In Absence of Fear

In Absence of Fear is a debut novel by Celeste Chaney that examines what it means to be human in a digital age and explores how far we're willing to go in order to feel safe.

Local author Celeste Chaney named finalist at 2016 Utah Book Awards

Celeste Chaney was recognized as a Utah Book Award finalist during the Utah Humanities Book Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Established in 1999 by the Salt Lake City Public Library, the annual Utah Book Award honors exceptional achievements by Utah writers and recognizes outstanding literature written with a Utah theme or setting. This year's Utah Book Award honored In Absence of Fear for its representation of the literary culture of the state in fiction.

Foreword Reviews awards IAOF with Honorable Mention

IN ABSENCE OF FEAR was awarded Honorable Mention during the 18th annual Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards. Previously recognized as 2015 Book of the Year finalist for both the science fiction and fiction categories, IAOF was the only title authored by a woman to be recognized in the science fiction genre.

Narrowed down from nearly 2,000 entries by a panel of librarians and booksellers, along with Foreword Reviews’ editorial staff, the winners in 66 categories are considered the year’s best books published by independent publishers, university presses, and self-published authors. Foreword Reviews made the announcement in a live presentation at the American Library Association Annual Conference. A complete list of winners can be found at:

“Foreword’s INDIEFAB judges are the key to our winners selection process, and, in our minds, the most foolproof way to choose award-winning books,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “We work with a librarian and bookseller in each category to provide us with an insider’s perspective on what would do well on consumer and library shelves. Using industry professionals confirms the trade quality of a book.”

IN ABSENCE OF FEAR named a 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Finalist

Foreword Reviews named Celeste Chaney's debut novel, IN ABSENCE OF FEAR, a 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards Finalist in two, separate categories: General Fiction and Science Fiction.

Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd. In the next three months, a panel of more than 100 volunteer librarians and booksellers will determine the winners in 63 categories based on their experience with readers and patrons.

“The 2015 INDIEFAB finalist selection process is as inspiring as it is rigorous,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “The strength of this list of finalists is further proof that small, independent publishers are taking their rightful place as the new driving force of the entire publishing industry.”

Here is the complete list:

"I feel incredibly grateful and honored that In Absence of Fear has received this kind of recognition. Hearing what readers think about the book has been the most rewarding part of the writing process. I'm humbled and appreciative that people are taking a chance on a first-time indie author like myself."

Foreword Reviews will celebrate the winners during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida in June. We will also name the Editor’s Choice Prize 2015 for Fiction, Nonfiction and Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Publisher of the Year Award during the presentation.

About the novel:  In Absence of Fear is the vividly imagined, breathtaking debut novel by Celeste Chaney. Examining themes of technology, privacy, family, love and patriotism, readers and critics regard the novel as the "1984 for the post-Snowden era." Published November 5th, 2015 by Corner Canyon Press, Kirkus Reviews likened it to the work of genre predecessors George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, calling it "a compelling novel to tease readers' paranoia." 

About Foreword: Foreword Magazine, Inc is a media company featuring a Folio:-award-winning quarterly print magazine, Foreword Reviews, and a website devoted to independently published books. In the magazine, they feature reviews of the best 170 new titles from independent publishers, university presses, and noteworthy self-published authors. Their website features daily updates: reviews along with in-depth coverage and analysis of independent publishing from a team of more than 100 reviewers, journalists, and bloggers. The print magazine is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. You can also connect with them on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest. They are headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

97.1 ZHT's The Morning Zoo discusses IN ABSENCE OF FEAR

The radio personalities from The Morning Zoo, 97.1 ZHT's very own Frankie, Dangerboy, and Jessica, hosted author Celeste Chaney last week to discuss her debut novel In Absence of Fear (as well as her terrible driving), the state of technology today, mass surveillance, and how Frankie is screwed if NSA monitors his Googling habits.

Listen to the interview:

Frankie, DB, Jess & Celeste discuss In Absence of Fear

A word with debut novelist Celeste Chaney

This interview originally appeared on the Corner Canyon Press website.

Where did you grow up?

