AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“You Only Live Once” is about crowd-funded space exploration in a profit-driven world.

What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I love the crowd funding model and I’ve been very interested in how it can be applied in unexpected ways. I’m also intrigued by the Mars to Stay missions which would allow for Mars exploration without needing to deal with the difficulties of returning the astronauts to Earth.  The idea of one-way space travel is something I was already writing about when I saw the Mars-One commercial project, which is looking for volunteers to set up a permanent human settlement on Mars. The obvious question was how someone might fund such a mission and the obvious answer was crowd-source it.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The biggest challenge for me was to maintain a story arc that didn’t have hidden surprises. Everything the reader knows to be true at the end has to be also verifiably true at the start, which meant I had to walk a very careful line to allow for progression. Also, I had to do a lot of math to get all the figures to add up.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I’m an aviation journalist and very interested in space travel opportunities and how mass transportation is going to change as a part of the space age. I live far away from home and the idea of not going back is sad but not devastating. I would be very tempted by the one-way ticket to be a part of something new. At the same time I’ve seen a lot of crowd-sourced models where I’ve really not understood at all what motivates hundreds or thousands of people to put money in. This story was really my attempt to reconcile those viewpoints.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I researched transport conversions to understand how an existing shuttle could be reused by a commercial company and how much that would cost. I read up on idealistic views of space colonies. I looked into travel speeds to work out a sensible timeline both for the Kickstarter and for the later updates. And I watched the Jetsons.

What are your thoughts about crowdfunding generally? Do you back a lot of Kickstarters, or at least find a lot of interesting projects because of crowdfunding?

I have backed around a dozen, I guess. Two of them ended up with wildly successful products, which made me feel very pleased with myself, even though all I did was think “I want that” the same as a few thousand other people. I’m very interested in this feeling of being a part of something bigger and how that encourages people to take part. I think there’s also a lot of new opportunities because of crowd-sourced funding for people who could not have created their products before.

How do you think Kickstarter and self-publishing platforms (like Amazon’s KDP, etc.) are changing publishing?

It’s amazing. The ability to put something out there to the public and actually have a chance, it makes my head spin. I know a lot of people look at the worst examples and dismiss the whole model, but I think that’s a mistake. Those people who are crowd-sourcing and self-publishing successfully, they don’t just slap something  together. They make a plan and create a team and the initial offering—the Kickstarter campaign or Indiegogo funding—it’s already a product in itself. The publicity is fed not just by the concept but the presentation, the video and the pledge rewards.

My personal experience with self-publishing has been life-changing. I focused on launching a book on current events, which I had edited and designed while I was still writing. I had been researching the subject intensely and from the time I decided I could write a book about this to the actual launch was just one month. I had amazing people working with me but the real miracle was the fact that digital books and the self-publishing platforms gave me that opportunity to make it a reality.

BONUS: What are some examples of fiction you like in which the format helped dictate the story? (i.e., like the stories in HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, or like a found footage movie, or like Jake Kerr’s “Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince,” etc.)

My very favourite in that format is Wikihistory.

Other stories I love:

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which describes all the things a group of soldiers are carrying, standard operating procedure and personal, to tell us who they are.

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides, which explains and attempts to justify a situation that we discover reason by reason.

Hamlet (Facebook Newsfeed Edition), which needs no explanation.