Today, I have another of my fellow authors from PDMI Publishing, LLC. She’s a fellow science fiction author, a fascinating lady, and a good friend. She worried this might be too long, but I wouldn’t change a word. Enjoy!
How did you get started writing? When did you write your first story?
Oh, yeah, that’s a harder question than you might suspect. I was on some major meds when I was a kid, so I don’t remember a whole lot before I was about 12 or so.
I can tell you for sure that I was writing at least by 2nd grade. Mom has a story I wrote in a scrapbook somewhere.
I do recall – after my memory starts clarifying as a teen – playing a lot of mental what-if games. What if I were in the X-Men? What if Steve Austin had done managed to get that tank before it got him? What if Roy hadn’t grabbed the wire when he fell off the roof? What if there were an alien race that looked like a cross between a bird and a cocker spaniel? I mentally wrote myself into my favorite shows, movies, and books.
Sometime in middle school, I started turning those into stories, particularly X-Men adventures my pals and I concocted using characters we designed. Eventually, I moved away from fanfic and started coming up with my own brilliant ideas … some more brilliant than others.
What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?
OOOooo… Let’s see. I remember enjoying these a bunch. I’m having a hard time recalling the plot of some of them because it has been a looong time. Sadly, they’re all in boxes in the garage, or I’d read ‘em again.
Janet Kagan (Hellspark, Mirabile Loved the storylines.)
Gordon R. Dickson (The Childe Cycle, particularly DORSAI! and Soldier Ask Not Again, great stories. Ultimately, all the tales in the series link up, but each book stands on its own just fine.)
Victor Hugo (Les Miserables … I liked the tale of how the Law of Unintended Consequences works out in the end, but you can keep the 100+ page description of the Paris sewer. It wasn’t /that/ interesting.)
Bruce Hale (Chet Gecko series. Hilarious!)
Jude Watson (Jedi Apprentice series. Excellent characterization).
How has your life influenced your stories? Is there a particular character you identify with?
Oh, my life has been all over my stories, and I’m often in the story.
Remnant in the Stars: I am, to a large degree, both Sora, who often feels helpless to do anything, and Kirsten, who is disabled and can’t figure out why her health is deteriorating. Janice and Sora ended up with my wacky sense of humor. Kirsten’s subplot directly relates to my adventures of trying to figure out my illnesses and disabilities.
Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo: I am both Calla, who faces major discrimination for an inherited disability, and Thomas, who has trouble letting go of the emotions resulting from an attack against him. The whole plotline involving how those two get past their intense dislike for each other draws heavily on the experiences I’ve had dealing with discrimination.
Lines of Succession: I am Elaina. I enjoy doing a lot of activities that are considered “too manly” like archery and fencing and so on. I find chick flicks boring. Give me a lovely action movie any time. I’ve dealt with a betrayal, and I often have to take on the responsibilities of a non-disabled person in spite of being disabled and still make it work.
Urushalon: Amaya is me in the way she struggles with emotional disasters. Things affect me more than most people, but I try to keep it nailed down under a veneer of professionalism as much as I can … never quite as successfully as she does.
Have you always liked science fiction? Do you have a favorite sci-fi novel?
Well, as far back as I can remember, I’ve liked science fiction, but I’ve also been told I liked a good mystery, too. These days, I don’t have much use for romance and erotica, and horror has to be much, much more story than blood and goo; but other than that, I like a good story and good characters no matter which genre. Science fiction, though, I would say is my favorite with non-magical fantasy coming in a close second.
My favorite science fiction novel would have to be … hmm … Janet Kagan’s Hellspark. The main character uses her wits to solve a problem.
I know that your faith is an important cornerstone of your life. Is it ever hard bringing this into your fiction? Do you feel it’s hard being a person of faith in today’s largely secularized world?