My family is from Southern California, but we moved to Utah, about 30 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, when I was very young. It was all dairy farms and fields back then. My mom used to say that they'd drive thirty minutes for Taco Bell because it was the only "Mexican" food they could find. Utah was a lot smaller and more conservative then. I was one of two non-Mormons in my entire grade. It was an interesting childhood, but a very happy one.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I discovered writing in the second grade. My teacher, Mrs. Bray, gave us blank booklets with lines for the narrative and large spaces for accompanying pictures. I've been writing stories ever since.

 Photo taken by Jeremy McDougle

Photo taken by Jeremy McDougle

Did you study English or creative writing in school?

I studied journalism because it seemed to be a more practical career path than "novelist." The funny thing is, I was halfway through my degree when, in 2008, the economy tanked and the advent of social media and blogging altered journalism forever. It was before the pubs learned how to monetize their online content with ads and paywalls. Veteran journalists were vying to keep their jobs, so I knew it was going to be a tough road. I spun my experience and got a job as a copywriter for a marketing and sales company.

How long were you in marketing?

I'm still in marketing. I haven't stopped consulting, and now I'm marketing my own book almost full time, so... six years. It's hard to get out. But, I enjoy it. I really do. At its core, marketing is storytelling.

You quit your "real job" in 2013. Why?

"I had a lump in my throat. A profound sense of wrong. A lovesickness, a homesickness..."

I left because I had to write. At the time, I was Director of Marketing for a medical tech startup and working horrific hours. I hadn't touched my manuscript -- hadn't even opened it -- in almost a year. I'd always wanted to be a writer, but had never believed in myself enough to commit. I'd never taken myself seriously. One Friday night, after a particularly harrowing week, I shut myself in my office and ended up on I stumbled upon a speech called "Fail Safe" by Debbie Millman (I highly recommend it) and found myself in tears. It was as though she was speaking directly to me. She said, "Start with a big, fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy lovesickness, and run with it...Start now, not 20 years from now. Not two weeks from now. Now." I knew what I had to do. I typed up my resignation letter and sent it to my CEO and CFO right then.

What's the most difficult thing about being a writer?

Sitting down to write. There's always something that seems more pressing. Steven Pressfield nails it completely in "The War of Art." Ultimately, it's our own fear manifesting itself as a stack of dirty dishes, a pile of laundry, a beautiful spring day begging you to take a walk. (And you should take walks...and do the dishes and laundry, I guess.) There are a million distractions, but if you just sit down, if you "show up" as Elizabeth Gilbert says, magical things begin to happen. Your characters reveal themselves, the plot unfolds.

The other difficult thing is the isolation one feels. Having worked with a team for so long in an office environment -- giving and receiving feedback, collaborating, conversing with real people (not just my dog), having to wear shoes, or do my hair -- is starkly contrasted to the life of a writer. You don't regularly receive feedback, and the feedback you do get can't always be trusted. It's so subjective. Not at all like looking at the bottom line and saying, "Well, looks like that campaign worked really well. Let's do it again."

What's your writing routine?

In truth, I'm still working it out. When I quit my job I tried to keep the same schedule. Sit at a desk for eight hours with little interruption and work. It was awful, exhausting and often, depressing. Creative work can't be executed on a back-breaking schedule like that. You need to allow yourself breaks, make room for inspiration. The perfect routine includes real meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Time in the morning to journal, to reflect. Time to read. Time outside, walking, exploring, seeing. And, of course, time to write. They say your best work is done in 90-minute increments. So, ideally, I try to write that way. I give myself a daily goal, so I know I'm moving in the right direction, but I allow myself the flexibility to do other things, to consult, to be with friends, to take care of myself, to live.

Why a book about mass surveillance?

I get this question a lot. I started writing IAOF in 2007, well before Edward Snowden leaked classified NSA docs or mass surveillance and privacy were primary public concerns. I didn't set out to write a book about mass surveillance, it just happened. But I'm very glad it did. There are fantastic works of dystopian literature that paint very terrifying pictures of what a mass surveillance state might look like, but there are few that show how we get there, how we, the people, permit that kind of reality. My hope is that IAOF allows readers a glimpse of how easy it is for governments to legislate away liberties using fear. It happens more than we think.

