Sunday, December 11, 2022

Q&A with Angela Greenman




Angela Greenman is the author of the new novel The Child Riddler. A communications expert, she has worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


Q: What inspired you to write The Child Riddler, and how did you create your character Zoe Lorel?


A: My main character—badass elite warrior Zoe Lorel—was who I wanted to be from age 10 until my late teens. Being her was my escape fantasy, a person I created as a result of my childhood. My childhood had mental illness, domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness.


It was very difficult for me when I was in grammar school (around 11 or 12 years old). I was told that I was going to have to repeat that school year—but a teacher offered me a deal. If I did book reports, she’d give me extra credit for each one and if I did enough, I might not fail. I then started reading books and writing essays.


And this changed my life. Books—their stories—inspired me and gave me hope. Reading showed me other people suffered like I did. I learned how others handled their troubles. I began to believe I had a chance to live differently. Plus, I discovered I loved to write about the people and their stories in the books. I passed onto the next grade! That compassionate teacher probably saved my life.


From that moment on, I’d stay up all night reading. In my later teens, action and sci-fi movies became another escape hatch. In the fight scenes, the good guys may get beaten up, but they always won in the end. While I watched the men who were the heroes in the action moves, I pretended it was me. I fantasied I was a female James Bond/Jason Bourne, a strong woman, kicking ass and traveling the world.


This is how Zoe Lorel came to be and that’s the character I wrote in The Child Riddler. Being an author, you get to live your fantasy!


But also, writing a character like her is a tribute to strong women. I want to celebrate them, because I know how hard it is to be one. I experienced the discrimination and oppression my mother suffered raising us as a single parent on her lower wages. I want to root for a woman, see her winning fights and saving the world.


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


A: No, I didn’t have a mindset as to a specific story I wanted to tell. All I knew was that I wanted to write a story about a badass female James Bond. I completed two novels—variations of the story—before The Child Riddler came together.


I would never write organically like that again. While it allowed me to unleash my creativity—which I think is a great for a new author to learn how to trust their creativity—structurally, it was a frustrating mess.


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: Regarding research, even though my professional career supplied me with a wealth of information, I found I still had a lot of research to do.

In The Child Riddler, a spider riddle holds the code to unleashing the most lethal weapon on earth. The code is known by only one person: a gifted 9-year-old girl. Top operative Zoe abducts the young girl to get the code, but soon is in a race to save the child she’s grown to care about—while simultaneously battling the demons of her drug addiction.


Developing what the “most lethal weapon on earth” would be took considerable amount of research. Since I’m also fascinated by the future technology of warfare, I chose a cloaking spider bot.


Cloaking technology has elements under the umbrella of nanotechnology—the manipulation of matter on an atomic scale—and this appears to be the future of warfare. Currently, countries are spending billions into research programs on cloaking and nanotechnology. I figured an invisibility weapon would be something that global military powers and spy agencies would want to get their hands on, thus creating action for the story—and realism.


I have worked within several governmental organizations. First the city in Chicago, then federal at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and following that internationally with the IAEA. Therefore, writing a techno-thriller featuring an operative within an international governmental agency evolved naturally.


And no, I didn’t learn anything that surprised me. But maybe that’s because of my international experiences and professional background.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: First and foremost, I hope readers will find The Child Riddler an exciting and bold adventure. I hope the book takes the readers to places they’ve never been, and into events that they never experienced.


I also hope readers find the diversity of people and cultures in The Child Riddler fascinating. To me, that’s what makes life vibrant and rich—the fact we are multi-dimensional people who come from a variety of cultures and political systems.


And finally, I write in hopes that women readers can take heart from my characters (and my personal story) and know that they are strong.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Another “Wildcat” Zoe Lorel story, which I think readers will find intriguing.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: To anyone ever feeling trapped, or oppressed by life, I share with you that a single-minded positive forward-looking focus is a key to achieving your goals. This mental state is how I freed myself personally from being emotionally imprisoned by my childhood, and professionally successful from not letting the glass ceiling stop me.


I went from being a homeless child on the streets of Chicago to a woman leader on the international stage. I leapt over a mountain and others can too.


But to leap those mountainous obstacles that sometimes presents themselves in life, you need mental strength. I sharpened mine in archery. I was a competitive archer before I started to tackle writing a novel—and I did well in archery.


The discipline and single-minded focus to compete in this tough sport is what helps you hit that bullseye in your dreams. If you want it, you can have it, but you have to never take your eyes off it and go get it. No one gives it to you.


Never give up. There are always ways around an obstacle.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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