Alicia (A.O.) Godmasch is a busy person. As a respected figure in the entertainment industry, she currently operates her two Atlanta-based companies, Maswell Films and Sunlight Casting, while heavily involved with Bigger Picture Films (TBPF) in Los Angeles. She has served as a producer on the Lifetime series Married At First Sight and worked on series airing on networks such as BET and WE. So how can a woman who is no stranger to 12-hour workdays possibly have time to potentially craft the next must-read science fiction series?
In an exclusive interview with The Inquisitr, Godmasch explains “the whisper” that sparked Retrograde: The Darkness, a world-building epic spawned from the Mercury in Retrograde phenomena. The first of an intended duology, Retrograde was written in the spirit of Suzanne Collins and N.K. Jemisin’s iconic fantasy series and drew inspiration from Godmasch’s travels around the world. She also reveals what makes her debut novel stand out in the crowded science fiction market and how she managed to put it all together while almost completely abandoning sleep.
Terrence Smith: You’ve been in the entertainment industry for a while. What inspired you to become an author?
Alicia (A.O.) Godmasch: So one day I was on set with a girlfriend of mine, she’s like a spiritual guru. For about a year or two, I had bits of a story floating around in my head. During this time, I was speaking with a friend of mine who is also in film. He was like, ‘We’re going to work on this project together,’ and I was like, ‘Cool.’ He’s obsessed with Steven Spielberg, so I was just like, ‘Let me do some research on Steven Spielberg so I can get to know my friend better and we can work on this project.’ So with Steven Spielberg, in one of his talks, he talks about ‘the whisper.’ Basically, he says in regard to ‘the whisper,’ ‘A lot of people have good ideas. Some people have very good ideas. But you know personally when you have a very great idea when you hear the whisper.’ It’s one of those things where you have to trim out all of the psychic noise, all negativity, really protect your energy in order to hear it, but it is literally like your calling.
When I was on set this day, it was around November, we were talking about the Mercury in Retrograde phenomenon. And I seriously legit heard ‘the whisper.’
And basically, it was telling me this was my story and that I had to expound on this. I knew that it was my calling to write a novel that was based around the Mercury in Retrograde phenomena, or at least that was the founding of it. So I went home that night after working for about 12 hours and I started writing this novel. It wasn’t something that I set out to do. I didn’t say, ‘This year I’m going to write a novel.’ It was just something that organically happened and that’s why I love it so much. That’s why I really feel like this is a gift that I’ve been given. It wasn’t something that I had truly set out to do, but it was something that just happened. A situation that happened and I knew without a shadow of a doubt I had to write this book.
TS: Have you always envisioned ‘Retrograde’ in two parts?
AG: No, at first I envisioned it as a trilogy. But I just feel for my personal taste, I like a duology. You have the first book and it leaves you in a place where you can’t wait to know more. But you know when you get that second book, all of your questions are going to be answered. There’s going to be a conclusion, and you’re going to be able to understand where that book ends.
It’s very satisfying for me to read duologies. I love duologies. Trilogies are OK too, but with duologies, you get there quicker. It’s just so much easier to get that second book or to pick them both up at the same time and be like, ‘OK I know by the end of this novel it’s going to be a wrap.’
That’s why I figured I’d go ahead and make a duology. If anything, later on I could always delve back and do another duology based on the lives of certain interesting characters. I thought if anything I’d go back and do that, but I want to leave it as a duology and not continue on to the trilogy. But originally it was supposed to be a three-part series.
TS: What should readers expect when they open ‘Retrograde’?
AG: I think that they should expect to read about characters, to find someone in that novel that they can really relate to. I feel like when they purchase ‘Retrograde’ and they open that book, they’re going to see all kinds of dynamics between these characters, and they’re going to see multiple love stories. And not just the traditional love story, guy meets girl and whatever. You’re going to have different kinds of love stories in there. Relationships that are so beautiful between mother and daughter, that is to me one of the purest love stories. The story of finding love and friendships with one another. It’s just one of those things where it really makes you explore your own circles, your own family relationships and stuff like that. To see what’s at the core of that relationship, to realize and appreciate how pure that is, these beautiful and supportive and wonderful relationships. It’s such a gift, you know? So I kind of go into that.
In addition to all of that, it’s a thrilling ride. There’s a lot of action, it’s exciting. My husband read it, and he’s not a reader. I think my book was the first book he read for recreational purposes in a couple of decades. He could not put it down. He was like, ‘Honey, this book makes me want to go out and workout. It’s just so exciting.’ He was just so thrilled by it. It made me feel so great and grateful, but it’s a ride. So you have the deep relationships you want to explore, but you are also thoroughly entertained and wrapped up in these stories. You’re really going to get sucked into this world, which is great.
TS: What authors or books do you see as influences?
