Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Author's Interview with Cliff Ratza

First, before we move forward with our Authors Interview, I would like to start with an introduction. 

1. Could you please introduce yourself to us?
Hi, and thanks for interviewing me. I am Cliff Ratza, and I would describe myself as a “simple scholar” who enjoys writing fiction when I have something novel to say. I grew up in Chicago, earned numerous degrees (math, physics, business, computer science) from top Illinois universities before moving up the corporate ladder that took me to many companies in numerous industries across the country. I’ve held just about every position reporting to a VP of sales and marketing and have been fired four times, which is considered a merit badge for people on those career paths. I moved back to Chicago to advance my business career and combine it with teaching assignments at three Chicago area universities. I also started my sales and marketing consulting company and five years I launched my fiction writing career. I have applied my writing skills throughout my thirty-years-and-counting career path. Some examples: published business articles, Website page copy, client newsletters and other types correspondence, consumer product ads, and marketing strategies, plans and analysis. And this year I added “Writing Coach” to my job portfolio. 
2. Congratulations on your book. So what inspired you to write this book?
Thanks for the compliment. Reading the second William Golding Novel (his first and most famous is “Lord of the Flies”), “The Inheritors” sparked my desire to write my “Lightning Brain Series”. Golding’s novel dramatizes a clash of civilizations between clever Homo Sapiens and simpler Neanderthals. Its POV is that of a mentally challenged Neanderthal. I wanted to invert the storyline to this: a clash between Modern American Civilization and a Perfect Storm (a viral pandemic that “dummies down” people, terrorism, and a harsh government) that threatens to push the modern world into the abyss. POV is that of an extraordinarily smart person.
3. What is the book all about?
The book is an action-adventure thriller, laced with terrorism andpolitical intrigue. It constructs from the latest technological andsocio-political trends one plausible scenario resulting from a viralpandemic (caused by a mutant manmade virus that escaped from a Chinese lab) occurring early in the 22nd century, all seen through themicrocosm of an extraordinary female—eighteen-year-old (her age when chapter one starts) ElectraKittner. As it traces her growth, the book explores some of thetimeless questions that are part of the human condition. The novel’s theme reveals that no matter how extraordinary theperson, anyone can be a victim in a primitive world that can’t handlethe truth, and must deal with the complexities of being “merelyhuman, “best handled with an optimistic and pragmatic philosophy. I WILL PAUSE HERE TO ASK THE INTERVIEWER : MAY EXPLAIN “WHY LIGHTNING BRAIN” IS IN THE TITLE? Electra’s mother is struck and killed by a lightning bolt at the moment Electra is born. The surge of electricity rewires Electra’s neural connections which leads to mutated DNA and subsequent brain states that make her exceptional. She is smarter than anyone and, within the bounds of physiology, can self-direct her mental and physical growth. But she is not Superwoman, able to leap over tall buildings at a single bound. All that I have just described is actual neuroscience. Buddhist monks, for example, can will themselves into brain states that lower blood pressure or pulse. Animals can place themselves in “brumation,” a state of suspended animation. I WILL PAUSE AND THEN SAY, “THE FIRST PAGE OF THE NOVEL AS WELL AS THE BACK COVER WILL SAY EVEN MORE, BUT I’LL STOP HERE. IF YOU WANT ME TO SAY MORE, I’LL CONTINUE WITH: The book contains three storyline threads: 1. From the start of the novel (August 2115) going forward. 2. From Electra’s birth (February 2097) to the novel’s start. 3. From the start of the Worldstars’ career (September 2092) toElectra’s birth. Worldstars refers to Indira Ramanujan, Su-LinChou, Jason Kittner, and Adom Ola. They are biotech PhDs who met in grad school and work together for the NationalInstitute of Health. Indira and Jason are Electra’s parents. 
4. Why did you choose this genre for your book?
I would put my series in mainstream Action-Adventure genre because most readers and movie-goers love it. The Lightning Brain series can fit in several popular mainstream genres: Action Adventure, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction or Science Future Projection, Socio-Political Intrigue, or even Mystery. 
5. How much time did it take to complete this book?
It took me only six months to write “The Girl With The Lightning Brain” because I had been developing an entire worldview, setting, characters, and storyline subconsciously for about thirty years. The next four novels took a total of two years.
