Sky High

Sky High - Helge Mahrt

I like to read books that take a creative stance on how the future of the earth might play out. Lots of books, television shows, and movies have tackled this topic, but every once in a while I stumble on a unique concept that makes me fall in love with the genre all over again. 

Sky High is a fast paced and straight to the point work that left my heart racing despite the questions circling around my head. It has a Brave New World feeling to it, but the plot is one that seems terrifyingly plausible. In addition, while the plot is nowhere near similar, the slang used throughout the work reminded me slightly of A Clockwork Orange, however, Sky High is much easier to read than the slang/dialect in A Clockwork Orange. 

My main complaint is that I have so many questions after finishing reading it. I'm not sure if the author is planning a sequel or not, but I desperately hope so. Overall the plot is very well paced, character development is excellent, and I was hooked within the first couple of chapters, unable to stop reading until I was finished. 

Highly recommended and I look forward to this author's future work. 


Some Bio Information

My name is Helge (pronounced hell-ge, ge like in get) and judging by my name you probably have already guessed that I’m not a native English speaker. Actually I’m German, but I am married to a Spanish woman and have been living in Madrid for seven years already.

My interest in writing sparked very early, when I was still in primary school. We would get little comic strips of four vignettes and had to write stories that matched the images. I was amazed by the possibilities and enjoyed the task immensely.

In my teens I had some ideas floating around in my head and I did a lot of world building for a story that I’ve never gotten around to bring to paper. I still remember fondly how I’d type on an old IBM notebook (which was more like a brick) after dark, when I was supposed to be sleeping already.

After finishing my A levels, writing didn’t play a big role in my life until recently. I was busy studying computer science, and then moving to Spain, and all that entails, but I’ve always had this notion of “one day I’ll write a book”.

Eventually I realized that “one day” will never come unless you sit down and put some work into it. So in 2013 I learned about NaNoWriMo and decided to participate. I actually managed to crank out about 6000 words on the first weekend but then failed miserably. I just didn’t have the discipline yet.

I tried again in 2014 and managed to write every single day. It was very exhausting, for I also had to work my day job, but it was also a revelation. Not only was I able to achieve the insane goal of 50000 words but also something incredible happened: When reading a book, I usually reach a state where I’m not aware of the actual act of reading anymore, but just of the images created in my mind. Something similar happened while writing, only a lot more intensive. I was so immersed in my story, and in discovering what was happening next, that I forgot that I was typing. It felt like reading a book, but the experience was a lot more powerful.

So here I am now. I have a full time job at a big IT company, which is quite demanding, and I’m trying to find time to write on my second book whenever I can.


Q&A

1. Tell us a little about what inspired you to write this book. 

I don’t exactly remember when I first had the idea, but I wanted to try creating a different kind of Sci-Fi story. Most of which I’ve read play in Space, where the human race managed to get off Earth. So I asked myself: What if we failed to colonize space? What if we were stuck here, running out of living space? So I started dreaming up Skyreach and this really cool transportation medium, the Tubes going up and down the city, and things took off from there.
While writing Sky High, I almost exclusively listened to Ellie Goulding’s album Halcyon Days, and I feel that it influenced the story.

2. How long did it take you to put your work together? 

Sky High was my NaNoWriMo 2014 project. I wrote the first 50k words within a month, but then made the mistake to take a break. Stuff happened, and it was September 2015 before I got to continue the story. I had lost all momentum and had to read what I had written so far again. It was really tough to get a vibe going again, but it was also a very surprising experience – there were so many details which I had forgotten already, and I really liked what I had so far.
I resumed writing and finished the story in another 15k words or so. All in all – pure writing time – I’d say it took me 2 months.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

I have a fulltime day job, so I have to squeeze in writing time whenever I can – usually in the evenings when my wife is already asleep. 

When writing Sky High, I had to keep up with the daily word goal, which was quite tough. We were still living in a smaller flat and my desk was in the living room, right next to the TV. While my wife was relaxing on the couch, I put on my headset, cranked up the music to drown out the TV, and then wrote for about 2 hours every night. It was a rush, but I ended up exhausted at the end of November. 

In 2013 I first participated in NaNoWriMo, but I started late and failed after about 5000 words. I swore to prepare better next time, so I used October 2015 to start inventing the world my story would take place in, and some of the main characters. From there I took the “pantser approach” and just started writing, never looking back.

4. What was your least favorite part of the writing process? 

I think the worst part was waiting for my editor to be done. It’s not that he was slow, but it was so hard to wait!

5. How would you describe your writing style? 

Since the book has been out, I’ve read a couple of times that my style is “precise”. I think I can agree with that: The draft I sent off to my editor was right below 65k words, and when it came back it only shrank down to about 63k. I’ve read that most writers need to cut down on their writing, after the first draft, but I always have the feeling that I need to expand more on different topics/parts. I’m a very goal-oriented person – trying to get there in the most efficient manner - and I think it shows in my writing. 

6. What is your ultimate writing goal? 

I’d love to be able to live off my writing.

7. What would you like readers to take away from your work? 

First of all, I’d like them to enjoy what they’re reading. I think that’s most important. 
Further than that, it’s hard to tell at this point. I’ve only written one book so far. With Sky High, my goal was to create a mad-chase experience, and I think I’ve succeeded in that. With my next project, I’d like to create a different experience – but I haven’t decided on which exactly yet.