Interview: Madeline Ashby Author of vN

August 2, 2012 Author Feature, Interview 9

 Interview Featuring Madeline Ashby


Madeline Ashby has graciously agreed to give My Shelf Confessions an interview.  I do so love poking and prodding at authors and them being nice enough to allow it! So oodles of thanks Madeline!

By the way people if vN hasn’t hit your radar before this – you should DEFINITELY read it, it was such a great book, I devoured it like the main character Amy devours her grandmother.  NOM NOM TASTY!

 Read Pabkins’ review of vN  

What made you want to be a writer? Aching to have carpel tunnels? A desire to gouge out your eyes from staring at a computer screen that long?

I grew up telling myself stories. Seriously. I would recite them alone to myself in my room. I would do all the voices and rehearse until it sounded right. In retrospect, it’s lucky my parents didn’t get me examined, or something. Then I started writing those stories down, and it was the thing I most enjoyed doing.

Tell me about one of your typical writing days…what are your routines? Favorite places to read, write. Music? millions of notes strewn all over the floor?  *maybe a playlist or a picture of where you write?*

I have different playlists for different works. The playlist for vN includes Nine Inch Nails, Amanda Palmer, Fleet Foxes, The Civil Wars, Sarah Slean, Editors, and Johnny Cash. That’s just a sampling, though. The actual list is over four hours long. I write while wearing a pair of Sony XB-1 headphones. I love Sony headphones. I won’t wear anything else. I tried, once, with a pair of cheap Panasonic drugstore earbuds. It was awful.  Sounded like wartime radio. Which, as I think of it, would be a good title for something.

How was your experience with getting published – like hiking up Mount Fuji?

Not really. It was more like yoga. Holding a pose and waiting, no matter how painful it was.

How active do you think you are in the book blogging community and how has it treated you? Eaten you whole?

I don’t blog a lot of books, so I can’t say I’m very active in it. I do get interviewed by it a lot, though, so it’s really exposing a whole new world to me. One thing I do wish is that my mother would blog books. She actually reads more than I do, and more broadly, so she would offer great perspective. She’s the one who made sure I read Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens, growing up. But she also made sure I read Stephen King and Caleb Carr and Robert Graves.  She’s part of a book club that meets once a month, and for each month one member chooses a book. They read all sorts of stuff and I hear about each title. She’d be a great book blogger, because she summarizes each title so well, and explains what she liked and disliked about each one.

How did this story come to you – I find it so unique, and since I haven’t read it yet I’m curious to know any tidbits of how you got to your starting point.  Did you start at the end and work back? you know …like dessert first – I do so love my dessert first!

I was working on a Master’s thesis on Japanese animation, cyborg theory, and fan culture, so I was watching a lot of anime — everything Ghost in the Shell in particular. My first husband had this theory that the Tachikomas would turn into von Neumann machines as a method of prolonging their lives, and then I started wondering the same about Naruto’s shadow clones. (Specifically, I wondered if all the shadow clones worked in parallel process. Could they act like a distributed cognition network, etc.) So self-replication was on my mind.

Initially, I had imagined a short story about a man who discovers that his wife and daughter were robots. But that’s a really old-fashioned, cliche story, so I scrapped it. It was far more interesting, I thought, if robots were already out and about everybody knew about them. So I wrote a short story about a man who knows his wife and daughter are robots, but doesn’t know just what they’re capable of. It was fun, but it wasn’t a complete story. It took me a while to decide that it was a novel. From there, I just wrote my way between scenes I really wanted. I did a few passes on the manuscript, and sent it out. After it was purchased, I did another pass. I cut about fifteen thousand words from it. I added news stuff, but not much. I really just wanted to trim a lot of the fat, and keep up the pace. I’m really happy I did that. I suspect it’s a bit unusual, but it was what was best for the story.

Where did you come up with your cover art – or did you not have much say in the process?

I had some say. Not all the say, obviously, but some. And I’m really happy with how it turned out. People really seem to have gravitated toward it. When my partner, David Nickle, shows it off to people, their eyes tend to widen and they grab the phone away from him.

What is your current WIP (Work in Progress) if you have one? Oh come on spill the beans – I promise to blab about it.

I’m working on the sequel to vN, called iD. It’s written from the perspective of Javier, a supporting character in the first novel. He’s on a quest for redemption and revenge, and it takes him some pretty interesting places. I spent far too much time researching the perfect house for one of characters he meets while on that quest. Eventually I settled on the Desert Wing House, by Brent Kendle.

Do you prefer e-books over physical books? *Be warned …. your answer might cause me to go into mass hysterics.

I like ebooks for quick reading, and paper books for annotation. I have yet to discover a really great annotation app that would suit academic use, i.e. something that would allow me to highlight a passage and export it into a blockquote within an essay, and then automatically generate a citation in a bibliography. I mean I know I’m asking for the moon, here, but come on. I’ve begun to suspect that academic publishers have deliberately squashed any attempts to develop an app that would do the very thing I’m describing, because they’d have to price ebooks a bit more cheaply and they’ll never, ever do that.

And the most IMPORTANT question you will ever answer *drumroll please* – What are your thoughts and feelings on the Amazingly Delicious – Canned Not quite Meat – SPAM? Spam spam spam spam spammity spam

I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten it, so I can’t say. I would like to try spam musubi, though. Mostly because it’s a big snack food in Hawai’i, and eating it would mean I was in Hawai’i.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

SPAM Musubi is usually how I get people to try spam if they never have before….that or SPAM fried rice – most people are oddly very surprised over how much they end up liking it.

THANKS AGAIN! for dropping by and answering our silly questions.  Good lucky with the book release!

Read Pabkins’ review of vN  – Click here to see review


Amy Peterson is a self-replicating humanoid robot known as a VonNeumann.

For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.

Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade’s history – like the fact that she alone can kill humans without failsafing…



Follow Madeline AshbyWEBSITE | BLOG

Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer, futurist, anime fan, and immigrant. vN is her debut novel. Her non-fiction has appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, and

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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9 Responses to “Interview: Madeline Ashby Author of vN”

  1. April

    VN just sounds so amazingtastic, I really need to read it SOOn! I’ve never watched anime before, well not like TRIED to, I’ve caught soem stuff randomly on TV but never paid attention.. I should really give Ghost in the Shell a try, I’ve heard great things about it.

    • Pabkins

      GRRR I hate when the interwebs eats my comments! But yes yes you should definitely read vN. It is so awesome and definitely different than the normal stuff you read, I know you will love it.

      By the way – you should be drawn and quartered….never getting into anime – how dare you! It’s awesome – I’ve been hooked on the stuff since I could crawl! Mostly all I watch is anime, cooking channel and sci fi shows (oh plus Big Bang Theory). You just gotta find the kind of anime that fits your personality.

      Ghost in the shell is some deep stuff in my opinion – worth watching but you might want to start with lighter funnier one first to wet your whistle on.

      • April

        Yes, I totally need to get into anime – I’ve caught a couple episodes of some show on Adult Swim that have captured my attention, but you’re right it’s just a matter of finding what I like. 😀

        Yeah, I’m not sure if I’d like the lighter funnier stuff, that might come off as cheesy to me if I’m not used to it? Hmm but I’ll have to look around! 😀

        And I LOVE the Big Bang Theory! 😀

  2. Maggie

    We should have a SPAM party! It is hilarious that you threw that in there. =) Great interview, nice to have non-serious mixed in with the academic questions to make an interesting read.