Kevin Smokler: Congrats on the release of “Biohack,” a Hot New Release on Amazon last month. What made you turn to fiction?
J.D. Lasica: After years of writing nonfiction, it seems that we’re in a cultural moment where we need writers who have something deeper to say, something that’s not just a one-day headline or a light entertainment but that speaks to the larger themes and currents coursing through society. I thought I’d add my Gender Wars series to the conversation.
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure. Currently I alternate between running Cruiseable, a tech startup that helps consumers find the perfect cruise, and my writing career. In the past I’ve been a newspaper journalist, social media marketer and public speaker. I’ve spoken at the United Nations, Harvard, Stanford, and on four continents — but I’ve put that aside to focus on my fiction writing.
What is ‘Biohack’ about?
It’s a story about a woman who loses her toddler in a swimming pool accident and wants a second chance. And a hacker with special ops skills who’s looking for her real mother and comes up against powerful forces in a biotech company that’s out to change our idea of how to have kids.
What were some of your influences in writing the book?
These characters have been dancing around in my head for years, but it was only the development of CRISPR gene editing a few years back that took this from the realm of science fiction to something that could be right around the corner.
Thrillers have always been my first love, and I wanted to tackle a big subject. So Michael Crichton was a major influence, and I tried to follow his lead in weaving in some cutting-edge science without slowing down the action. There’s a Tom Clancy international vibe with scenes set in New York, L.A., Miami, Dallas, Rome, France, Belarus, and more. And you’ll find touches of a technothriller, crime thriller, science fiction, medical thriller, and even legal thriller weaved in.
My other influence was Silicon Valley, which informed the world I created for the villain and his team. I think people are becoming more skeptical of where tech may be taking us, and readers can see the upsides and downsides of artificial intelligence and reproductive technologies in the novel.
Could you tell us a bit about your main characters?
The protagonist, Kaden, is someone who could dazzle you with her mad hacking skills one minute and kickbox the hell out of you the next. She has a backstory about her gender that ties into the series title, and she finds out something about the parents who raised her that turns her life upside down.
Her foe, Sterling Waterhouse, is not a cardboard villain but a formidable opponent who stops at nothing to get what he wants, and that includes retrieving the DNA of the most famous people in history—living and dead.
What is the world and setting of the Gender Wars series like?
I was happy to see that in the 65+ five-star reviews on Amazon so far, and a lot of readers talked about the highly visual world I set out where the action takes place. Some of the scenes take place on a high-tech campus, others at a billionaire’s lavish estate, and others in exotic locales around the world. One reader wrote, “This book cries out to be a movie.”
My years working and running tech startups helped me portray this disturbing new landscape in a realistic way. The company’s treatment of women—employees, surrogates, and teenage girls—sparks conflicts throughout the course of the novel, but in the end it’s a story about women reasserting their power.
What was your favorite part about writing ‘Biohack’?
I loved researching the action scenes that amount to cinematic set-pieces. The opening scene takes place along the Roman Street of the Dead in the catacombs beneath the Vatican. Bringing that to life was just awesome. The final scene also was satisfying in that it brought a resolution to the action but also propels the reader toward Book 2.
What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
I was interviewed on two podcasts last month, and both talked about how trippy it was that genetic science is bringing these hard moral choices to our doorstep and society is totally not ready for it. I think each reader will come away with different ideas about how this should all play out, and that’s exactly as it should be. It’s not my job to tell you where to come down.
Did you have a particular goal when you began the Gender Wars series?
I’m out to develop a relationship with my readers. While it’s nice that readers are going to come away with a better understanding of the biosciences, I want to make sure I’m appealing to the heart as much as the head. This is fun summer reading but it’s also a story that will stay with you long after you read it. The theme is one that’s both timely and timeless and fits in with others in the genre, ranging from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to “Jurassic Park.” In the Acknowledgments I made sure to credit many of the authors who inspired me, from Lee Child and Dan Brown to Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood.
Now that ‘Biohack’ is released, what do you have lined up next?
I’m busy at work on Book 2 in the series. Several characters from the first book will return in another fast-paced thriller with cutting-edge technology and lots at stake.
Where can readers find out more about you?
I’m not hard to find!
Book site: ‘Biohack’ is free on Kindle Unlimited, or get the ebook or paperback or audiobook
Read the first four chapters for free
Author Newsletter: Please join my Readers Circle by signing up at https://bestofindie.com. You’ll get one short newsletter per week with tips on the best new ebook bargains.
Facebook author site: https://www.facebook.com/authorjdlasica/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jdlasica (follow me and I’ll follow you back)
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/J.D.-Lasica/e/B07D443D7L/
And finally, here’s the trippy futuristic fertility clinic site I created based on where genetic science may be taking us by the mid-2020s: BirthrightsUnlimited.com