David Ramirez is an ex-scientist who divides his time between Oakland, CA, and Manila, Philippines. Once a molecular biologist who worked on the Human Genome Project, Ramirez returned to the Philippines to get married. He currently dabbles in computer science and programmed part of the information system for the chronobiologists of EUCLOCK, a cooperative project between European research groups on the study of circadian rhythms in model organisms and humans.
David was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his debut novel, The Forever Watch!
Kristin Centorcelli: Congratulations on your new book, THE FOREVER WATCH! You have a science background, but have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and that progression?
David Ramirez: I grew up the youngest of five kids, surrounded by the books they and our parents kept buying. My childhood interest in science started with TV: a documentary about Einstein’s theories, and nature features narrated by David Attenborough. Reading and thinking about stories became a habit, while I saw science as a career.
I did not think about being a writer until I grew indifferent to my classes in college. As my attendance diminished, I spent more hours each day reading stories and writing for fun. By the time I was one of the many researchers on the Human Genome Project—well, my love of science remains, but writing became a compulsion, while working in a lab was just a job.
KC: A spaceship with a serial killer on board? I’m in! Will you tell us more about THE FOREVER WATCH and what inspired you to write it? Also, definitely need to know more about Breeding Duty…
DR: The Forever Watch is about a search for a mysterious killer, but as with many dystopian stories, it’s also about society vs the individual. Breeding Duty, in which females are kept asleep through fertilization, pregnancy and birth, is just one avenue of government control. When it happens, who the genetic donors are, and how frequently it happens are managed by scientist-administrators. No parent-child contact is permitted.
The story came out of my frustrations with the narratives dominating the news about Wikileaks, Assange and Manning. It seemed that you had to be on one side of the debate or the other. Then I dreamed about the setting and much of the plot of The Forever Watch, and I had to write it.
KC: What kind of research did you do for the book?
DR: If one reads nonfiction articles broadly, background knowledge can reduce the amount of research.
For TFW, I re-studied some Machine Learning for the program that Dempsey creates, and checked the power outputs involved in real life machines like drills and cranes to figure out the wattage requirements for different psychic abilities.
KC: What is your writing process like?
DR: Everything starts with the idea, but ideas are cheap. Ideas grow through focused daydreaming. What-ifs and what-happens-next. I do this all the time. When I’m stuck in traffic, waiting for a plane, waiting to fall asleep…
The ideas that persist are the ones I work on. I start building the setting, the cast, any super-science/fantasy mechanics, and the outline. I try to have as much material as possible before I start actually writing but it doesn’t always work and sometimes I have to seat-of-my-pants it.
KC: What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, SF?
DR: Science fiction can reflect reality as it is, as it was, as it could have been, as it could be, and as it could never be. It’s the biggest playground there is.
KC: What are a few of your favorite authors or books?
DR: My favorites fluctuate a lot. Right now, I just re-read Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which is a significant influence on The Forever Watch. Many of the authors who are consistently close to the top of my favorites list are not strictly SF writers, but their work is material I want to be able to do too, like Haruki Murakami, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.
KC: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
DR: Reading, video-games and movies.
KC: What’s next for you?
DR: I have a science fiction novel with a different setting on the way. There’s also a project I’m working on with a couple of others that may or may not work out which will be a great learning experience either way. And an author I admire may put together an anthology I might be able to get a story into.