight into what he believes a man should be and do.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
A new pair of Teva sandals for the summer.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots. I’ve spent a good part of my flying life in boots like these. They’re comfortable in flight and breathe when you’re mucking about on the ground.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
I’m so looking forward to reading Ash when it gets published! Thanks so much Pat for chatting to me on the blog – it’s been a blast!
All photographs (apart from the Pinterest & header photos which are by Linda Hobden) have been published with kind permission of Pat Daily. Thanks also to Pat Daily/Ben Cameron for the copies of Spark Chronicles for reviewing.