Here are some common questions I've received from those people who've read some or all of the book. Hopefully this will help keep my answers from changing too much.
Where can I buy the book?
Check out the purchasing page for more info.
Is your book available at Amazon.com?
Yes it is. Here's the link to it.
Since you're on Amazon.com, does that make you famous?
No, I was famous before then. Ha!
If you're famous, do you have an instant messaging account?
I have two that I frequently use: WoodsBenA on AIM and bwoods43 on Jabber/Google Talk. I'm on pretty much all of the time, just like really high profile celebrities.
Are you accusing Google of stealing your idea about a parallel Internet?
No! Well, not yet anyway. I mean, I seriously doubt the folks at Google somehow got ahold of my book at realized they could build the Super Information Portal the way I described it. Besides, I don't really give any technical information ... it's just sort of an idea of something that could potentially be built. But it is sort of strange that Google might be doing what I predicted the government could do. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please see my news article, "Google possibly turning fictional parallel Internet into reality."
I have seen one of the newer printings with the graphic below. What is that all about?
There is an underlying tone set midway through the book that addresses online privacy issues. I would say more, but I don't want to give it all away!
Why is the story set in Michigan?
The Michigan setting was sort of a fluke. My mom and stepdad went to the Upper Peninsula a while back, and my stepdad was telling me how there were so many vacant buildings in a certain town there, and how it would be a great place for a startup company. I did a little research (probably not enough) and tried to build a setting out of it. Most of what I wrote is completely fictitious anyway, so hopefully I am reasonably close on the weather!
Why should I buy this book?
This is probably overdone, but there really is something in there for everyone. If you have a basic knowledge of computers (i.e. you know how to use a mouse), you should understand the majority of the tech speak. If you like funny stuff, this shouldn't disappoint. Well, unless you have a completely different taste in humor. Finally, if you like Richard Simmons, this is definitely the book for you.
OK, that's nice, but seriously, why should I buy the book?
Check out the reviews page, which will be updated frequently (assuming people tell me what they think!).
Why are you obsessed with Richard Simmons?
I'm not obsessed with Richard Simmons. Why do you think that? OK, I am a big fan of him though. I'm not really sure where it started. When my brother and I were in grade school, we used to watch his show "Slim Cooking," which probably was not intended for middle school boys. It was intriguing to watch this man cook all sorts of healthy dishes for what seemed like a primarily female audience. Of course most of you know Richard from his "Sweatin' to the Oldies" days, but I'm pretty certain I've never seen any of the videos (although I now own one of the videos, but that's a separate story). The thing that always comes to mind when I think of Richard Simmons is the fact that no matter what situation you have -- even something traumatic -- if you throw Richard into the mix, it always makes it better. I tried to use that same theory with the book.
Can you give me a rundown of the pop culture references you make in the book?
I could, but it would take awhile to compile. Besides Richard Simmons, there are references to old TV shows ("Andy Griffith," "Leave it to Beaver"), "great" '80s musicians (Cyndi Lauper, MC Hammer, Cher) and random other items (Elton John, "Star Wars").
What do you hope people take from reading your book?
There's not necessarily one main moral to the story. I think there are a fair amount of things people can disseminate after reading the book, but since it's just fiction, I wouldn't expect people to believe it. I guess maybe the one thing that is true within today's society that can be applicable to the novel is that everyone has their individual quirks, but overall, most people you encounter are probably pretty normal. Then again, this doesn't seem to hold true for me, but maybe for everyone else ...
Did you incorporate personal experiences within the book?
No, the stories are pretty separate from anything I've experienced. I definitely pulled random things I have heard before or possibly have seen, but no particular incidents actually occurred. I did, however, rewrite a "love" scene after initially using a personal experience. I think I'll save it for another book.
Where did you get the idea for the emoticons?
I wanted a simple, effective way to display the different emotions of the book's characters without making it overly complex. I worked with graphic designer Amanda Stewart to come up with the cover design and kept going with the emoticons throughout the book. They do mean something, and maybe I should put an explanation key on the website, for all four people who are intrigued by it.
Are there any mistakes in the book?
YES, there are mistakes in the book. There are mistakes in EVERY book. I have heard from a few people about a handful of minor miscues. I'm going to compile them and list them on the site, so if people find additional ones, I can add to it. I cleaned up 10-15 grammatical mistakes, but if you have a third edition and see a glaring problem, definitely let me know.
Why did you write this book?
There's no reason in particular, but I sort of just wanted to see if I could do it. Plus some of the stuff I wrote about probably wouldn't happen in real life, but it was interesting to see how it might happen.
What inspired you to write the book?
One night in 2002, I was talking to my friend, Linda Elsey, about this really cool website I could build. But then I told her all these reasons it wouldn't work, so I figured I shouldn't build it. So she said, "Then why don't you just write a book about it?" So there you have it.
Who is your favorite author?
I really don't have a favorite author, so instead, I'll list some of the possible influences for this book: Chuck Palahniuk, Neal Stephenson and Dave Barry. I'm also interested in the works of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, John Grisham, I could go on, but it would take me forever to list them all!
What are your feelings about privacy on the Internet?
The Internet does allow information to be passed in mass quantities relatively easy, but overall, I think people can still choose to a certain extent how much they want to keep private. It would be possible for any ISP to track more information than it has power to do so. It's really up to the government and companies to determine if they want to use more information. Personally, I think if they are going to, they should for all people and not just target specific people. Overall, I expect technologies to improve to a point where privacy-type data will be destroyed when it is of no use.
I really don't know a whole lot about computers and programming. Should I stay away from the book?
As the book's author, of course I'm going to tell you to buy the book, regardless of your knowledge. Hey, I need to sell them somehow! Honestly, if you are familiar with any sort of history and culture, you should be able to get something out of the book. I will say if you know very little about the United States in general, this might not be the book for you.