Today we travel to Timisoara, Romania to chat with Andrei Cherascu about how his grandfather, comic books, music journalism, Garden of Rama, science fiction, augmented reality, classics, Game of Thrones, detailed outlines, improvisation, playing the guitar, and living on Mars come together as part of Andrei’s past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Andrei Cherascu. I live in Timișoara, Romania with my wife, Ioana and our Bichon puppies, Jazzie and Teyla. I’m a full time writer, editor and music journalist.
In which genre do you write?
I write science fiction. It was the genre that really made me fall in love with storytelling. I started reading very early on in my childhood, mainly because I idolized my grandfather, who was a voracious reader. I loved bonding with him over books. He would read just about anything. Once he was done with a book, he’d pass it on to me and then we’d talk about it.
When he handed me “Garden of Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee, it opened up a whole new world for me. It was an experience unlike any other. On a purely emotional level, the grandeur of these “big idea” stories and these monumental events made me feel like I was part of something important. It made me feel like life was important.
It was an organic transition from cartoons and comic books and all these fantastic tales of childhood to something that was equally wondrous but made even more impactful by the fact that it used reality as a reference point. Over time, though I enjoy reading almost anything, it was always the scifi stories that stuck with me the most. They were pivotal to my development — emotionally and intellectually.
When I decided to become a writer, it just felt natural to write scifi stories. I wanted to write the kinds of books that impacted me the most. That’s why my tagline is, “Science Fiction in the Style of the Classics.” I actually took that from one of the reviews for my first book; it just fits perfectly.
The “augmented reality” of science fiction stories gives you the opportunity to place characters in moral and ethical situations they could never encounter in the real world. That’s what always drew me to these stories. It wasn’t the science and technology, but the way these things shaped the characters’ inner lives, their moral philosophy, their emotional spectrum.
My series takes place in a world where telepathy is common and people called Mindguards are tasked with protecting other people’s thoughts from intrusion, essentially preserving their mental integrity. So I was able to contemplate the concepts of privacy, information security and especially responsibility in a setting that presented these topics in their most extreme form. It was the concept of responsibility that I was particularly interested in. If people presented themselves to you in their most vulnerable form and you were responsible for the wellbeing of their very minds, what kinds of consequences would this responsibility have on your own mind? It would essentially be an unprecedented exercise of empathy. Would that be a privilege or a burden? Or both? As a person who tends to be excessively protective of people, these questions are very important to me. This series allowed me the space to think about them very deeply.
How many published books do you have?
I’ve published four novels and two novellas, all in the same universe. My series is called “The Mindguard Saga.” It centers around a character named Sheldon Ayers, who is an extremely powerful telepath tasked with guarding “information packages” in his clients’ minds. I came up with this character almost a decade ago, when my wife was going through a difficult time at work. I tried to comfort her but was constantly frustrated with my own limitations in doing so. It made me wish I could truly guard her mind from everything that was upsetting her. So I came up with the concept of a Mindguard and then imagined the kind of world that would have to exist in order for somebody like Sheldon Ayers to become who he was.
I started from this complete character and then built an entire universe around him. It became a really complex story with several plot lines coming together at the end. It was really interesting to explore all the layers of this world just based on this character’s place in it.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the fifth and final book in the series.
“Mindgod” will come out at the end of the year and will bring all these narrative threads together in what I’m hoping will be a satisfying finale. This is really important to me. No matter what I’m going to be writing in the future, this series is fundamental to who I am, as a writer and a person. I want to make sure that, when it’s all over, I will have done justice to these characters. I want the conclusion to truly feel like it matters. I want to be able to still feel comfortable with it a decade from now.
I remember how disappointed I was in the final season of “Game of Thrones.” Remember that? It was almost universally hated. As a fan of the show, it just left me lamenting all the wasted opportunities. If I felt that way as a fan, I can only imagine what it would feel like to be a writer and be disappointed in your work. I don’t want to be haunted by regrets. That’s why this last book has taken longer to write. But I’m done with the first draft and I’m happy with how it turned out. Hopefully the readers will be too.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
Just how the mind works, really. There are so many things in the back of your mind that you never consciously realize. It’s interesting how many things you can come up with on the fly.
I write a detailed outline for every story — it’s the only way I can work. However, I do leave a lot of room for “improvisation.” When I write the first draft, I do it almost without thinking. I use the outline as a guide and just furiously type away, just pouring everything onto the page. It’s like a trance. I’m always surprised by how many things pop up that I’ve never really thought about consciously, in spite of my detailed outline. Most of these things come in the form of conversations and musings about all sorts of things and just character development. But sometimes it will be something that takes the story in a completely new direction. Then I have to adjust the outline. At the end, I’m left wondering where all of that came from. It’s an interesting exploration of one’s own psyche.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
I think it’s the ability to integrate so many interesting things into your life. I’ve always been interested in all sorts of things. Growing up, it was difficult to decide what to do with my life. There were so many fascinating things to which I wanted to dedicate my time. There was never really one dominating area of interest for me.
