Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview with Stephen H.Banks - author of "Chaos Theories"

Stephen H.Banks, author of the novel "Chaos Theories" was kind enough to participate in this interview on "Books and Movies Reviews" blog.

Q-) Thanks for the interview, Stephen. Can we begin by having you tell us what got you started writing your new book, "Chaos Theory"?

A-) It’s my pleasure to meet you and your readers, Mr. Mattos. It began as a different book entirely. Back in 2000 I was running an IT department and felt the need to do something more creative. I started writing a straightforward thriller about a software developer who shot everyone in his office, then lead a manhunt across country. This was about a year after day-trader Mark Barton went on an office killing spree, I guess that’s what initially inspired me. The first chapter of that book became the third one in Chaos Theories, except that it was set in Boston rather than near Seattle. 

Q-) But you never finished it? 

A-) Well, about two months into writing it, there was another office massacre that actually took place in Boston. The similarities between what Michael McDermott did there and what I’d written were chilling – right down to the temp working reception. I stopped partially because it became too real for me, and partially because I figured people would think I just copied the news reports. 

Q-) There’s a lot more to Chaos Theories than the story of a serial killer. What inspired you to take on probability mathematics, chaos, free-will and predetermination? 

A-) That’s a harder one to talk about. In 2002, my twenty year old daughter Olivia was killed in a car accident. It was just a random, stupid set of circumstances on what started out to be a totally morning. I don’t know if “obsessed” is the right word, but I needed to address for myself how such a horrible thing could happen. Somewhere in the five-year break I took from reality, I wrote a short story called “Baby Bird” that became the first chapter of Chaos Theories. I think I just needed a random occurrence to save someone, if that makes sense. I wanted to write more on the subject and explore its darker side, but didn’t want anything that was actually about what my family had and still is going through. Then I remembered the other book I’d started, and realized they were really the same story. 

Q-) Are any of the characters in the book based on you or your family, then? 

A-) Not really; I intentionally worked to make them all fictitious. There are a few incidental things, though. Olivia was a strange and magical child, and animals seemed to be drawn to her. And, she couldn’t be around clocks – people who didn’t know her never believe it, but I’ve seen her electric alarm clock run backwards. Oh, and I have some of Jim’s quirks. For example, I find it hard to leave the house if the time isn’t exactly on the quarter hour. 

Q-) How would you describe the book? Is there a lot of math? 

A-) I’d call it a philosophical thriller. Some of it gets pretty deep, but I balance that off with short chapters, a lot of action and a kind of goofy love story. I reference a lot of theoretical mathematics, but the reader doesn’t have to have any kind of background to understand what’s going on; some of the characters are experts, and they explain it to the others, who sometimes get it and sometimes don’t. So if the reader doesn’t, he’s in good company. 

Q-) What kind of educational background do you have? Did you concentrate more on literature, philosophy or mathematics? 

A-) I’m mostly self-taught. I was all-honors everything in high school; the guidance counselors and my test scores said I could have gone in any direction, so I never really picked one. I majored in Theater at Bennington College with a minor in philosophy, but dropped out after a year. I taught myself programming when the PC first came out, and ended up running both development and IT operations for a few companies. I’m probably the only drama school dropout that has software he’s written running in MIT’s business offices. Other than that, I read voraciously and am pretty good with this whole internet thing. The math, physics, and philosophy are all well grounded, but when I don’t know something or it doesn’t fit the story I don’t mind just making things up. 

Q-) What authors influence you? Who are your favorites? 

A-) Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, to both questions. Adams had a way of writing the most hilarious stories with such deep, dark insights hidden underneath. His most popular work started out with the destruction of the earth, after all. And Vonnegut had such style and clarity. I think that the end of “Breakfast Of Champions” explains my approach to writing better than I ever could. 

Q-) Do you have a sequel or any other works planned? 

A-) I’m already working on my next novel. It isn’t exactly a sequel, but some of the characters from “Chaos Theories” do carry over. I’ve also written a play that I’m producing at the Atlanta Fringe Festival this year, and now that I’m really concentrating on my writing I may revive a young adult novel I started some time ago. So you can expect to see a lot more work from me.

Q-) Any final words?

A-) I’d just like to thank you and your readers for supporting my work. The only way we sell  books is through word-of-mouth. I really appreciate it when people go out of their way to tell others about the book. This is really the work of my heart and I’m always touched by other people’s support. Thanks so much!

Well, Mr. Stephen Banks, you deserve every support you get because this is truly a magnificent book. Congratulations!

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