The Awakening of Artemis
A Brooklyn-born, recovering businessman, John Calia has been a naval officer, banker, entrepreneur, and consultant. He began writing his blog “Who Will Lead?” in 2010, attracting more than 120,000 readers. The five-star rating of his first book – a business fable titled The Reluctant CEO: Succeeding Without Losing Your Soul – inspired him to keep writing. His fascination with artificial intelligence and its impact on society inspired him to write The Awakening of Artemis, a near-future speculative fiction novel that recently reached #6 on the Amazon Science Fiction Adventure bestseller list. The sequel to his bestseller—titled Parallel Lies—will be released by Amazon.com on November 7, 2023. https://www.johncalia.com
John Calia, please tell us about yourself. What first got you into writing?
I first started writing a blog in 2010. I had expressed some frustration to a friend. My complaint: I did a lot of reading and found few people who were well-informed enough to discuss topics that interested me. “Write a blog,” said my friend. So, I did. Many of my posts were published in our local newspaper as op-eds. By the time I switched to writing books, my blog had about 120,000 readers, and I enjoyed a healthy dialog with many of them.
Strangely enough, there is nothing in my background that focuses on literature or writing. My degrees are in engineering and economics. I have had multiple careers—military, corporate, entrepreneur, consultant—none of which called upon my writing skills. But writing the blog taught me that I loved to write.
What did you read when growing up, and why was it important to you?
The short answer is anything I could get my hands on. When I was a kid, I actually liked being told, “Go to your room.” There, I had a pile of books into which I could lose myself at a moment’s notice. Early on, I read the classic YA stuff, the Hardy Boys, The Black Stallion, etc. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I was reading heavier stuff. My favorites were To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, and The Agony and the Ecstasy.
In 2016, you published The Reluctant CEO: Succeeding without Losing Your Soul, which to me sounds like a compelling crossover between fiction and nonfiction. Are you planning to write more books in that vein in the future?
A personal tragedy inspired the switch from blogging and newspaper columns to books. My brother had always encouraged me to convert my blog into a book of some kind. When he passed away prematurely (he was 62), I began to think about it seriously. About that time, a publisher who had been following my blog reached out. He told me if I ever wrote a book, he would publish it.
That was too much Karma for me to ignore.
Writing The Reluctant CEO was a very therapeutic exercise for me. I think that many business leaders fail to recognize how they should become leaders in our communities. While my book is a work of fiction, it incorporates many anecdotes from my business career. Moreover, it includes lessons that I’ve learned about business leadership and how businesses can play a more constructive role in society.
I chose to make it a work of fiction rather than a textbook. People embrace stories. I hope the stories in this book inspire those who read it to be better leaders and better human beings.
What led you to write your science fiction novels, The Awakening of Artemis and its upcoming sequel, Parallel Lies?
My novels were also inspired by personal event—a much happier one. When my granddaughter—Emily Rose Martinez-Calia—was born in 2018, she was the first female in my bloodline in 90 years. My mother, born in 1928, had three sons. I had two. My first grandchild was also a boy.
When Emily was born, I started to think about what kind of world she might be living in after I was gone. I also have an abiding interest in the development of artificial intelligence. It was easy to conceive of my next book—The Awakening of Artemis—as a combination of the two. When asked what it’s about, I always say it’s about female empowerment and artificial intelligence.
It's also an adventure and reached #6 on Amazon’s Science Fiction Adventure bestseller list.
Once I finished it, I thought I was through. One and done. No more Sci-fi. I have an Italian family saga in the back of my head that I want to get down on paper.
But the demand for the first book was too great to ignore. And so, the sequel was born. Parallel Lies continues the adventure of Diana Gutierrez-Adams. It explores a world in which the metaverse plays a significant role. And it incorporates some recent revelations by the U.S. Defense Department of aliens visiting our planet.
Like the first book, this is not a fantasy. Great science fiction, in my opinion, projects current trends into the near future to allow us to examine the impact on society. Great stories place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I hope I’ve accomplished that in these two books.
What does your writing process look like? Do you outline and plan your story, or do you just sit down and write? What comes first, plot or characters?
Like many writers, I start in the morning while my mind is fresh. I write for two or three hours. If I write longer, I spend more time editing and correcting my work than writing. So, if I can crank out 1000 to 2000 words in a morning, I feel productive.
I don’t start writing until I’ve outlined the book, including its turning points and ending. I also write a one or two-page profile of each main character. I need to have characters and their personalities firmly embedded in my mind before I start writing. I have to know what they're capable of and what their limits are.
For example, if I’m writing a villain, I must know what he or she will or won’t do. Might they steal? Yes. Might they murder someone? No. Okay. Now we know about that character—what he or she is capable of and will or won’t do.
I think it’s imperative to lay a foundation at the outset to ensure your story is consistent and your characters are believable.
In your opinion, what is the measure of a successful writer?
Are you happy with what you’ve written? If the answer is yes, you’re a successful writer.
How do you approach research in your work? Does it come before the writing, during, or after?
People often ask me about my research process. Truthfully, I wouldn’t call it a process. If I’m interested in something—like artificial intelligence—I will read about it all the time. I’ll save articles, blog about my ideas, and begin taking notes that might be incorporated into a book. So, it’s more of an ongoing activity than a process.
I'd like to know more about your series. In a nutshell, what is it about?
Two central ideas drive the story. First is the journey of the main character. What are her personal challenges? What are her circumstances? What motivates her to change her life?
The second theme is the impact of technology—specifically artificial intelligence—on society. I focus much of my attention on world-building when I’ve written these books.
What can you tell me about your protagonist, Diana Gutierrez-Adams?
Diana is something of a lost soul at the outset. She has lost her mother at a very young age and was raised by her father, a career military officer. In the first chapter, he is killed in a battle where she is the hero. This sends her into a tailspin, from which she recovers through the course of the book. Sorry, no spoilers.
When can we expect to see Parallel Lies published? In the meantime, what is the best way to sample your work?
Parallel Lies will be released on November 7.
The eBook version is available for pre-order for only $0.99. Here’s the link.
I am also offering the first ten chapters of The Awakening of Artemis free on my website, johncalia.com. My site includes summaries of my other books and links to purchase each through Amazon.com.