6. What makes your Book Special?
At the deepest level, each book is literary fiction, but I’ve wrapped them in a riveting action-adventure story. And readers should enjoy the book on whatever level they wish: • Gripping action-packed thriller • Glimpse into a plausible near-term future • Insight into dealing with the “human condition” • Illustrative optimistic and pragmatic worldview philosophy • Fast-paced, suspense-filled emotive narrative and imagery • Introduction to topics readers will want know about • Interesting talking points going beyond sound-bites Like most authors, I read voraciously. Just about all current action-adventure or sci-fi series project a dystopian future in which the characters continue struggling with worn-out themes. I have replaced all that with a novel and optimistic approach: America is still number one but it too faces challenges; all my characters are believable, nuanced and have flaws that readers or moviegoers will empathize with; the worldview I have crafted is a realistic projection of current trends. Readers won’t have to suspend disbelief! 
7. When is your second book coming?
Early this year I completed the fifth novel in the “Lightning Brain Series”. A lot of people who have been giving our books excellent reviews say the series shows no signs of slowing down. And that’s true! But I decided to end the first series and adjust the storyline to fit a sequel series, which I have named “The Keepers” series. And my bridge novel connecting the two series is almost finished. John Kane and his team at Prime Solutions will help me decide when to get the bridge novel printed and start its advertising and promo campaign. And John and his Prime Solutions people deserve a lot of credit for putting our Lightning Brain series on the book market map. So, my thanks from me to them. Just like my thanks to you for interviewing me.
8. While writing did you get any writers block? What is the Tip that you will give others who are facing a writer's block?
I know all about blocks and how to overcome them. A block is a block, no matter what causes it. Fear, Fatigue, Stress, Too much going on in your life, Boredom, etc. I’ve been most fortunate. I’ve never experienced Writer’s Block, but I have encountered Calculation Block very, very often when trying to solve math and science problems. Let me explain. I’ve taken more science and math courses than you’ll want to hear about, so I’ll cut right to the block. Many, many times, even after reading the assigned chapter and studying the examples, when I tried to work the homework problems I didn’t know where to start. I would stare at a blank piece of paper and panic. So, I would reread the material and examples and try again. No luck. So, I would take a break and come back later and try again. Still no luck. It took me too many college semesters and quarters to come up with a solution: 1. Don’t blame yourself! Everyone finds the material hard. Don’t procrastinate. Try again, as soon as you can when you are in a good frame of mind. And ask a fellow classmate to work with you. 2. Find a quiet time, clear your mind, and just start jotting down ideas that might help you solve the problem. 3. See where it leads. 4. Take a break when you need it and think about something else. The great mathematician, Paul Erdos, coined the phrase ‘incomplete learning’. You can’t possibly learn everything consciously. Breaks help your subconscious fill in the gaps. So, don’t work past a certain point of frustration. Come back later! I’ve written articles I use as writing coach that talk about overcoming writer’s block. What I just described is a great starting point. And I’ve read many articles or watched videos discussing writer’s block. There is no magic solution. All say pretty much what I just did. Give these suggestions a try. 
9. Apart from being a talented author, what are your other hobbies?
I thank you again for the compliment. I consider the extensive writing I do for the classes I teach or for my consulting business clients a hobby that sharpens my writing skills. And I read fiction and non-fiction and watch videos or online training seminars that add to my writing skills or base of knowledge. More traditional hobbies include socializing with circle of good friends, reading and movie-watching, fitness training, and running. I use the time spent running and the endorphins generated to get a lot of writing done. For example, I’ve written two books of poetry. All the verses were composed “on the run”. 
10. Last but not the least, How did you feel, while giving this interview?
I have enjoyed talking with you. I have had many opportunities to speak publicly, and the saying that practice makes perfect is approximately correct. A public speaking coach gave me the correct quote: “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

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