Tag Archives: ya

Sci-fi books on my TBR pile

Like a lot of bookworms, my to-be-read pile is huge, like monster kanji huge. Genre-wise there’s just about everything in there, from romance to action, crime and (of course) almost every shade of sci-fi and fantasy you can imagine. Here are a few of the sci-fi ones I’m really looking forward to reading.

Descriptions from Amazon and Kobo.

 

Draekora (Lynette Noni)

Cover of Draekora by Lynette Noni“I swear by the stars that you and the others slain tonight will be the first of many. Of that you have my word.”

With Aven Dalmarta now hiding in the shadows of Meya, Alex is desperate to save Jordan and keep the Rebel Prince from taking more lives.

Training day and night to master the enhanced immortal blood in her veins, Alex undertakes a dangerous Meyarin warrior trial that separates her from those she loves and leaves her stranded in a place where nothing is as it should be.

As friends become enemies and enemies become friends, Alex must decide who to trust as powerful new allies—and adversaries—push her towards a future of either light… or darkness.

One way or another, the world will change…

My thoughts
Strickly speaking, I’ve already started reading Draekora but I’d barely started chapter three before I was sidetracked, so it’s back on the TBR pile. I enjoyed the first two books in this series but the third (so far) is a little so-so, still I’m looking forward to getting back to it.

Cold Welcome (Elizabeth Moon)

Cover of Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon
Admiral Ky Vatta should return to her childhood home a war hero, but on the way her shuttle is downed by sabotage.
Marooned in a hostile landscape it’ll take every bit of wit, skill and luck she can muster to lead her fellow survivors to safety, knowing that the mysterious enemies who destroyed the ship are on the hunt, and may have an agent in the group ready to finish the job at any moment. And was the sabotage an attempt on Ky’s own life, or someone else’s?

My thoughts
I LOVE SPACE OPERA! But moving on… I picked this beauty up when I was on holiday in New Zealand. I really enjoyed the earlier series (Vatta’s War), featuring the same universe and characters and I just could resist picking up this one when I saw it. Expecting lots of action and a butt-kicking heroine.

Star Wars: Ahsoka (E.K. Johnston)

Cover of Star Wars: Ahsoka by EK JohnstonFans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance…

My thoughts
I have three words for you. Star. Wars. Ahsoka. Or, if you’re one of those rare individuals who’ve never heard of Star Wars, awesome butt-kicking heroine with glowy swords! ‘Nuff said.

P.S. I totally want a poster-sized version of that cover.

Over to you

What sci-fi books are on your TBR pile? Any new ones coming out, or maybe an old favourite you’re itching to re-read?

Thoughtful & sparing: Jenna O’Connell on Romance & YA Heroines

As a publicist, editor and occasional slush-pile reader, Jenna O’Connell doesn’t just know books, but the ins and outs of getting them on bookstore shelves and into readers’ hands.

BELINDA: Hot topic first. Do you think love is killing the teenage heroine and why?

JENNA: Killing is such a strong word! We’re certainly not seeing an absence of teenage heroines because of the current focus on love/romance. But is it killing originality in the YA genre? I think there’s an argument to support that. Continue reading

Aussie YA Secret Santa Blog Hop

Aussie YA Bloggers Secret Santa Blog Hop
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This year I’ve joined in on an awesome Secret Santa and blog hop run by Aussie YA Bloggers. I’m super exicted to be included because, well…who doesn’t like recieving books in the mail! Plus, there’s the wrapping and I looooove wrapping things.

What are your top 5 favourite books this year?

A lot of what I read this year falls under the category of ‘brain candy’, but there were a few standout reads.

  1. Magic Bites by Illona Andrews was fantastic. I started off reading expecting an bog standard urban fantasy and was delighted when it turned out to be anything but.
  2. Starship’s Mage by Glynn Stewart. I loved the way Stewart blended magic and real world physics that make a future world that almost seemed possible.
  3. Dead in the Water by Hailey Edwards is another urban fantasy that surprised me. It wasn’t all about the romance, which was refreshing, and it was really well written.
  4. Grave Visions by Kalayna Price. I was hanging out for this book for three years and I was not disappointed! It’s one of the few series I read as ebooks but would consider getting the paperbacks as well, just because.
  5. The Mayfair Moon by JA Redmerski. I finally got to read this one! It wasn’t available for about a year while it Redmerski was having it reedited and for all of that time I haunted Amazon, checking to see when it would be available again.

