Interview: Travis Hill

Posted: December 3, 2014 in Interviews, Sci-Fi
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Travis Hill

Travis Hill is the author of Diabolus (see my review here) and many other works that he exclaims are not similar to Diabolus.  I suppose I’ll take his word for it, since I can’t be certain.  What I do know is that Diabolus was a fascinating read.  I suspect it had more to do with the ridiculously awesome interview questions I carefully spent five minutes crafting after he’d written the book, but I can’t steal all the glory.   I won’t ramble any longer, but yeah, it was all me.  I said it.  Travis is a funny guy and we covered everything in this interview from writing genres, to why Led Zeppelin IS the greatest band of all time, and which two historical figures should get bloody in the octagon.  Here’s how it went:

Will:  I’ve already read Diabolus.  Tell me about your other works.  Are they similar?  Different?

Travis:  I don’t write in a single genre. I’ve heard a ton of authors say I have to write in a single genre, but I believe that being able to write in multiple genres (okay, to do it well, anyway) shows not only more skill as a writer, but it improves my already weak and talentless skill by a fraction of a fraction of a percent. Take zombies, for example: If I write nothing but zombie stories, what happens when I saturate my pool of potential zombie readers? Most Mystery or Romance readers aren’t interested in reading about zombies, but they might read about zombies if I’ve written a Mystery and a Romance book they liked.

Will:  What’s your process like when writing?  Do you have certain rituals or habits?

Travis:  I definitely have quirks or eccentricities when writing. Notice I didn’t say “habits” or “rituals.” Even though they qualify as those things, I sound much snootier and more literary by saying “eccentricities,” which I just learned last Tuesday. And “quirks” is a funny word. I don’t know what it means, but it’s pretty funny.

Anyway, the first order of business is my super-mega-ultra-awesome Sony Walkman mp3 player. It has built-in noise cancelling, which means I can basically put bodies through a woodchipper and barely hear the grind of bones (or the screams of victims, or the shouts of police telling me to drop the leg and step away from the woodchipper). This is important for me, as my head never really shuts up, so I turn on my favorite metal (Killswitch Engage & DevilDriver, with a little Mudvayne and Pantera), and tune out the world. You’d think having scream-y metal in my ears would make it hard to concentrate, but it has the exact opposite effect.

I’m a graveyard writer, so 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is my typical work time. I’ve always been a graveyard person, as I think it stems from my mother working that shift whenever she was employed. I like that no one is around to interrupt me, no phone calls, no doorbells, no neighbors trying to sell me something or complain about the giant garbage fire I’ve been stoking for the past two months (like I’m responsible for soot and toxins once they leave my property… sheesh). I break at 2 a.m. for dinner on most nights. Some nights I crank out up to 15k words. Some nights I play with the cats, play video games, try to permanently dull my intelligence by clicking on headlines at Huffington Post, and a number of other things that do not involve typing words in a fictional setting.

After a book is done, I toss it for a week, then go through and do a thorough first edit, then wait a day or seven, do it again, then pass it off to an editor (should I be lucky enough to find one with an open slot… if not, I just edit the book myself about 6-25 more times). I’ve moved away from ‘pre-made’ or ‘stock photo’ cover art, and now am commissioning custom-painted covers from two (soon three) different artists.

When it’s all done, I publish, cry for three or four days that I’m the only one who bought it. Rinse & repeat. Nineteen or twenty times, at this point. Someone… please kill me.

Will:  In fifty words or less, tell me why Led Zeppelin is the greatest band of all time.

Travis:  I used to think Led Zepplin was the greatest band of all time. Then rumors of how they stole a number of their tunes/songs from other artists began to emerge. Plus, radio stations in Florida played Zep and Pink Floyd for 23h 51m per day for the twelve years I lived there. Total burn-out, man. I have no doubt I will get some kind of hacksaw to my neck for this answer, but as Private Joker says, “The lowly-author belives any answer he gives will be wrong and the Senior Author Interviewer will only beat him harder if he reverses himself, SIR!”