This is a very important chapter of our country's story. How important are the original values our country was founded upon? Will we permit ourselves to become a nation powered by the politics of fear? (God help us if Trump gets the vote.)

What's next?

Good question! My editor is hoping for the IAOF sequel. It's a possibility. Historical fiction also interests me. But also, short stories or a children's book. I haven't made any decisions yet. I'll see where the writing takes me.


Celeste Chaney's debut novel In Absence of Fear was published by Corner Canyon Press on November 5th, 2015. It is available on Amazon and in select bookstores.

Kirkus Reviews calls IAOF "a compelling novel to tease readers' paranoia."

Kirkus Reviews is a respected book review journal and website that provides unbiased reviews for books of all genres. They reviewed In Absence of Fear in late November. Here's what they had to say.

Chaney imagines a society under total surveillance in this debut sci-fi thriller.

“Why do most boys wish to be firemen?” wonders Marus Winde as he thinks back to his boyhood dream. “It was noble to put out fires, yes. But, it was nobler to prevent them.” Prevention is Marus’ task: he’s a Protector in a time when state security is so robust that it can discover and foil crimes before they occur.

Stopping premeditated crimes isn’t enough, though, and Marus works to refine the government’s “Internal Indicator Initiative,” a system meant to predict even unpremeditated crimes by monitoring the population for signifiers of violent behavior.

After years of hard work, the initiative is finally ready for implementation—but then the unpredicted abduction of Marus’ son from a soccer game throws Marus’ world into chaos. In a society with no crime, such an incident shakes public confidence in the surveillance state. But if someone has taken advantage of the flaws in the algorithm, then so can Marus. He must go outside the law, outsmart the system that he helped to create, and undermine the compact that the citizens of the New Era have made with their Protectors—all in order to preserve the safety of his family.

Chaney writes in tight, confident prose that immerses readers in the fictional world while also summoning ever increasing levels of tension and unease. Her palette is the innocuous corporate jargon of technocracy: “Threat indicators added up, increasing the individual’s total, quantified risk. The higher the level, the greater the threat, the most dangerous of which required immediate, classified action.”

Although the premise evokes the work of genre predecessors, such as George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, Chaney’s vision, with its data collection and popular support, has been updated to fit the concerns of the 21st century. She may not have reinvented the wheel, but the wheel she has built is uniquely suited for today’s moment of technological discomfort.

A compelling novel to tease readers’ paranoia.

The Legendarium Podcast discusses In Absence of Fear

"The story is not a surprising one to anyone who has read Orwell or Huxley, but it feels far more relevant and immediate." - Craig Hanks, The Legendarium Podcast

Craig and Todd interview author Celeste Chaney about her debut novel, In Absence of Fear. Wrist-embedded microchips, mass-surveillance, predictive policing … It may be where we’re headed, and this book helps us explore just how good are the good ideas we’re coming up with to rid us of inconvenience and fear. Pick it up on Amazon, you won’t be sorry.


Download on iTunes or listen, below.

Get to know the Editor: Alan Rinzler

I met Alan for the first time nearly a year ago. It was an overcast afternoon in November and I'd flown to Northern California for the day. Parking my rental car on the hilly, tree-lined street, I double-checked Alan's address. His house number matched the one on the beautiful Spanish colonial nestled into the hill above me. Grabbing my computer bag, I took a deep breath, got out of the car and unlatched the gate.

Somewhere overhead, I heard a door open and a voice. "Hello there." I tipped my head up at the terrace and there he was. The sun cut through silver clouds, illuminating the most exquisite shock of white hair I'd ever seen. I climbed the stairs and met his handshake.

I had arrived.

Alan led me inside to a comfortable arrangement of chairs and took a seat opposite me on the couch. A fire pulsed in the fireplace, casting a warm glow on the table between us. Atop it, a beautiful display of grapes, cheeses and flaky croissants beckoned. My trepidation dissolved. At Alan's bequest, I took a croissant. I opened my laptop and we got to work.