What are your top 5 favourite Aussie YA books this year?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t read a lot of Australian fiction this year, although what I did read was great and it was YA.

  1. UnEarthed by Rebecca Bloomer is a sci-fi set on Mars. It’s great and has a nice twist on the typical teen romance. My only niggle is that it’s too short! I want more.
  2. Asena Blessed by Tracy M Joyce. Awesome epic fantasy with wolves, magic and women who kick butt. ‘Nuff said.

How did you go with your Goodreads challenge?

Not so well. This year I upped my goal to 70 books, which, a few years ago wouldn’t have been a problem, but ever since I started writing full-time I just don’t read as much. This year, I’ll be lucky to read 60.

What is your favourite blogging moment of 2016?

My antiheroine interview series! I love antiheroines (heroines who subvert the traits of the classic hero) and I just don’t think that there are enough of them out there. Sure, we have a heap of antiheroes such as Sherlock, Ironman and Han Solo, but you have to search harder for their female counterparts.

Interviewing other authors about why they’ve chosen to write antiheroines, what makes a good one and how they contribute to the reading culture was a lot of fun.

What are your blogging goals for 2017?

To blog more consistently. I’m planning on doing more interviews with authors and readers about select topics, such as what makes a strong female character, racial diversity in fiction and representations of the disabled. Really, any topic that I think we can learn something new about.

What books are you looking forward to in 2017?

  1. Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price
  2. The Aztlanian by Brandon Sanderson
  3. The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

What is your favourite thing about the Aussie YA community?

Everyone is so friendly that I don’t feel weird about taking part in events even though I’m not a dedicated blogger (yet  I’m working on it). Plus, any community that runs a Secret Santa has to be awesome!

Leave 3 clues for your santee below!

  1. You thumped your Goodreads challenge twice over
  2. Your Goodreads shelves have funny, descriptive titles
  3. Your pet’s name rhymes with ‘jaw’

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog hop!



Featured image courtesy of SimplyPanda. Used with a Creative Commons license.

Wild, Tough and Cheeky: Carolyn Gilpin on Antiheroines

Carolyn is the author of Facing Up a story about a girl trying to pick up the pieces of her life after a car crash ruins her life.

BELINDA: Tell us about Carly, what makes her an antiheroine?

CAROLYN: Carly is an antiheroine because she is cynical, prickly, quick-tempered, stubborn, impatient with her family and pretty much most of society. She is rebellious and smokes and tends to stir trouble rather than smooth things over. But she is also tough, fiercely loyal to her friends, and suffers from inner guilt about the innocent person killed in the car accident which she and her friends caused while joyriding. This is one of the main causes of her issues, and she eventually finds a way to atone for this. Continue reading

On fighting, YA and sci-fi: An interview with Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee knows kung fu, so when she writes a fight scene you know it’s going to be awesome. Which is fortunate, since her debut novel, Zeroboxer, is all about boxing (plus you know, intrigue,  planet-spanning criminal enterprises and a smattering of romance).

Find out how you can win a copy of Zeroboxer at the bottom of the interview.

BELINDA: What is YA science fiction (sci-fi) to you?

FONDA: YA is fiction about the experiences of characters who are transitioning to adulthood. Science fiction is the genre of exploring the possible—not the world as we know it, nor a world that has never been, but the world as it could be. So to me, YA science fiction is about young characters navigating challenges in the context of a world that is different from, but a plausible extrapolation, of our own.

BELINDA: What drew you to the genre?

FONDA: I write science fiction and fantasy because it’s what I was drawn to read when I was growing up. As I kid, I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, and John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy, among so many others. In my teenage years, I loaded up on Issac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, and Piers Anthony. I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was ten years old, and have always written speculative fiction. I guess in some ways I’m lucky in that I have no desire to write anything else; I’ve enough to keep me busy!

BELINDA: Do you think there is a difference between YA sci-fi and that which is marketed at adults?