AG: So I love Suzanne Collins, I just think she’s the bomb and I also love N.K. Jemisin. I think that she is fantastic as well. I loved the ‘Hunger Games’ series. I devoured that book series. My husband literally thought I was reading something pornographic because I would have the book under the table and would be secretly turning the pages. And he was like, ‘What the heck are you reading? Do you need therapy, what’s going on?’ And I was just like, ‘No, I just can’t put it down.’ He never understood what was going on with me. That’s how into that book I was. I appreciated it because I remember reading about Suzanne Collins, too, and what her influences were. She’s very influenced by traveling, which is something that I did a lot of before I got into the entertainment industry. I traveled because of the entertainment industry, but nothing like with my past job as an international financial consultant where I traveled the world. I remember saying something about how she had gone over to, I believe, France and was really fascinated by the districts they had there, and it kind of influenced her. I always kept that in the back of my mind, too, like how these experiences can kind of filter their way into your projects. And sure enough, when I wrote ‘Retrograde,’ that’s exactly what happened to me. Many of my travels, even names of places. For about six months I lived in Malta and that really influenced me. With names and their language, which is very Arabic sounding. Those influences are in the book. I also spent some time in Italy, Switzerland and Germany, and all of those cultural things, architectural things, subconsciously they just filter right through, flow right through. They find their way into whatever you’re writing.
So she was definitely an influence along with N.K. Jemisin because they’re women who are powerful and they write amazing science fiction and fantasy. They are excellent at world-building. So I would say I was most influenced by the two of them.
TS: What benefits does your experience in entertainment offer you when it comes to writing?
AG: By the time I got to writing ‘Retrograde,’ I was already used to writing science fiction. I had a couple of projects, and I still have some projects that I’m doing now, including one that’s called ‘Quake,’ that are science fiction. So I found that screenwriting was able to help me prepare to download my thoughts onto my laptop. So that’s really a tremendous help for me. Because of the process of how I was writing this novel. That was when I had that conversation with my spiritual guru/colleague. When I came home that night, after I started writing and then went to sleep, I started dreaming about the novel and how everything should play out. I literally would go to sleep and dream the novel out. The next morning I would wake up and write what I saw. That also inspired me because of my occupation. I am used to being very visual and seeing things. That definitely affected everything with how I wrote this novel, and it affects it very much as I work on the second part of the duology. It’s very influential in how I add details and build this world.
TS: Do you have an eye on ‘Retrograde’ becoming a film?
AG: Absolutely. It’s crazy because as I was writing the book, even before I would say the second day that I was working on the novel, I could definitely see it as a film. There’s no doubt about it. I’ve been approached by some folks already. I haven’t committed to anything, but I know what I want and who I would love to take this book and turn it into a film. That is the ultimate goal, I would love to be able to see this as a movie. I think it would be a very timely and entertaining film.
TS: As a veteran of film and television, what differences did you notice when you entered the literary world?
AG: It’s a little bit different. I mean, there are a lot of similarities, but there are some differences. I would say that with writing a novel, it’s a different type of village that you build. With film, you have to bring on producers and talent and stuff like that. With writing a book, you have to bring on other talents. You have to bring on a good editor, you have to bring on an amazing design team, someone who is going to do the interior design of your book. There are so many different aspects you need, whether you self-publish or go through a publisher, you need to know how your book is getting published, you need to know where you want to sell your book, so you’re working with retailers and all kinds of stuff. It’s very different in that you’re building a different village, but the concept is very similar to me. I found that you still have to build this team and execute, albeit a different way, but it’s still the same process for me.
With this novel, I felt like I could take my time a little bit. People expect you to really take your time with this. Because you figure if you’re making good time, it’s still going to take at least a year to get a novel out. A lot of times it takes years to get a novel out, and that’s good. You took the necessary time for that project. But with a film, you want to get that out there as quickly as you can because people’s tastes are going to change or whatever. You just want to get it done. I found with writing this novel, I could really just take my time, I could think about it, I could read it over and over again. I could keep working on it and then know when to let it go. Know when to say, ‘OK, this is enough. Let’s move forward with the next step and get it out into the universe.
TS: How are you able to balance writing with your schedule?
AG: That’s the thing. So yeah, I didn’t sleep too much. There were days where my husband would ask, ‘Are you ever going to sleep?’ The answer is not really. You’re working 12 hours on a film, then you come home. So you figure if you’re doing a 12 to 12, you have to be disciplined enough to come home, get on your laptop and be coherent and write. I found that having a really detailed outline, chapter by chapter, really helps. That outline was a tremendous thing for me because I could at least say, ‘I’m on chapter three, what have I written? What do I need to do?’ Then go from there. It was challenging, but I welcome that challenge. Nothing great or good or really worthwhile can be so easy. I wanted to really work for this. To have that kind of determination to get it done, it wasn’t a question of if. It was, ‘However long this is going to take me, I’m going to do this.’ Because it’s worth it and I am really convinced this is a gift. This story is something I’ve been given. I have to get it out there, there is no other way. So I just did it.