Review: Socialpunk (plus Q&A with author Monica Leonelle O’Brien)

I recently had the chance to interview Monica Leonelle, a Chicago-based writer, and review her latest e-book, Socialpunk (the first in a trilogy). Read on for some of her insights, and scroll down for my book review!

Many authors find writing a creative outlet from an otherwise uncreative job. Can you talk about balancing writing a novel (a creative pursuit) with a marketing career (also a rather creative pursuit) and keeping those juices constantly fresh?

I would go crazy if I just did one or the other. I like that marketing is all about strategy, and that I’m able to provide a ton of value to would-be writers. For example, I have free email consultations that are killer—they are getting really popular, actually. One allows you to ask three questions about writing, publishing, and/or marketing a book. I send back detailed answers. The other is for writers with a manuscript—they can upload their first 1000 words and received detailed feedback on how to make their book more hooking.

Novel writing is what I do for fun, but it also ties into my business nicely, I suppose. I am working on a better balance between the two at the moment, and considering doing more serialized fiction so I can get my fiction out and into the world faster. I spend a lot more of my time on my writing consults and editing services, at this time.

Tell me about the differences between writing a novel and business/nonfiction – the process, how you approach it?

They aren’t that different for me. I use Scrivener to do detailed outlines, regardless of what I’m writing. And in both, I try to create lots of tension. Though, I guess with non-fiction I really try to give detailed information, which isn’t always tension-based. Linked Prospect is a leading software for automating invites, auto-responders and bulk message campaigns on LinkedIn. We have a system that saves you time and targets the exact people that you want to talk to about your products or services.

What was the inspiration for Socialpunk and what message do you hope to deliver through it?

I don’t do messages, really. I can’t honestly understand authors who try to give a message. I prefer to present the world through my viewpoint and let people decide what they believe for themselves. As for inspiration, the book is inspired by Chicago winters, technology and digital media, and the Terminator series. James Cameron continues to be a huge inspiration for me as a writer.

The book publishing industry is going through some massive upheaval and very fundamental changes – what are your thoughts on the future of publishing?

I don’t know that books will really be around, to be honest (in the far future). In the Socialpunk universe, people don’t have books anymore. All media is interactive and visual. Text isn’t needed as much because thoughts are communicated without words.

Tell me about your book marketing strategy – did you start blogging first to build a fan base? Are other authors adopting a similar strategy?

I don’t believe in blogging to build an audience, at least not in its typical form. I’m still building a fan base for my novels, but one of the ways I do so is via an email list. I have about 500 people who are willing to hear about my new releases… of course, the more the better. I haven’t launched a campaign to increase this number, but I’m definitely thinking about how to do so.

Your one piece of advice for would-be authors?

Patience! It’s not just for would-be authors, but also for authors. And also for myself :). I want to speed things along whenever I can, but books are a slow business.


Socialpunk – Monica Leonelle O’Brien

A little bit YA, a little bit sci-fi, Socialpunk follows a teenaged Ima living in a post-apocalyptic America. The novel opens as she, along with her best friend/something more Dash, sneaks out under her abusive father’s nose to a rave in the city. Her night begins to unravel as Dash abandons her to hook up with beautiful, catty Lia (urk. Granted, sci-fi isn’t always strong on characterisation), and takes a definite turn for the worse when the entire club blows up.

And thus, she learns her entire universe – The Dome – is a lie. Along with the mysterious Nahum and VR “tester” Vaughn – who’s just as surprised to discover that real people exist in this dimension as Ima is to realise that her Chicago isn’t all it seems to be – she travels beyond the boundaries of her train line to a place where the line between human and machine is blurred; the currency of choice is Clout (does anybody else now find it strange to see the word spelled correctly?); and art and creatives rule. I particularly liked that.

As Ima plunges into the real Chicago, she must piece together a puzzle much larger than she could ever have imagined. It’s a world where, in order to survive, she has to undergo a Terminator-style makeover to fit in, emerging bigger, faster, stronger (it’s a bit Bella in Breaking Dawn post turning – and yes, I read all those books). On the plus side, in this new phase of her life, she has not one but two guys vying for her affection – every awkward teenage girl’s dream.

While slow to start, the author does eventually pick up the pace and from then on it’s all action action action. Admittedly, some parts are clunky and unpolished, and from about halfway through small grammatical errors and typos start creeping in. And personally, I think it would have been stronger without the very last chapter. But I think the key question is: would I read the sequels? The answer is yes.

Want to win stuff? There’re giveaways going on around Socialpunk’s release – click here for more details.

Are you much of a sci-fi fan? An aspiring novelist? (I bet a fair few of you are – I used to want to write a YA novel, but now I think I’d be more likely to write something non-fiction. Can non-famous people write memoirs?)

One thought on “Review: Socialpunk (plus Q&A with author Monica Leonelle O’Brien)

  • Reply fromshoppingtosaving April 27, 2012 at 10:48

    Great review and interview! Sounds like a book I’d be interested in. When I was younger I thought I would write a YA novel, but I do enjoy them from time to time.

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