The cover of Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee.
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FONDA: I do think there’s a difference. I’ve had many adult readers tell me that they “don’t read science fiction.” Yet they’re fans of Star Trek, and Star Wars, and they read Michael Crichton and loved the movie The Martian. I think there’s often a general public perception that adult science fiction literature is for brainy physics types who want to read the hardest end of what we in the field dub “hard science fiction.” Which is not all true, though some readers do prefer this type of literature and perpetuate the impression. YA science fiction can still be “hard” (adhering strictly to science as we currently understand it) but because it contains elements typical of YA (focus on a young protagonist, coming-of-age issues, relationships with friends, parents, and romantic interests, and faster story pacing), I believe it can often be marketed as more mainstream and accessible than science fiction literature for adults.

BELINDA: What inspired the world of Zeroboxer?

FONDA: Zeroboxer was inspired by a number of things: my love of science fiction, martial arts, and action movies, combined with my background working in a sports company and seeing first hand the enormous amount of marketing, money and emotion involved in the athletics industry. It all came together in my mind as a nascent idea about a futuristic prizefighter who ends up inspiring and representing Earth. Everything else fell into place.

BELINDA: You’re a martial artist, what do most writers get wrong in fight scenes?

FONDA: I’m a big fight scene aficionado, and one of my biggest pet peeves is when writers don’t realistically depict the time required for someone to become a good fighter, and the extent of how exhausting and dangerous fights are. I roll my eyes when someone writes a character who seems to fight for hours against multiple opponents without getting injured, or who gets injured but then seems to miraculously recover after a short period of time.

BELINDA: What are a few of your favourite YA sci-fi books?

FONDA: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Feed by MT Andersen, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, and the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld.

About Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee, author of Zeroboxer.
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Fonda Lee is the author of the novel Zeroboxer (Flux/Llewellyn, April 2015), which is an Andre Norton Award nominee, a Jr. Library Guild Selection, and an ALA Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her second YA sci-fi novel will be released by Scholastic in January 2017. A recovering corporate strategist, when she is not writing, Fonda can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Find her online at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.

YA Sci-fi giveaway

Win a copy of Zeroboxer, along with six other awesome YA sci-fi books, in our giveaway running from 8 April 2016 to 10 April 2016.

Sign up to be notified about this and future giveaways.

Feature image courtesy of clement127 (via Flickr). Used with a Creative Commons licence.

Daydreaming the future: An interview with Jenny Martin

Cars, racing and a passel of my favourite movies! I talk with Jenny Martin about what makes YA sci-fi awesome and her book, Tracked. 

Don’t forget to check out how you can win a copy of Tracked at the bottom of the interview.

BELINDA: What is YA science fiction to you?

JENNY: First and foremost, it’s something near and dear to my heart. I spent a lot of my childhood with my nose science fiction novels. And while there were several wonderful speculative novels written for middle grade and teen readers, many of them were shelved in the adult section. Now, there’s a new generation of YA science fiction books, and it’s just wonderful to see. So many people, of all ages, are interested in asking “what if?” They daydream about the road ahead, where science, technology and humanity can take us. They’re interested in the intersection between the ingenuity of the mind and the restlessness of the heart. They’re fascinated by the prospect of faraway worlds and new frontiers, full of wondrous (and sometimes frightening) possibility. To me, that’s what YA science fiction is…an answer to that call.

BELINDA: What drew you to the genre?

JENNY: Again, the answer probably lies in childhood. When it comes to science fiction, I don’t think my heart ever had a chance. I was always in our little public library. I always watching adventure movies like Star Wars and SF shows on TV. I was always daydreaming in class, about rocketing into space or traveling to another time or conquering a kingdom. SF was, and still is, my window, mirror, anchor and escape.

BELINDA: Do you think there’s a difference between YA science fiction and science fiction marketed for adults?

JENNY: Yes, and no. I think some SF has a distinctly old school or adult flavor. For many years, science fiction was largely dominated by white male authors, and/or authors explicitly interested in intensely focusing on hard science. But over the years, the genre has slowly evolved and now, there are so many subgenres within SF. Yes, the time honored conventions are still thoroughly explored, and many different authors pen these traditional SF sagas, but now, there are so many other types of stories. There’s something for everyone. There’s room for everyone to share a fresh point of view.

