Interview With Michael Alexander Rice About His Dystopian Novel Celebrity Gulag

My pen name is M. A. Rice, which I had to choose in order not to be confused with Egyptologist Michael Rice or the once disgraced youth basketball coach of the same name.

My debut novel, Celebrity Gulag, is a noir thriller set against the dystopian backdrop of a near-future Britain, in which the internet has fallen victim to a global, digital pandemic, leaving the tabloid press and exploitative television shows as the main forms of news and entertainment. There are no slam-dunking mummies in this one.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I decided that I wanted to be a writer a long time ago; I’ve just been doing my best to avoid doing anything about it.

Tell us about your book, and the story behind writing it

Dr. Philip Bruno is a nuclear physicist and co-designer of El Camino, an experimental machine designed to harness energy by the same process that occurs naturally in the sun and other stars. Despite achieving the historic milestone of creating a prototype that works, he’s actually just a down-to-earth, unassuming guy with no interest in fame or accolades. It takes a lot to get him mad. An unexpected intrusion into a life dedicated to his work forces him into a situation where getting mad is possibly the only way to stay alive.

Writing Celebrity Gulag was something of an unintentional venture into darker territory than originally planned. I put it down to writing in the cold, dark northern winters and the inescapable wave of television ‘personalities’ that are famous for little other than being on television.  The idea was first inspired by reading an article in The New Yorker entitled, A Star In A Bottle, about the people involved in the development of ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor currently under construction in France.

What’s the biggest challenge about being a writer?

Being original in both style and story, though actually just sitting down to write is sometimes difficult in itself. It’s funny how the empty chair and the empty page can feel almost as intimidating as the controls of a jumbo jet.

Do you have a specific writing space?

I have a dark corner and a well worn chair in the corner of a room upstairs. If I sat near the window, I wouldn’t get anything done.

What’s your number one piece of writing advice?

Read widely and avidly, then write. Find your style. Rogue commas and dodgy metaphors can be removed later.

What books do you currently have on your bedside table?

I’ve just finished reading The Complete Western Stories Of Elmore Leonard, but I’ve been taking my time, savouring each one. In keeping with the Western theme, I have Blood Meridian teetering on top of Charcoal Joe, The Man Who Walks and Liar’s Poker.

Who have been your biggest writing influences and why?

I love Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Bukowski and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. As a native Brit, I’d have to throw J.G Ballard in there, as well as George Orwell for his essays and for 1984 – Keep The Aspidistra Flying was a tough read.

How do you market your writing?

As something of a social media hermit, I’m slowly taking to using Facebook groups and Twitter, though I’m very much a novice. I’m doing some free promotional days and using sites like Freebooksy to connect with a wider readership. Goodreads has been useful for meeting other authors from different genres. Of course, sites like This Is Writing are a great platform for upcoming writers.

Lastly, something fun. What’s something our readers might not know about you?

I make killer guacamole, I have worked as a freelance translator and interpreter and previously ran a guitar shop with a focus on left-handed rarities – think Ned Flanders’ Leftorium, only cooler! I once hitch-hiked from my hometown in the north of England to the Czech Republic and I have almost complete individual control over my eyebrows. R.I.P Sir Roger Moore.

 Celebrity Gulag 

By Michael Alexander Rice

Celebrity Gulag: only the biggest, most famous, most watched show in the land. Imitated worldwide but never bettered, it is the biggest star vehicle known to humankind…’

Even in darkness, the megalopolis never sleeps.

The internet is gone, engulfed by the virtual flames of an online inferno.

In its place, tawdry tabloids titillate with tales of television talent shows where contestants are literally dying to be famous.

For physicist Dr. Philip Bruno, an unassuming life is about to take a remarkable turn.

From igniting a star in the world’s first successful fusion reactor,

To being hunted by a delinquent prince.

How does a modest man survive stardom?

When an ever-present audience bays for blood,

How does he survive Celebrity Gulag?

A satirical, dystopian techno-thriller, Celebrity Gulag will appeal to fans of speculative fiction and hard science fiction.


About the Author

Scott Mullins is a freelance writer and digital content manager. When he’s not finding ways to distract himself from writing his novel he writes killer copy for companies all over the world. Connect with Scott on Twitter @ScottMullins86 or LinkedIn. He’s always looking to connect with other writers.