Interview with D.Ellis Overttun

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing an Author I have been reviewing! I have done two of D.Ellis Overttun’s books, and corresponded with him quite frequently. The subject of Interviews came up and I thought it would be a great step for our little blog. It is incredibly interesting to see what goes through an authors head, and where they draw influence from.

If you haven’t read my reviews on the book, I recommend it before reading this, as most of this won’t make sense. Even better would be to pick up the books yourself and show some support! His books can be purchased through Amazon!

Q: We spoke a bit previously about how you drew your influence for your characters. With your script-like writing, I assumed there was a bit of a movie influence?

A: Cast and Casting of the Terra Nova Series

Your observation that the series reads like a script is quite perceptive. I am somewhat of a movie buff, so I write as though I am watching a movie. As each new character is introduced, I often try to imagine who I would cast in that role. It gives me an initial reference for appearance, behavior and mannerisms. Here is a list of the main characters from Universe:

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The oasis scenes in Universe describe an interaction between Jo’el and Auberon. As the story progresses, we discover that Auberon is a timid by-the-book bureaucrat and Jo’el is his patient dealing with a condition known as “mental trauma”. I see Michael Fassbender as Jo’el carrying the burden of loss the same way Erik Lehnsherr did in the airplane scene in X men: Days of Future Past. Lehnsherr demonstrates both vulnerability and savagery born of pain. He can brood. He can contemplate. He can take action. (Although Jo’el’s darker traits have not been revealed to date.)

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The I-want-to-do-what’s-right not so confident persona of Auberon was based upon Jay Baruchel’s performance as Dave Stutler in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, someone a little nerdy who rises to the occasion as exemplified by the triumph of his inept but heartfelt pursuit of Becky Barnes. These two themes of strength of character and sincerity of intent run through the series.

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I used Rachel Weisz to describe Odessa’s appearance but the behavior of the First Minister has been modeled upon Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in Constantine.

One of Odessa’s guards has a distinctive raised eyebrow when the situation demands it.  Can you see Dwayne Johnson as Mica’el with long dark hair à la Scorpion King? Or how about Chris Hemsworth as Gabri’el looking like Thor? It is easy to see either of these two in black articulated body armor.

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Finally, there are two other female protagonists. Natasha’s inscrutable demeanor has been drawn from Scarlett Johansson’s expressionless scenes as Natasha Romanoff in the Avenger series and the transformed Lucy Miller in Lucy. Asherah looks like Selena Gomez but fights like Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

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Q: As soon as you mentioned your inspiration I could absolutely see it in the characters, and it gave a really interesting insight. If you draw a lot from Movies, how else has it influenced you?

Q: You draw a lot from movies, characters, events, and imagery, it creates a very visual experience. Is there anything unusual that you have taken from movie to book?

A: Music, Music, Music

Cinematic influences carry over to music. I don’t know how it would be scored but I penned the lyrics to 5 songs. The first one, “Girl-Wind”, is a reveille for Alondra as she awakens from a shut-down period. I imagined it as a semi-spoken piece. If you read the lyrics out loud, the rhythm should be readily apparent. I likened her movements to Alex Owens strutting her stuff during her audition in Flashdance.

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There are 2 acapella songs in Universe inspired by songs like Enya’s “May It Be” from Lord of the Rings. One is an untitled song Sophia plays as she and Alondra wait to depart the probe and the second, entitled “Wanderer”, appears at the end of the last chapter (just as I would fade to black and roll credits). (FYI: These 3 songs only appear in the Universe Redux Edition.)

Genesis features 2 riding songs, “Wind-Rider” and “Chase the Wind”, inspired by Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” from Easy Rider. Again, if you read the songs aloud, you should hear the backbeat. Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” gave me the idea that both should be introduced by an appropriate drum intro.

Q: We spoke on how your novel would work really well as a Comic, can you speak a bit on that?

A: Manga Influence

I can see where the comic book reference comes from now that I know you are an illustrator. I have been influenced by the Koike and Kojima Lone Wolf and Cub series. (I have all 28.) I read an interview once where they stressed character development. That’s why there are many segments (eg. Auberon and Natasha’s farewell at the Spandau Bridge, Theodor’s longing for recognition back at his parish) where I describe thoughts and feelings. It is something that cannot be easily expressed in a visual medium. K&K’s artwork is spectacular and their eye for detail has guided me in my descriptions of settings where parts of my story take place. As the saying goes “a picture is worth a 1,000 words”. What an artist can do in one image might take me a page.

