Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Ariel S. Winter Interview - The Preserve

Photo Content from Ariel S. Winter

Ariel S. Winter was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Shamus Award, and the Macavity Award for his novel The Twenty-Year Death. He is also the author of the children’s picture book One of a Kind, illustrated by David Hitch, and the blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie. He lives in Baltimore.


Tell us your latest news. 
The latest news is my new novel, THE PRESERVE, which comes out from Emily Bestler Books on November 3, 2020.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 
My college professor and advisor, John T. Irwin, taught several complimentary courses that I took and were a huge influence on me. One was Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the other was Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir. My first novel, THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH, grew directly out of those classes. It is a novel comprised of three hardboiled novels whose central character is a Fitzgerald/Hemingway stand-in. Whenever I need inspiration, I continue to go back to the authors I learned about with Professor Irwin—Hammett, Chandler, and Fitzgerald in particular.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published?
This is a harder question than you might think, as there have been many “wow” moments since I was first published. Surprising myself even, I’m going to say it was when good friends told me that my picture book, ONE OF A KIND, was the nightly bedtime book of choice for their daughter. Accolades and endorsements are incredible, but knowing that I connected with a young reader like that is what writing is all about.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
THE PRESERVE and my previous novel, BARREN COVE, are about worlds in which sentient robots are the dominant life form on the planet. Robots fascinate me because of their ability to live forever. Hardware and software might need to be updated at times, but the robot consciousness can be immortal. The point of both novels is contrasting that immortality with humans’ mortality. Which mode gives life more meaning? Is there purpose in an endless life? How does either mode affect the relationships an individual has?

In your new book; THE PRESERVE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
In THE PRESERVE, most of humanity has died out in a series of plagues. The sentient robots have become the majority. Nine months before the novel begins, the robot government has opened a series of preserves, where humans can live in a robot-free environment. The preserves are controversial, the anti-orgo robot faction resenting giving up land to an inferior being, and some humans fearing that congregating is asking for another outbreak. Then the first murder on preserve land happens. Jesse Laughton, chief of police in the preserve township Liberty, knows that he must solve the murder quickly, or the anti-orgo robots will use it as evidence that humans can’t take care of themselves. 

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
When I started THE PRESERVE I was a stay-at-home parent, which meant I could write during the day while my daughter was in school. By the time I was rewriting the book, I had gotten a day job, and that slowed my progress considerably. Instead of writing every day, my writing got relegated mostly to weekends and vacations, so that was the biggest hurdle to finishing.

What part of Jesse did you enjoy writing the most? 
The most challenging part of writing Jesse was trying to convey his almost superhuman ability to read people’s emotions. It was based on Paul Ekman’s work with microexpressions, which are expressions that last as little as half a second. Jesse’s ability to read those microexpressions is something that robots can’t match. The challenge of conveying that was daunting, but fun.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
Kir is a robot who was Jesse’s partner when they were both police in Baltimore. I think I’d introduce Kir to Frankenstein’s monster. Both are lifeforms created by humans, but are forever separate from humans. Kir has found a purpose to his life, which is protecting humans, but he still struggles with the idea of outliving the humans he cares for. The monster, of course, has declared war on humans, feeling wronged by them, but he is also cursed with a kind of immortality. I think it would be interesting to see how they challenged each other’s world view.

  • “Laughton could never decide if the robots had afforded humans so much land to humor the pro-orgos, who thought consolidating humans would encourage a population boom that’d require space to grow into, or if the machines just wanted a wide cushion zone.”
  • “’We’ve got a murder on the preserve. We don’t come up with a killer, and the robots are going to use it as an excuse to come in here and take over the investigation.”
  • “Here was the nightmare, a robotic intervention, and Brandis the worst possible representative, a seventy-year-old robot of the old guard, and one of the most vocal anti-orgos in the world.”
  • “The Liberty Fertility Clinic was located in what had long ago been an enormous house…It seemed an appropriate building for the propagation of the human race, a house harkening to a time of human splendor.”
  • “Laughton was so beat down that part of him felt like it would be a blessing to let the metals come in and take over, but he thought of Erica growing up in a robot-free environment, where she wouldn’t have to face arrogant metals…The idea that that all rested on him was staggering.”
  • “Laughton could tell his old partner was pleased simply because he said nothing, allowing Erica to do her celebratory dance without comment. Laughton was happy too, happy and proud that his daughter had that kind of a bond with a robot.”
  • “The orgo drug trade and the robot drug trade were intertwined, and the preserve, with its legal status outside of the robotic purview—at least for now—was the hub.”
  • “’Most robots don’t realize it, but it’s still a human world. We may be the majority now, but America—still here. President, Congress, the whole thing. We’re robots, and we’re still running your government. Your government in which we were considered things, not individuals. We’re still speaking English out loud. We’re like colonials after the empire recedes, still living under the empire’s rules.’”
  • “’Jesse, don’t take this the wrong way, but when you die, would you want me to stay on until Erica dies?...Because I can. I can live through your grandchildren’s lives too. Forever.’”
  • “Erica was silent for a while then, but holding her breath, clearly thinking something more… ‘I don’t want to leave the preserve,’ she said.”
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
I used to write a blog about children’s books that were written by “adult” authors. There are many ridiculous facts that I learned through that endeavor, but the one I’m going to go with here is that Graham Greene wrote a series of picture books with his lover Dorothy Glover. The idea that the author of The Power and Glory and The Quiet American wrote a book called The Little Train still amuses me.