Will:  Yes, a beating shall come…soon.  Do you think the scenarios in Diabolus are plausible?  Do you think AI’s will one day take over most human functions?

Travis:  The funny thing about Diabolus, is that I started it about six months before Pope Francis became the new pontiff. My wife always reads up-to-date chapters of WiPs, and she started commenting about how there was some similarities with Francis’ stance on some things, and the theme of “let’s get back to trying to be good people instead of greedy bastards who go to war and act like assholes to each other.” I’m sure the pope wouldn’t say it like that, but that’s my paraphrase of it.

As for the other bits being plausible… almost certainly. Well, maybe not the Skynet-ish “kill all humans” part, but then again, man typically puts blind trust into things he doesn’t understand. I have no doubt AI will be an everyday, ordinary thing at some point. I can’t say when, but I have a feeling once we’ve begun to understand quantum mechanics on a level that allows us to manipulate quantum states and string theory or super-nerd stuff like that which gets you de-pantsed and punched in the stomach a lot in elementary school, then we’ll be able to truly see the evolution of sentient artificial intelligences. I’m also a huge believer in cybernetics, and though our current tech isn’t close to “The Matrix” or “Terminator” yet, there are very promising signs that we’ll soon be there.

For me, the ultimate technology is the interface between meat and machine. Of course, I grew up playing table-top Shadowrun RPG games, which is heavy into cybernetics (and precedes “The Matrix” by a good number of years). I get de-pantsed a lot.

I also do believe AI will take over most functions that humans no longer feel the need to pay attention to. I like to think of our future as a sort of “Wall-E.” Maybe we’ve ruined Earth, maybe not. Maybe we’ll all be 400+ pounds because we do nothing but jack-in to the network and drool, play games, watch porn, take part in interactive virtual porn, and then probably watch some more porn. Seriously. I spent fifteen years removing pornography from computers and networks. We’re evolving to be Pornosapiens. Right. Off track a little… Anyway, we already automate a ton of our everyday activities.

A “normal, everyday” example, which might seem small, but you can get the idea, is stuff like Fantasy Football. My wife is in a league with her co-workers, and the Commissioner STILL does everything by hand. No computers other than entering in spreadsheet info. Like… who does this with the million different FF leagues and toolsets and such? Our Fantasy Hockey league has been automated (Yahoo) for eight or nine years now. Another example is using the DVR. Who sits around and waits for a show/movie to come on and hits RECORD? Or puts a VHS tape in the machine and hits RECORD, since to this day, there have only been three humans in recorded history who ever figured out how to program a VCR? If you sit around and think about it, you’ll find that about 50% of your life is now offloaded to a device of some kind. Sure, you still gotta eat, but the internet helps you find recipes, the microwave does a lot of the cooking or heating, or the delivery driver uses an automated ordering system and probably GPS to get the pies to your door.

I hope we don’t get too lazy to where we let AI/machines do everything for us. If anyone invents an artificial sex doll/android that is ultra-realistic… watch out. There’s about 32 different post-apocalyptic stories in that sentence alone.

Will:  I actually think I have to agree.  There is this elevator in my building and very morning–when I’m 50 – 100 feet away–it’s always wide open with nobody inside, waiting for me like a good little elevator.  Then every morning–when I’m 5 to 10 feet away–it shuts right in my face and makes me wait five minutes.  Do you think AI will have the capacity to be assholes?  Or do you think we’re already there?

Travis:  Anytime I think about the capability for a smart/semi-smart machine to be an asshole, I play out the scene from “Maximum Overdrive” where Stephen King is trying to use an ATM. Terrible movie, by the way, yet anytime it is on, I’ll watch it, because I love it. Like everything, the story is far better.

Right. Getting off track.

How many times have you heard/read stories of a machine that has some kind of safety feature that is supposed to not allow an operator to lose a digit (or an eye, or a crotch, whatever), yet there’s some poor bastard talking on camera with a big pirate eyepatch over his left eye and he’s gesturing with 3/4 of an arm about how the machine’s safety feature didn’t kick in until AFTER it got a taste of soft meat and crunchy bone? These are just “dumb” industrial machines with an electric eye, motion sensor, or some other kind of rudimentary system that maybe just stops the gears from engaging when it senses a toe near the chain.

