By Thomas Drago
Cast against the background of a futuristic world order and a disintegrating Global Alliance, Tom Calen’s latest science fiction thriller The Ignota, which follows up Torranceas the second book in the enthralling Scars of Tomorrow series. The style and magnitude of the work capture a maturity rarely achieved by writers who cross genres. Tom’s brilliant, fast-paced narratives continue to blaze a path for those of us following in his footsteps.
Recently, I had a chance to chat with Tom about his new novel, The Ignota,and learn more about past, current, and future projects.
The more I think about The Ignota and the entire Scars of Tomorrow series, I can’t help but think about epic motion pictures. The Godfather and the warring Five Families. Star Wars and the fragmented Rebel Alliance. Those are two of the biggest and best films ever made. Ever envision your series on the big screen?
That’s the dream for all us, isn’t it? Seeing our words and worlds brought to life on film?
I’ve been told my writing is very cinematic. The scene cuts, the descriptions. I’m a visual learner, so it’s not a shock that my writing style reflects that. I have to “see” it before I can write it. Sometimes that involves acting out a certain scene. I’m sure my neighbors wonder why that crazy American next door is running around his living room acting out fight sequences.
In Torrance, you did an outstanding job of creating diversity in an altered world made smaller by technology. Do you feel you were able to capture the same character contrasts and struggles with The Ignota?
Gosh, I hope so. The Ignota really expands the world setup in Torrance. We meet a few new characters, and some minor characters from the first book become major in the second book. When I started the series, I knew I wanted to avoid black-and-white characterizations. I wanted “bad guys” you understood and could sympathize with, and “heroes” who sometimes made it tough to root for them. Torrance himself is probably the best example of that, but I think it’s pretty clear that every character in the books has his or her own idea of what victory looks like. Much of the conflict comes from the characters trying to either suppress or push their own agendas.
In The Ignota, the tech somewhat takes a back seat to the plot. I think the first book did a good job of creating the world, explaining the technology and incorporating it so that it simply becomes part of the world they’re visiting. By the second book, it’s become wallpaper in a room with a lot of other stuff to focus on.
As we learned in Torrance, the word The Ignota has Latin roots. The translation is roughly,“unknown.” We met some members of The Ignota in the first book of the series. Is it safe to assume the group takes center stage in book two? What can you tell us without major spoilers?
Oh, yes, we certainly get to see more of The Ignota’s operations in the book. As well as the divisions within it. Like any organization, there are internal rifts and personalities attempting to drive the conversation. By the end of the first book, The Ignota—who usually operate in independent cells—are forced to cooperate with each other. That struggle is central in The Ignota. And, there are a few surprises along the way as to who may or may not be working with resistance.
As a follow-up, the character of Torrance is also rather insidious and enigmatic. Will readers get a clearer picture of who he is and what his role is in the overall series after reading The Ignota?
Very early in The Ignota, we get a peek into Torrance’s background, specifically his childhood. The picture becomes a bit clearer, but retains a good amount of distortion. It’s very purposeful that Torrance is not a Point-of-View character. What we learn about him comes from the views of those around him. I didn’t want the reader to be able to relate to Torrance. I wanted them to experience him just as the other characters do: from his actions, not his thoughts.
As for his role in the overall series, yes, The Ignota comes very close to defining what his role is. Or at least what both sides of battle want his role to be. What he will eventually choose is anyone’s guess. And I think that adds to the tension in the story. Trusting someone with your life when you’re unsure if you should be trusting him at all.
In the first book, you introduce the Soothsayer, and I know the character has a greater presence in The Ignota. It’s unclear whether the character is villainous or heroic. The character name makes me think of the Ancient Greeks and the oracles. Does the Soothsayer represent a divine presence in the new world? Perhaps, some unwanted intervention?
The only divinity the Soothsayer has is in his/her own mind; the character is very mortal. The Soothsayer’s intervention is unwanted by many, and poses a threat to certain ambitions. It’s a fun character to write because, obviously, I know who it is, but the reader does not. There are clues in both Torrance and The Ignota, but they take some sleuthing to spot.
The Ignota heightens the power struggle and unrest initiated in Torrance. Any ideas what direction the conflict might take in the next novel in the series? Do you have a title for the third book?
The third book is finished and will be coming out in November. The title is Tears of the Sowilo. I know, I know, another title with a strange word! The story centers around the start of the actual war between the Alliance and the Ignota. I recently saw the artwork for the third book, and the artist, Jack Kaiser, did an amazing job featuring a central figure on the cover—something we purposely avoided doing with the first two covers. By the time this interview runs, the cover reveal should be on my site.
Not unwilling to take risks and experiment with different styles, you have a supernatural thriller in the works about a murder investigation. I know you spent some time interviewing the Maine State Police. Can you give us an update? Also, I wonder why you chose Maine, especially since you’re currently living in Nicaragua.
Maine was an easy choice as I spent a few years living there and the book deals with some very location-specific details. I lucked into an amazing resource in the Maine State Police. A detective with their Major Crimes Unit has been incredibly helpful, educating me about the organization’s structure, resources, and the protocols of a murder investigation. The project is coming along nicely, and I hope to be able to announce some big news soon! Stay tuned!
We would like to thank Tom for sharing this exciting book with THE BIG THRILL. To find out more about Tom, please visit his website.
Tom Calen is the author of the bestselling horror series, The Pandemic Sequence, as well as the science-fiction series, Scars of Tomorrow. His books The Tilian Virus and The Tilian Effect both reached #1 on Amazon’s Bestselling Science-Fiction Series list, and both were the #1 Hot New Release in horror and science-fiction. A New York City native, Tom holds a degree in English and spent several years toiling in the world of business before abandoning all reason and deciding to write full-time. He finds the worlds in his novels far less frightening than the corporate world.
He is currently living in Nicaragua, where he is working on his seventh book. To learn more about Tom, please visit his website.
About Thomas Drago
Thomas Drago is the author of the supernatural thriller Crow Creek. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and has published a half-dozen short stories in literary magazines. His novel Queensboro, the sequel to Crow Creek, will be available this winter. Visit his website to learn more.