NJ TangerHere is a trick question: Who is N.J. Tanger?

Answer: Three people. Nathan M. Beauchamp, Joshua Russell, and Rachael Tanger. Josh and Nathan wrote Chimera. Rachael gave the book a thorough editing. The book will be launched on April 24. Meanwhile, why not find out a bit more about these new authors with a good ol’ interview?

The Usual

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksThis is the second time in a row when I interview a creative team instead of an author, and I confess it’s fun. So, what inspired you to write this book?

NMB: Josh (my co-writer) and I started talking about writing a book together three years ago. He’s a film guy and I’m a fiction writer and I think we were both enamored with the idea of trying to merge those two disciplines and create something unique in the process. We drank a little bit too much scotch one night and decided to pull the trigger and start writing.

Back then the book was going to be titled “Burning World”. We also planned for it to be pulp: something we’d pound out and put up on Amazon in 20k word chunks. Once we dove in, we kept revising, retooling, and editing. We got lost in the story and soon realized we had more than one book. That’s when we got serious and hired our first editor.

We had a bit of a rocky road learning to work together. Screenwriting and fiction writing are complimentary in some respects and antithetical in others. We had to figure out how to use the unique skills we each possessed together. That took some time, but it really was worth it. We’re now better friends than ever, and we’ve fine-tuned our process again and again until it works really well.

You have to stay humble to work as part of a team, and I think humility is a big part of creating good art. Josh and I have taken our lumps (from each other and our editor!) and we’re stronger because of it.

JDR: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Humility isn’t something discussed much in art or commerce (or in our culture in general), but I think that real humility (as opposed to fear or conflict avoidance) is the secret sauce to excellence in both execution and craft. After Rachael joined the team a little over a year ago, we walked out some of the same hurdles … which re-tested our brass as mature artists and friends. It’s good to be on the other side of those initial growing pains, because overcoming those relationship conflicts has made us all so close and I know it’s made me feel confident in our team. We won’t be blown over by a stiff wind. Nonetheless, change is a constant so we always expect more creative hurdles, and (not to belabor an obscure track and field metaphor) but it makes us better jumpers.

I love the concept of humility. It does clear so many hurdles from one’s path. What was the first thing you ever wrote?

JDR: A thanksgiving story in second grade. It was mostly pictures, I think… but my mom kept it in my baby book. In fact, I didn’t realize I was a “writer,” for a long time. I thought I was a film director (which, I am), but more so, I’m a storyteller. I teach screenwriting at DePaul University now and have an absolute blast with that… I discovered I was a writer after writing a letter to my grandparents from a school I attended (post high school). My grandpa, a very accomplished and intelligent man, told my mom that I was the best writer, with the worst spelling and grammar that he had ever seen. Well, I idolized my grandfather so much that I doubled down on his coy encouragement and relearned English rhetoric from scratch in college. From that point on, I took my studies very seriously and I did manage to completely reboot my writing skills. Then, I spent the next decade learning to be a screenwriter. The first script I ever wrote was embarrassingly bad. It was called “Redeeming Nathan.” I’ll keep that one under lock and chain forever (haha).

RT: The first thing I plotted and wrote with no help from my parents was a very short story called The Old Sailor. Except I distinctly remember spelling it as “Sailer”. I wrote it after I had just turned eight. I had been exposed to Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from a book of poems for children, and also had some vague knowledge of “The Old Man and The Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. I knew that they were considered art and possibly high literature. Those two ideas, along with the similarity of themes, conflated in my mind into a two paragraph story of an old man remembering his time at sea just before he dies. I thought it was extremely romantic and affecting (because it made me tear up every time I read it to myself), so I shared it with my third grade classmates during show-and-tell. They were completely unimpressed.

An eight-year-old who reads Coleridge and Hemingway! I am impressed. As for your classmates, no wonder you stress humility after an experience like that… 🙂 What other writing have you done? Anything else published?

NMB: I’ve published a handful of short stories, almost all of them speculative fiction; everything from a zombie story (a real departure for me) to magical realism to cyberpunk science fiction. My most recent sale was to SPARK: A Creative Anthology. “Interviewing Trees,” will appear in their May or June edition.

That’s wonderful; congratulations! Any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time?

JDR: Spare time? What’s that? I teach fulltime at DePaul University. When I’m not teaching, I’m working on Universe Eventual!

