BookLife Talks with Cliff Ratza
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'The Girl with the Lightning Brain'
After being inspired by William Golding’s The Inheritors decades ago, Ratza finally made time to sit down and write the idea that had been bouncing around in his head. Five years later, he’s completed his Lightning Brain series and started a new one.
The first book in the series, The Girl with the Lightning Brain, was also your first book. Did you always want to write or did the story idea come first?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but becoming a novelist was not among my career choices when I was a youth. First choice was to be a nuclear physicist, for which I pursued an MS in physics, after which I taught math for a couple of years before turning to computer programming and earning an MBA. Then I became a sales and marketing professional, a career path I followed for 20 years while picking up two more degrees and parlaying them into a project management career that I extended into college teaching and then into my own sales and marketing consulting business. I wrote extensively throughout my business career: sales and marketing plans, financial analysis reports, newsletters, advertisements, and website copy. All the while, I kept writing poetry and developing the outline of a novel. Five years ago, I freed up my work schedule so I could write that novel, which led to the five-book Lightning Brain series and its sequel series, The Keepers. I now have three parallel careers: business consultant, college instructor, and author. I like writing novels best of all!
To what extent did you draw from real life to create your future setting?
I create my future settings by taking current trends—in science, technology, Washington’s sociopolitical climate, the Middle East, world health, cyberterrorism, and global societies—and projecting them into a realistic future, 2087 and beyond. My five degrees allowed me to project the likely future events, including pandemics and a Donald Trump–like president, that show up in my first book, which predates Covid-19 and Donald Trump. I take great pride in all of the math/science/technical details being factual.
While you did wrap up the series last year, you also published The Keepers of Lightning Brain, the first book in a spin-off series. What led to the creation of this new series?
Kirkus Reviews paid my fifth book a great compliment when they called it “another satisfying volume in an SF saga that shows no signs of slowing down.” I deliberately ended the first series because I wanted to keep supplying readers with storyline and character twists that would keep them engaged! I believe I have done that via the sequel series, The Keepers. It starts twenty years after the first series ends and introduces a new set of winsome characters and global threats.
What is the one thing you most want to tell readers about you or your books?
The theme of each of the books is one all of us face: how best do we navigate our path through life regardless of doubt and strife? The answer? Use a pragmatic, proactive philosophy while pausing long enough to appreciate what you have, or ask for help when considering your options, and then go where your muse leads. Readers will enjoy the book if they like a gripping action-packed thriller, insights into dealing with the “human condition,” an illustrative worldview philosophy, and a fast-paced, suspense-filled emotive narrative.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the next novel in The Keepers series, The Quest of the Singular Keepers, as well as my second book of poetry, Poems from Indira: Reflections from a Half-Filled Looking Glass.