Actually, I never try to bring faith into my fiction. The Christianity either fits or it doesn’t. So, I have Remnant in the Stars where one character helps another overcome crippling guilt through faith. In Urushalon, the Eshuvani were converted to Christianity not long after they crashed and most of them have stayed with it, so they use apostolic greetings and other quirks of that sort. Lines of Succession is in a setting similar to Renaissance Europe and reflects the Christianity of the era. Elaina is very much a religious sort.
That said, however, even my completely secular works (Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo, and The Condemned Courier) are written from a Christian worldview, so I’m sure my faith snuck in there, too.
I do find it difficult sometimes to stand strong in my beliefs. In part, this is due to a secularized world that preaches tolerance for everything except Christianity. That, however, Christians were warned to expect.
The part I find even harder to deal with is the way the Church is marrying the world “to be more relevant.” It’s hard to find a church that actually preaches the whole counsel of God. A lot of them are more like pep talks and motivational speakers. Ear tickling, not sound scholarship and discipling is the rule. Good, crunchy exegetical or even expositional Bible study is hard to come by.
My beliefs align most closely with conservative Baptist teaching, and I attend a Lutheran church (long story), so I catch a lot of heat from some who lump me into a category with other “evangelicals.” Unfortunately, these days, “evangelical” has come to be associated with those who try to force their religion on everyone around them. For the record, I have yet to shove my Bible up the nose of anyone else. I have this apparently amazing ability to be able to disagree with someone’s personal beliefs while still valuing them as a human being.
Anyway, I do my best to get along with the rest of humanity while staying true to my beliefs. That does make me unpopular sometimes.
Tell everyone about how you got interested in birds. And tell us a little about Masika.
That’s another one that I don’t know how the interest started. I’ve liked eagles in general for longer than I can remember. I have pictures, statuettes, a memory-card holder, and all kinds of wild stuff with eagles and Bible verses with eagles and whatnot.
Masika is a Timneh African Grey. She came to me about six or so years ago. She’s been through a lot of hubbub, so she’s very skittish. I interviewed her here: http://ckoepp.webs.com/apps/blog/show/32556843-introducing-masika
Masika, formerly known as Rebel – her last owner was a Civil War/Western enthusiast – started out as a pet store bird. When the store closed up, she was stuffed in a warehouse and occasionally gifted with food and something approximating clean water. Someone got wind of that and secured her release, but after a couple years, couldn’t take care of her and gave her to his parents. Masika stayed there for about 15-20 years or so. Then that couple retired and one had failing health, so they took a couple stabs at rehoming Masika until a mutual friend suggested that I had a couple birds. The couple called me and asked if I’d like to take Masika. You bet! Masika has been with me for a half-dozen years.
Gradually, she’s starting to trust me. At first, she would flee when I reached in to change food and water. She decided at some point that I was not evil and would stay still. Then, a year or two later, she started resting her foot on my hand. More time passed until she started trying to put weight on that foot. Now she’ll step completely onto my hand sometimes, but I’d better stay still! Within the last month or so, I’ve tried to very slowly move my hand. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes it’s not. We’ll get there.
Do you have a certain routine when you write?
Not exactly. I write whenever I can squeeze it in, usually at night before I crash, but I’ve written parts of scenes sitting in doctor’s offices or waiting in lines. I just need a piece of paper or mini-notebook and a pen. I type it in later.
If I’m at my computer, I make sure my notes are handy and that I have a glass of water nearby. Then I open up the story file, read whatever I wrote the day before, and dive in for the next bit.
What advice would you give a new writer?
Learn what the “rules” are, not so you can keep them, but so that when you break them you know there’s a good reason for it and not just because you can and you want to. Good story and strong characters trump pretty nearly all rules.
However, when you’re submitting something to a publisher, make absolutely certain you follow their rules of submission with exacting detail. One slip may result in your manuscript being shuffled to the trash bin.
Seek advice from knowledgeable people, but use the advice with discernment. Advice from people more skilled than you are is a great way to grow, but you have no idea how many well-intentioned pieces of advice I followed that an editor then had me go back and undo.
Keep trying. This isn’t an easy gig, but it is a fun one.
Thanks for letting me play, Clay!