Local Author Spotlight: Cody Sisco

Catherine Royalty, Principal Librarian, Collections,
local author spotlight graphic and picture of Cody Cisco

Cody Sisco is the author of speculative fiction that straddles the divide between plausible and extraordinary. An avid reader of Frank Herbert, Haruki Murakami, and Kim Stanley Robinson, Sisco strives to create worlds that sit in the “uncanny valley”—discomfortingly odd yet familiar, where morality is not clear-cut, technology bestows blessings and curses, and outsiders struggle to find their niche. He is a co-organizer of the Northeast Los Angeles Writers critique group and the founder of the Made in L.A. indie author co-op.

Tortured Echoes is his second novel and continues the Resonant Earth cyberpunk alternate history series that began in Broken Mirror, which focuses on Victor Eastmore’s quest to uncover the truth about his mental illness, mirror resonance syndrome.

About Broken Mirror and the Resonant Earth Series

In a skewed mirror universe, a mentally ill young man searches for his grandfather’s killer. Diagnosed with mirror resonance syndrome and shunned by Semiautonomous California society, Victor suffers from "blank outs," hallucinations, and vivid nightmares. He violently overreacts to even minor confrontations. Victor's grandfather devoted his life to researching and curing mentally ill Broken Mirrors like Victor, but now that he's gone, Victor must walk a narrow path between sanity and reclassification--a fate that all but guarantees he'll lose his freedom. 

Both Broken Mirror and Tortured Echoes were designated SELF-e Select titles by the staff of Library Journal and are now available at participating libraries nationwide.

The Los Angeles Public Library congratulates Cody on his award—let’s hear a bit more about him and his winning series!

Interview with Cody Sisco

Book covers for Broken Mirror and Tortured Echoes and the SELF-e Selection seal

Did you know you were starting a series before you began writing Broken Mirror?

I knew I was writing a series, but I didn’t quite know what shape it would take. The draft of what I thought was the first installment ran over 600 manuscript pages, far too long for a first-in-a-series novel. An editor I asked for advice told me I should chop it into thirds. “No way,” I responded. And, of course, a little while later, I realized he was right and the manuscript was broken into three parts. Then I began the work of whipping the first book, Broken Mirror, into shape.

The Resonant Earth series has such an imaginative premise.  What was your initial point of inspiration?

The first spark came as I was travelling by train from Paris to Geneva for a consulting gig. The eerily quiet train moved through the shadow of the mountains as rain splattered the windows. I felt very far removed from my prior life back in the United States. I began to wonder how much a character could change and remain themselves, and by extension, remain fully human. And that idea started snowballing into my vision of a character with mental illness in an alternate reality where history had taken different turns and how he struggles to understand what’s real and what’s in his head.

Like most great sci-fi novels you touch on important issues that society is grappling with today, including immigration, mental illness, and our sometimes uneasy relationship with technology.  Do you find the speculative fiction genre to be particularly suited for social commentary?

I do. Speculative fiction allows both authors and readers to enter into a story with a sense of appreciation and wonder for what’s different between the fictional world and the real world. We can also view the similarities from a more comfortable and critical distance. We let down our guard to get absorbed in a new world, and the ideas of that world move inside us and begin a transformation.

If we read the Resonant Earth series and love it, who should we read next?  Who are some authors that inspire you?

There are so many! I started reading Neal Stephenson’s books only in the last few years. Now I can’t get enough of his wild yet plausible and deeply imagined cyberpunk worlds. Seanan McGuire is another fantastic storyteller who is able to blend interesting settings with characters that you can’t help but care about.

quote by Cody Sisco: to new writers I would say start writing, keep writing, share your writing, make writer friends and prepare for a bumpy ride

Do you have any advice for first time authors attempting to finish their first novel?  Do you have a daily writing routine?

This is swampy ground. Authors at the start of their careers need feedback and advice, and yet so much of the writing dogma bombarding them is misguided at best or counterproductive at worst. (A fellow writer friend in the Made in L.A. group has just written a great book on this subject called Drown the Cat.)

To new writers I would say, “Start writing, keep writing, share your writing, make writer friends, and prepare for a bumpy ride. Also remember that writers are custodians of the humanities and it’s a noble calling, so take some pride in upholding that tradition.”

With regard to my own work, I tend to write in flurries, spending days and weeks at a time cranking out a rough draft, and then following that with many weeks and months of editing, filling in the gaps, and deepening the text.

When writing, did you complete multiple drafts?  Did you show unfinished versions to friends or beta readers for feedback?

I wrote an uncountable number of drafts of Broken Mirror—certainly more than 20 over three years. I was still learning my craft and the story was still evolving. Tortured Echoes went through a much smoother and streamlined writing and editing process that took less than a year.

I share excerpts with my critique group and I have beta readers who are generous with their time. They read and provide feedback at different stages of the process. It’s so important to understand how the words on the page are being interpreted and what experience the reader is having.

The self-publishing industry has really exploded, especially in e-books.  What advantages and/or challenges do you see in self-publishing your work?

Self-published authors face a huge discovery challenge. We don’t have the marketing connections and budgets of big publishers or even small presses, so it’s a struggle to put our work in front of the readers who might enjoy it. And we have to work doubly hard to prove the quality of our work. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The idea of signing over the rights to my work to a big publisher, getting a small advance in return, and still having to do most of the marketing myself—I just don’t see the vanity and validation aspect being worth it to me. In addition, publishers stick with a book for only six months, or maybe at best one year. After that, it’s either a success or a flop. Indie authors get to build an audience of committed fans at a more sustainable pace. No one can stop us! 

Explore the SELF-e collection to discover more great new talent! 

If you are a self-published author please consider submitting your work to the Library’s SELF-e platform.