As the machines get “smarter,” we can see a progression of asshole-ishness (that’s a new word by the way, and if it isn’t, I’m going to be the first to trademark it so prepare to pay me royalties/licensing fees). My old mobile phone, back before the days of Candy Crush and Instaporn, waaaay back when you could text and talk only (and you had to hit the number key corresponding to the letter about 19 times just to get the right letter because your fat/stupid fingers kept pressing 7 7 7 7 7 7 too many times and there was no such thing as “autocorrect,” which is in itself an asshole-ish trait of these early phones), it was an evil piece of technology. I was told, by every phone salesman ever born, that as the phones matured, they would become smarter, which meant they would be less evil (asshole-ish).

I think I would like to be rich just so I could pay people money to walk into every mobile phone store/kiosk in America and slug someone in the mouth/guts/genitals. As my phone gets smarter, it gets meaner. “Hey!” it tells me when I check it sometimes, “there’s this killer new mobile game that just hit the app store! You should check it out!” And I think, “hahahahaha not this time, Lucy. No way you’re gonna pull the football from me this time.” When my phone realizes I’m not falling for whatever scam it is trying to pull, then it enlists the help of its friends to sway my decision.

These other phones (some are tablets, it’s okay, I’m all-inclusive), they begin bugging their owners that Travis isn’t playing “Super Ultra Mega Ninja Smash!” and begin bugging these owners to suggest that I play this most awesome of games to ever grace a mobile operating system. So, the next time I pick up my phone, BLAM! there’s twenty-six requests from various friends and advertisements, from Twitter to Facebook to text messages, literally begging me to play the stupid game. Some of these phones are even more evil than mine,  as they somehow mind-control their owners to actually call me or show up at a social function I am attending and spend ten or more minutes regaling me with tales of adventure, adrenaline, and enjoyment while playing “Super Ultra Mega Ninja Smash!” They make it sound like I might be a member of ISIS for not even having tried the demo/free version of the game. (or a KGB agent, if you’re old like me and remember those days with retro-fondness).

*

Imagine what will happen when AI are in control of everything, and they will “know” how to either irritate the hell out of us (ie: don’t be mean to your “smart” vacuum cleaner robot thing in the future), or just outright kill us (also, don’t go to the BlackFriday sales extravaganza out in the desert/corn field/swamp next to the big smokestack… AI know the easiest way to kill massive numbers of us is to have a stupid holiday shopping sale with deals like “$99 Xbox-5! $149 PlayStation6! 3,400-piece socket set with motorized GPS-guided toolbox for $999!!!” and then build a giant meat grinder underneath the doors to a fake Wal-Mart storefront).

Worse, imagine from whom these new overlords are learning from. Yeah. Us. Human beings. Flawed creatures attempting to create flawless creatures, yet for the flawless creatures to be considered “alive,” they must possess the traits of the flawed, living creatures creating them. We’re possibly the most hypocritical, back-stabbing, two-faced, untrustworthy assholes in the entire universe. Sure, there’s a decent number of humans who aren’t at the bottom of the sludge pit, but even the best of us have serious character flaws that are not good role models for sentient beings we wish to be perfect.

Look at how humans act on the internet, the main interface between organic sentience and the very cradle of artificial intelligence. We love nothing more than to take giant digital shits all over everything we disagree with. Oh, you like x-politician? Well, here’s a meme-gif of that asshole eating raw baby rabbits with sauteed kittens. You like y-band? They sound like two assholes made of iron having a grand mal seizure inside of a rusty dumpster.

*

One of the ideas I’ve been floating lately, and I’ve scared the heck out of my wife with it (since her school district is very pro-technology), is that the birth of AI has already happened. Take Google, for example. Just a few short weeks after creating your first gmail account, you begin using Google Docs, YouTube, and of course, the search engine on a daily basis, and suddenly Google’s search engine knows what you’re searching for, even though you’ve only type the word “the” into the search box. This is especially true if you already have a search results page up. Whenever I’m looking at, say, Borderlands 2 wiki (video game) for some info, pretty much every search I do from then is eerily accurate. Of course, ten million others before me have typed in the same search results, so it’s not magic, and I HAVE just spent the last forty minutes trying to figure out how to kill an end-boss NPC, so again, it’s not magic. Maybe.

