Hal Bichel (TCG): How long have you been writing, and what prompted you to write Arcadian Gates? Can you give us a quick synopsis?
T. A. Wardrope: Arcadian Gates began as a short story I wrote while in the Hamline MFA program. I worked on it throughout the program until it had a life of its own and I had to finish it. Basically, it’s about about ten years in the making.
As far as synopsis, in the near future a chemical weapon attack devastates the country and leaves most of the population without memory. In the resurgent nation, Akiry is a low-level drug smuggler who is haunted by visions of a world she doesn’t remember. In these visions she often has a daughter. A power struggle in the new country leads to civil conflict in her normally tightly controlled world. She takes this opening to find out the truth about a daughter who may or may not exist.
TCG: Why should Minnesota geeks be interested in reading your new book?
Wardrope: I’ve realized that I kinda crammed everything I like about science fiction into this book. There’s some scientific speculation, there’s some serious action, and there’s also a very trippy ’70s sci-fi vibe underlying everything. I love the classic Heavy Metal magazine stuff. Immediate influences are Phillip K. Dick, J. G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Samuel Delaney, and China Miéville. On the surface it might be appear to be cyberpunk, but I’ve taken it into a different direction.
Also, there’s a significant amount of fringe culture running through the whole thing. People interested in conspiracy theory, UFOs, and alternative history will get something out of it too. It’s chock full of weird fun.
TCG: How long have you lived in Minnesota and been involved with the geek and arts communities here?
Wardrope: Hah, well, I was born here and spent about 35 of my years living in the Twin Cities. I’ve been more active in the arts than in the “geek” communities for most of that time. Though, I’ve always been a genre reader and writer and spent many hours in Dreamhaven, Little Tin Soldier, and Comic City back in the day.
TCG: Where can folks usually catch you? Are there any local conventions or events you attend?
Wardrope: Readings and events are really the best bet. I haven’t been too active on the con circuit up until now. I’m sure I’ll pop up here and there. Conventions are a very tough road for indie writers who aren’t as well known in fandom; they can be a great way to meet other writers and artists, though! I’ll be at the 2015 Twin Cities Book Festival and somewhere during the St. Paul Almanac Festival.
TCG: I understand you recently became a father. Do you think being a parent will affect your writing, or the kinds of things you write?
Wardrope: It’s affecting my writing schedule, that’s for certain. I can’t say it has changed my view or voice too much at this point. I will say it has opened me up to a larger sense of wonder and a few slivers of optimism—not for any dreams of a better world, but because a universe that can create such a being as a child can’t be completely lost. I’m feeling a new kind of humility, maybe.
TCG: What kinds of things do you read or watch in your spare time? Do any of these influence your story telling?
Wardrope: Yeah, I think so. These days I read short horror fiction and short sci fi and am now just digging into my friends in the Blastgun Books family. Looking forward to Mark Rapacz’s Foreigners and David James Keaton’s Pig Iron.
I’m really digging the new television wave that’s been happening. I think people are rediscovering the joys of long-form narratives via television, and that can grow to encompass novels, I believe.
Usually, the work I digest helps me decide what not to do. I’m not interested in recreating anyone else’s world or aesthetic in particular. I mean, unless that is the gig. My usual creative response is “That’s cool, but what if . . . ”
TCG: Is Arcadian Gates the first in a series? Can you give us any teasers for what’s to come?
Wardrope: I’ve done 10 years of world building, so there are plenty of directions I want to take in both future and past around the events in Arcadian Gates. I’ve got some short stories that take place in the larger world that will surface somewhere. My next novel isn’t a direct sequel to Arcadian Gates, but it happens in the same, um, continuity. There will definitely be more Arcadian Gates books down the line because that story is a long way from being resolved. Akiry and Raoul are just getting started.