Since STONE AGE was published in April, I had received loads of questions, criticisms and comments from readers either directly by email or through Amazon and Goodread’s reviews. I have really wanted to answer many of these, but it’s hard to do this by individual email and I don’t believe its right to interject my opinions on the review boards. This prompted another thought: After reading a book, I often have questions I would like to ask the author directly, but I was never given the chance. So I offer you the opportunity to ask me, ML Banner anything you want to know about STONE AGE. I have listed some of the most common questions or comments I’ve received. But you can also post your own questions directly below and I will do my best to answer them.
Set-up: Most things in life are done better over a cold beer. So, let’s imagine that we are holding our Q&A at a local brewpub where you can order your beer of choice – or fruit of the vine, if that’s your preference. You take your seat and gaze at the stage, its single chair, and a placard announcing this Brewpub Q&A. The spot lights turn on and I sit and get ready to take your questions. “Tonight, we’re going to discuss STONE AGE,” I tell you, the audience.
So relax, pop the top on your best brew, or uncork your premium wine (why not pull out the good stuff?), and ask me about STONE AGE.
Spoiler Alert: If you have not read STONE AGE, do not read this: I don’t want to spoil any chance you have at uncovering the “Ah-ha” moments in the book.
ML Banner: Thanks for coming out tonight. First, cheers to you for reading the book (we foist our glasses up and toast). Now, can I have my first question.
Q: Alright Banner, what’s with that dang ending? Really, don’t you think that was a little abrupt?
A: Wow, tough crowd. This is the most common question or criticism I have received in reviews and personal emails. So, let me clear this up, if I can. If you will recall, a character named Gord who only pops up in the book’s opening chapter (from “A time long ago”) and in the last chapter, just revealed the big surprise ending: he’s not from our past but from our future. In other words, this is what our future will look like (assuming we are pummeled by never-ending CMEs). I wanted to end the book here to have the reader ponder this. But, with Gord getting thonked in the head, it’s one more reminder, as I have done throughout the book, that no matter what we do to prepare for the “what-ifs”, there is no way to fully prepare for every possible challenge.
I know this left a lot of you with an unfinished conclusion, where you thought there should be more. I could have continued for another fifty or one hundred pages, but then that would be a different story, wouldn’t it?
Q: Fess up Banner, this was just a ploy to sell book #2?
A: Okay, yep you got me there, somewhat. I wanted to really draw you into the next book, just like a cliff-hanger from a serial TV show. It was an experiment that worked for some and not for others. I promise not to do this again, at least without warning you better.
Q: So, book#2 won’t leave us hanging?
A: No! In fact Book#2 is a complete novel which will have closure at the end. It treats STONE AGE (Book#1) as a prequel, not just a continuation in a series. You won’t have to read STONE AGE first, although it would certainly help you understand the characters better and how our world got to where it is. It won’t answer all the questions (left in STONE AGE), but you will know what happens to most of the characters. There also will be a continuation in the series/saga and a book#3 – I’m not revealing the name yet.
Q: So, what is the name of Book#2: Is it New Realities, Stone Age II or something else?
A: DESOLATION. Although it deals with the “new realities” of this changed world, it is more about the desolation and difficulties all will face after the beginning of the new Stone Age chronicled in STONE AGE.
Q: How come you didn’t warn us better it was a series?
A: Well, you got me there. I did so later, but early on it didn’t occur to me as I thought it was obvious. I can only ask for forgiveness and promise not to do this again.
Q: So if you had to summarize, what is STONE AGE really about?
A: I wanted to stress two things:
First, we need to prepare for the worst when it comes to solar storms. We were almost “brought back to the Stone Age” in July 2012, when two CMEs missed us by only seven days. If they were emitted only seven days later, you would not be reading this: you would be scrounging for food! We need to prepare ourselves individually and to prepare our electrical grid. I’m suggesting that we spend some of our nation’s indebtedness on shielding most, if not all, of the over 4000 transformers that make up our grid and we need to do it now!
Second, as I said earlier, the book highlights that it is impossible to completely prepare for every calamity. After all, how could anyone know what was going to happen? Max was a perfect example of this: he prepared his entire life to protect the family he had sworn to protect, and yet he still wasn’t able to do so because of a Mexican drug cartel. That said, we should still prepare with what we have, so that if the SHTF, we aren’t completely broadsided.
Q: Why didn’t Max plan better? Come on Rocky Point is not the best location for a SHTF place.
A: You’ll have to read DESOLATION to find out why he did what he did – It’s answered there. However, this was also to point out that one of the best preppers in the story still didn’t plan for everything, even though he tried.
Q: Why the name Stone Age and not Iron Age or Middle Age or Pre-Industrial? We wouldn’t relying on stone tools, so that’s a little exaggerated isn’t it?
A: It’s more of a saying, which one of my main fictional characters said best, “If we have another Carrington Event, we’ll go back to the Stone Age.” But it is not to be taken literally. For instance, Albert Einstein says, “I don’t know how WW III will be fought, but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Was Albert being literal? Of course not, but that’s also why I had Max admonishing him in a follow up quote, “Come on Albert, WW IV will be fought and won by the men who find the leftover guns.”
Q: Is the CME Research Institute a real place?
A: Only if Dr. Carrington Reid is a real person. However, it must be true because they have a real website, right?
Q: Is this future (where we are unprotected and assaulted daily by CME’s) even possible?
A: Not really. The chances of the magnetosphere just stopping is highly unlikely… or is it? You’ll have to read DESOLATION to find out.
Q: Are you done with Stone Age Series after Book #3?
A: Probably, but I’m toying with releasing Russell Thompson’s Journal – I have it you know. I may also release a Stone Age Short Stories – This would reveal some other characters and what happened to them right before God turned off the lights.
Q: What about the profanity?
A: I don’t swear in real life, just ask my wife. I’ll use euphemisms like, “frack” or “fire-truck” instead. So it was hard for me to put swear words on paper, especially since many people hate this and it means that there are a lot of young adult readers that won’t read this because of the profanity. I personally believe using the F-word multiple times in a sentence is a sign of either stupidity or irrational thinking. I think I used the F-word only twice, and a couple of colorful Mexican slang swear words. When I did, it was my attempt at realism. For instance, when Bill used the F-word, it was only once and it was because he was angry at Max for pushing him to take the life of another person.
That said, I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 should read STONE AGE. It is way too dark and scary for anyone under 18 to read. My godchild (niece) wants to read it because her mother read it (after all, her Uncle wrote it). I told her no! I just wish that Amazon included a rating system on its books. I would rate it an R, even though I think the Academy would rate it a PG-13.
Q: Hey, I just realized your wife’s name is Lisa and you have a place in Rocky Point: Bill is married to a Lisa and they have a place in RP… Are you Bill?
A: Yes and no. I’m also part Max. In a way I’m all these characters since I relate to each one, even though each is different.
Q: A lot of the narrative focus is on some strong women: Darla, Sally, Lisa, & Melanie – Does that mean you should instead be writing for a ladies’ magazine?
A: That was my favorite criticism. I think the reviewer just wanted me to blow up more stuff in the story. He and others who agree will get some of their wishes fulfilled in DESOLATION.
Do you have any other questions? Please ask away.
I need to get another beer. I’ll be right back…