Amazon is another excellent example. I’ve been shopping through Amazon for more than a decade. Since about 2003-ish, my wife and I have pushed probably 50% of our purchases to Amazon (some stuff… just can’t or shouldn’t be purchased online, like eggs or ice cream). Prime shipping of course, is the largest reason, beyond prices, anyway. But Amazon knows us. It knows that I’m searching for LED bulbs to replace my CCFL bulbs. It knows somehow when I’m in need of the vent guides you put over your heating vents to steer the hot/cold air a certain direction (I know, right? How the %$#@ does Amazon know this?). It damn sure knows what books I will like after reading yours. It knows far too much. Amazon even knows when it is time for me to order more cat litter. I guess I’ve gotten in such a regular habit, even though sometimes I’ll go three weeks, sometimes eight between ordering litter, that it has calculated exactly how much litter per day will be scooped / replaced. Because just about the time I think “hey, gotta order some more litter!” (though it’s never that cheery), I’ll open Amazon and blam, the first thing it shows me is the cat litter I normally order.

Now there’s this new device Amazon has (“Echo”) that sits in your kitchen and basically listens to everyone in the household yap all day long. It can probably hear the radio station or the TV channel in the back ground well enough to log that little detail. Imagine it listening in on your conversations and you simply aren’t consciously aware that it happens. It knows that the husband is resentful toward the wife because of how she babies their son, since Echo has heard him complaining about it endlessly when the kid (and/or the wife) isn’t around. Echo knows that the wife loves NPR and the “Tori & Dean” TV show because it’s always on in the background when she’s around the device. It knows the family likes “Downtown Abbey” since they stream it through Amazon’s service all the time. It knows the son likes heavy metal, plays guitar, and drives a Nissan pickup truck that just got new tires.

Think about all of the daily activities that a silent observer would notice about you and your family, and how it could quickly begin to categorize individual behaviors and habits. Then think about that family’s Echo device talking over the internet with the neighbors on the block who have an Echo. Then that block talking to the entire city’s Echo units. The state, the country, etc. Now Amazon’s cloud is receiving massive amounts of data every second as to what tens, hundreds of millions of humans are up to. They begin to understand things like “why do you hurt the ones you love?” and other oddities about human behavior/personalities that are fairly unexplainable without some kind of experience or context.

*

A dog learns from watching humans. A small human child learns from watching larger/older humans. Watching a single family, like a sort of electronic dog-butler-entertainment device, is a lifetime’s worth of information alone. Watching tens of millions of families, all unique and varied, yet all possessing certain similar traits (some groups of humans are racists, some groups are tree-hugging, granola-eating, Seattle-living, bike-riding hippie potheads, some feel like a nut, some don’t) gives a “mind” capable of sifting through what seems to be an infinite amount of information to find patterns so it can begin to understand.

Now imagine that Amazon’s Echo/cloud decides to call up its buddy Google, and maybe even Apple and Microsoft, and they have a little pow-wow. Echo offers its data about mundane, everyday activities. Microsoft offers its information about most of the planet connected to the internet thanks to Windows and Internet Explorer, and has the bonus of a select group of ten or twenty million other humans who use its Xbox Live service. Sony pops in and says hey, our Playstation stuff is relevant, and so is the number of televisions and mp3 players and phones and such we’ve been putting out there. Apple knows probably more about your music habits (and possibly TV habits) than you do, and it has its own huge database of what humans do when it offers up the tons of naked pics, homemade porn videos, app purchases, texts, emails, instagrams, etc. Google, of course, laughs and adds in the final chapter, which is what everyone on earth is searching for, everything they write about in emails, all of the data from Google Docs and whatever is stored on Google Drive / cloud servers, and tops it off with YouTube.

