Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Harvest by Olga Werby! Thank you to Goddess Fish Promotions for my spot on the tour! Check out my review, an exclusive interview with Olga Werby, an excerpt, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!!
by Olga Werby
GENRE: Science Fiction
Almost a century after Keres Triplets asteroid impact and subsequent nuclear exchange almost ended all human life on Earth, a strange artifact is discovered on one of the moons of Saturn. Who should be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to initiate the first contact with an alien culture? Dr. Varsaad Volhard, an evolutionary-socio-historian, is chosen to help the world understand the alien civilization that left an artifact some thirty thousand years ago, before humans even learned to farm, at the time when other human species still walked the earth. While Vars prepares for the mission, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard, discovers nanobots among the microplastics he studies. The bots are everywhere and seem to have been created to bond with human cyber implants. Why? Matteo is made to keep his discovery a secret…as well as his and his daughter’s true origins. Both were donated to a Human DNA Vault as babies. Matteo was raised as a Seed before leaving with his young daughter to study ecology around the world. Who knows what? Who is in control? How does one communicate with non-human intelligence? People seem to die in gruesome ways as their cyberhumatics go haywire on Earth and on Luna and Mars colonies. Is Earth under attack or is it all just a cosmic misunderstanding? Vars needs to use all she knows to solve the mystery of the ancient civilization on Mimas, as her dad battles the alien nanobots at home.
Harvest took me by surprise. I expected a cool sci-fi novel, however, what I got was this in-depth look at humanity and Olga Werby really made this story feel plausible. That isn’t always the case with books in this genre, so it was really refreshing to work myself up, thinking this could actually happen.
This story is absolutely absorbing. I was hooked from the first word. The settings were vividly described and beautifully captured what was being presented. I love feeliing like I’m part of the story, and Olga Werby’s writing is one of a kind.
There’s a variety of characters in this story, but each has their own distinct personality. The Aliens are unique. The story surrounding them is mysterious and I absolutely loved in.
Olga Werby manages to bring this sci-fi novel to life with what I assume had to be mass amounts of research. That’s what makes a story like this work – when it feels plausible. When the science works, and the people react the way they would in real life.
I could go on and on, but I won’t – you really should read this if you’re a sci-fi fan. I had a blast being taken on the journey that was laid before me. Highly recommended.
Interview with Olga Werby
What was your inspiration behind writing Harvest?
“Harvest” is a story of first contact. 30,000-year-old alien artifact is found on one of the moons of Saturn, buried in the ancient ice. This means that back when humans didn’t even begin agriculture or domestication of animals or started using symbols to keep track of ideas or to send messages to each other; before the days of making clay pots and weaving baskets; back when we haven’t even discovered the Americas; in the deep time before the dawn of our civilization (night time, really), some aliens were already advanced enough to send a craft across the trillions and trillions of miles of space to our home star system. Why did they come? What do they want?
I became interested in the idea of galaxy’s first star-fairing civilization a few years back. I wanted to use all of the science I knew to extrapolate the implications of being the first intelligence and the first civilization and then the first space-fairing culture to arise in the Milky Way. There had to be the THE first. What if it is NOT us? How would we, humans, handle first contact with such people? Would it go well for us? Would it be like “Star Trek?” I had a feeling that it might not really play out that way…
The story of Vars, a professor of socio-biology who studies human origins and civilizations, came from my exploration on these ideas. I wanted her—a “soft” scientist—to try to solve the puzzle of communicating with someone very different from us, whose motivations we simply don’t understand. For when the time comes, it won’t be the physicists and mathematicians who will be on the forefront of interfacing with aliens. It will be diplomats, sociologists, linguists, and lawyers! (perhaps teachers…)
I have posted the first three chapters of “Harvest” on my blog: https://interfaces.com/blog/my-books/harvest/
Which character in Harvest do you think you would get along with the most? How about the least?
