As promised in my blogpost on Monday, here are are the questions I asked Jonathan R. Miller, the author of the book “Delivery”.
How did you get the idea for this novel?
I’m interested in biology as well as sci-fi, and one day I had an (admittedly weird) idea of a man who had an implant in his head for some TBD functional reason, but that the implant, as a side-effect, would make all the traffic lights turn green automatically. But no one else would know he could do it. Only he would know. In real life, ambulances and fire trucks can activate this sensor installed on some signals, and I thought it would be fun to write about a delivery driver who could activate that same sensor just by giving off some kind of stray signal from the implant he carried. I must have been driving at the time. :) It wasn’t a very good idea, but from there I thought more about the delivery driver idea itself and I liked it. I also wanted to keep the implant idea in, the main reason being that I have a basic appreciation
for many kinds of technology, but also that I think they can have so much deeper meaning to them. When I include technologies, even fictional ones, they represent in my mind something more than what they appear at face value. If a reader doesn’t read it that way, that’s ok — hopefully they still enjoy the story — but if they do choose to explore what the technologies represent, then they get another layer of enjoyment. In the case of this book, I wanted the retinal implants to be something kind of cool in and of themselves (they actually really exist, even today, by the way — I did greatly exaggerate their abilities to provide sight, though) but I also wanted them to symbolize something more.
From there, I started thinking about the main character. The reason he ended up being Somali is that I happened to be hearing a lot about Somalia at the time. I read more about the country and I became more and more interested. After awhile, the main character was going to be Somali — the decision just happened. At first he wasn’t going to be biracial, but then that just kind of happened as well.I had a rough idea for a plot, but it changed as I wrote. Like many people who write stories, I try and allow the characters and events to dictate the course to some degree.
Can you tell me a bit more about the world in which this story takes place?
In my mind the world was intended to be more-or-less grounded in present-day Minnesota. The setting wasn’t actually ever meant to be futuristic. I’ve read people describe it that way, which is completely fine, but that wasn’t what I imagined. Most people don’t know that the retinal implant technology exists today and so I think the implant idea makes the story seem much more futuristic than it was intended to be. So the world was meant to be fairly true to now. For example, Minnesota really does have the largest population of Somali people in the US (although the town of Eudora Heights is completely fictional.)
Where did you learn the Somali vocabulary used in this novel?
I learned everything online. :) It’s amazing what’s available. I worked very hard to make sure the words were as correct as possible (cross-checking them on different sites to be sure). Even so, I’m sure I made mistakes. Most important to me, however, was trying to represent the culture itself in a sensitive way. I’m not Somali, of course, and there is a certain risk involved when you represent a culture that isn’t your own. I took that very, very seriously. I wasn’t at all casual about the decision or the execution.
How long did it take to write this novel?
It took about a year and a half from start to finish.
Are any of the characters based on anyone you know in real life?
No, the characters are all made-up. I would say, however, that some of the emotions that the main character feels are representative of feelings I have had in my own life.
I would like to thank Jonathan again for this interview and hope that you guys found it as enlightening as I did!