Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your debut novel, The Punch Escrow, through Inkshares! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Tal Klein: The Punch Escrow is a hard sci-fi technothriller with a love story at its core set in the 22nd century. The narrative revolves around the fallout from a terrorist attack on the international teleportation infrastructure — specifically, the inadvertent duplication of a man named Joel Byram who was on his way to a second honeymoon with his wife. The inspiration for this story came from a non-sequitur workspace conversation in 2012 in which I was told human teleportation was impossible because of both scientific (Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the No Cloning Theorem), and anthropological (nobody in their right mind would agree to be vaporized in one place and “printed out” in another) reasons. I set out to solve both issues. Then, rather than place a trope-y existentialist story in that world, I focused on telling a tale about a bizarre love triangle between two versions of the same man and their wife.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing the book, and what have been some of your creative influences?
TK: The creative process was as elaborate as the scientific research. The final novel is the culmination of five distinct drafts — the original manifestation of The Punch Escrow was as a textbook from the future, with Joel Byram telling his story via notes on the book’s margins. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the editors I’ve worked with, starting with Robert Kroese, then Adam Gomolin and Matt Harry, and even my copy editor Kaitlin Severini. I was also fortunate enough to receive notes from the likes of Alex Hedlund (then creative director at Legendary), Greg Silverman (former head of Warner Brothers), and the best agent in the world, Howie Sanders at United Talent Agency. As for influences — I’ve always been a huge fan of hard sci-fi and humorous sci-fi. The two so rarely intersect! Authors like Larry Niven and Andy Weir have successfully broken the mold, and I would cite them as influences. My “creative” use of footnotes can be attributed to the likes of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Joel Byram’s voice was influenced by Scott Meyer’s Martin Banks, of the Magic 2.0 series.
BD: As a first-time novelist, what has been your experience in preparing for the release of The Punch Escrow, as well as to the incredible critical response to the book?
TK: My experience has been wholly surreal. I’m not sure I can choose a single thing to describe my “experience” except for perhaps a continuous feeling of mild drunkenness and synthesia. What I will say is that one of the best decisions I made in said stupor was hire a publicist. Elena Stokes of the Wunderkind PR team has kept me sane — an essential component to success. As for critical response, well, it’s fortunately has been largely positive. I’ve gotten a few bad reviews, but as an recording artist, I’ve become accustomed to the occasional “pitchforking” and trolling. Still, this book represents five years of work — half a decade! So, it uniquely pains me to see it occasionally treated as toilet paper. But I am heartened that the majority of folks who read it seem to dig it.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
TK: If there’s one underlying message in the book, it’s that “humanity” endures. Throughout writing this novel, the one concern I kept hearing from the scientists I consulted with is that so much recent sci-fi paints the future as clinical or dystopian. I took that to heart. I wanted to build a future that was optimistically pragmatic; not necessarily utopian, but certainly not dystopian. A future where people still have jobs even when everything is automated, and even in a time when A.I. is almost sentient, the line between man and machine is clearly drawn at sympathy and empathy.
BD: What makes Inkshares the perfect home for The Punch Escrow?
TK: I love Inkshares. It’s a great platform for connecting with all facets of readers; not just people who might buy the book, but also other writers, publishers, and folks in the entertainment industry. I keep seeing people refer to Inkshares as “crowdfunding” - but that’s just a piece of the puzzle. Their affiliation with United Talent Agency, for example, provides authors with unique access to Hollywood agency representation. I spend a lot of time hanging out with fellow authors in the Inkshares community. I’ve made some great friends there, and the staff is incredible.
BD: The book is already making waves in various entertainment mediums, given that Lionsgate recently acquired the film rights to the book. What do you most look forward to in seeing your book expand to other mediums?
TK: I’m very excited about the notion of The Punch Escrow’s future permeating into movies and other entertainment mediums. Thanks to Geek & Sundry, I recently had the opportunity to work with Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer on the audiobook version of The Punch Escrow. It’s amazing hearing the story transform as told through his voice. I feel the same way about the possibility of movies and shows — wide-eyed optimism. I love working with the Lionsgate team, and I look forward to seeing what James Bobin comes up with adaptation-wise.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
TK: I’ve got a few short stories which will hopefully be published soon. Also, I don’t know if you know this, but I have a bunch of music to my name. I’m currently working on my next album for the Paper Recordings label. Look for it in late 2018.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Punch Escrow?
TK: Follow along on Twitter (@PunchEscrow) and Facebook.