1. What gave you the idea to write The Beauty of the Fall?
When I started the novel three years ago, I was interested in writing about technology as a healer and a community builder. There are many good novels out there about the evils of technology, but few, if any, about technology companies that bring about positive social change. The idea of using technology to enable true democracy, as opposed to the slew of representative democracies in existence today, intrigued me. The events in the world this last year–--the rise of fake news, populism, racism, and sexism--confirmed that I was one the right track. However, as my protagonist, Dan Underlight, emerged, I realized I was actually writing a redemption story. Once I was clear on that point, the themes broadened out to include non-violence, trust, honor, forgiveness, and simplicity.
2. How did your past experience as a technology executive come into play in shaping some of the aspects of the novel?
I spent many years in tech running different kinds of hardware and software businesses. Even though the technology used in the company Dan starts, Conversationworks, is beyond the industry's current capabilities, I wanted the feel of CW to be as real as possible. I spent a lot of time speaking with technology executives, many of them friends, to make sure the business scenes were authentic. And yes, I drew on my experience, especially around the norms of a healthy company.
3. What are some of the challenges you experienced in writing about grief?
The Beauty of the Fall is, at its core, about grief. That's why it was important for me to spend so much time developing Dan's inner life. I wanted to show, through his actions and his thoughts, what he was going through as descended further into his grief. At the same time, I wanted to show Dan ascending through his work at CW. Getting the balance right between the ascent and the descent was the hardest part of writing the book.
4. How does being a poet inform or enrich your prose writing?
I think it mostly informs at the sentence and phrase level. There are days when the poet in me takes over in a given scene, and I spend hours making sure the words I'm using have the right level of poetry in them. A number of my writer friends are also poets, and we seem to all agree that our best writing happens when poetry and prose meld together.
5. Do you see the fictional companies in your novel, RadioRadio and Conversationworks, as offering a commentary on the social media and/or tech climate of the moment?
Yes. I think many companies, particularly in America, have lost their focus. They're too focused on profit and quarterly results and have lost their way when it comes to the customers, communities, and employees they should serve. RadioRadio is the composite of many of these broken companies. On the other hand, I tried to show Conversationworks as a company of the future, one that better balances customer needs, communities, employees, and profits. I'm a firm believer that a revolution in business is coming, and it will be leaders like Dan Underlight, and companies like Conversationworks that lead the way.