Friday 7 April 2017

Author Interview: Mom by Collin Piprell

Magic Circles Series
Book 1
Collin Piprell

Genre: Sci Fi

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Date of Publication: April 5, 2017

ISBN: 9780995072961

Number of pages: 373 pages
Word Count: 100k

Cover Artist: Common Deer Press

Tagline: A mystery thriller set in the second half of the twenty-first century, MOM is the first novel in Collin Piprell's darkly comic and always thought-provoking MAGIC CIRCLES science-fiction series.

Book Description:



So reads the graffito.

MOM is the mall operations manager — the greatest intelligence in history, a machine awakened to self-awareness at a time when the last few human survivors have withdrawn to the last two remaining refuges on Earth. Quarantined from the global nanobot superorganism outside the malls and from each other inside, the mallsters are utterly dependent on MOM for everything — including the ever-more suspect information they're getting about the world Outside.

Now the malls are crumbling.

Amazon     Common Deer Press    BN

About the Author:

Collin Piprell is a Canadian writer and editor resident in Thailand. He is the author of four novels and a collection of humorous stories, now out of print, as well as four books on national parks, diving, and coral reefs, three of which are also out of print. *Diving in Thailand* remains available worldwide. *MOM* is the first novel of a science-fiction trilogy in progress. Visit to learn more.


* Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
My plots emerge from the painful process of banging my head against the draft, trying this and trying that, continually revisiting and revising what I’ve got and bashing it about till I see where to go from there. At the same time I’m always trying to extend a working plot as far ahead as I can, always in the knowledge this is only a working plan and subject to change at a moment’s notice.

I believe this approach to fiction most closely approximates the way real life evolves with all its shaggy surprise. I know many writers say you’re daft to embark on a novel without a full plot in hand, and that may well work for some. But I choose to treat each new book as a voyage of discovery.

The Muse Wears Black Leather” and “Story: A Conversation with the Page” present more perspectives on how I understand the creative writing process.

* Do your characters ever want to take over the story? 
Yes, they do. And even when they get downright mutinous, this is one of the best things fiction writing has to offer, in my opinion — when you sense a character becoming autonomous within a story that’s come alive.
* What is your favourite food?
Thai cuisine in general, which is convenient, given that I live in Thailand. Hamburgers and pizzas present exotic breaks from the vast range of really interesting local fare. For a really rare treat, I have mashed potatoes.
* Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Like a lot of people, I’m at my most creative when I wake up in the morning and go straight to the writing, but too often I find myself distracted by other commitments. Plus my night-owl alter ego occasionally leaves me too muzzed-out to perform.
* Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
Asia used to feature in my dreams of travel in exotic lands. But now that I’ve lived in the East for decades, Europe has become an exotic destination of choice. Lately I’ve found myself daydreaming about East European cities with rich architectures and a temperate climate that encourage long walks punctuated with retreats to cosy tavernas.

I’ve also proven to myself in the past that I write very well at sea, and I’m overdue for a cruise on some tramp steamer or suchlike, preferably one with interesting ports of call. Capetown leaps to mind just now, never mind it isn’t in Europe.

* Do distant places feature in your books?

I have a 50,000-word novel ready to show to publishers, call it magical realism if you must. It’s set on a boat and in ports of call between Israel and Phuket, Thailand.
MOM involves settings on opposite sides of the world — America’s and Southeast Asia’s eastern seaboards.

* Do you listen to music while writing?

Sometimes. Mostly if I’m revising a draft and things are going well. That’s when I may listen to a spell of some jump-up music of the Latin or jazz or rhythm-and-blues persuasion. At other times I may have Bach or Mozart turned down low as background, no doubt an insult in the minds of classical music lovers.

* Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?

Almost overnight, self-replicating nanobots turn Earth’s surface into nothing but more of themselves. This notion isn’t mere fantasy. It is conceivable. And next thing I found myself wondering how it would be possible to survive something like that. What with one thing and another — including ideas arising out of advances in nanotechnology, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, virtual realities, theories of complexity and novel emergence — I started to get glimmers, and next thing, almost against my better judgment, characters and settings began to percolate from the recesses of my mind. So I wrote some stuff. Wisely enough, I soon relegated this to a bottom drawer and set about writing something different.

I showed this something different to a good friend who told me it was rubbish; he asked whether I didn’t have anything better he could read. So I went back to the bottom drawer and dug out a few chapters of what was to become MOM. He liked it, or so he said. I didn’t really believe him, but what with one thing and another, including his offer of a solo writerly retreat at his lakeside cabin in the mountains of Japan, I went back to banging at MOM. And here we are today.

The manuscript that my friend hated, incidentally, has since been reincarnated as the 50,000-word novel I mentioned above. And I’m pretty sure it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. An added attraction: it’s the shortest novel I’ve ever written, half the length of MOM, for example.

* What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?