In the weeks and months since that first cinematic scene at Alan's beautiful Berkeley home, I've had the good fortune of calling him my editor. He's not only coached me through significant changes to the novel, he's also been an incredible mentor and friend.

I'm very excited to introduce him to all of you.

Over the past 50 years, Alan Rinzler has edited and published authors including Toni Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Robbins, Claude Brown, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Ludlum, Jerzy Kosinski, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Clive Cussler. 

He has served as Director of Trade Publishing at Bantam Books, Vice President and Associate Publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine, and President of Straight Arrow, the book division of Rolling Stone.

He was Executive Editor of John Wiley & Sons and held editorial positions with Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Holt and the Grove Press. Now, as a developmental editor, Alan helps established and emerging authors strengthen their manuscripts and navigate the complex world of publishing.

How did you get your start as an editor?

I was an English major at Harvard, which was a great literary education but ordinarily doesn't lead straight to a definable career. When I headed to NYC after graduating and needed a job, my thesis tutor suggested I see get in touch with a guy at Simon & Schuster and he hired me as his assistant.

This turned out to be a great fit for my passion for writers, literary analysis and critique, and working with the most interesting people I'd ever met, on both sides of the desk.


In your opinion, what makes the author/editor relationship tick?

An editor needs to respect and admire the author and be able to subsume his or her own ego into the world of the story and consciousness of its creator. The author needs to trust and respect the editor, while at the same time having the last word on what editing needs to be accepted, improved, or rejected. It's a close working relationship that has an intense focus for a period, then ends.

What do you need to see in a manuscript to feel like it's a fit for you, editorially?

I've been a developmental editor for literary fiction, thrillers, young adult books, sci-fi, memoir, biography, political, parenting, relationships, and non-fiction self-help books. I feel comfortable working with any good book, really, as long as the author has original content, an authentic voice, and serious intentions.

How was it working on In Absence of Fear?

I enjoyed working on In Absence of Fear because it was a fast-moving suspenseful thriller with a very serious political message of great importance to what's happening in our society right now. I thought it was like a 1984 update for the 21st century.

What do you love most about the work that you do?

I've been working with writers for fifty-three (!) years now and I still get excited when I take on a new project with an author who has something important to say. I get personal satisfaction out of helping something good come to fruition and be read.

Why a book about mass surveillance and privacy?

Many people ask why I chose to write about privacy and mass surveillance. Even my editor, Alan Rinzler, wanted to know why I'd taken on such an ambitious endeavor during our first meeting. 

The truth is, I didn't choose to write such a book at all. In Absence of Fear began simply with Marus Winde's character, The Hat, and the café. I had no idea that Marus would work for the government or with algorithms. I had no clue that the book would involve predictive policing. These themes and details, grew organically out of the foundation of Marus's character and the feeling that he had lost something.


After a lot of free writing and the discovery that mass surveillance and this kind of pervasive State technology were recurring themes, it dawned on me that the novel was set within a society, much like our own, that possessed conflicting values and priorities. Privacy vs. protection. Convenience vs. liberty. This was just before Edward Snowden leaked classified information from the NSA, prompting a global debate about privacy and national security.

To be honest, though I knew I valued my privacy, I didn't exactly know why. In the years before Snowden leaked the files and even thereafter, many bought into the argument that "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." I'll admit, that I'd entertained this type of thinking. Would it matter if the government was listening in on my phone calls? Did I care if they saw my heated debates about women's rights on Gchat, or knew that I'd watched Sergei Polunin dance to Hozier's Take Me to Church roughly 25 times? Not really.

But the issue of privacy encompasses so much more than whether a third party is watching what we do or listening to what we say. More than concern about creating a modern-day 1984 or the rise of Big Brother, it's about creativity, authenticity, exploration and innovation. It's about preserving the essence of human freedom and fighting for the future and the tenets this country was founded upon.

As Glenn Greenwald explains in his gripping TED Talk, mass surveillance goes beyond societal control,  to create a prison in the mind which breeds conformity, obedience and submission.

By definition, mass surveillance not only threatens our freedom, but it threatens our progress as a society.

All Content © 2015 Celeste Chaney  All Rights Reserved.