RT: My hobby is books. I struggled with learning to read until I was eight, but once I learned I felt like I needed to make up for lost time! I started reading and didn’t stop. I love all aspects of writing, and part of writing is reading extensively. I have a love affair with words, but I also love the shape of books, the smell of paper. And I love the excitement that accompanies the questions posed by a new book. What will I learn? What will I experience? Each book is like a new crush: I’m a little giddy, I want to know everything there is to know. Fortunately, relationships with book crushed are frequently more rewarding than relationships with human crushes!

JDR, spare time is something that people have told me I should ask. If I ever find out what it is, I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current project(s).

NMB: I always have a handful of short stories in the works, but they’ve fallen by the wayside as we’ve pushed for the release of CHIMERA. Once we launch on April 25th I’ll circle back and finish a few of them. I’m also completing my thesis novel, a work of hard science fiction (Chimera is what I’d describe as medium SF).

JDR: I have a film in post-production called Absolution. It’s about a small town Montana pastor whose life is unraveled when a rumor sparks a sort of witch hunt, and he’s the witch. It’s a commentary on the idea of judgement in the Christian faith, though it’s not a “Christian” film the way people think of Christian films. Far from it. Most people of faith are sort of freaked out by it. (shrug)

RT: The Universe Eventual books are my current project. Book one was mainly written by Nathan and Josh; I didn’t become involved until book two. But at that point the project took on a life of its own and also took over my life. We have two more books still to be written and I am excited about that. Still so much story to be told!

It’s so nice when the words are just waiting to be released! 🙂 Who are your favorite authors and what do you love about them?

NMB: I’ve always loved science fiction, so most of my favorite authors fall into that category. I grew up reading Wells, Heinlein, Huxley, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, C.S. Lewis, Orwell, Herbert, and many others. I gravitate to writers who have something to say—not just a good plot but a bit of philosophy or social commentary as well. Orwell is my all-time favorite simply because his prose is flawless. Also because he looks more prescient every passing day.

RT: I am an eclectic reader. I love writing, and that transcends genre. The only thing that these authors have in common is that I love them. Dorothy L. Sayers; because she was a brilliant, feminist author so talented at what she did that she was able to disguise her philosophical and political thought as detective fiction! Susanna Clarke; because she writes like a mash up of Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling, is incredibly funny, and makes you take magic seriously. I really, really wish she would publish more. Alan Bradley; because his Flavia de Luce is a brilliant, macabre character in the way that only twelve year old girls can achieve and because he’s writing stories that fall into an unusual and undefinable middle ground between YA mystery adventures and Adult literary fiction. Jeff VanderMeer; his Southern Reach trilogy is unusual to say the least. I wish those books had been available as examples of How Things Should Be Done during the long, crazy ending to the television series “Lost”. Lastly, but not leastly, Rainbow Rowell. Her YA hasn’t made the splash that John Green’s has, but she writes stories that nail the girl experience in the clearest possible sense.

That’s quite the list! Are you two Indie authors? If so, do you have any advice for other indie authors?

NMB: Yes, as a matter of fact I am. The best advice I can give: take yourself seriously. Don’t skimp or cut corners on editing, proofing, or book covers. If you want people to read your book, you need to make sure that you do everything possible to establish trust with them. You do that first by telling a good story. Second by making sure that you’ve done your very best not to put roadblocks in their path. Hire a good editor. Hire a line editor. Hire a proofreader. I can’t say it enough: if you want to show you’re the real deal and sell a lot of books, then make sure you book reads like the real deal.

RT: I would say that independently and also as a group we are the definition of Indie authors. We write, but most of all we oversee every aspect of the production of that writing once it’s finished. We are completely invested in our work. There is no moment when we simply hand over a manuscript to someone else and say, “okay, now make this happen.” We’re in charge of the happening. I agree completely with what Nathan said. But I want to highlight one comment specifically, which is: take yourself seriously. All the other things he lists are just the natural outgrowth of that first decision.

Sounds like you both are very serious in what you do – an excellent trait, IMHO. Are there any sites or writing tools that you find useful and wish to recommend?

NMB: I’ve started using Hemingway for a quick check of first drafts. It highlights writerly no-no’s like adverbs, passive voice, and overly complex sentences. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a GREAT tool for checking a rough draft.

I also use Duotrope to track my short story submissions. I used to have this really complicated excel sheet that never worked all that well. Duotrope makes finding new markets easy and keeping track of what you sent where a breeze.

I’ve used Hemingway (and even bought the desktop version), but had never heard of Duotrope. I’ll have to check it out. What are the things in your life that you’re most grateful for?

