Interview with Laura Remson Mitchell

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Minneapolis, MN, but from the age of 8, I've lived in Los Angeles, CA, mostly in the San Fernando Valley. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and one of my dreams as a child was to write a science fiction novel. It took me a very long time, but I finally published The Reality Matrix Effect. I spent much of my professional life as a journalist (both as a reporter/copy editor at the Valley News in Van Nuys, CA, and then as a free-lance writer specializing in political and economic subjects). After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1978, I became a public policy analyst and disability-rights advocate specializing in health-care reform. I used my experience in all of these areas in crafting this novel.
When did you first start writing?
I think I started writing stories when I was in what is now called middle school, but I decided to pursue a career as a journalist when I was student at U.S. Grant High School in Van Nuys. A mix-up in my class schedule had landed me in a journalism class, and I was hooked. I was hooked even more after I was asked to write a weekly column about Grant High for the Valley News. (Long-time residents of the Valley may remember the paper as the Valley News and Green Sheet. It's now the Los Angeles Daily News.) I also wound up writing news releases about activities at Grant. I majored in journalism at California State University, Northridge, and wound up becoming the first woman to serve on the copy desk at the Valley News and the first woman approved for membership in the Los Angeles Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. I never forgot my dream of writing science fiction, though. The setting of the Prologue chapter of my book is based on the city room of the old offices of the Valley News.
What's the story behind The Reality Matrix Effect?
I vividly remember the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot. As it was for many others of my generation, that was a defining moment. Five years later, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were killed, too. I couldn't help thinking: What if they had just been wounded, not killed? How would things have been different? As a big fan of Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone," I came up with 4-page short story called "Castles in the Air" posing that very question in a Twilight Zone kind of way. Years later, I decided to turn the short story into a novel, one that would incorporate a plausible scientific explanation along with the Twilight Zone premise. Developments in quantum physics, particularly the Many Worlds Interpretation, fascinated me and seemed to give me just the hook I was looking for. I finished writing the book, but life took me in a different direction for many years, and I didn't actively pursue publication at the time. With the encouragement of friends, though, I finally published the book as a Kindle edition in 2013. Through Smashwords, I am trying to reach other e-book markets as well.
You said life took you in a different direction. What do you mean?
After I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1978, I became an MS peer counselor. I did that for 10 years. I also became more aware of public policies affecting people with disabilities. I had been active with the League of Women Voters in California for several years, and I applied what I had learned while serving as a legislative consultant for the California LWV to working on disability rights and health-care issues. At the time, the California chapters of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society had no public policy advocacy program. I developed such a program, which we called the Multiple Sclerosis California Action Network (MS-CAN), and I ran it for 10 years. That didn't leave me much time to work on publishing my book. (Though I haven't been updating my personal website lately, it includes some of my non-fiction writing from that period. The website is at http://webspace.webring.com/people/rl/lrmidi/ .)
A substance called Nitinol plays a big role in your story. Nitinol really exists, doesn't it?
Yes. It's a "memory metal," an alloy of nickel and titanium. The properties of this substance were discovered at the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in 1959. Hence the name--Ni for nickel, Ti for titanium and NOL for Naval Ordinance Laboratory. My husband, Neil, is an electronics engineer, and one of the professional magazines he used to get included an article about Nitinol and about possible uses for it. It intrigued me enough that I wrote to Frederick Wang, co-discoverer of the material, and asked some questions. He not only answered my questions; he also sent me a sample of Nitinol wire, which gave me a chance to test out its memory "kick" for myself.
How did you come up with the idea of "reality matrix theory"?
Years ago, as I was walking home from school one day, I started talking with a boy who just happened to be going my way. He asked me what school I attended. When I told him, he said something like: "Wow. That's a rough school!" I thought he must be referring to a different school. I later found out that he was right. My school did indeed have a reputation for being "rough," as he put it. At least for some students. But none of that touched me. It was as if I and my circle of friends existed in a different reality. I guess I never forgot the idea that each of us perceives the world differently, and that our perceptions determine what we think of as "real."
What kind of books do you like to read?
I like books that involve me in a good story while also giving me interesting ideas to think about. That's what I tried to offer my readers in The Reality Matrix Effect.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I always loved The Twilight Zone television series. For years, I used to think up story ideas. In fact, back in our college days, science-fiction novelist David Gerrold and I used to bump into each other when we were on dates with other people, and the two of us would wind up working out Twilight Zone story ideas while ignoring our dates! That was before David became a successful s-f novelist (in addition to writing for television). Meanwhile, as I said before, my life took a different turn. I stopped working on fiction for a while, but both David and I continued our love for science fiction. And I continued to love The Twilight Zone genre.

My latest book, Detours and Reminiscences, includes several short stories inspired by The Twilight Zone that I wrote in the 1980s. Among them is one called "House Secret," which almost made it into The Twilight Zone Magazine. I had been waiting for months--about a year, in fact--for a response to my manuscript submission. I had contacted the magazine to ask about it several times, but I didn't want to ask for the manuscript to be sent back because I still hoped something good might happen. Finally, the manuscript was returned. Along with it was a letter apologizing for the long delay and saying that the editors had wanted to use the story, but.... Lucky me! The magazine went out of business before it could publish the story! Still, that was definitely the best rejection letter I ever received.

By the way, Detours and Reminiscences also includes "Castles in the Air," the short story that was the basis for my novel.
What are the "reminiscences" in the title of your second book?
The "reminiscences" are some of my recollections and thoughts about the circumstances surrounding or inspiring each of the stories. Originally, I had intended to include short introductions to each piece, but then I realized that to share what I wanted to share with readers beforehand would risk spoilers. So I decided to put the stories in context using a follow-up approach instead. That's why the reminiscences appear *after* the each story.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My hobby is composing music using a MIDI keyboard and computer software. You can listen to some of my music online at http://psrtutorial.com/perfArchive/LauraRM.html .
Published 2018-01-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Detours and Reminiscences
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 23,480. Language: English. Published: March 22, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir
Originally titled "Detours through the Twilight Zone," this collection of never-before-published short stories pays homage to the classic television series. Interspersed with the stories are the author's recollections of the circumstances surrounding and/or inspiring each tale. The final story, "Castles in the Air," was the basis for Mitchell's novel The Reality Matrix Effect.
The Reality Matrix Effect
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 92,110. Language: English. Published: January 28, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
When newspaper copy editor Al Frederick is called back to work after a popular congressman is shot and killed in 1971, he is unprepared for the suddenly changed headline that splits reality and sets his life—and the course of world history—on a new path. Fifty years later, all is well for Al's friend, high-school teacher Rayna Kingman—until Al dies, and things start to change....