Tony Bertauski

Tony Bertauski lives in Charleston, SC with his wife, Heather, and two kids, Ben and Maddi. He teaches horticulture at Trident Technical College, writes a gardening column for the Post and Courier, and published two textbooks on landscape design. Among numerous novels he's published, he was a 2008 winner of the South Carolina Fiction Contest for his short story entitled, 4-Letter Words.
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The 6th standalone novel in the Claus Universe. The holiday legends you never heard growing up.

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This is Ryder’s last stop.

It’s a half million acre ranch and home to forty teenagers. It’s also home to a famous and eccentric philanthropist with a peculiar obsession with the North Pole. His name is Billy “Big Game” Sinterklaas. But shortly after Ryder arrives, secret messages begin leading him to what’s really happening. Billy Big Game believes that Santa Claus is real.

This is the year he proves it.

He says there’s one Christmas story no one has ever heard, the legend of the biggest and baddest reindeer of them all, the one who leads the sleigh and protects the herd. But Billy Big Game doesn’t want to discover the last reindeer. He wants to capture him.

That’s why he brought Ryder to the ranch.


REVIEWS FOR THE CLAUS UNIVERSE

“Amazing rewrites that will astound you!” –Ruth Jackson, Reviewer
“Best Santa Story Ever!” – Bob, Reviewer
“Simply lovely.” –jl, Reviewer
“MY HEART GREW THREE SIZES…” – Reviewer
“Couldn’t Put It Down.” – Reviewer
“Fantasy at it’s [sic] finest.” –Carol, Reviewer
“Absolutely phenomenal!” –JayFly, Reviewer
“A++” –TKJ 131, Reviewer
“Absolutely Awesome.” –Dee greusel, Reviewer
“I absolutely love this series…” –Kara McCabe, Reviewer
“Tony is an excellent story teller!” jjjlake, Reviewer
“I want MORE!” –J. Bunch, Reviewer
“Awesomely engaging!” –Janice Everett, Reviewer
Harold Ballard's breaking point came in the sixth grade.

John Lively was a mouth-breather that no one cared about. He was an over-sized sixth grader destined to be incarcerated. God wasted a body on him. 

Harold was a curious loner that sat in the back. Unlike John's family, Harold's parents loved him. They just didn't have time for him. They spent days in the basement working on something that would change the world. Sometimes it was weeks. Harold was tired of being forgotten and pushed around. He pushed back.

That day would change the world.

That day would change him into the man he was destined to become. His curiosity would lead him to Foreverland. 



INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR


HOW IMPORTANT ARE NAMES TO YOU IN THIS BOOK. DID YOU CHOOSE THEM BASED ON SOUND OR MEANING?

Almost all of my books have names with special meaning, some foreshadowing a big twist. In The Annihilation of Foreverland, Reed’s name was symbolic of his ability to tolerate suffering, bending in the face of gale forces but never breaking. 


WHERE DOES YOUR TOMORROW SPRING FROM? IN OTHER WORDS, HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE CRAZY WORLD?

Sometimes, I can’t remember how the story started by the time I get to the end. The Annihilation of Foreverland started with the premise of identity. I wanted to write it as a YA book in the science fiction dystopia genre in a way that slowly unfolded as well as questioned who we are and explore our fear of death, and what we’re willing to do to avoid it. Like all of my stories, it does have a romantic angle mixed into the action. Because it should.



GIVE YOUR BOOK THE BECHDEL TEST. IT HAS TO HAVE AT LEAST TWO (NAMED) WOMEN IN IT WHO TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT SOMETHING BESIDES A MAN.

I failed because there’s only one female in The Annihilation of Foreverland. However, the young adult sequel (Foreverland is Dead) passes with flying colors since its mostly female characters that rarely talk about men.


WHAT SORT OF BODY COUNT ARE WE TALKING HERE?

The bodies die, but not necessarily the characters. Chew on that a second.


DO YOU WANT YOUR TOMORROW TO MAKE IT BIG, AS IN JK ROWLINGS-BIG? WHY OR WHY NOT?

Believe it or not, no. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to make enough cash to pay off this house and send my kids to college, but I’ll pass on fame and fortune. Anonymity is a blessing.


YOU CAST YOUR CHARACTERS FOR A MOVIE. WHO MAKES IT?

In The Annihilation of Foreverland, I only casted two characters in my head while I was writing it. The Director is Jeff Bridges and Mr. Jones is Anthony Hopkins. It was like watching a movie as I wrote.


HAVE YOU WRITTEN IN ANY OTHER GENRES BESIDES YA DYSTOPIAN?  WHAT DREW YOU TO YOU THIS GENRE?