JDR: My spectacular wife first, then my two genius children (Asher and Cohen), and lastly my incredible, long-suffering friends. I may even be the most blessed person on earth. I am rich in love.

RT: I am grateful for curiosity. I am addicted to it.

NMB: Friendship. Even more so: being able to create art with my best friends.

That’s sweet. How would you like to be remembered?

Joshua: to be remembered at all would be a good start; I mean, beyond next of kin. I want to be someone who lives a life of thoughtful equity… you know, loving my neighbor as I love myself… that’s really it for me… I’m not very good at it but I’m learning, slowly. I think that kind of life creates memories bigger than the person, but including the person. And that sounds really good to me.

RT: I would like to be remembered for continuously relevant ideas. Obviously, that is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve! If I had to name someone that had reached that pinnacle, I’m not sure that I could. Maybe Shakespeare? We’re certainly still quoting him all these years later.

Lol – RT, good to know you’re aiming for the stars 🙂

The unusual

Choose a male and a female character from your book and tell us about them. Who inspired their characters? Would you like to meet them? What would you tell them if you did?

Joshua: This one is easy because CHIMERA features a pair of alternating POV characters, Theo (a sixteen-year-old boy) and Selena (a fifteen-year-old girl).

Theo is a street-smart kid with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. A little bit of a slacker, he’s never done that well in school, though he could be a brilliant student if he applied himself. What I love about Theo is his curiosity—he’s driven to find answers to his questions—about himself, others, and the world around him. He’s got an insightfulness to him. He’s intuitive. I would enjoy meeting Theo. If I did, I’d tell him that he should start believing in himself more than he does. I’d also tell him not to listen to Marcus (the main antagonist in CHIMERA), but that’s a given, right?

NMB: Selena is a tough kid raised by a blue collar dad. She’s a firebrand and loves to speak her mind, often when she’d be better off keeping silent. I love Selena’s tenacity. She doesn’t quit, period. I admire that trait, which is probably why I wrote a protagonist that possesses it!

If I met Selena I’d listen to her first and try to earn her trust. Then I’d tell her to lower her guard a little bit, to engage people more, to be a little more vulnerable. She’d probably tell me to screw off, but I’d at least make an effort!

If you had to describe a theme or thread running through your life, what would it be? What’s your life theme?

RT: Unexpected upheaval. Some of that upheaval has been horrible; unexpected and deeply unwanted. But some of it has been life-changing and ultimately made me braver, more open, and hopefully more interesting.

An interesting one. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Where are you from?

RT: If the American Midwest (clear and purposeful pragmatism, friendliness verging on gullibility, and hard work) had a love-child with England (strange obsession with manners, a love of everything weather related, and a certain immovable stoicism), then I would move there tomorrow and open a book shop. Those are my people! Actually, I think I might be describing Minnesota.

Lol – I have to visit, then. Is it true you’ve been abducted by aliens?

NMB: I neither confirm nor deny those rumors.

Rumors, huh? Okay, what is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you?

RT: The weirdest thing that has ever happened to me happened multiple times over many years. Every once in a while a person that I do not know will come up to me and say, “Oh my goodness, Rebecca! I haven’t seen you in ages! How are you?”

My name is Rachael and for a long time I thought that these people I didn’t recognize were people I had actually met at some point, and that they were simply misremembering my name. This experience not only happened in the two towns near where I grew up, they happened to me in Chicago where I currently live. Eventually I realized: I have a doppelganger. Apparently we’re practically twins. We have friends that have friends in common, but our actual friends don’t seem to overlap. I know that we are exactly the same age, we both moved to Chicago at some point in our twenties, we had boy babies near to the same time, and we are both originally from the same small town. I have never met her.

Lol – that is so spooky! I wonder if the universe will implode or something, when you two meet. Which one do you prefer: Elephants or tigers?

NMB: Elephants. They’re super smart and they grieve their dead just like humans. Also, George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant,” is one of my favorite pieces of writing.

RT: Definitely elephants. Watching a herd of elephants work to collectively parent their calves is transformative. I recommend Daphne Sheldrick’s lovely autobiography “An African Love Story” for a beautiful portrait of one the world’s first sanctuaries for orphaned elephants.

Yes, that’s a great book. If you had to live over again what would you change in your life?

NMB: I would have started writing with passion at an earlier age. I wasted a lot of years in my 20’s avoiding writing because of fear. Fear people wouldn’t like my stories. Fear they would. However, the great thing about writing is that you can do it for your entire like. P.D. James was working on another detective novel when she died at 94 last year. So I have a lot of years to write left ahead of me.

