Interview: Vikki Romano

Today I’m featuring my friend, Vikki Romano. In December, Vikki published her first science fiction novel, Edge of Darkness. I’ve read it and I loved it! It’s an action-packed story with a touch of romance, lots of cool tech, shootouts and a survival bunker full of neat toys (read: weapons).

You can read my full review on Goodreads.

Intrigued by Vikki’s vision and the world she created, I had a few questions for her about where the story came from, about the characters, and where she plans to take us next.

Where did you get the idea for this novel and series? What was the story you wanted to tell?

The feel for this story started long ago, when I was working as a tech consultant in NYC in the 90s.  I was and still am obsessed with tech and where their development is going.  People often ask how I categorize this story and I say “it’s Johnny Mnemonic meets Jason Bourne”.  I’ve always loved the idea of Johnny Mnemonic, of just the premise of having tech be a living part of you.  In Gibson’s story, though, the augment was just a piece of hardware.  I wanted it to be more sentient, something that would pose a risk to the bearer.  And then I thought, wow, what would that be like, to have a piece of hardware inside me that decided to go rogue.  That thought alone actually made me realize how powerful this story could be.  And that’s the story I wanted to tell.  Like the tagline reads, how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?  Fear propagates anger.  Anger propagates heinous action.  From there it just snowballed.

Did you plan the romance between Calder and Sierra at the beginning, or did sparks begin to fly between them as your wrote?

No I didn’t really.  I had written romance for ten years before this, under a different pseudonym, and I really wanted to stay far away from it as a key part of the story.  They were going to just be partners.  I knew two things intrinsically; I wanted the MC to be a male and I wanted the secondary MC to be a kickasss female.  Not for kickass’s sake, but because I was tired of writing women who needed men to save them or their lives.  I also knew that I wanted this to be true to life.  I didn’t have to worry about HAE now, and that was all kinds of freeing.  Thing is, I’m a pantser and my characters tell me what they want to do.  If Calder wanted to shoot her in the head in chapter one, I would have let him.  The romance just happened.  And that’s true to life.

Who is Gage? Is he going to have a larger role in the next book?

Gage is my Damien Scott.  In fact, I saw him as Sullivan Stapleton in my head, which is probably where the Strike Back feel came from. I loved the bromance and banter from that series and it definitely flavored my story quite a bit.  I’ve always been more of a dialogue writer and it worked well here.  Gage will definitely have a larger role in book two.  More than you know.  I mean, Calder’s in space now, so Gage’s top dog back on earth.  You will learn more about him as a character and what brought him to the team.  He has his own secrets that will make or break him and those around him.

(I knew introducing Vikki to Strike Back was a good thing.)

What about Jordan Radcliffe? What was his story?

Jordan just happened.  I knew how I wanted Calder’s time in the military played out, but initially, I had actually written it that GenMed was the one who hacked him.  It didn’t seem thrilling or suspenseful enough for me.  It was too easy.  I wanted there to be more of an underhanded reason for it to happen and Jordan and his crusade just came to me.  He will remain a background support player for the time being, but he will have his day in book three.  I promise.

I’d like to see Sierra turn the tables on these guys. Plan and execute a rescue (because Calder would be such an entertaining hostage, lol). Any plans for that?

Book Two has Sierra written all over it.  This is definitely her time to shine.  And yes, Calder would be a great hostage, he’s so patient LOL.  I can’t even imagine what the scenario would be like.  They are both so stubborn and have strong opinions of their own, which is why their clashes are so tasty.  Like putting two pitbulls in a biscuit shop.  It’s just fun and the ideas are endless.  I can’t confirm or deny that she will rescue him, but rest assured, your appetite for badassery will be satisfied.

What’s next?

Book Two – Breaking Point, like I said above, will center around Sierra.  Where book one told Calder’s story, this one will be all her.  You will learn about her past and why she is where she is today.  And where book one dealt with Calder trying to come to terms with his augment, book two will definitely show the opposite.  If you recall, Sierra has a phobia about biotech.  The psychology of her now having an augment is chilling.  Would be like being severely arachnophobic and then having a spider lay eggs in your brain.  It makes your skin crawl in so many ways and for so many reasons.  Having to discover what this will do to her psychologically will be both terrifying and fulfilling.  And without Calder being around to guide her, well, it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll do… to herself or those around her.

12313642_10206962767960182_7246473297389707233_nEdge of Darkness (Alpha Core Trilogy #1)

In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.

Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military’s push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost… the ones that he could have saved.

When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?

Amazon | B&N

Where to find Vikki:

Website | Twitter


Tech That Turns My Crank: Virtual Gaming

I’d like to welcome my friend, fellow writer, gamer and science fiction enthusiast, Vikki Romano to my blog. She’s here to talk about tech that turns her crank—Virtual Gaming. I love the idea of stepping into my game world, but until I can do it out of body, I’ll have to stay safely behind my control pad and/or keyboard. I get seasick playing first person shooters. Luckily, Vikki doesn’t. Over to her!