I’ve been fascinated by consciousness, identity and what this all means since I was young. I would read my grandfather’s science fiction books with elements of artificial intelligence and alternate realities and wonder what happened when they died? I suppose that’s why all of my writing deals with the big mysteries of life in one way or another. In a way, I write for my own exploration, in a sort of thought experiment approach, pulling apart our identities, exploring what makes us who we are. If I lost my memories, would I still be me? If I had my body parts replaced with synthetic replications, at what point would I not be me? Do I even need a body? 


What am I?


A few years ago, I figured I’d write a romance novel. Since all of my books have a romantic element, I thought it would be fun. Halfway through the novel, I found myself thinking more and more about the next project—a dystopian idea. So 40,000 words in, I scrapped the romance novel and got back to what I love. Science fiction.

A synthetic stem cell called a biomite can replace any cell in your body. They are infallible. As our percentages of biomites rise, we become stronger, we become smarter and prettier. We become better.


Can we resist the temptation of perfection? Are we still human when our bodies are replaced by synthetic replications?


If biomites exist, laws will be imposed to prevent excess and abuse. Those with 50% biomites will no longer be considered human. 


They will be halfskin.


Halfksin: The Vignettes is a compendium of short stories found throughout the Halfskin trilogy, a harbinger of what humanity’s pursuit of perfection may look like.

 

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR


WHAT GENRE DO YOU PREFER?

Science fiction, dystopia, technothriller and, to some extent, young adult. I do have a series of novellas in the vampire genre. Yeah, I know. Doesn’t fit. That character, Drayton, came out of nowhere when I was at a community theatre production of Dracula. I figured that an immortal vampire would more likely become compassionate and wise as he grew older. The technothriller Halfskin is similar to vampires in that technology promises immortality and complete control of our bodies. But then what?


WHY A SYNTHETIC STEM CELL?

Organic life is too nilly-willy. We’re limited by our DNA. Give it to the scientists to perfect this vehicle that carries us around because it is a vehicle. If we no longer have organic bodies, if every one of our cells is replaced by something manmade all the way down to the neurons and synapses, then what are we? What if our world is just a computerized environment, ala The Matrix? Would we know the difference? Look, we’re printing organs today. I’m not, but someone is. Some genius has figured out how to push play and heart or liver or kidney comes down the chute. Halfskin takes the idea into the distant future and explores whether this leads to more happiness or just more of the same. Because more money, more problems.


DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER JOB BESIDES AUTHOR?

Day job, I’m a college horticulture teacher. Writing is a passion. No plans to change it. 


WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?

Breathe.


WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE?

Omnipresent supergalactic oneness.


IF WE HAD A CUSTOM THAT ALLOWED US TO EAT OUR CHILDREN, WHAT KIND OF SAUCE WOULD YOU USE?

Ketchup, the miracle condiment.


ARE OUR ELECTRONIC DEVICES STEALING OUR SOUL? AND IF SO, DO YOU MAKE 

OFFERINGS TO YOUR TOASTER?

I offer white bread and the toaster gives back crunchy, brown bread. Never doubt a true miracle. 


 Socket Greeny is not normal. 


His funny name and snow-white hair are the least of his problems. When a devious prank goes bad, Socket and his friends realize they are about to lose everything they’ve worked for in the alternate reality universe of virtualmode. 

But when the data drain encroaches on Socket’s subconscious memories, some mysterious force erases the event entirely. Subtle clues suggest there's more to him than he knows and will lead him to discover why his mom is always at work. And just how far from normal he is. 

The beginning of Socket Greeny’s epic journey to save himself begins with the making. The universe is depending on him. 


INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR


When did you start writing?

My first effort started with Socket Greeny. It was a story I started for my son because he hated to read. It didn’t work, but this character – Socket – took root. It was the first time I felt possessed by a character with a story to tell. It took me 5 years and countless rewrites to get it right. I waited by the mailbox after that, but the giant paycheck never arrived.


If you can’t make money, why write fiction?

I didn’t say you can’t make money. There are a lot of people out there with a good book, whether it’s romance, dystopia, science fiction or young adult. I’m just a minnow in a crowded pond. It took a good deal of networking and research to realize just how hard it is. 


Thanks to epublishing, I can get the book out. That frees me up to write what inspires me. Writing is the true love. There’s something deeply satisfying to have characters come to life in your mind and watch their stories unfold. It’s a deeper experience than reading someone else’s story.


What do you want readers to get from your stories?

I’ve always been inspired by fearless writing that asked poignant questions; questions like who am I and what is the universe? Things that made me look at life slightly different; books that exposed a layer of reality. Writing in the young adult genre appealed to me most because that’s the age I really craved those questions and answers.


I want readers to see the world slightly different.


What is your favorite character?

