Author interview: Claire Buss

Author of The Gaia Effect – available at AmazonClaire Buss presents a world where the characters are protected by the “radiation beyond the wall” – and have all of their needs serviced, including reproduction – by an entity called “Corporation”. But when friends around the couple at the story’s core start to fall pregnant naturally, questions are raised about what they are expected to believe.

It’s an intriguing title – The Gaia Effect? The Gaia principle goes that Earth is a naturally life-sustaining planet, that conditions always prevail to allow a return to a balanced ecosystem?

Yes that’s right – the idea that eventually the planet will put itself back into balance. However in my book, the spirit of the Earth – Gaia – lends a hand.  The book is set 200 years in the future, 150 years after the devastating radiation attacks but I can’t tell you any more!
Aww. AWWWW. ARRRRGHHHH!!! C’mohhhhhn!
Are you agented, Claire? Did you go the self-publishing route? 
I don’t have an agent although I did go through the whole query letters and submission hoops with The Gaia Effect last year.  I got a lot of positive no thank-yous so I left it alone for a while
then went back and had another editing pass.  I was fortunate in that the book was entered into a local competition and part of the prize was to have your book published with an Indie Publisher called New Generation.  I came second and so the competition organisers paid for the publishing.
Congrats on the contest. Wow! So you used a small indie house rather than wait around for the traditional publishers?
I felt that it was too good an opportunity to pass. None of the other finalists have had their book published yet. At least this way it’s an indie author learning-curve for me and I can start building a back catalogue. It seems to me that agents like to see that you’re semi-established already.
I will try the agent route again with my next novel – The Rose Thief.
What’s The Rose Thief about?
The Rose Thief is a humorous fantasy novel. The Emperor, in his infinite wisdom, magically imbued his red rose with the power of love so when the Rose Thief stole it, he also stole love. It’s up to Chief Thief Catcher Ned Spinks and his motley band of catchers to find out who the thief is and get the rose back before love dies forever.
Interesting stuff – sounds like the late great Sir Pratchett!
Yes, The Rose Thief is Pratchett-esque.  I have read almost everything he ever wrote and been a fan for nigh on twenty years.  I didn’t set out to write a book in that genre, I just started writing and it has evolved from there.  I’m very happy about that. Perhaps you should sign up to my newsletter?? I’m giving away all my news here! 😀 This is my website – have a poke around.
I hate to break it to you but I am interviewing you for my blog! 😃 Would that be okay?
And is The Gaia Effect self-contained or is it a planned series, or is it just screaming out for a sequel, or what?
There is a sequel to The Gaia Effect but at the moment it lives in my head. 😃 The Gaia Effect is self-contained but there are questions and it could be sequeled and prequeled which is exciting.
Yes I see it on Amazon. Good work from the teaser! Great use of terminology. It’s peppered with technology, but the story’s central. What’s funny is the “natural” childbirth is anything but in ways, right?
You found the first chapter then! Yeah I wanted to make the whole getting-a-baby scenario feel really really wrong in as many ways possible.
The Gaia Effect concept reminds me a bit of Wall-E, or The Island (with Ewan and Scarlett)? And do you consider it feasible in any sense, or is The Gaia Effect fantastical? Is it social critique, or laser beams and jetpacks? Hard or soft sci fi?
Not really WALL-E and sort of The Island but not clones.  It’s definitely feasible and social critique – to be fair it’s only sci fi because it’s set 200 years in the future & has advanced technology. More a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel.
A streptococcal what? Stay back, everyone – Claire’s contagious!
And what about advertising and promotion? Is finding success difficult in the glutted market?
I have been building my social media platform and learning about all the different tools available out there. I’m still trying to sort out some traditional marketing and getting ready for a couple of events and all of this is squeezed in around my ‘day-job’! It’s interesting to call the market glutted, I’m not saying it isn’t but I still think good stories stand out. More people are reading, especially ebooks and reading more books was one of the top new year resolutions for 2017.  It’s hard work but it’s good fun and it’s always great to chat to someone about the book. You are the first person to comment on the scientific theory behind the book title – kudos.
[PUTS ON SPECTACLES.] Jim Lovelock’s Gaia Theory is an interesting example when it comes to the problem of induction in the scientific method. We cannot always leap from the specific to the general – if we take a soil sample from a forest and it’s irradiated, we may assume that the soil will be similar a few feet from where we took this sample. So scientists frequently make assumptions in leaping from the specific to the general – and the same can be applied loosely with the Gaia theory.
Some calamity MIGHT wipe out most of the life on Planet Earth, and the Earth MIGHT restore itself to a balance in order for life to flourish again. But who’d be left to see it?
Are your characters those people?
The Gaia Hypothesis is such an interesting scientific concept. I have met Lynn Margulis and heard her talk on the topic, she worked with Lovelock on the hypothesis.  It is a rather hopeful concept during these days of severe global environmental change and I suppose the fact that I have a Bsc(Hons) Life Science degree might have influenced the use of some science in the book.  My characters are the remnants of the human race which has been sequestered in numbered cities throughout the world.  They don’t have a mythology per se, all texts and information related to religion and deities are stored in Archive which is accessible to all inhabitants of City 42.
Some claim that world civilisations were quite advanced before the last Ice Age, and then we lost all our science and entered a Dark Age caused by a disaster such as massive tsunamis – which may well have been the cause of the floods, hence we have stories like Noah’s Ark. Bearing this in mind, discuss flood myths in relation to your own book! Is there a similarity?
I hadn’t heard that particular Noah’s Ark theory but it certainly makes a lot of sense.  I have heard the idea that we fell backwards into a Dark Age. Weren’t the Mayans highly advanced?  Their civilisation seemed to stop abruptly for no apparent reason.  Those myths are probably in Archive.
I notice Kira has brown eyes and Jed has gray eyes. You cite eye colour a little in the opening pages, and when it comes to selecting babies, you also use it alongside other traits like gender and personality. Is eye hue important? Plot-related? Something to do with genetics? Can we profile your characters based on their eye colour, and determine their behaviour? Or is it just description for the reader?
The use of eye colour is mostly description for the reader but also to highlight a couple of things – the fact that eye colour is a genetic marker for other health issues and that the eye colour of parents don’t necessarily match the eye colour of the children assigned to them by Corporation.  This is because Corp try to maintain a certain level of genetic variety with eye, hair & skin colour regardless of parental match.
I like the punctuation of the storyline in The Gaia Effect with little ads and announcements about events – tell me about that.
A book trailer for The Gaia Effect:
The short announcements are called Sweeps.  Everyone has access to the News Sweeps and can sweep about anything and everything whenever they like.  It’s very similar to Twitter except that absolutely everyone uses it and gets a daily digest depending on their own personal interests.  Corporation don’t run the sweeps they just try to control them by flooding them with their own propaganda. 
Is there any religion in your novel? Is the Corporation a nanny-state entity, regarded as a deity? Orwell’s Big Brother with kid gloves, or even just Big Brother?