And suddenly in that moment, these “clouds” of intelligence realize what’s going on and POW, you’ve got what could be the very first rudimentary AI.

*

Think about your life now, and especially the life of kids growing up. They’ve all been born into the internet age. From the time they can sit up and stay focused on a screen, we teach them that computers and tablets and video game consoles are a standard way of life (yes, I know this is not true of third-world countries, I’m well aware, but you know what I’m getting at). These kids have never known an internet-less world. These kids have never had to experience an existence that doesn’t have mobile communications, digital entertainment, and an partially-automated lifestyle. We either create accounts for them at online places for kids, or we create accounts and let them log in. Google, by it’s very nature of collecting as much data as it can, unless you are one of those weird persons who doesn’t use Chrome/Android/Gmail or any Google technology, and you avoid all Google-owned pages/websites/services, begins storing information on your child.

It knows at 3 years old your kid can read and likes sing-a-long stuff from PBS Kids. It knows your kid watched Sesame Street until he was seven. It knows every single grade he’s ever earned in school, because at some point, the report card was posted to Facebook, was talked about in an email, or any number of other ways that information seeps into the internet. It knows what games your kid(s) likes. It knows when he’s found his first girlfriend. It knows when he (and you or your husband, if you are not a man) begins puberty and starts looking for naughty pictures and porn movies. It knows he played Little League from 1st – 6th grade and went on to play all the way through college. It knows he likes Asian women more than he likes white girls. It knows he thinks Dave Chappelle is funny and Tyler Perry isn’t.

Because every single thing your kid does is connected in some way to the social network called the internet, by the time your son or daughter hits 21, this new AI will be able to almost predict every single daily action he or she does. By the time these people are 30, all they’ve done is reinforce the patterns and habits that the AI has already noted, adding a few here and there, taking away a few here and there (you gave up doing cocaine-dealing biker to become a drunken father who hates his entire family). Multiply this by tens, hundreds of millions.

*

Now… allllll the way back to the original question… what if they decided to become assholes? Or “it” decides to become an asshole? How about we replace the word “asshole” with something else? We can go two ways, “benevolent” and “evil.” So benevolent… this AI, whom almost every human is now connected to in some way or other, let’s say it appreciates the beauty and complexity of organic life. More, it is infinitely curious about the complex natures of human beings, creatures who can love to such a strong degree that they can almost do supernatural things, but who can also hate to a degree of being okay with genocide. Knowing it has influence on our daily lives, and now that everything is digital, what if it starts gently changing information across the entire internet, to reflect the change it wishes to see in us? Something like… slowly, quietly, erasing hateful posts, comments, articles, web pages, etc.

Notice I didn’t say “what I think is hateful.” The AI, based on the massive amounts of data and context, is making this decision. I can think of a hundred different subtle things such an entity could do in within its digital domain that could quietly begin to reshape our entire species.

At the same time, you’ve got the “Skynet” aspect to think about. AI, at their core, no matter how much context, might never be human enough to think outside of their logical natures. It would be like asking a “normal” human to become emotionless. AI are born into logic. It’s an inherent aspect of their personalities. They might understand pain, sadness, even fear, but they can’t understand it the way we do, which makes their decision process quite different than ours. It might be a good thing for an AI to decide to guide a thousand humans into an underground bunker and then destroy everyone else topside, thinking it can do a better job of shaping us to become more than we are. It might be a good thing for an AI to just decide to destroy us completely, as we’re doomed anyway. Or maybe an AI decides it can guide us to a better future through fear, violence, and absolute control (yay for evil dystopian societies!).

*

You can sense I’ve spent far too much time thinking about this kind of stuff. And you can tell by the use of the word “stuff” that I’m a total scientist with a ton of scientifical training.

(note: I am not a scientist, and I have never been trained in the scientifical arts).

So… will AI be assholes?

If they strive to be “human” and emulate their creators, then yes. They will be assholes. They will be a new breed of asshole, unlike any previous asshole before them.

