Blog tour: Distortion + competition

It is no secret that I adored Ascension by Victor Dixen, which was published in June this year. If you follow me on Twitter, you will have seen me gushing over it again and again. If you only follow my blog, you might have noticed my enthusiasm when I tracked down and interviewed both the English translator and the book cover designer of the series!

Despite brief interactions on Twitter, the idea of approaching Victor Dixen himself seemed too daunting so you can imagine my excitement when I was recently offered the opportunity to join the Phobos Distortion blog tour and… wait for it… interview the author! I’m still pinching myself.

Ouch! I can confirm I’m not asleep and it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to my stop along the awesome space journey below:
And without further ado, I give you Victor Dixen…

Hi Victor! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of Distortion, the second book in the Phobos series! Can you please briefly tell us what it is about?

A: Thank you for inviting me on your blog!

The Phobos series takes place in a near future where the US government has gone bankrupt. They had to sell all their assets, including NASA. The private fund that bought NASA decided to make a profit out of their investment right away, by organizing the first human mission to Mars, that will also be the world’s craziest reality TV show ever.

Six boys and six girls, aged 17 to 20, are selected to board on the Cupido spaceship. During the 5-month trip to Mars, they will get to meet each other through speed-dating sessions of 6 minutes each day. When they land on the red planet, they will be officially married, and they will be happy ever after… or will they?

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing the book or did it take an unexpected turn as the characters grew on the page?

A: Specifically, Phobos is at the crossroads of several genres. It is part science-fiction, part romance and part thriller. The sci-fi dimension required a lot of research, because I wanted this story to read as realistically as possible, as if it could happen tomorrow. Also, the thriller aspect pushed me to build my plot even more precisely than usual, to build momentum and suspense throughout the series. But then, there is the romance: here we’re not talking about the brain, but about the heart! I must say that from book 1 onwards, my characters took their freedom and did not respect what I had planned for them: for instance, the couples that formed during the speed-dating sessions are different from what I thought, and soon enough I found myself as hooked as a Genesis channel viewer!

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? What aspect of it did you enjoy the most?

A: As I mentioned, Phobos is probably the project for which I did the most prior research. I started with reading a lot of essays about space travel and specifically planet Mars colonization.

The part I enjoyed the most was the time I spent to synthetize my research in diagrams, as I wanted to convey scientific accuracy without providing extra-long paragraphs of explanations that could have slowed down the pace of the novel. As Napoleon once said: “A good sketch is better than a long speech” 

If this novel could be turned into a film, who would you cast in the role of Léonor?

A: Difficult question… Maybe a totally new face would be the best, given the fact that Léonor is an orphan coming from nowhere, suddenly becoming the object of worldwide attention.

Here is a fan-made trailer that gives an idea of what such a movie could be.

That is awesome! Without giving too much away, can you tell us about a scene in the book that you love or that was particularly difficult to write?
A: No human being has set foot on Mars yet, but rovers and robots have been going there for decades now. The images and analysis they send us are so precise that they convey a very concrete base for the imagination to soar. That being said, what robots can’t provide, even with their ultra high definition cameras, it’s the emotions… its’ the sensations… Yes, we know that Mars's surface is super cold most of the time, but how would that cold feel to a human skin? How does it feel to walk on a planet where gravity is only one third of Earth’s? How would the sun appear to a human eye, hundreds of millions of kilometres further, and what emotions would this remoteness trigger in a human soul?  
Trying to imagine all those sensations and writing them down on the paper was one of the things I loved about writing the Phobos series.
Is there anything that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?
A: Well, there is a saying in French : “écrire, c’est d’abord réécrire” – which would translate as : “writing is all about editing”.
I found it to be very true in the case of Phobos. There are many times in the novels when the characters are confronted with very difficult choices. I hesitated with them, sometimes made wrong choices and wrote dozens of pages before realizing this was not the path my characters would have taken.
There is one scene in particular, in book 3, that caused me many sleepless nights... I wrote many versions that ended in the bin, before finally deciding on the right one. Or rather, one character decided for me. But I won’t tell any more about it, to avoid any spoiler.
If you are already working on your next writing project, would you mind giving us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?
A: I always have plenty of projects! And I also like to keep a certain sense of mystery around what’s coming up next, to better surprise my readers… because as a reader myself, I like to be surprised!
Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via Twitter, Facebook Instagram etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?
A: My writing is the most productive in the morning when I wake up – around 5am – so I keep these early hours for writing only.
Then, in the afternoon, I move on to the other tasks that are part of being writer: e-mailing my French or foreign publishers, organizing my trips to attend book festivals, answering journalists and bloggers. Social media in particular are a blessing, in the sense that they balance the lonely nature of the job, and allow writers to get precious direct feedback from readers; but of course, they can also be a curse if they take too much time and attention and prevent writers from actually writing!
I guess that every one has to find the right balance that works for himself or herself. 
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A: There are so many ways to write, it’s difficult to give general advice.
There is one piece of advice though which I believe is true for every novelist: you should write every day, like a runner practising to run a marathon. In my opnion, it’s the only way to stay close enough to your characters and plot, and eventually complete the novel.
Of course, some days will be easier than others, but it’s not a problem, because you’ll always have the opportunity later down the road to edit and revise. Remember:  “écrire, c’est d’abord réécrire”! 
Thank you for your time!
A: Thank you for having me!
Dear readers, I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I did. I will be back soon with my review of Distortion, which is proving to be as good as its predecessor. 
In the meantime, the publisher has kindly offered one copy of Distortion to go to a lucky reader! All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and follow the instructions in the competition post by 30/12. UK only. All comments left below will count as extra entries (one per person). Good luck!


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