Today’s interview is with Guy Morris, author of Swarm.
1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
Guy Morris lives in Washington with a view of the Puget Sound
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
SWARM is an action -thriller with AI, conspiracy / espionage themes
3) What is the book about?
Swarm is an action-packed thriller with advanced artificial intelligence weapons set in a divided, post-pandemic country struggling to maintain social and national security.
China has unleashed a devastating AI internet virus forcing antihero hacker Derek Taylor into a deadly conspiracy of digital identity control, and end-time prophecy. When a US AI weapon system goes rogue only a fugitive AI called SLVIA with a terrorist hacker group known only as SNO can prevent Armageddon.
Exploring the morality of artificial intelligence weapons while navigating church and political corruption, debut author Guy Morris’s sharp and frighteningly realistic storytelling will leave readers questioning what their future holds in this ambitious, edge-of-your-seat cyberthriller.
4) Where did you come up with the idea?
SWARM was inspired by a true story of a program that escaped the Lawrence Livermore Labs at Sandia (NSA spy lab for cryptology/ signals) – and was never recaptured. Not lost, not stolen, not corrupted, the AP article said it had escaped.
I spent months working on what kind of program could escape a government lab, and why would it. Then I created an award-winning fictional webisode series in 96’ called ‘Cracks in the Web’ featuring SLVIA, my imagined AI. Hugely popular, and optioned by AOL, until the FBI came to my home to ask me to take the site down. Apparently, I had correctly interpreted much of the functionality of the lost program – and it was top secret. Secondary confirmation came in 2016 when the Russians hacked an older CIA cyber tool kit, and it contained nearly every one of the functions that I had assigned to my fictional AI named SLVIA.
The rest was a simple matter of bringing the characters forward into the current day, looking around at the interconnected problems that will be impacted by AI including cyber war, AI weapons, infrastructure, ID access, and asked the question – what would happen if.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
SWARM took years to fully research. The story premise, at least the story world and key characters have existed since the 90s’. Once I decided to write with a new premise, I spent 2+ months outlining, six weeks on draft 1, and then 8 months editing, rewriting, polishing, refining with beta readers before hiring a professional editor and cover designer.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
Oh my gosh, where to begin? Yes, starting with the extensive research into areas of advanced/experimental AI, quantum computing, DARPA AI weapon systems, cyber security and vulnerabilities, and then end time prophetic references to align with current events, plus location and culture research. One of the reasons I love to write is that I love to explore, and to learn.
On the writing side, SWARM was my second book, but the first one where I started with a clear, detailed character profile, and outline. In other words, I started by knowing my characters, and a plan of what happens to them, and how they react. Not too detailed, but enough to weave multiple threads together. Wow, what a difference. For a complex plot with lots of characters, places and timelines – an outline saved my sanity. Now of course, I made numerous changes along the way, but I had a map to follow, and it made the trip easier, and more enjoyable.
Once I had a good first draft, I took a series of Master Classes from David Baldacci, James Patterson, Ron Howard, and Dan Brown. I learned so much that I re-wrote SWARM yet again. Beyond the course material, I took 12 pages of lessons. The changes super-charged the ‘thriller’ impact, and connected the threads to fit perfectly. Working on the sequel now.
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
Yes to all.
My website Guy Morris Books -Contemporary Action-Thrillers includes a blog, plus direct links to Amazon, all of the consolidated SWARM reviews, and a recent article from Master Class featuring SWARM. The site features tons of addition media on SWARM and my next book Curse of Cortes’.
I also maintain a separate blog on Good Reads, but I don’t know how to connect the two together.
On a book video, I have a Wix produced freebie promotional video, nothing fancy. The video provides location images and reviewer quotes, but provides no story line. I have the video pinned to the top of my Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/officialguymorrisbooks .
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists?
As a debut author, I’m still learning and looking to others, but I do have a few thoughts.
No amount of marketing, cover design, or promo will turn hum-drum writing into bone chilling. That takes polishing, editing, critique, editing again, and again until you have a story that resonates beginning to end. Take your time on the product before you spend a penny on publishing or promotion. Let’s be real, it will cost to market and promote and you don’t want to do that for a mediocre book.
Finding good cover designers, editors and formatters can be really hard unless you know the business. Each genre requires a different type of cover. I needed a thriller cover that would grab you. For me, I found success on Reedsy. That said, I am still a babe in the woods learning about promotion, marketing reviews, bloggers, and how to build sales.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
I write thrillers because I love thrillers. Dan Brown, Steve Berry, Michael Crichton, James Rollins and others of that caliber excite me. Why? Because they will always write from deep research to present an interesting premise based on science, archaeology, history or technology. You learn something on the thrill ride. The biggest challenge with being an author is that it cuts into good reading time. Find me a book that will take me on a thrilling adventure, and teach me something interesting, and challenge my morals or perceptions along the journey.
That said, when I am working on a new manuscript (like now), most of my reading revolves around research, and can vary widely from Graham Hancock pre-history to Welcome to Leningrad, a book on Putin and his criminal empire, a book on the Copper Scroll, or the Illuminati. Sometimes interesting, sometimes weird, but you need to read a TON looking for that gem of information, that flaw, that mystery or quirk, or little known fact that can be leveraged into a credible, imminent crisis.
I welcome reviews of SWARM, and open to reviewing other thriller authors. My only caveat is that I have several books in the queue while I am currently eye balls deep in the research mode for my next manuscript. Patience.
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
Seriously? Is this a trick question? I would say, impossible to say.
It would be easier to say who are my top five favorite authors. I fell in love with reading in college. Classics from Mark Twain, Hemingway, Poe, and Shakespeare to my favorite authors Dan Brown, James Rollins, Michael Crichton, Steve Berry, Dan Silva and a dozen others.
But a book? Seriously? I could never pick just one book with a straight face. Da Vinci Code, Timeline, Jurassic Park, Pelican Brief, Sherlock Holmes, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Amazonia are perhaps top in the top ten percent, but that would be a seat-of-the-pants ranking.
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
I married an angel with five cats, but we are now down to one exceptionally spoiled, demanding, neurotic and psycho prince of purrrrrsia. Seriously, our cat Raven needs an entourage to keep him entertained. We understand each other, which is to say that he has me trained. Speaking of which, mien FUR-er calls – gotta go.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
No sir! This conspiracy writer is strictly old school, pages in hand, bookmarks in yellowed print, and probably a little dusty. Besides, the FBI may still have an eye on me, and in the end, don’t we all deserve a little privacy.
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