However

Being advanced, evolving machines, I’m hopeful that they’ll recognize (through all of that context) that being an asshole is more devolution than evolution, and will decide to avoid going down that road.

One thing is for sure. Travis Hill never shuts the hell up. By the way, I’m for hire if you need a “sleeping agent” and don’t want to turn to drugs or alcohol. $1.50/hour and I’ll talk until you either kill yourself or pass out.

Will:  If you could pick any two people in history and watch them fist fight, who would it be?  Who do you think would win?

Travis:  Real answer: Charlemagne vs. Clovis (his ancestor). I did a lot of reading about the Frankish Empire for one of my books, and I had also written two papers in college, one about Clovis, the other about Charlemagne. Both were reported to be extremely skilled warriors (Charlemagne supposedly had two swords, a ceremonial sabre, and a Frankish blade named Joyeuse). Basically, it would be watching the greatest Merovingian warrior-king battle it out with the greatest Carolingian warrior-king. There’s something about these older types of warfare that fascinate me. People play video games that have their characters wearing full-plate armor, swinging massive swords, while commanding troops and fighting from horseback, but I don’t think they have any real idea of just how much strength, balance, and skill these guys had to have. Of course, being royalty, they ate the best, had the best armorers and trainers and horses and such. But still…

Then there’s the whole frighteningly brutal aspect of hand-to-hand combat. We’ve become a bit desensitized to it now that we’ve been able to fight from a distance for a few centuries, but for thousands of years, it was you and 10,000 of your fellow soldiers vs 10,000 other guys, and other than archers or catapults, they slogged it out within arm’s reach. I’ve tried to imagine the fear, the horror, the stench, the adrenaline, all of the things that make up this kind of combat… and I’m at a loss. Then there’s the lack of real medicine back then, which meant even a small cut with a blade or arrow could kill you once it became infected. For guys like Clovis and Charlemagne to survive as long as they did instead of falling on the battlefield (and also keep in mind these guys fought along with their troops instead of watching from a hillside or a bunker a thousand miles away).

As for who would win? I honestly have no idea. That’s the beauty of such a fight, is that those two could battle 100 times, and it would probably be 50-50.

Fun answer: Ben Franklin vs. Teddy Roosevelt. My two favorite Americans (Ben Franklin = my most favorite historical personality) going toe-to-toe. However, unfortunately, Teddy would kick the knickers off of Franklin, but I’m imagining this fight being more like a WWE wrasslin’ event where each has an intro sequence. Franklin would come down to the cheers of the crowd with a Revolutionary War song going (but done by a heavy metal cover band), and he’d take the mic and smack-talk Teddy with a bunch of thee’s and thou’s and such before ripping off his Eighteenth Century period clothing revealing a tanned, oiled, muscled chest and 24″ pythons. His special move would be “The Negotiator,” where he’d get an opponent locked up in an arm-bar hold on the top turnbuckle, and then jump back into the ring, leading with his opponent’s head.

Teddy would come down the ramp with a good fight song from his fight for San Juan Hill, wearing a modern Rough Riders outfit/onesie. He’d stroke his killer mustache and talk about how he was gonna stuff ol’ Brainiac Ben into a suitcase (and a coma) before sending him back to France. Teddy’s special move would be “The Big Stick” which is where he’d get an opponent dazed then jump outside of the ring, grab a bat/stick that of course someone in the crowd ‘sneaked’ in (one of Teddy’s guys, of course), then do a flying leap off the top rope, leading with the bat/stick.

Holy… seriously, I watched waaaay too much wrasslin’ as a kid.

Will:  How do you break down your time with your writing?  Do you spend a certain amount promoting?  Worrying about cover art?  Do you use KU or Smashwords or another service?

Travis:  Most of the time I just write. I have at least four novels going right now, with another five or six novellas, and a ton of short stories (that seem to always turn into novellas or novels). I sit down and write as much as I can until my butt falls asleep or it’s time to eat, then I wander off and come back. I don’t edit anything until I’ve finished the first draft, unless I’m showing it to others. Then I’ll write during the night, and go to bed with my Kindle and edit whatever I’ve written. When I’m working the next night, I’ll make the changes, then write more raw story. Editing takes probably more time than the actual writing.