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The K&K influence extends to my gravatar. It is easy to see the “D” and the “O” but there is a another meaning. I studied aikido for a time. There are always 2 versions of a technique “omote” (forward) and “ura” (reverse). A deeper meaning for these 2 terms is “in the open”, what we show to the public, and “in the shadows”, what we keep private. You can see this represented by red (omote) and black (ura) in my gravatar. This concept was introduced to me in LW&C (Volume 13) “The Moon in the East, the Sun in the West”.

Q: Being an illustrator, I do appreciate a good book cover and yours seem to be very in depth. Is there meaning in your cover art?

A: The Covers

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The Universe cover is meant to give the reader a sense that awakening has something to do with genetics since the double helix is easily identifiable as DNA. The woman seeming to emerge from the strand in a burst of light is a visual rendering of the awakening of Asherah and Praana, one corporeal and the other energy. It represents a current trend in developed nations:  Women are having children later in life. Universe extrapolates this trend to the extreme. Later and later childbirth implies that physical relations are for pleasure not procreation. What if they separated? What would this possibility look like?

The sphere in the background is not a planet. It is a universe surrounded by what the reader will discover is the volume. The green patches represent the encroachment of an alien energy known as the “ether” foretelling the end of existence. Conventional wisdom says there are 3 possible endings to the expansion of space-time:  big freeze, big rip or big crunch. They all assume there is nothing external to our universe that could affect these outcomes. (Why would they?) The Terra Nova series asks the question:  What if there was something pushing back? It is similar to a boiling pot of water. There are bubbles (i.e. universes) pushing outward but the water must exert some kind of inward force. Hence, a fourth possibility:  big implosion.

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The focal point of the Genesis cover is a planet with the sun peering from its edge circled by a single moon. This could be anywhere except that the planet in the upper left hand corner looks a lot like Saturn. In that case, the planet in question could be earth. Now, as the title says, this is a “Vision of the New World”. Is this our universe? The universe in Book 1 is 36 billion years old, a lot older than the current 14 billion-year age of our universe. Five billion years from now our sun will expand into a red giant and consume the earth. So, is this a vision from the past? “New World” in the title would imply “no” unless this is about time travel into the past. (Since this is sci-fi, it is a distinct possibility.) Another solar system in the same universe configured exactly like ours? Perhaps. Or maybe, it is a vision from another universe.

Non-spoiler alert:  The answer is revealed as part of a “conversation” that Jo’el has with a surrogate of his brother, Davin. It will also give the reader a clue as to who the Proto-Gendu are.

Q: Going back to your comment about the Lone Wolf and Cub, it’s a Samurai story based in the Tokugawa Era, which I would assume deals with different kinds of martial arts. There seems to be some influence of that in your work.

A: The Monks of the Nicene Desert

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The Monks of the Nicene Desert are an order that strives for perfection in body, mind and spirit. The exterior of the monastery has been derived from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. The interior has been drawn from the dojo in the fight scene between Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix and castle scenes from the Shogun TV miniseries.

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The training was based upon my own experience in martial arts. I practiced taekwondo for a time. I was never really any good. The only thing I could do well was the kiai (the yell), mainly because I was always scared *&%less when I sparred. I have cleaned the floors in a dojo (Korean: dojang) just like Auberon and Jo’el and I’ve stood sweating like a farm animal in horse stance with my legs burning and shaking.

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My school crest depicted an individual sitting in seiza surrounded by 3 concentric circles representing spheres. The innermost one symbolized the relation of the individual to himself. The next one was the individual in relation to friends and family and the final one, the individual to the rest of the world. I thought it was pretty cool for my teacher to come up with this philosophy. It was only later when I studied aikido that I found he had lifted it from Aikido: The Dynamic Sphere by Westbrook and Ratti. And not just the symbolism, Ratti’s artwork! The concept from self to others formed the basis of Jo’el’s therapy and his reintegration back into society and the problem of never-ending milestones comes from our school’s search for perfection.

The fight scene between Jo’el and Asherah was based on that part of my life. I’ve been thrown hard and landed the wrong way, had bruised ribs and know what it’s like to have cuts on the inside of my mouth. After all that training, my taekwondo teacher’s words ring true in my ears:  The best thing to do in a fight is run! So, now I practice Rule #1 of Zombieland:  cardio.

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