Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your latest novel, User Error! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Rachel Beck: The Glitch Logs follows the story of a hacker named Glitch who makes a living stealing from giant corporations. It’s very much in the vein of Ghost in the Shell or Shadowrun. The books start out as a high-tech heists and then develop into a battle for the city as Glitch’s past catches up with her.
In User Error, Glitch is trying to lie low to avoid an old teammate-turned-enemy who is now hunting her, but is also running short on funds after the events of the last book, Overclocked. When a new heist comes her way, she jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, things unravel pretty quickly when she makes a judgment call that’s morally right, but puts the job in jeopardy. Because of that, Glitch is forced to go undercover at a university for the school’s elite, while also trying to stay one step ahead of her enemies as they close in on her location. In the midst of all this, Glitch also starts to have suspicions about who is really funding this job in the first place and whether or not she can trust her own team. It’s got some really strong character work, and I think readers are really going to enjoy it.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing the book, and what have been some of your creative influences?
RB: I’m not very good at the “write every day” thing, to be honest. I tend to do it in high energy bursts. So, I might write a draft in say, twelve weeks, but then I might not touch it again for another three weeks. User Error was a particularly tricky book, because I tried to force myself to write after a death in the family and it didn’t go well. My editor looked at the finished version and basically said, “It’s fine, people will probably enjoy it, but it’s not your best work. You can do better.” I ended up taking an extra year to re-write the whole thing almost from scratch. When my editor looked at the new version, he said it was one of the best things books I’d ever written. It was a hard book to write, especially because of some of the themes it deals with, but I’m glad I pushed through and re-wrote it. I didn’t want to let myself or my readers down.
In terms of creative influences, I really enjoyed The Sprawl tabletop RPG and the Shadowrun video games. They were actually my first introduction to cyberpunk as a genre! William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash are also big influences.
BD: As this book is the third chapter in the larger Glitch Logs series, what can you tell us about your process in bringing all of the puzzle pieces into place while also allowing the book to serve as a standalone story in and of itself?
RB: I have nine books planned for The Glitch Logs series, so making sure all those puzzle pieces fit together is really important. Starting in book one, I’ve been laying down details for future books, some of which won’t pay off for four, sometimes five books. The first thing I do when I’m writing a sequel is sit down and re-read the earlier books in the series. Sometimes, I’ll be reminded of extra details I’d forgotten about, but the main advantage is that it helps me carry the tone from one book to the other. User Error is key to the overarching plot because it brings back characters and consequences from the first two books in the series, while also laying the groundwork for the fourth book, which is the end of the first mini-arc of the series. It also gives us more insight into Glitch’s past, which explains why she became the person she is now.
As a standalone, User Error works really well as a jumping-on point for new fans, because it’s a contained heist. In contrast to Defrag and Overclocked, User Error begins with Glitch getting the call about the job and ends with the job’s completion. Her past does collide with her present, but since she’s working with new teammates, Glitch has to explain herself periodically, which helps new readers get caught up on the events of the previous books.
BD: As a writer, what draws you to the cyberpunk genre, and do you feel that the genre offers specific storytelling tools to you?
RB: I first fell in love with cyberpunk, because it felt honest. I was working in corporate America at the time in a cubicle job, struggling with the reality that despite a lot of company rhetoric to the contrary, I was in practice an interchangeable part in a money-making machine. Cyberpunk spoke to the frustrations of humans being commodified. It got me thinking about the question of how you, as an individual, can react to a society where everything has a price tag and people are valued only for the work they produce. How do you fight that? Can you fight it? It’s where the “punk” in cyberpunk comes in.
The genre also deals with a number of other relevant themes for the modern era. It challenges the idea that sufficiently advanced technology will solve society’s problems. It also deals with the questions of what it means to be human. There’s a lot of fertile ground in the genre for really important conversations, and that appeals to me as a writer and as a human. Also, the aesthetic is just very cool.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
RB: The Glitch Logs was written on the premise that the last act of rebellion in a society where everything is for sale is to give a damn about other people, even when it doesn’t benefit you. Especially when it doesn’t benefit you. By the end of the series, I want my readers to have become rebels. I want them to have wrestled with the questions and the cost that accompanies that rebellion, and to decide for themselves whether or not it’s worth it. I believe it is.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
RB: Book four of The Glitch Logs is already underway, so I hope to be releasing it sometime toward the end of next year. In the meantime, I’ve also started work on another book in a completely different genre. It’s a re-telling of Les Miserable but with fairies. No working title or release date on it yet, but I’ll make announcements as I get further into that project.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about User Error and your other work?
RB: The best way to get more information about the series is to visit my website: www.glitchlogs.com. Readers can sign up for the newsletter there and get updates when new books come out. They can also say hi to me directly on Twitter or Instagram at @rachelthebeck or shoot me an email at rachel (at) glitchlogs (dot) com.
*Editor's Note: Ms. Beck has generously provided Fanbase Press readers with the discount code, "FANBASE," which will provide free shipping when purchasing books in The Glitch Logs series at the official website.