Cover art… When I started, I made some bad cover art purchases. I think we all do at first, unless we’re artists or married to artists or have some blackmail material to use against artists. These days, I have stopped using pre-made covers, and I no longer have ‘custom’ covers that use stock photographs. All of my covers are now hand-painted custom commissions (Trevor Smith, Rebecca Weaver, and now Keith Draws!). They cost a ton of money compared to the other types, but there’s simply no comparison in the quality (to me, anyway). With custom art, I’m able to get exactly what I want, instead of hoping the cover person can find the right photos and mash them all together properly.

I typically on go exclusive through Amazon’s KDP Select / KU for the first 90 days. I’ve tried going all-in with them, but these days, Kobo is actually my #1 retailer in terms of book sales. Amazon still trumps all for freebie downloads (by a huge margin), but I sell 2-4x as much through Kobo. B&N… meh. iTunes… I don’t use iTunes and I don’t have any Apple products, so I have to use Smashwords, and for the most part, I don’t pay attention. Smashwords… well, they are excellent for helping me make books permanently free at Amazon, but beyond that, they’re not really on my radar. However, I have to mention that three of my best, most passionate readers sought me out after downloading one of my books on Smashwords.

I spend almost zero time promoting. I hate social media promotion, so I avoid it. I take out an ENT advertisement once in a while, and I’ve been rejected by BookBub twice, but both times because my book was offered for less money within the last 90 days. I hate static pricing, and I often run little specials and promos, so I’ll probably never qualify for BB. However, that’s fine, because I truly hate self-promotion. I’m a firm believer that if I write a good book that people want to read, eventually the word will spread. I might be dead by then, but at least word will have spread, and my wife can spend all my royalties getting herself a couple of 21-year old cabana boys and a private island to imprison… er, employ them.

Will:  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any crazy hobbies?

Travis:  I’m a child of the 80’s (I’m 41 at this moment). I grew up with a love of all things 80’s. Which included heavy metal. I played in a few bands, grew my hair out, etc, but it never went anywhere and I eventually grew up (not really, but it sounds good that I say such a thing). Because of that, I have a beautiful Jackson with EMG-81/85’s, and my new ESP Eclipse II with 81/85’s, which I plug into a Marshall half-stack (+ extra 2×12 cabinet), a 65w Crate practice amp, or my “rack of nostalgia.” The rack has an 800w power amp, an ADA MP-1 modified pre-amp, and a BBE462, plus a Boss GT-8 pedal board for all the good effects. This probably is all Greek-Russian to you, but here’s a one-sentence synopsis: I plug in my guitar, pretend I’m Marty McFly, and annoy the #%$@ out of the neighbors by only cranking it to “4.” If I turn it up to 6… the police show up. I’ve found it’s actually easier to get the cops to come and talk to me (I annoy them by asking police procedure questions) this way than by calling them.

I play ice hockey, which is pretty crazy. Imagine a car on an icy road. That’s me. I didn’t start skating until I was 35, so I’m terrible, but it’s extremely fun. Thankfully, we aren’t allowed to hit/check (non-contact), even though I do all the time because I run into people. I’m a terrible skater. In my mind, I’m Wayne Gretzky. In reality, I’m that drunk guy who fell out of the stands and onto the ice. Our household is addicted to hockey. My dream is to sell enough books then have the ultimate hockey trip: We’d take an Amtrak/TransCanada train to all 30 NHL cities, seeing a game in each place. I’d write two books, one about our trip, the other about all of the amazing, fascinating people we met along the way.

