Ready to enter the rabbit hole? Greg Belliveau, English professor, released his new science fiction novel IMAGO Nov. 1.
The novel follows Christopher Dante and his uncle Hal in the post-apocalyptic city of Cogstin. The two find work in scrapping discarded stone and metal, and while working one day Christopher discovers a secret so powerful and important that it could destroy life as he knows it.
Bellievau said that the idea came to him in a dream.
“I mean, you hear this from other writers … and I always laugh when it happens … but I actually had a dream,” he said. “It was so vivid and I was just like, ‘this is crazy.’”
Belliveau said that he sat at the kitchen table and started talking to his daughter, who was around ten at the time, about the idea.
“I’m like, ‘I just had this vivid dream about what would happen if somebody from another universe was in our world but they were god-like, but they weren’t that,’” he said.
From there, as he began thinking about it even more, he began asking more questions.
“What would happen if you were trapped in this world and you couldn’t get back to the other world?” he said. “And what happens if you were god-like and immortal in this world but you were trapped in a really crappy world, like a dystopian world?”
From there, IMAGO began to take shape.
“I was very heavily influenced … by Dante’s Inferno and The Purgatorio” he said.
Many characters in the novel representative of different mediums; one character is a painter, one is a sculptor, and one is a storyteller, for example.
Belliveau took all of those things and reinterpreted them into a dystopian universe, and that’s when the book started to really become what it is.
When creating a main character, he begins fleshing out who that person is, often in a notebook.
“The characters become real once you start writing them with placing words on a page,” he said. “Some of them are in your head, but it’s not until you actually get them speaking and doing stuff like, on the page [that they become real].”
Belliveau said that one of the characters, Caravaggio, started taking over the page when he invented him. The character is so cool and interesting to him that he’s going to make him into a major part in the eventual sequel to IMAGO, even though the character wasn’t even invented when he first thought up the idea for the novel.
“[Characters] do not become actual people, I think, until you actually get them speaking, talking, and acting,” he said.
“Creative writing always comes from all the stuff you’re doing at the time,” he said. “Like, I’ve been teaching this stuff and thinking about this stuff and reading, reading, reading all this stuff, and that morphs into these types of things.”
As a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, he always thought to himself that he’d like to write a book that he’d like to read.
“You know, you hear that all the time, and then when you start to write a book like fantasy or science fiction, you’re stepping into this ocean of science fiction and fantasy that is super deep and super huge, and you got to know what it is,” he said.
Belliveau said that writing science fiction, and even fantasy, is a way to explore topics that aren’t necessarily explorable in realistic fiction, like clones or even the meanings of deeper things like the concept of “self.”
“I think science fiction and fantasy allow you to really explore some super cool like, higher level themes really fast,” he said.
Belliveau wrote the novel in first-person, present-tense because it allows the reader to participate in the “here and now” with Christopher.
“I chose it for this novel because it is a novel about reveals for the reader and the narrator, and that worked well for the tyranny of the urgent, the immediate crisis Christopher finds himself in as his world evaporates before his eyes,” he said. “It is supposed to give the impression of running as fast as you can at night in an unfamiliar woods. Or, driving down a country road at night with only the headlights to guide you, the next turn, the unforeseen obstacle, etc.”
Belliveau said he really wanted to have a good cover for his book.
The cover was designed by David Sladek, a concept artist at Blizzard Entertainment, a company known for video games such as World of Warcraft.
“I wanted it to be a kickass cover because I knew that if people [notice] the cover, like that’s a big thing,” he said.
Since science fiction novels may have a bad reputation for having bad cover art, Belliveau wanted to make sure that his was “kickass.”
Belliveau said that the process of getting a novel published is a long and tedious one.
It begins with the actual writing of the book, then getting it sold. Once it’s accepted by the editor, there’s a nine to 12 month process that kicks in of mundane tasks like contracts.
“Then there’s an editor that will take that book, and they’ll shred it,” he said. “And then you as the writer have to take all those notes and you say, ‘Okay, do I believe this?’ or ‘Nope, not gonna change any of this’ or, ‘Oh my god I totally didn’t see that, like that absolutely needs to be fleshed out.’”
From there, there’s a back-and-forth between the writer and the editor before about another six months of copy editing and even more months of other finalization and receiving advanced reader copies to send out for review.
And then after all that, the book is out, which Belliveau said is the scariest part.
“You’re like, you know, ‘it’s a cool book, I hope people will enjoy it,’” he said.
Belliveau said that not getting caught up in what people have to say about his writing because it’s already out there.
“It’s this thing that you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and thought and creativity in and I think some people will get it and some people won’t get it and some people will be offended by it, some people won’t be offended by it,” he said. “I think if you live and die by those, you’ll stop writing.”