I love art, I love music, I love history, I love wine, I love doing all sorts of physical exercise. But I don’t love any of those things more than the other. I have a good singing voice and I can play a bit of guitar. Sometimes, I get together with friends and we do jam sessions and it’s really fun. But I could never be a professional musician. I’d have to dedicate so much time to it. That time would come at the expense of reading about art, or practicing my photography, or training. I train every day and do all sorts of things, from running to martial arts to weightlifting. But I couldn’t be a professional athlete because, firstly, I would have to dedicate myself entirely to one sport and then I would have to train for so many hours a day I wouldn’t have time to practice guitar. I’d have to watch what I eat and I wouldn’t be able to drink wine on a daily basis. And I love wine.
So, basically, writing is a result of an indecision regarding what to do with my life. Because writing practically gives you an excuse to pursue anything you’re interested in for exactly as long as you want. When you’re a creative person, especially a storyteller, anything you do in your life is conducive to creativity. You get to indulge in information without actually having to specialize in anything and thus restrict the time you can spend learning about something else. This jack-of-all-trades nature of writing really fits my personality. I might never be a professional athlete, but I can make up a character who is and then imagine what that would be like for a little while. There’s nothing I love more than imagining what things would be like.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
When I’m not writing my own books, I’m helping other people write theirs. I run expanse-editing.com, where I offer developmental editing and professional beta reading for indie authors.
Since 2012, I’ve also been active as a music journalist, covering adventurous music from all over the world (jazz, world music, experimental, indie, avant-garde and the like). On my website, The Music and Myth, I post reviews, news articles and interviews with musicians like Bill Frisell, Al DiMeola, Thana Alexa and Jazzmeia Horn.
What are you currently reading?
I’m actually currently reading one of my clients’ manuscripts, a lovely literary fantasy novel that’s going to be the first in a new trilogy. This is a client I’ve been working with for years and the stories I’ve read are all set in the same universe, so it’s been great to revisit this world and watch it grow.
If Mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one-way ticket there? Why or why not?
No. Despite my predilection for scifi, I’m good here. I’m a socially active person. I love traveling to different places, meeting people, spending time in cafes and restaurants, going to museums. The breadth of experience on this planet is more than enough for me. Mars would get really boring really quickly. That soil is probably terrible for wine production and I can’t imagine walking my dogs in that gravity.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent published book is “Martyrs of the Mind,” the fourth novel in my Mindguard Saga. The events in this book directly influence the series finale, which I’m working on now.
For my series, I used the same structure that Frank Herbert used for his Dune Saga, which is my all-time favorite work of fiction. In the Dune Saga, the first three books are kind of similar in their structure, pacing and themes, with “God Emperor of Dune” kind of sitting in the middle as its own separate entity and then the last two books once again connected. It should have been the last three, but he passed away before he could publish the series finale. He wanted to have this balanced structure, with his God Emperor at the center of the universe, so to speak. It’s really elegant.
I wanted to do a similar thing as a tribute to my favorite author. So the first two books in the Mindguard Saga introduce this universe, its characters and the dramas and tragedies they have to deal with while the third book sits by itself as a sort of character study of Sheldon Ayers (who, at least symbolically, is my version of a God Emperor). The final two books chronicle the unavoidable classic scifi “war to end all wars.”
It was wonderful to have you on MTA, and to learn more about you, Andrei. I am inspired by the thoughts you shared. Beautifully conveyed. I wish you all the best and much success! – Camilla
Book Blurb for Martyrs of the Mind:
In the aftermath of Earth’s battle with the Vintages, an unlikely messenger delivers a shocking revelation: the existence of an advanced civilization that threatens to change the very core of human identity.
As the world falls into panic, a terrorist organization once thought extinct rises from the ashes of its violent past to embrace the dawn of a new era. Led by a charismatic prophet – a telepath with unprecedented powers – the Martyrs of the Mind wage a holy war on the Federation in the name of the God Revealed.
Now the de-facto leader of mankind, Enforcement Unit Commander Tamisa Faber must step up as the world’s last guardian. But Tamisa is no stranger to war. As the crimes of her past return to haunt her present, Tamisa is faced with her own chilling revelation: humanity will need the Mindguards she herself has all but destroyed.
Where to find the books:
All of my books are available in digital format pretty much wherever e-books are sold.
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