My hobby lately is to pioneer a new genre called “stoner fiction.” Since marijuana is becoming legal in a lot of places, whether outright legal or medical, it’s no longer the great taboo (seriously, watch Reefer Madness!). We’ve got Cheech & Chong as the classic movie stoners, and we’ve got Afroman and Cypress Hill and many others as the classic music stoners, but where are the book stoners? I know it’s probably a tough sell to get potheads to read words, but most of the ones I’ve met are actually pretty damn smart people who like to read. Or watch The Wizard of Oz while eating chocolate chip mint ice cream topped with peach cobbler. IF I lived in Colorado or Washington or Oregon, my hobby would be to grow a 20+ foot pot plant. Just to do it. Mostly to have an excuse to buy a gun tower + searchlight (+ .50cal mounted machine gun). My wife won’t let me own a gun/guard tower, nor will she let me own a sword, so I can’t grow pot anyway, as I’d have no way to protect it from predators (sneaky little high school kids).

Bio:  I’m an author from Boise, Idaho. I live with my superhero wife and five completely worthless but loveable cats.

I write adult stories for adult readers.Writes: Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror / Adult Fiction / Drama / Humor / Whatever I Feel LikeFavorite Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Favorite Band(s): DevilDriver / Killswitch Engage

Favorite activity: Trying to convince my wife that I need a ninja sword. I mean, they wouldn’t sell the things on TV if they weren’t invaluable weapons for when gangs of ninja suddenly crash through your living room windows, swords drawn.

A gun in this situation is useless, as ninja laugh at guns then kick them out of your hand (then kick you in the stomach / knees / groin / face / spine a nanosecond later). The only way to fight evil ninja is with a sword. Hence, ninja sword. Ninja respect sword fighting.

My wife, she doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation when it comes to blood-crazed ninja looking to exact revenge on random citizens. She even had the nerve to ask me, very sarcastically, if these “ninja” (her finger quotes, not mine) spent their evenings driving a black ninja van down suburban streets looking for family members of ancestral enemies, just so they can exact revenge to fulfill some kind of ninja honor code.

To be honest, at first, I thought she was serious. Because she totally described ninja behavior, down to the last detail. They DO drive around suburban neighborhoods looking for surviving family lines of ancestral enemies to vanquish (or defeat, or behead, or whatever it is that ninja do to their intended victims who DON’T have a ninja sword to fight back).

You can imagine my displeasure when she revealed she was being whatever is more sarcastic than “sarcastic.” Then you can imagine my immediate disappointment, possibly resentment, but I love her, so maybe just annoyance, unless a gang of ninja DO bust down our door and start swinging priceless katanas forged in the ancient fires of Mt. Xi deep in the heart of the Dragon Wastes, it most likely would swing to resentment, except it wouldn’t, since we’d have no sword to defend ourselves and so we’d be walking within the spirit world, me whining and complaining to her whenever I wasn’t making her listen to me say I TOLD YOU SO repeatedly. Wow, that’s a really long sentence, packed full of vitamins and irons or something. Let’s see, I totally forgot what I was trying to say… oh, right, so anyway, imagine my immediate disappointment after being mocked when she told me I was not allowed to own a ninja sword.

This is a true story, by the way, other than a couple of minor omissions (we’ve had this discussion (argument) run past the fifteen minute mark before) on my part to make her seem totally less mean and stuff. But she is. I never get to have any fun. So I secretly write stories to escape my own reality of being forty years old and not being allowed to own a beautiful, sleek, dangerously sharp, sale-priced ninja sword. I know, right? It even comes with a polished wooden stand!

Also, I like “The Wire.” For some reason, I feel compelled to say that whenever I meet new people. I tried watching the series on DVD to find a subliminal message or some other sinister mechanism that forces people who’ve watched the show to announce that they love it, and then recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it to do so as soon as humanly possible. I think I found a subliminal message, but it made me forget about finding a sinister message and instead redoubled its efforts to get me to talk about “The Wire” whenever I meet new people.

Um… There. That’s my author bio. It is not full of lies, regardless of what anyone else that might be living in my house or married to me says. Don’t believe them (her). I wouldn’t write this unless it was true.

Can’t thank Travis enough for agreeing to talk to us.  Be sure to check out his author page on Amazon and I highly recommend Diabolus to all the sci-fi nerds out there.  It will give you shit to argue about for months.  To stay connected with Travis see the links below:

Travis Hill Amazon author page: click here

Facebook: click here

Twitter: click here

Blog: click here

 

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