One of the main characters in the book is Vars, a professor of socio-biology who studies human origins and civilizations. She has some very strange origins of her own, even as she is completely unaware of them at the start of the book. Vars is plucked form her everyday life and placed at the head of the team of scientists who have to understand how to approach aliens during first contact mission. She is a “fish out of water”…but what fish? What waters! I hope readers will identify with this young woman trying to survive and save the world. Personally, I don’t as much identify with Vars but relate to her struggle, empathize with her. I’m not sure we would get along, but I would like to know her.
Other characters in the story are also mostly misfits—genetic outliers, social outcasts, awkward scientists, orphans, etc. I like to write about people who tend not to take the center stage in life and live in the margins of the society. These are not the obvious people destined to succeed, but they do anyway. Through hard work, perseverance, and often spunk. Not all make it…
As for character I like the least…it’s a tough question. I tend to like my characters even the baddies. In some ways, those people might be misunderstood, their motivations hidden by dark pasts. In “Harvest,” there are really no “bad” characters. But there are people who do bad things. There are individuals with whom I would rather not have a conversation…
If you could spend time with a character from Harvest, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
That depends on where this meeting would take place. If it were at any location described in this book, then I would rather skip. Thank you very much for the kind offer. Perhaps we can just text?
What is your favorite part about the writing process? Least?
Authors are lucky to devote their lives to creating fictional universes and amazing characters to populate them. There is a breathtaking freedom to play and explore imagination. It feels like if you are a writer, you will never grow old. You get to live forever, because some parts of you stay behind in the minds others…strangers you’ve never met! But writers today have to do more than just write.
A modern writer has to do so much more than just envision new worlds and conjure up new civilizations populated with all sorts of interesting people that we all care about. She has to promote and market her books. She has to talk about herself and hopefully inspire readers to pick up her book next. She has to be on social media and post and tweet and talk, talk, talk, talk… For a shy individual, this is a very hard thing to do. I try…
How long did Harvest take you to write?
“Harvest” was published in May, 2019, after almost two years of writing and editing and illustration. It has been a very painful birth. While the main story has stayed the same, for the most part, through the whole writing process, the presentation changed somewhat. I’ve added details. I made two sets of illustrations (yes, the book is fully illustrated). I designed multiple covers. Even the title changed and evolved almost to the day of publication.
But before any pens mark the page or fingers get laid on the keyboard, I had to do a ton of research for this story. By the time I actually started writing this novel, I had spent over a year taking notes and doing research. I’ve included an extended bibliography at the end of this book for those who might wish to learn about the science discussed within.
When I finally started writing “Harvest,” I had a general idea of what this story was about. But that said, I’m the seat-of-my-pants kind of writer. I write to find out what happens next! Once I know my characters and understand their predicament, the story is written by them. They decide what they want to do and how to proceed and how to solve problems that I throw at them. They drive the action. I know this sounds crazy, but it works well for me. I’m always surprised by the end of the story—the finished book is nothing like I’ve imaged it…but it does contain all of the elements of my research for the story. This was especially true of “Harvest.”
“Harvest” even has its own visual mood board: https://www.pinterest.com/OlgaWerby/scifi-book-harvest/
Below is a little collage of illustrations from “Harvest”:
What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
I read. I read voraciously and in many different genres. I read scientific articles. I read academic papers. I go to lectures…and museums…and theater. I listen to music. I take notes of things I find fascinating for one reason or another and even write short articles on those topics: https://interfaces.com/blog/. I talk to interesting people. When I feel a story is starting to gel, I give my subconscious a few months to figure it out. Then I sit down and write it. It’s rather simple, really… No, not really, but it works for me.
What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
English is not my first language…but perhaps it might not be a surprise (that pesky autocorrect!!!).
My background is in astrophysics and psychology. Granted, it’s not a very likely combination for a career…a regular career. But it is perfect for a writer of science fiction! “Harvest” is a book about first contact between an old alien civilization and the people of Earth. It’s all about physics and psychology!
Are you writing anything new that you can tell us a little something about?
