Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your debut novel, Memories Live Here! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Marc Sheinbaum: It starts with a big “What if” question: “What if you could talk to people from the past?” With exponential advances we’ve seen in A.I. over the past decades—is the premise within reach? Who would we want to speak to and why? The book’s main protagonist, Dr. Josh Brodsky, is building this capability in Silicon Valley, bringing back the greatest historical leaders in history, people who could advise and talk sense into today’s leaders—few of whom have studied enough history to learn from past mistakes. But once he has harnessed this power, a mysterious ransomware attack seems to implicate one of his brothers, Donny. Can Josh resist using this A.I. (code named CHERL) to uncover his own family secrets and mysteries--not only to remove the malware, but to save his brother? As far as inspiration, all you need to do is pick up the newspaper and it’s not hard to find inspiration for a story like this.
BD: The novel deftly combines suspense and family drama. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
MS: I started out telling parallel stories about the brothers. First, about Josh, a seasoned A.I. expert dealing with the challenge of being the new guy at this massively successful Silicon Valley company—he’s worked most of his career at the Defense Department. And then, once I wanted to introduce the temptation of using the A.I. with his family, I started the story of his two brothers (Donny and Louie) coming from their mother’s funeral—without Josh, by the way. I wanted these brothers to have their own turbulent lives, where they have grown apart from one another. After that, the creative process became solving a series of interrelated puzzles. What was the dysfunction in their past—in their childhood-- that made them who they were? What motivated them on their respective paths and drove them apart? Did Donny really perpetrate the hack? How could this new A.I. technology that Josh has created bring them back to each other. I knew I wanted to generate the pulse of a thriller but also with a psychological inspection of this family dynamic. I also knew how I wanted the story to end, but I hadn’t mapped out how to get the brothers there, so I tried on a bunch of different scenarios, almost writing my way into the journey. Not quite trial and error but there are a lot of moving pieces in the book—as you’d imagine with three narratives-- so I really had to make sure the larger story hung together. In terms of creative influences, the novel is part technothriller, so of course it has elements your readers would find in Michael Crichton and Dan Brown and Blake Crouch--but also with this family angst, which you can find in many other genres.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Josh’s story will connect with and impact readers?
MS: Certainly, the premise of what Josh is building-- the endless possibilities of using AI to learn more about our past. Of course, as with most of A.I., there are risks that must be carefully thought through. Some might see a cautionary tale of “A.I. run amok,” but more so they might read a cautionary tale about the dangers of placing so much importance on our work—on our mission—that we put blinders on and can lose sight of the important things, the important people in our lives. Josh is like many of us—he has a crazy passion for what he does. He’s focused. His head is down. He lives in a trailer park. (One reviewer referred to him as “the hermit geek”). He’s working his butt off to make CHERL happen, and he eliminates all distractions—including his own family. And his brothers are the same in their own way. They grew apart in adulthood, but the seeds of their own dysfunction were planted when they were kids living with their parents in Brooklyn. So, while the story is fast paced and filled with mysteries, revealing these family backstories is an important part of that “impact” you’re asking about.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
MS: Well, certainly people have told me that the book is very visual, that it feels like a movie—and that’s probably just the influence that film has had in my life. But yes, I think the premise of the book has a lot of legs and the possibilities of what we can do with technology like CHERL can lead into some fascinating future storylines.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MS: The ransomware attack in Memories Live Here creates the crisis that drives the chaos of the story, but hacking is not really central to the book. My next project has much more in the way of cyberattacks, maybe even involving some of the characters from Memories Live Here. We’ll have to see. It’s probably too soon to for any of your readers to be on the lookout but if they register on my website, I promise to keep them informed.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Memories Live Here?
MS: They can go to my website (www.marcsheinbaumbooks.com) or to the book page on Amazon.