I love a bad, bad antagonist that you can’t entirely hate; there’s some smidgeon of redemption you feel inside this demented, sorry character. Heath Ledger’s Joker. A despicable character that didn’t deserve an ounce of pity, but, for some reason, I didn’t hate him as much as I should have. It’s that character I find most intriguing. In The Socket Greeny Saga, the character Pike was my Joker.


Drayton once believed he was a vampire. He doesn’t know what he is. Or why he has lived for thousands of years. He takes not his victim’s blood but the silky essence of their soul during their last breath. Often mistaken for the Angel of Death, his victims sometimes ask for forgiveness. Sometimes he delivers. After all, he is not without sin. 


Blake Barnes commits suicide by freezing on Mt. Hood. As his life fades, he assumes Death has come to him in the form of a young man. In his last moments, he asks Death to find his family, to tell them he's sorry. Drayton honors this last request as he absorbs Blake Barnes' waning essence. He travels to the Lowcountry of South Carolina to find his family. But saying sorry is not always as easy as the words imply. Drayton seeks to unravel the mess Blake Barnes has left behind and the predator he's unleashed on his family.


INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR


Did you ever think you’d write about vampires?

Nope. Drayton came out of nowhere when I was at a community theatre production of Dracula. I figured that an immortal vampire would more likely become compassionate and wise as he grew older. Twilight put a different spin on the vampire genre, much different than Nosferatu. Drayton’s nothing like Twilight. Or Nosferatu.


What's a downside to writing a character similar that's similar to you? 

Predictable. Boring. If every book I write is similar, it ceases to surprise the reader. That’s what I loved about Drayton, he was just the opposite of me. This paranormal being was fearless not out of bravado but the wisdom brought about by countless years of immortality. I called him a vampire because it was the word that fit him the best in his early years, but he became something much for that. Whatever a vampire becomes after the gore and bloodsucking, sort of like the caterpillar and butterfly. 


Do your characters ever resemble you in your beliefs?

Some do. But there are others that are just fun to go the other way, especially antagonists. I do find it interesting, even courageous, when authors can write very demented, sick and twisted antagonists. It’s very revealing to show the world what’s bouncing around in your head.


What do you think is the most important aspect of writing a character?

Letting him or her grow in my head. It’s when I’m driving to work, taking a shower, or lying in bed that they come to life. It’s also one of the most gratifying elements of writing. I’ve enjoyed letting this vampire walk through my mind, leaving his short stories behind.


 Life hasn’t been kind to Oliver Toye. 


As if juvenile diabetes isn’t enough, he’s forced to live with his tyrannical grandmother in a snow-bound house. He spends his days doing chores and the nights listening to the forest rumble. 

But when he discovers the first leather-bound journal, the family secrets begin to surface. The mystery of his great-grandfather’s voyage to the North Pole is revealed. That’s when the snowman appears. 

Magical and mysterious, the snowman will save Oliver more than once. But when the time comes for Oliver to discover the truth, will he have the courage? When Flury needs him, will he have the strength? When believing isn’t enough, will he save the snowman from melting away? 

Because sometimes even magic needs a little help. 


INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR


Where did you come up with the idea of writing science fiction for holiday characters?

My nephew mentioned the “secret Santa ninja elves” that visit his school during Christmas, and this spawned the idea of writing a semi-serious sci-fi version of Santa. How the ideas flesh out is a long process. I started keep track of how the story arc of my latest novel evolves, just to remember where it began. It’s all over the place. I love the challenge of bringing a story to light, letting the characters get in my head and telling me where to go. Flury: Journey of a Snowman is the third book in the Claus series. It was originally Frosty the Snowman, but Frosty is copyrighted. It didn’t matter, really. The character was better suited to be something other than Frosty. Flury is a bit more serious.

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Are you getting any backlash for rewriting these Christmas legends?

Not at all. In fact, a lot of readers have connected to all the unanswered questions surround them, especially Santa Claus. How does he go around the world in a night? Why is he fat? Why does he live on the North Pole? How do reindeer fly? How does he carry all those presents? All of them answered with the magic wand of science fiction… I mean, the science wand of science fiction. The stories still have the fantasy element, of course. Some leaps of imagination. And also the romance angle. Why? Because all stories have love.

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What is your favorite character from the books that you have written?

Socket Greeny is one of my favorites. That science fiction trilogy was my first story. I wrote it in first person and really connected with him. However, Jack Frost is in Claus (Legend of the Fat Man) and Jack (The Tale of Frost) and has become my all-time fave. He’s childish, irreverent and dangerous, but at the same time lovable. 

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What order should readers purchase the Claus books?

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man is the best start. After that, any order works. They all can be read as standalone novels.

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