I will say, that by and large, most YA SF seems to focus on heroes and heroines who are coming of age, on the raw cusp of adulthood. There is some crossover, with older narrators in YA and younger narrators in adult novels, but this pattern tends to hold. Overall, it’s a great era for SF. The field is wide open. Many readers are willing to champion both YA and adult books.

The cover of Tracked by Jenny Martin
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BELINDA: Tracked is marketed as The Fast and the Furious (one of my favourites) with a futuristic twist. What inspired you to write
a SF series about racing?

JENNY: Believe it or not, the inspirations for the racing world of Tracked hit me all at once. Around that time, I came across the remake of Death Race 2000 (the one with Jason Statham). I was intrigued by the premise, and thrilled with the foot-to-the-floor racing scenes. Not long after, I watched a documentary called Hot Coffee, a fiercely critical look at politics, corporate greed, and its impact on the criminal justice system. From there, my Star Wars-obsessed brain put these two elements together. I imagined a planet (one that had been colonized and settled through land run races, like home state, Oklahoma) where corporations held all the political cards. And then I imagined how a spitfire street racer might fight to take them down.

BELINDA: What’s next for you after the next book in the Tracked series, Marked, comes out in May?

JENNY: Thanks for asking! It’s been so wonderfully cathartic to wrap up Phee’s story in Marked, and now I’m working on a top secret project, something completely new and unrelated to the Tracked world. It’s a star-crossed, epic, multi-POV saga that rides the line between science fiction and fantasy. I like to think of it as a tech-drenched, swashbuckling, feminist Game of Thrones.

BELINDA: What are some of your favourite YA sci-fi novels?

JENNY: This past year, I really enjoyed Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee (a fantastic, speculative book at zero gravity boxing), Lost Stars by Claudia Gray (a gripping story set in the Star Wars universe) and Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (an action-packed saga told in a really cool, really original way).

About Jenny Martin

Jenny Martin, author of Tracked
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Jenny Martin is an author and librarian. Her first novel, Tracked, released on May 5th, 2015, by Dial, an imprint of Penguin Random-House. Tracked was named one of Paste Magazine’s and Teen Magazine’s ‘Best Books of 2015’, and its sequel, Marked, will be released May 17th, 2016. Jenny is also an experienced speaker, panelist and presenter who’s appeared Texas Teen Book Festival, Texas Library Association and San Diego Comic Con. She lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with her husband and son, where she hoards books and writes fiction. And yes, she’s still on a quest for the perfect pancake.

Find out more about Jenny and her books on her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

YA Sci-fi giveaway

Win a copy of Tracked, along with six other awesome YA sci-fi books, in our giveaway running from 8 April 2016 to 10 April 2016.

Sign up to be notified about this and future giveaways.

Feature image courtesy of Anne Worner (via Flickr). Used with a Creative Commons license.

On mirrors and YA sci-fi: An interview with N.K. Traver

A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

That’s a great opening line and it’s on the back of Duplicity, a YA cyber-thriller by N.K. Traver. Find out how you can win a copy at the bottom of the interview.

BELINDA: What is YA science fiction (sci-fi) to you?

N.K.: YA sci-fi is about exploring current or future technology from a teen standpoint–specifically, as technology that can be influenced or changed.

BELINDA: What drew you to the genre?

N.K.: I kind of fell into it by accident. I’ve always had an interest in technology and the hypothetical ways it could affect our future, but I didn’t realize that was the direction Duplicity was headed until it came time to work out the explanation behind Brandon’s moving reflection. I didn’t want to go with a full fantasy bent, so I steered it toward a technological explanation.

BELINDA: Do you think there is a difference between YA sci-fi and that which is marketed at adults?

N.K.: To me, I think they’re pretty similar, especially as far as theme. I think there’s great crossover appeal for both age groups since the uniting factor remains the same: how technology might go wrong, or how it might go wrong in the wrong hands.

BELINDA: How much of your background as a programmer influenced the world you built in Duplicity?

N.K.: Almost all of it. The entire world behind the mirror in Duplicity is influenced by my understanding of computers and what they would be capable of–with a few liberties taken on future tech, of course.

BELINDA: As a programmer, are there things that authors get wrong that bug you?