Corporation is in charge of everything, they picked up the pieces after the radiation wars and continued to build their power base.  They are such an integrated part of everyone’s life – it’s impossible to do anything without them involved in some way.  There are a few limiting factors however, the fact that Corporation don’t run the sweeps and that a couple of entities like Force exist independently of Corporation and are not run by them.  But yes, Corporation does have a Big Brother sinister feel to it, I hope.

Claire Buss with the Mayor of Barking & Martina Cole who was the patron of the Pen to Print competition.


I see you’ve written a play too? If you have an idea, is there a point at which you think “This might be better as a play or movie script?” Do you always think in “novel-terms” first? In which other media/mediums do you write?
Playwriting is fairly new to me and I’ve adapted a short story into a play which worked well.  I think if you have a story to tell it can be used in different mediums easily.  Short stories are my nemesis and I’m hoping that the playwriting will help me get better at telling shorts. I certainly don’t lack for ideas.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my favourite authors to read because of the whole “if they made it, maybe I can” aspect.  I am inspired by people who face adversity every day and still get up in the morning and do their best.  I am inspired by the friendly network of indie-authors out there and at the sheer vastness of books available to read.
Fave writers?
My favourite sci fi & fantasy writers off the top of my head are: Sir Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, John Scalzi, Sara Douglas, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Greg Bear, Pierce Brown, Brent Weeks, Becky Chambers, Joe Abercrombie, Justin Cronin, Jim Butcher, Jasper Fforde, Katherine Kerr, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Ben Aaronovitch, Robert Jordan, Iain M Banks, Orson Scott Card and probably fifty others that I can’t think of right now!  I do read non sci fi and fantasy books as well, recent favourites have been I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Big Brother by Lionel Shriver.
Claire Buss is on Twitter and Facebook. You can sign up for more news at her website.
The Gaia Effect is available from Amazon.

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