WSBA member von Biela shares her process for writing a technothriller. Comment to win your own copy!
WSBA member Lisa von Biela is the author of The Genesis Code, a sci-fi techno-thriller that explores the darker possibilities of our technology obsession. We talked with Lisa about her writing process, what inspires her, and her advice for lawyer colleagues who are thinking about giving creative writing a try.
What inspired you to write The Genesis Code?
I’d written and published short stories in the horror/sci-fi/dark fantasy genres, and I felt ready to try my hand at a novel-length work. The central concept had lurked in the back of my mind for some time. In my years in IT, I’d seen how technology — and the expectations for it — had advanced. I’d also seen how the demands on tech workers had skyrocketed. So what if a technology could be developed to wring even more out of tech employees? What sort of legal and ethical issues would arise? I completed the manuscript shortly before I began law school.
What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I would like readers to enjoy the book as a thriller, but I would also like them to think about technology and the two-edged sword that it is. On the one hand, the amazing advances we read about every day have the power to change lives for the better. But they also have the power to be abused or used in unethical ways.
What is your writing process? How do you make time for writing while practicing actively?
Let me start by admitting that I am a control freak — and I am very visual. I simply must outline. I’ve developed an Excel spreadsheet with columns for which characters should be in a given chapter, whose point of view should be used, as well as word count. Sometimes I will also draw out a timeline with the main and subordinate plots so I spread out the action. Because I’m busy during the week, most of my writing takes place on the weekends. The outline helps me quickly pick up where I left off, even when I haven’t looked at the manuscript all week. When I’m actively drafting, I tend to see the action in my mind and try to just get it down as I “watch.”
Which writers inspire you? Any attorney authors?
Oh, this is a long list. Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, and others who wrote for The Twilight Zone are a major influence. Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, David Morrell, Michael Crichton, Edgar Allen Poe, Carson McCullers, and Margaret Atwood. Attorney authors? Well, John Grisham and Scott Turow, of course.
Are you working on any new writing projects?
When my publisher accepted The Genesis Code last fall, he wanted some assurance that I would produce more. I had put my fiction writing on the back burner for several years due to the demands of full-time law school, then relocating to Washington. So I got busy and started writing again. My second novel, The Janus Legacy, and my first novella, Ash and Bone, will be published in 2014. Right now, I’m working on the first draft of my third novel. It’s a biotechnothriller involving BigPharma, designer bacteria, epidemics, and all manner of skullduggery.
Which legal thriller do you wish you had written, and why?
While it’s not a thriller, I wish I had written To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a masterpiece on so many levels. The writing itself is excellent. The characters are beautifully drawn. The story is engaging in every way.
What advice do you have for lawyers who want to pursue creative writing in their spare time?
I would advise starting small. Start learning the craft by writing short stories in your preferred genre. Short stories are more bite-sized when spare time is scarce. The conventional wisdom is to try to write a little each day; it’s like working a muscle. True enough, but frankly, that doesn’t work for me, given my commute and other factors during the week. I “binge write” on the weekend when I can carve out time to focus and go for it.
Your turn: Tell us which legal thriller you wish you had written in the comments to be entered to win a copy of The Genesis Code.
Entries will close at midnight on Friday, August 9. The winner will be randomly selected. To win, a valid email address is required when commenting.