Hear, hear! 🙂 

What was that book about, again?

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksOn the verge of extinction, the Stephen’s Point colony must take desperate measures to save themselves. Without communication or resupply from Earth for the last fifteen years, the colony has but one chance to survive: restore the ancient starship Chimera and train a young crew to pilot her. The fate of the entire colony rests on the shoulders of a pair of misfits: Theo Puck, a sixteen-year-old hacker with a gift for speaking to machines, and fifteen-year-old Selena Samuelson, a brash but talented pilot with a dark secret in her past.

To Theo, the Mandate to crew the Chimera seems like a game—one he isn’t invited to play. A brutal murder changes everything. Left with no choice, Theo has to complete the Selection training and make it aboard the Chimera or face terrible consequences.

Selena wants to do what she does best—fly. Piloting her father’s ore trawler is the only life she’s known before a horrifying accident strands her aboard the Hydra, the station responsible for rebuilding the Chimera. Forced into the Mandate testing against her will, Selena encounters an unexpected ally, forever changing the way she sees the Chimera and herself.

Forced to make brutal choices in order to survive, Theo and Selena’s fates intertwine. But behind the scenes, someone else sets into motion events that could destroy everything they’re fighting to protect

What do people think of it?

CHIMERA was a really excellent read! I loved the world, and thought the authors walked the line between great description and action perfectly. … a cracking start to what promises to be an amazing series.”

—Tash McAdam, International Bestselling Author of The Psionics series

Chimera is an epic tale of rebellion, prophecy, and perseverance. With touches of Ender’s Game, and echoes of Asimov and Heinlein, this visionary story is a tense, exhilarating ride.”

—Richard Thomas, author of Disintegration

Chimera features a wonderful worn-down other world in which many long to be chosen for a perilous journey back to the mother planet in the reconstructed ship that brought their ancestors to the new world. The writing is vibrant and direct with young characters who show the same bravery, impatience and enthusiasm as their real-world counterparts. The alien world and its inhabitants have the ring of reality no matter how far from our reality they may be, a trait shared with some of the best work of Asimov and Anne McCaffrey. I highly recommend a trip into deep space on the Chimera.”

—Brendan Foley, author of Under the Wire, Director of The Riddle

You can find out more on:

Who are  Josh, Nathan and Rachael?

Who is N.J. Tanger? Three people. Nathan M. Beauchamp, Joshua Russell, and Rachael Tanger.

Writing a book as part of a team presents an obvious dilemma: Whose name will go on the front cover? The easy answer might seem to be “all of them.” However, putting three names on a book cover is not only clunky to look at, but makes selling through retailers such as Amazon difficult. Using only one of our names seemed unfair. Instead, we created a new name, pulling first initials from Nathan and Josh and using Rachael’s last name.

Josh and Nathan wrote Chimera. Rachael gave the book a thorough editing.

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Nathan M. Beauchamp

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksNathan started writing stories at nine-years-old and never stopped. From his first grisly tales about carnivorous catfish, mole detectives, and cyborg housecats, his interests have always emphasized the strange. Nathan works in finance so that he can support his habit of putting words together in the hope that someone will read them. His hobbies include reading, photography, arguing for sport, and pondering the eventual heat death of the universe. He has published many short stories and holds an MFA in creative writing from Western State. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two young boys.

You can reach him via e-mail: Nathan[at]uebooks.com

Joshua Russell

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksJoshua started making movies when he was eight years old, an addiction he’s never kicked. His lust for adventure and foolhardy risk have led him on and off of movie sets, through uncharted mountain ranges, to foreign worlds where people speak in strange tongues, and to the seminal co-creation of two human beings. For positive cash flow, Joshua teaches screenwriting at DePaul University. For negative cash flow, he makes independent films, including the upcoming Absolution. The Universe Eventual book series is Joshua’s first foray into fiction writing, and he’s profoundly happy to be surrounded by writers who are smarter and even better looking than he is.

You can reach him via e-mail: Joshua[at]uebooks.com

Rachael Tanger

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksRachael has been writing stories since she first learned to hold a pencil. She grew up on a farm in the Midwest but has since lived in large cities, some internationally. She values experiences and is addicted to travel. She has worked in marketing in various capacities, most recently as a freelance consultant for small business. Rachael currently lives in Chicago with her husband and son. This is her first novel.

You can reach her via e-mail: Rachael[at]uebooks.com