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In the Limelight: A Conversation with Colin Winnette on His New Release, ‘Users’

Receiving ominous threats, software engineer Miles finds his peace disturbed. Tasked at a prominent VR company, he’s targeted over his creation, ‘The Ghost Lover’, where users encounter a phantom from their history. His support system, including his spouse, offers little reassurance amid the escalating anxieties, and the harassment persists.

Miles concocts ‘the Egg’ to bolster user immersion in the virtual sphere, but a glitch within challenges his grasp of reality and identity. Our Culture caught up with the prolific Colin Winnette to discuss his latest literary venture and the ethical contours of technology and storytelling.

With each new book comes a fresh journey for you. How did the experience of writing ‘Users’ compare to your previous works?

It’s a mixed bag. While the artistic hurdles seem to heighten, the self-doubt fades. I’ve accepted that writing is a part of my identity now.

How does ‘Users’ stand out in your literary portfolio?

This time, my real-life bled perceptibly into the fiction, unlike my prior ventures into the fantastic or historical. A tangible rawness surfaces in ‘Users’.

The narrative opens with Miles in a precarious position, plagued by death threats. Can you shed light on this choice?

It’s about immediately placing him—and thus the reader—in a space of tangible danger, an existential squeeze that’s central to the unfolding story.

Your tale delves into the ethical quagmires of tech. Did current discussions inform your writing?

Conceived five years ago, ‘Users’ inadvertently echoes today’s moral quandaries. While it doesn’t prescribe regression, it amplifies the weight of our digital choices.

Some view Miles’ VR creation as morally questionable. Does this spring from online rhetoric?

Yes, it mirrors the web’s echo chamber where users adopt and distort language to maneuver ideological clashes, contributing to an endless blame game.

Miles faces a tough home life. Was crafting this fraught personal world intentional?

Absolutely. His challenges reflect inner turmoil and missed chances for conciliation and self-improvement. Life bombards him with consequences he struggles to own.

Miles’ wife—mentioned just once—exudes a complex detachment. What inspired her character?

She’s a breath of fresh air. In contrast to Miles’ introspective angst, she navigates life with remarkable self-awareness and practicality.

During his distress, Miles contacts a hotline for guidance. Did this involve research into psychological support methods?

It did, though the encounters have a surreal quality. With insights from real operators and personal connections to the field, I aimed for credible interactions.

In therapy, Miles finds surprising solace. Why do you think that is?

Therapy offers a judgment-free zone, a rarity in his life, where he encounters responses untainted by external emotional needs.

Without spoiling, ‘Users’ contains startling twists. How did you approach these narratively sensitive moments?

While unnerving to write, these scenes are essential in questioning the overlap between intention and action within today’s interactive technologies.

Towards the end, an unexpected turn changes everything. Was this thriller-like aspect unintended?

The narrative’s momentum built organically, reshaped by pressing questions and a layered domestic backdrop, echoing my own navigation through life’s uncertainties.

As ‘Users’ hits the shelves, what future writing projects loom on your horizon?

I’m exploring the realm of ‘failed novels’ between successful works, alongside a fresh narrative creation—a testament to the persistent drive to write.

‘Users’ is now available to the public.

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