Q&A with Lauren Miller

Lauren Miller’s latest novel, Free To Fall, is a powerful story. The plot takes place fifteen years into the future, a warning of how technology can overtake people’s lives. This is a must read for anyone dependent on technology. The storyline is part science fiction, part mystery-thriller.


Elise Cooper: Why did you write the book?


Lauren Miller: I think that today we have settled for a cheap version of happiness. Such as superficial stuff of being happy like being stuck in a traffic jam. Is that really happiness? I wanted to explore the question, ‘if we avoid all the decisions and struggles in our lives would that make us happier?’


EC: You reference the Adam and Eve story a lot in this book. Why?


LM: I wanted the characters in this book to mirror those in the story of the Garden of Eden. We need to use our free will to make choices, especially the correct choice. That is why I put in the Hebrew word, “Timshel,” because I loved this idea of choosing to make the good choice. We need to exercise our free will with our brain. I think we re-live the Adam and Eve story over and over again. Eve let someone else tell her what to do and in my book I have this app, Lux, doing the same. She let the serpent trick her into giving up her freedom. We are no different. We let ourselves be managed and controlled while pretending we are calling the shots.


EC: Where did you get the inspiration for the secret society and the school, the Theden Academy?


LM: I am someone who lived in suburban Atlanta and always went to public schools. Yet, as an undergrad I went to Yale where I was accepted as a member into a secret society with all these rituals. It was like being in a different world. I wanted the story to include this type of setting. Regarding Theden I looked at some private schools in Western Massachusetts. Between my personal experience at Yale and my research on private schools I was able to write about this school that combines technology with liberal arts.


EC: What did you want to say about technology?


LM: As a society we are hyper-focused on personal independence and freedom, yet we cede so much of our decision making to these little rectangular devices. Our map app tells us which route to take and we do, even though it could lead us in the wrong direction. We use Google to provide us with the information needed, yet, never go beyond the first page. This is very scary to me. We are not skeptical enough. I wanted to write a story about free will and how dependent we have become on technology.


EC: What about Facebook since I know they just came up with an app that can listen to people’s conversations and know their surroundings through the phones’ microphone?


LM: It is crazy how much we put out there. It seems we give away our power through this information. For example, someone can figure out when you are not home and use that to rob you.


EC: Did you make a statement in this book about technology corporations?


LM: I have Lux, which is Suri on steroids. Gnosis is Google meets Apple. All these companies have a lot of control over our lives. They definitely have more information than they need and having the information is very powerful. I wanted to show what could happen if these devices become more accurate and are integrated more into our lives. I am afraid we may let them make our decisions and that is very alarming to me. This is us signing up with our eyes wide open allowing these corporations to see what we are doing and making our choices.


EC: Can you explain the book quote; “You’ve conditioned them to look down,” which signifies submissiveness. Is that what you meant?


LM: Partly, I wanted to show how we bow down to technology. In some ways it is a different form of captivity. We are certainly tethered to our screens. But I also wanted to make another point. A few years ago I was at the mall and saw this incredible sunset. I just had this sense of wanting to share it with someone. I looked around and every single person in the plaza, even people with other people, was looking at their phone. They all felt connected but it is not the same as having a connection with another human in real time.


EC: You refer to “doubt” a lot in the book. Is it a word for thinking outside the box?


LM: Yes. It is our inner voice. It can be our conscious, our tuition, and a guiding voice of wisdom.


EC: Can you discuss the characters?


LM: Rory, the main character, is very naïve in the beginning of the book. She trusts technology implicitly. She is very intelligent, crazy smart. She does not have an ego because she knows her brain does not define her. I love that about Rory. She is not close-minded and will search for the truth even when it gets painful.


North: He becomes Rory’s boyfriend. He came to life for me as I was writing him. Most of my characters are based on people that I know, but North was not like that. He was just his own animal. He is edgy but loves Rory unconditionally.


Hershey: In the beginning of the book she is a Valley girl. Misguided. Through her I showed the power of grace. Rory helps her even though she was dismissive of her. That experienced changed Hershey and she became a very good friend to Rory.


EC: What do you want readers to get out of Free To Fall?


LM: I want this story to be realistic. That is why I did not have everything come to a complete conclusion. Some of the bad guys get away. I also wanted to show how technology could put up a wall between people. I want to explore, ‘Is the written word better than the verbal word on the way we communicate?’ But most of all I want readers to understand that they always have a choice and should not give up their free will. They should make sure they make the choices and not culture.


EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?


LM: It will be a character driven story with a sci-fi twist. It is another stand alone about a girl who loses her mind’s eye. She cannot see anything in her head. She goes through life seeing it through a new vision.