Author Name: Timothy D. Minneci
Book Name: The Black Sky
Book genre: Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi
Sometime in the 1980s, Tim’s parents left him unattended with access to Stephen King books and John Carpenter movies. He never recovered. Creative writing and art classes were where time excelled. Math, science, and history, not as much.
After spending ten years during and after university playing bass in a rock band, Tim had plenty of creative time on his hands to put pen to paper on various stories that had been bouncing around in this head.
Never one to shy away from trying and failing, Tim spent several years turning those unrealized ideas into manuscripts and screenplays, most of which never saw the light of day, locked away on a hard drive.
Several years away from music, the itch returned, and in 2011 he started the Dig Me Out Podcast with a former bandmate, and in 2013 published a non-fiction book about 1980s hair and glam rock power ballads. A few more non-fiction books would follow, but a little voice in the back of his head kept telling him to revisit one of his stories he never finished.
Tim currently works from home as staffing support to IT recruiters, which gives him a flexible schedule. It also helps that his local library is just across the street from his house.
Tim resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, daughter, cat and two dogs. All of their family is spread out around the East and Midwest portions of the U.S., which means plenty of road trips.
Bishop and Tessa Dawes survive on opposite sides of the Manhattan Island seawall, one of fifteen corporation-controlled cities across the United States in the post-asteroid apocalypse. While Bishop works off citizenship debt in the drone command center, slowly building credit to secure her entry in two years, Tessa survives in the lawless boroughs surrounding the city, reconditioning knives for the black market Free Zone controlled by bullet gangs. On a cold January day, an offer from management – Bishop has forty-eight hours to drive to the free city of Bangor, Maine and kidnap a doctor capable of saving the life of Manhattan’s ill CEO. Upon his successful return, his debt will be wiped clean, and Tessa will be granted entry, their year and a half separation ended, a new life within their grasp. Bishop departs for Bangor unaware of the forces working for and against him, the corporate backstabbing and deception at the highest levels of Manhattan’s government, of the fate of the soldiers sent before him, and the immediate threat to Tessa’s safety.
Could you tell me a bit more about your book?
Sure, one aspect that was important was keeping everything grounded. Every use of technology, either military weaponry or soil-free agriculture, is either something currently available or being developed. Since this is taking place after a cataclysmic event in the near future, I didn’t want to introduce any sort of fantastical tech or weaponry to get a character, or me as a writer, out of a jam.
A second aspect is that I wanted to constantly keep the reader off-balance when it came to character stereotypes and motivations. In respect to keeping it grounded, I didn’t want any character to be the obvious hero, but I wanted characters to make heroic choices, which I hope makes them interesting to the reader. Every character that inhabits this world has proverbial or literal blood on their hands and skeletons in their closet. Some do the right thing for the wrong reasons. I like the gray space in storytelling, and it was something I worked hard at so that character motivation was logical even if it was frustrating because that’s the complexity of people in real life.
What inspired you to write the book?
When my wife and I were dating in 2010, we binged watched The West Wing. She had not seen it, I had watched a few seasons, but not the whole series. In the sixth season, there is an episode with a subplot that NASA is concerned about an asteroid potentially striking Earth. They discuss a scenario with the President in which an asteroid could impact in the forests of Siberia, which would kick up massive amounts of debris and ash into the atmosphere, and cause a chain reaction of volcanic activity, earthquakes etc., eventually blocking out the sun for years and kicking off a global freeze. The term is an “Impact Winter.” When I saw that episode, I immediately filed the idea away, but it kept gnawing at me.
Shortly after, I rewatched John Carpenter’s movie “Escape From New York,” in which Manhattan has been turned into a maximum-security prison and the idea for The Black Sky took shape – what if instead of Manhattan being a prison, what if it’s the only safe place left after this “Impact Winter” has happened? I jotted down a whole bunch of ideas and settled down on the idea of a forty-eight-hour deadline to save the leader of Manhattan, but the idea was very raw. It started as a feature-length screenplay, then I switched to an hour-long television pilot, then to a novel. I got a rough outline completed, fleshed out the first two chapters, and then set it aside for about five years.
What was your process of writing the book?
Getting back into writing the book was something of an accident. In 2015 I watched the trailer for the movie The Martian and was intrigued. I had no idea it was a book, and when I found out I grabbed it from my library and read it in about three days, which is fast for me. I Googled Andy Weir to search out what else he had written and discovered he had self-published the book in 2011 before it was acquired by Random House in 2014.
