Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Q&A with Mike Trigg




Mike Trigg is the author of the new novel Bit Flip. He has worked in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years as an executive, founder, and investor, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Fast Company. He lives in Menlo Park, California.


Q: What inspired you to write Bit Flip, and how did you create your character Sam Hughes?


A: I have lived and worked in the Silicon Valley tech industry for over 20 years. So, when it came to writing my first novel, I definitely opted to "write what you know" and base my story on a tech start-up. The novel actually originated as a set of anecdotes. Just amusing or eye-rolling situations I witnessed in my professional life.


Though none of the characters in Bit Flip are based on real people, they are all composites of the behaviors, personalities, and mindsets I've witnessed first-hand.


As for the protagonist, Sam Hughes, I'll admit he shares some similarities to me. We're both middle-aged tech executives, husbands, and fathers who relocated to the Bay Area from the Midwest.


But just like all the other characters in the book, Sam is also a composite. He has the same mixed emotions, ambitions, and infirmities I've seen both in myself and my peers at similar stages of their careers. I wanted Sam to struggle with those same situations to make the book feel authentic to tech insiders like me.


Q: The writer Rob Hart said of the book, "This is the kind of book that'll make you very afraid--and very angry--about the win-at-all-costs ethos at the core of our self-righteous tech culture." What do you think of that description, and what do you think the novel says about the culture of Silicon Valley?


A: Rob Hart is an incredible writer, and I thought his insight into Bit Flip was spot-on. His novel, The Warehouse, is a wonderful tech thriller but also a critique of Big Tech. I wrote Bit Flip with a similar goal of portraying the dark side of the tech industry.


The novel shines a spotlight on a particularly pernicious aspect of Silicon Valley culture. Namely, the "win-at-all-costs ethos" that Rob identifies. The mindset increasingly seems to be that if you're making money for yourself and your venture investors, that almost any behavior is justifiable.


Many people in tech have a real problem with that attitude, and it has led to what I have written about as an identity crisis within Silicon Valley. A recognition that we have lost sight of the original "making the world a better place" mission, and are grappling with the negative side effects that those of us in the tech industry are complicit in creating.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Actually, the original version of the novel ended very differently. In fact, the current opening, in which Sam is thrust into a last-minute speaking appearance and has a moment of unfiltered candor on-stage about the state of Silicon Valley, was originally at the end of the book.


In working with my developmental editor, we decided to move that scene to the start and end the book very differently. So, no, I didn't know the ending until I wrote a first draft, but I think the ending now is much more powerful. Kirkus described it as a "daring, authentic conclusion" in their review.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I named the novel Bit Flip from the very beginning. As explained in the preface, a "bit" is a 0 or 1 in binary code. When the bit changes from 0 to 1 and back again, the bit "flips." In the novel, that concept is used metaphorically to refer to a change of heart. 


Adam Nemett, author of the fantastic novel We Can Save Us All, nailed it when he said, "Just as 1s switch to 0s and back again, Trigg's characters challenge us to examine the complicated, false binary between right and wrong."


That's exactly what I was going for in the story, showing complicated and contradictory characters who change their minds, justify their actions, and blur the lines between right and wrong.


The concept of a bit flip also speaks to me personally, referring to the pivot I made in my career out of tech and into writing. So I used Bit Flip as the name of my blog as well.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I've just written a new novel called Burner, which I'm very excited about. There’s a sneak peek on my author website at miketrigg.com, but the story is a face-paced contemporary tech thriller.


It’s told through dual narrators: Shane, who has just been arrested for domestic terrorism for being the anonymous leader of a nefarious online movement, and Chloe, a tech billionaire heiress who has just been abducted by Shane's followers. Meanwhile, Chloe and Shane are secretly in love and both try desperately to undo what they've done.


The whole story is a plunge into the depths of how tech is contorting our lives through social media abuse, disinformation, and celebrity obsession. It's not a sequel to Bit Flip, but Burner hits many of the same themes and critiques of the tech industry.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: In addition to writing novels, I am an active writer, posting regularly on my author site and contributing articles to other outlets. I will also be doing a number of book events this fall around the launch of Bit Flip. For the latest news, sign up for my newsletter at miketrigg.com or follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/MikeTriggAuthor.   


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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