I’ve learned never to count either my villas in Tuscany or my groupies before they’ve hatched. The entire fiction market has changed mightily since I first had a go at storytelling. Novels are a much harder sell these days, and the financial returns are far more uncertain. (Mind you, if the Obamas decided to fictionalize their upcoming memoirs, which they’ve already sold for a reported $65 million advance, they’d probably do quite nicely. Common Deer Press has been generous, as these things go, but our deal falls short of that figure.)

The other thing I’ve learned, as I persist in writing novels, is that there are other rewards, and these might be more important than any promise of financial reward.

* Is there anything you would do differently?
Yes. I’d have very rich parents.

* Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
I’ve always read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t say who has influenced my own writing. (I did once have a philosopher professor who made more comments on his students’ writing style than he did on their philosophizing, and that encouraged me to use words as carefully and economically as I was able.)

Writers I admire for their craft and comic genius include P.G. Wodehouse, James Thurber, Flann O’Brien, and David Foster Wallace. Those I admire for their sometime unfathomable magic with words include Cormac McCarthy, V.S. Naipaul, and David Foster Wallace. For their economy with words, Cormac McCarthy and V.S. Naipaul. For their adventurous spirit and willingness to reinvent themselves as writers with nearly every new novel: Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Mo, Tim Winton, and D.F. Wallace. But I’m kind of out of it; I know there are lots of excellent new writers (and old) that I have yet to read. I’ve recently read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Tetralogy, and found her a wonderful storyteller. I’ve just started The Restless Supermarket, a novel by South African writer, Ivan Vladislavic; so far it’s both very well written and very funny.

Science fiction writers I’ve admired include Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, and China Mieville. I loved the Black Mirror television series.

* Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Dorothy Parker’s advice springs to mind: "If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy."

This is probably even better advice now than when she first issued it, given the prospects of earning anything significant from your labors. Having said that, I’d refer you to my response, above, to the question Re: what I’ve learned from my writing over the years.

* What are three words that describe you?
Persistent, bleary (right now), and tolerant (I’m Canadian, eh?)
* What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
I can’t choose one book or one writer as my favorite. Flann O’Brien is a favorite writer, in part for his novels At Swim-Two Birds and The Third Policeman. He combined great good humor with acute perception in a distinctive and hugely engaging voice; his often-surrealist fiction is flawlessly presented. Cormac McCarthy is another favorite, in his case especially for Suttree, Blood Meridian, and The Road, not necessarily in that order. Each of those books is distinct in flavor, yet each shows McCarthy’s magical facility with words, despite (or maybe because of) the wonderful economy of his prose. David Foster Wallace was a motor mouth by comparison, but was equally a literary magician. I love him in part for the fact he could and often did break any formal rule of style you’ve ever heard of while spinning compulsively engaging stories, some of them — Infinite Jest being one notable example — told in a variety of fine voices.

List of previous books if any

* MOM (Magic Circles Vol. 1, Common Deer Press, 2017).

* Kicking Dogs (Bangkok: Asia Books, 2000; bookSiam, 1995; Editions Duang Kamol, 1991), a novel. (Available in a self-published version on Amazon.)

* Bangkok Knights (Bangkok: Asia Books 2001; Bangkok: Editions Duang Kamol, 1989, 2nd ed. 1991; published as Too Many Women by bookSiam, 1995). Out of print.

* Yawn (Bangkok: Asia Books, 2000), a novel. Out of print.

* Bangkok Old Hand (Bangkok: Post Books, 1993), a collection of stories and essays. Out of print.

* Thailand's Coral Reefs (Bangkok: White Lotus, 1995). Photos by Ashley J. Boyd. Natural history and conservation of reefs. Out of print.

* A Diving Guide to Thailand (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, USA: Hippocrene Books, 2000; Singapore: Times Editions, 1994). Photos by Ashley J. Boyd.

* Thailand: The Kingdom Beneath the Sea (Bangkok: Artasia Press, 1990). Photos by Ashley J. Boyd.  Out of print.

* National Parks of Thailand, in collaboration with Denis Gray and Mark Graham (Bangkok: IFCT, 1991; 2nd ed. 1994). Out of print.

Collin has also had hundreds of features appear in publications that include The Bangkok Post, Asia Times, International Herald Tribune, Far Eastern Economic Review, Asian Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, ShowBoats International, Boat International, SEA Yachting, Southeast Asia Diver, Action Asia, Arts of Asia, Asia-Pacific Tropical Homes, Discovery, Sawasdee.

* Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.


  1. Thank you for the AWESOME interview with Collin! We enjoyed the feature!
    ~ Jenn

  2. Thank you for the interview, Roxanne. It's much appreciated. Cheers!

    1. You're welcome :) I'm Annette by the way :)

    2. I'm sorry, Annette. I seem to be a bit of a knucklehead in general, when it comes to Twitter. I'll have to learn my way around the medium. Thank you!