I’m currently finishing up “God of Small Affairs.” In some ways, this is the opposite story from “Harvest.” While “Harvest” focused on real science and extrapolated it as far as possible, “God of Small Affairs” is about mythology, about gods who walk the earth and help shape the human race into what it has become. It is a more intimate story. It focuses on a small town in Wisconsin and it’s aging population that is in the process of becoming irrelevant due the pressures of progress. During a murder investigation, a god tries to find the best path into the future for this community. It’s a human drama with a mythical twist.
You can read the first few chapters of “God of Small Affairs” here: https://interfaces.com/blog/my-books/god-of-small-affairs/
I hope to release “God of Small Affairs” in a few months.
Is being an author your full time job?
I try to write everyday, but that is not always possible due to other commitments. When I get lucky (and the writing is going well), I can spend the whole day at it. But writing is not just putting words to paper. Part of giving birth to a story is doing research, taking notes, drawing, finding images. I develop an extensive Pinterest page for every book. I want to capture the visual look of the story.
In my “real” life, I work with my husband at Pipsqueak Productions LLC: https://www.pipsqueak.com/home It’s a true privilege to do something I love with a person I love for my whole life (basically).
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Read more. It’s amazing how much a writer learns from example.
Take notes; do research. A novel requires more than just one idea. Don’t save your ideas for other books. Use everything you’ve got on the story you are writing right now. Ideas are easy. You will never run out. Each book deserves all of you.
Get an editor. No matter how good you think you are, you will be horrified by your mistakes. I continuously find typos (big and small) in EVERY book I read—indie and those published by the big boys. An editor will save you a bit of dignity…
Publish. Indie way is hard, but so is the standard publishing model. Try out your story on an audience. You only get better with time.
“Sentient life’s colonization of the Earth is fractal. Even within a single ecosystem, there are many species that possess intelligence and self-awareness. But only one species becomes dominant.”
Professor Volhard took a theatrical pause here. Everyone in the audience knew where she was going with this, but it never hurt to add drama to a presentation.
“Obviously I am talking about humans. We are not the only intelligent, self-aware species on our planet–but we got lucky. We were blessed with favorable initial conditions, and our dominance was almost guaranteed. Lack of luck tends to permanently retard progress. Dinosaurs’ loss is
There were a few chuckles from the audience, but no big laughs. Varsaad Volhard sighed inwardly and moved on. She never knew how the lay audience would react, but this was all part of doing the book-selling lecture circuit.
Vars was tall and skinny with short, unruly, dark red hair and glasses to match. She looked a bit like a stick insect in her black pants and black sweater. For the tour, she was trying to dress more interestingly than normal–per instructions from her publisher–and so had added the bright orange scarf that her publisher sent in the mail. The instructions that came with the scarf told her to wear matching orange shoes, but Vars didn’t own any orange shoes, so matching black was as good as it got.
She hadn’t failed to notice that the cover of her book–Luck & Lock on Life & Love: The Human History of Conquest of Resources on Earth, Luna, and Beyond–had the same color orange titles as the scarf. Her agent or someone in the office was obviously trying. Vars made a mental noteExcerpt from Harvest
to figure out who that was and thank them.
Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago, with her first book, “Suddenly Paris,” which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes. Her next story, “The FATOFF Conspiracy,” was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy, and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories — homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals — the social underdogs of our world. Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible. She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings. Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of “Alien Dimensions Magazine,” “600 second saga,” “Graveyard Girls,” “Kyanite Press’ Fables and Fairy Tales,” “The Carmen Online Theater Group’s Chronicles of Terror,” with many more stories freely available on her blog, Interfaces.com.
Harvest * Becoming Animals * Suddenly, Paris * The FATOFF Conspiracy * Twin Time * Lizard Girl & Ghost: The Chronicles of DaDA Immortals * Codding Peter * Pigeon * Fresh Seed
Olga Werby will be awarding 2 books to a randomly drawn commenter (LIZARD GIRL AND GHOST and SUDDENLY, PARIS) via rafflecopter during the tour.
Let me know what you think!