Interview with Biff Mitchell

Author of The War Bug

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How would you describe 'The War Bug' to a new reader?
  • REVIEW of THE WAR BUG: Susan DiPlacido, Author of Strut and Shuffle Up and Deal
    in Blue Iris Journal

    So. What do cheese soup, sentient virtual reality beings, and a seven-hundred pound sado-masochist have to do with each other? Pick up The War Bug and unlock the mysteries. Part sci-fi, part action adventure, and plenty of dark humor is what Biff Mitchell weaves together, along with his eclectic and electric cast in his latest offering.

    Abner Hayes is Virtual Code Geneticist, where he works online studying DNA codes of plants
    and animals and then simulating them offline. However, his offline world is a drag. He's alone,
    he lives in a hovel, and his parents have already been "included", which Abner fears will also
    someday happen to him. Especially if his secret about his online life is to ever leak out. Because
    online, he has a beautiful wife and daughter. They are not avatars from the real world like he is,
    nor are they flat coded programs. His wife Claire and daughter Cassie are the only two online
    entities to have made the leap from programs to sentient, thinking and feeling, beings. However,
    their time is limited because the 'net is under siege and ready to collapse. Abner has created a
    bubble protection for his family, but they've been abducted by some sinister forces who've
    figured out his secret and want to unlock it for themselves. The only way to save his family is to
    team up with the deadly, ultimate destruction virus, known as The War Bug, to find and rescue
    his family before the entire world crumbles to oblivion.

    Thrills and chills abound as the clock ticks down and the race is on for Abner to save his family.
    This is a rich and complex world, but Mitchell makes it wholly comprehensible without ever
    losing momentum. In his signature style, the satire and laughs are woven throughout, along with
    a plethora of zinging one-liners and unique descriptions. The characters are rich and varied,
    fully-fleshed and wholly intriguing. The good guys have edges, the bad guys have allure. And
    even amid the brewing chaos in this strange landscape, the story flies so high and resonates
    because it's so very human.

    It's rare that a novel can so thoroughly capture the mind, heart, and imagination. Biff Mitchell is
    a blessed breed of writer who mixes the real, surreal, and potentially real by fusing philosophy,
    science, human emotions, humor, and terror. And The War Bug is this writer at the top of his
What was the inspiration behind 'The War Bug' ?
  • The cover shows a giant ant. There is no giant ant. The War Bug is actually a computer virus that start wars. The inspiration came when I took some course in building online communities and began to realize that the world is full of people who would rather live in virtual worlds than in the physical world. In cyberspace, they have more control over their lives and can be whomever or whatever they want to be.
Which authors do you admire? How have they influenced your writing style?
  • I like the Beat writers, including my favorite (who for some reason is rarely associated with the Beat Movement and more so with the Hippie Movement). That would be Richard Brautigan. Everyone should read “In Watermelon Sugar” once a year for their entire lives. I also read Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, Hemingway, Tim Dorsey, Dashiell Hammet, Chuck Palahniuk, Dan Simmons and any writer who breaks away from the norm in storytelling.

    I think most of these writers have given me direction in writing humor that has no interest in political correctness and stories that go beyond anything that can be termed ‘normal.’
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
  • The locations are online worlds containing entire city states where people live and work and play. They can even have cyber families.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
  • Don’t even think about being published. If you do, you’ll be writing for your audience and not for yourself. It’ll be similar to butt-kissing in the corporate world. Always write for yourself and write every day.

    Don’t ever think that anything you’ve written is anywhere near finished until you’ve revised and re-written at least half a dozen times.

    Don’t sleep. Ever.
What's your writing process?
  • I get an idea. I fill a hard cover notebook (that I carry everywhere along with pens) with everything I can think about the story for a few months (I called this the story dump).

    Then I create a story board on my living room wall with cards for every scene.

    This gives me a chance to see the whole picture at a glance and identify those areas that need more writing and those that can be dropped or merged with other scenes.

    I don’t write the first word of the first paragraph until I’ve completed all the character studies and have a fairly stable story board.

    When the first draft is finished, I put it away for a few months before I start the re-writing and editing.
Which character in 'The War Bug' has had the greatest impact on readers?
  • I think it's a toss up between the main character, Abner, and the War Bug itself. The War Bug, while it's bringing down the entire internet also helps Abner find his virtual wife and daughter before everything is destroyed and it's too late to save them.
If 'The War Bug' were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
  • The War Bug itself would be an animation Danny Devito's voice.
How have readers responded to 'The War Bug'?
  • Patricia Spork in eBook Reviews Weekly

    Two-hundred years in the future, nanotechnology is at its peak, although research still
    commences. Humans not only live and work in the real world, but also live and work online as
    virtual beings interacting with software programs. Abner Hayes, a Virtual Code Geneticist,
    prefers living in this virtual world. Using DNA coding, he's illegally created the first sentient
    programs - Claire, his wife, and Cassie, his teenage daughter.

    Unbeknownst to Abner, immortal life is sought by Bella Bjork, a beautiful perverted sex-monger
    and murderer. She teams with genius programmer Jeemo Roosenvelt, a seven-foot, 700-pound
    sado-masochist, who seeks to break the coding of Abner's sentient programs.

    But the Net is falling apart as war rages between online cities, placing Claire and Cassie in lifethreatening danger. So Abner's created the world's smallest bubble computer as a sanctuary for his beloved virtual family until a new Net is developed. But before he can transfer his family's programs to the bubble computer, Claire and Cassie disappear.

    As Abner searches online for Claire and Cassie, he meets the War Bug, a conniving virus behind
    the Net's degeneration. The War Bug, at a steep price, offers his assistance to find Claire and
    Cassie. But can this destructive virus and Abner save them before the Net completely crumbles,
    or before Jeemo fragments and deletes them all?

    Biff Mitchell does a stunning job pulling a reader into his virtual world. Characters are honely
    carved and dialogue spiced with dark humor. Love and deceit fill the pages, as does
    technological intrigue and adventuresome thrills. To me, the ending is set up for a sequel, which
    I'd enjoy reading if ever written and published. So I highly recommend "The War Bug" by Biff
    Mitchell to Science Fiction fans who can stomach sexual perversion, grotesque humor, and total
    cyber satire.
Where next? What are you working on now?
  • I have three more novels on the go along with a weekly serialized story called 'The Existential Adventures of Crazy Man and the Dog Sidestepper.' (
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In just a few hours, Abner Hayes' wife and daughter are going to die, and the only way he can save their lives is to team up with a deadly computer virus and travel through time and space in a virtual universe that itself has only hours to live. Through suicidal game worlds, virtual landscapes that threaten to devour the unwary, and a series of insidious cyber traps, Abner and the virus must stay one step ahead of sinister forces that will stop at nothing to destroy his family in order to steal their incredible secret. Spliced with dark humor and intricate characters, The War Bug is a non-stop roller coaster thriller into a terrifying future.