I’ve been gaming for a long time.  Decades really.  I was there at the advent of Pong and its lack of challenge.  I advanced to Joust and Pitfall, which at the time was high end for my crowd.  And then came the first person shooters and my life took a turn.

Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were the first games of that kind that I played and once I did, I was hooked.  It was one thing to run through an RPG or other turn based game on your handy dandy Atari 2600, but it was quite another when you could boot up Doom on your primitive PC, put on your headphones and turn off the lights to encase yourself in the game.  That, to me, was virtual gaming at the time.

Virtuality's SU 2000 Virtual Reality Gaming Pod
Virtuality’s SU 2000 Virtual Reality Gaming Pod

In 1991, I was met with a wondrous new creation called Virtuality.  It had been installed in the arcade section of the theater complex near where I lived and on any given night, there was a crowd watching some kid fumbling around while standing within a pod.  Intrigued, I waited in line, got a ticket and played.  The game was called Dactyl Nightmare and as I stood there with my visor and wired hilt controller, my life once again took a turn.

The game was moronic, to say the very least.  You stood on a strange, Escher-like platform and tried to kill your opponent, all while being chased by a dinosaur.  As a gamer, I excelled and killed off several opponents before they made me get out of the pod.  And though the game, in and of itself, was rudimentary, its media was not.

What the crowd watched on a side screen was not what the gamers experienced.  With the visor on, you were literally cut off from the outside world.  The sound in the visors was beyond stereo and tricked your eyes into thinking things were around you by virtue of good recordings.  The video playing in the 180 visor tricked the rest of your brain into thinking you were really standing on this strange platform.  The only drawback was that to move, you used the trigger on the controller, otherwise, my brain was convinced.

Some players were so convinced that they ducked or covered their heads as their opponents chased them and for me, that was part of making the game real.

Now, a whopping 24 years later, a new type of virtual reality system is finally making its way onto the home PC arena.  Virtuix Omni has put out a system that makes the Cyber pod of the 90s look like an Atari 2600 to today’s gamers.  With the same pod concept, the base is now equipped with a movement sensitive board that forces gamers to run or walk in real time if that’s what they need to do.  And to fire weapons, you fire weapons.  In order to shoot a bow, you mimic the movements of an archer.  Same goes for machine guns, bazookas or any number of modern two-handed weapons.

And the visor is again equipped with stereo, now digital as is the video, making the experience nearly realistic.  Walking through games like Skyrim, you engage with NPCs, use weapons and run through campaigns, all while working up a real sweat, and that’s something new.

Gone will be the couch surfing gamers of old, surrounded with discarded Doritos bags and soda cans.  Now gamers will be in the action, as part of the action and their movements will have to be heroic.  Or at least more heroic than waving a sword with your thumb.

As virtual gaming progresses, I can envision gamer suits, much like motion capture suits for films, which will allow players to move freely without the use of a pod.  The suits would come equipped with sensors that will ping or shock you if you get shot or stabbed, which in turn will force you to game better – A Pavlovian response where it’s needed.    It will also reduce the more urgent argument that video games are keeping kids indoors.  This at least will give them the exercise they are missing.

But for now, I’ll continue to sit and play my first person shooters with my big screen and the stereo cranked as loud as I can to try to trick my brain into thinking I’m really there, walking next to a warrior, having just killed a dragon and saved a village.  After all, a hero will always see value beyond what’s possible.

About Vikki Romano

VikkiRomanoI know it sounds cliché, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, in every capacity that I could manage.  From newsletters to yearbooks, journals to hard cover books.  It’s not seeing my name on a cover or any kind of admiration that does it to me, it’s getting it out.  It’s a strange phenomenon that most writers have, of having stories continually running through your mind and the nearly painful urge to get them all out before you forget them.  Not sure what the phenomenon is called, but there are days I hate that I have it.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  A double edged sword.

My love for sci-fi goes way back to my childhood.  I mean, who didn’t love movies like Tron and Terminator when they were a kid?  Or great oldies like WarGames.  I grew up in the advent of technology and rode the wave of the dot com lifestyle in my 20s.  It was a wonderful time to be alive, to see where tech could go.  Being involved in the field as a database admin and then later as a hardware tech and web designer, I had my fingers in all of it and I loved what it was all about.

In college, I was a true cyberpunk and gloried over works by Gibson and Dick.  I reveled in the hackers manifesto like a warrior and actually prayed for a world like BladeRunner.  They were very cool, hyper-energized times we were in and it gave me scores of ideas and hands-on experience to dump into my work.

Why I chose to write historicals when I went pro is beside me.  It was another love, history, and something that was big on the traditional market with movies like Braveheart scoring big at the box office.  Back then, where there was only traditional publishing available, you went where the money was if that’s what your end game was.  At the time, I wanted to write full time like the greats, but writing historicals in a saturated market does not a best seller make.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

And now, here I am, at the behest of friends and colleagues; I have begun to pen the sci fi story that has been buzzing around my brainpan for the last 20 years.  And it’s freeing, writing for the love of writing.  Not having a deadline, but holding to a promise to yourself that it’s going to get out.  Finally.

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