I kept digging and learned he had written one chapter of the book at a time, and then posted them online to get feedback from readers, and it sparked my interest in restarting The Black Sky. I went back to the first two chapters, gave them to some friends, and they very kindly ripped them to shreds regarding my story inconsistencies, poor grammar and lack of coherence. I started a page one rewrite, and chapter by chapter I posted them at a blog I kept for the book so anyone could read and then, if they wanted, give me feedback. I made a point to write myself into a problem as much as possible so that each chapter ended with some sort of cliffhanger. Having beta readers every step of the way really made me have to answer tough questions, like why does this character exist, why is this character behaving this way when they did the opposite thirty pages ago, and that sort of thing.
At about the halfway point of the book, I got out a giant piece of butcher block paper and actually mapped out both the physical locations of the characters and their arcs to make sure everything was matching up with this forty-eight-hour timeline I had conceived, since the book involves multiple perspectives and events occur at the same time.
Why should people read your book?
Hopefully because it’s entertaining. And if I’ve done my job, the reader will finish the last page and either want to reread it, tell a friend about it, or start pestering me about the next book in what I’ve planned as a trilogy.
What is so special about your story?
What’s special is that it is from my brain, and my brain has it’s own weird ways of expressing itself. I really believe that everyone has a voice, and if they want to, they can express their voice in whatever creative way they pursue. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. I finished the first draft in a year, then spent two years re-writing and editing while working full-time with a toddler. You have to put in the work, but I think all that work has created something that can connect with people who enjoy a literary thrill ride.
Who is your ideal reader?
Someone who enjoys Neal Stephenson and Dan Brown. Is that impossible? I mean, I do. I want to read nine hundred pages of intricately researched and dense science-fiction, and then switch over to a short popcorn thriller. I don’t like to stay in one lane when it comes to what entertainment I consume, so maybe there are other people out there like me. Do you like a good story? Do you like twists? Adventure? Action? With some heart? But with helicopter chases? I want 2001, but I also want Die Hard. But not at the same time, that wouldn’t work (or maybe it would, who knows).
How did you celebrate finishing writing your book?
I said, “I’m finished” and immediately started editing and rewriting. I had to rewrite the first chapter three times to get it right. It took a while, but that was really the final key to unlock it. But then I just started figuring out the schedule to publish it, so there was no celebratory dinner or drinks. Once I had the “I have to stop tinkering” draft, I knew I was done. Perhaps when I finish the trilogy I’ll take a long nap.
Who is your favourite character in the book?
Tessa Dawes is my favorite character. I grew up with badass female characters like Ellen Ripley from Aliens, Princess Leia, and Sarah Connor from Terminator, and wanted that kind of character in my story. I didn’t want an inhuman killing machine, I wanted a fully fleshed out, complicated, flawed human being, who also happens to be handy with a knife.
If your book would be made into a movie – what actor would you want to play your main character and why?
I consider Bishop and Tessa to be equal, each on their own journey. This is tough because the actors in my head are probably older than the characters in the book. Gina Carano was the inspiration for Tessa, I love her physicality as a performer. Her movie Haywire was something I revisited when writing. However, I love when actors are cast against type – when a comedic actor is cast for a serious role or vice versa. With that in mind, I’m a huge fan of Emma Stone and would love to see what she could do with a character like Tessa. For Bishop, I’ve always liked Dev Patel since I first saw him in Slumdog Millionaire over a decade ago. There is a naturalism to his performing that I appreciate, and I really want to see what he could do with something more action-oriented.
What is your favourite book?
That’s hard, it’s always changing like my favorite album or favorite movie. I loved The Stand, read it in high school, it’s never left my mind. But I’ve been quickly devouring newer sci-fi over the past few years. Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade knocked me out, I constantly recommend that book to anyone that will listen. It’s a gritty, bloody military sci-fi book with a mind-bending plot.
What author do you look up to?
As far as authors John Scalzi is someone who I think of when considering how to work on the structure, tone, pacing and other intangibles. Scalzi has a style that is both classic in the vein of someone like Robert Heinlein, but who is utterly modern and relevant. Outside the literary world,
What would you do if your book became an international bestseller?
Hire an editor instead of relying on the charity of friends to find all my horrific grammatical offenses. I also did all of the layout and design for the book, which is not my specialty. Basically, I’d hire people and be a job creator.
Anything you want to share with my readers?
I hope people give the book a chance, I think it’s a fun read and there is more to come. In addition to the book, I composed an instrumental “music inspired by” album, with each track corresponding to the chapters. That will be available streaming and on compact disc when the album comes out. I also took some of aspects of the book and created them in the real world. There is a note at the back of the book, if you enjoy easter eggs, bonus content, etc. follow the link, or search Twitter, LinkedIn, and other places online, and you’ll have some fun.
Thank you! Thank you as well for the opportunity! The support of book bloggers such as yourself is so important in the discovery of unknown authors and less