What according to you is your most treasured possession? 
Can I count a collection as a single possession? Collection is singular, right? I’ll fudge it a little and say that my most treasured possession is my Battle-Armor He-man and Battlecat. They are my childhood ones, and currently the only vintage Masters of the Universe figures I have on display.

Best date you've ever had? 
My wife and I have known each other since we were thirteen, and we became a couple at eighteen, so I haven’t “dated” much. We were just talking about this recently, and the night that our relationship changed was a going away party for a mutual friend the summer before starting college. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months, and we were just energized by each other, going off on our own and talking for hours. That’s our first “date.”

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go? 
Does this mean go back and observe or go back and change, because those invite very different answers? I’ll choose go back and observe as being less embarrassing. Of course, I wouldn’t want to observe anything that would make me feel embarrassed or awkward either, so I think I would go back to my first Bruce Springsteen concert. I’ve seen Bruce many times and it’s always cathartic, but I remember the first time I saw him as being exhilarating and I’d love to watch that concert again.

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say? 
The news right now is so harrowing, but it would be impossible to not talk about COVID-19 and its impact on everything.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today? 
The birth of my daughter. Every single thing around you takes on a different meaning once you are a parent. It’s all about how things relate to your child, not to you. In THE PRESERVE, Jesse’s feelings for his daughter are the underpinnings of the whole novel.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of? 
I will focus on “unique” here, and not the obvious things-losing my wife or losing my daughter. Uniquely, I have an irrational fear that a bat will fly into the house when I open the back door to let the dog out into the yard. We had a bat get into our old house, and were fortunate enough to have a cat that killed it before we even knew it was inside. Our current cat, however, is not up to that challenge. Besides the reality that bats carry rabies, the idea of having a bat in the house just freaks me out.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer? 
I remember one time when I was visiting my now-wife-then-girlfriend at college, and I woke up before she did and immediately started writing. It was such pure fun, the words just flowing out of me while she slept beside me. That kind of pure excitement is what I long for whenever I write.

Where can readers find you? 
Even though I don’t write new entries to my blog, WE TOO WERE CHILDREN, MR. BARIE, I still encourage people to go back and read the archives. I can be emailed through the blog too. Otherwise, I’m on Twitter @ArielSWinter and Facebook @ArielSWinterAuthor.

The critically acclaimed author of the “bold, innovating, and thrilling” (Stephen King) novel The Twenty-Year Death and the “brilliant” (Booklist, starred review) novel Barren Cove returns with a dark and compelling mystery set in the near future.

Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered.

Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late.

The Preserve is a fresh and futuristic mystery that is perfect for fans of Westworld and Blade Runner.


"Winter reveals his world slowly and subtly, forcing you to follow his trail of clues even as his detectives follow their own—unraveling two mysteries at once. In sparse, hardboiled prose, he invests real warmth into a human/robot friendship and finds time between shootouts to ask fascinating questions about the future of both species." Isaac Marion, New York Times bestselling author of WARM BODIES

“Winter does his worldbuilding gracefully… Robots may not be so different from humans in this fast-paced futuristic mystery.” Kirkus Reviews

“In what’s bound to be one of the most creative works of the year, most humans are long-dead from plague, and the few that are left have decided to embark upon an experiment—they will live together, in a community of humans, known as 'The Preserve.' Soon enough, the murder of a cyborg threatens to disrupt relations between humans and robots, and one of the last human police officers must use the creativity bots haven’t yet discovered how to mimic in order to solve the crime.” CrimeReads, "The Most Anticipated Crime Books of Fall"

“Full of smart commentary about the current state of America, Ariel S. Winter’s THE PRESERVE is set in a not-too-distant future after a plague led to a robot uprising.” PopSugar, "Best New Books of November"

“THE PRESERVE has thematic echoes of Isaac Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw stories, C. Robert Cargill’s Sea of Rust, and Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse, but at the same time it carves out its own niche, presenting a postapocalyptic world that is technologically robust (quite similar to our own in many ways) and socially complex. Fascinating, and, with its talk of organized antirobot groups and ‘human supremacists,’ definitely relevant to today’s readers.” Booklist

You can purchase The Preserve at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ARIEL S. WINTER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter.


  1. My favorite show was Leave it to Beaver.

  2. "What was your favorite childhood television program?" Hmm. "Upstairs, Downstairs" or "Lord Peter Wimsey"!