N.K.: Most authors do their research when it comes to programming, but I will say that a star dies every time an author makes programming an easy skill to pick up or makes it some kind of god-power – i.e., a character who’s dabbled in website hacking suddenly knows how to hack everything from FBI vending machines to NASA launch codes.

BELINDA: What are a few of your favourite YA sci-fi books?

N.K.:I enjoyed The Silence Of Six by E.C. Myers, and I also really enjoyed All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

About N.K. Traver

The cover of Duplicity by N.K. Traver
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As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later Traver realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped. Traver’s debut, Duplicity, a cyberthriller pitched as Breaking Bad meets The Matrix for teens, was named one of the ALA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers in 2016.

Find out more about N.K. Traver on her website or follow her on Twitter.

YA Sci-fi giveaway

Win a copy of Duplicity, along with six other awesome YA sci-fi books, in our giveaway running from 8 April 2016 to 10 April 2016.

Sign up to be notified about this and future giveaways.

Feature image courtesy of Chloe Blanchfield (via Flickr). Used with a Creative Commons licence.

Geekdom, YA sci-fi and Africa: An interview with Shallee McArthur

Shallee McArthur is the author of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, a sci-fi thriller about a girl who remembers everything, until the day she doesn’t.

Don’t forget to find out how you can win a copy of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee at the bottom of the interview.

BELINDA: What is YA science fiction (sci-fi) to you?

SHALLEE: Ooh, a big question, that one! I believe science fiction is a wonderful way to explore all kinds of fascinating future possibilities, and YA is excellent at focusing a story tightly on a character. So I guess, to me, YA sci fi is finding out how a futuristic possibility impacts a specific character’s life and world.

BELINDA: What drew you to the genre?

SHALLEE: Well, I think I became a sci-fi-geek in the womb. I grew up on a steady diet of things like Star Trek, Star Wars, and X-Files, so it’s a genre I’ve always loved. The flip-side to my geekdom is that I’m also a science nerd. I was the weird kid who spent my summers doing science experiments in my kitchen and staring at Jupiter’s moons through my telescope. I simply couldn’t NOT write science fiction!

The cover of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee
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BELINDA: Do you think there is a difference between YA sci-fi and that which is marketed at adults?

SHALLEE: That depends a lot on the individual books, I think. I do see less space opera aimed at YA (more YA space opera, please!), and adult sci fi sometimes uses a different storytelling method—like focusing as much on a milieu or the science itself as it does on character or plot. YA tends to have stronger romance threads (yay kissing!). It definitely depends on what books you’re comparing, though. I’d LOVE to see a wider range of YA sci fi consistently on book shelves, just like I do on the adult sci-fi shelves!

BELINDA: In your bio, you mention that you’re raising your children to be ‘proper little geeks’ (awesome), how much of that and your love of Africa has influenced The Unhappening of Genesis Lee?

SHALLEE: Ha! Yes, I dearly love my little geeks. Passing on my love of science and science fiction is part of not just my parenting methods, but why I write sci fi. With Genesis Lee, I really wanted to delve into the psychological impact of the science of memory—and what happens when it’s lost. It’s something very personal to me, especially having had a grandmother who struggled with Alzheimer’s, and I knew it mattered to a lot of other people as well. As for my time in Africa, it impacted this story in one big way—the worldbuilding. Having the incredible experience of being immersed (fairly) long-term in a different way of life, I wanted to show that in my books. Our culture and world is a big part of who we are!

BELINDA: As a science nerd, are there things that sci-fi books get wrong that really bug you?

SHALLEE: I’m more or less of the opinion that if the writer can make it work for the story, it works for me. But for me personally, it will completely throw me out of the story if a basic law of nature is broken. I’m all for stretching the science—it is science fiction, after all—but I can’t suspend my disbelief if the basic foundations are broken.

BELINDA: What are some of your favourite YA sci-fi books?

SHALLEE: Ooh, yay! One that I ADORE is the Partials trilogy by Dan Wells. It’s got some dystopian flare, but what I really love about that one is how the science merges with the near future to seem so possible. In the space-sci-fi area, I also enjoyed These Broken Stars. It gave me something unexpected, and I always appreciate that! And I have to throw this in, even though it’s not YA, because it’s my favorite sci fi in the entire world: anything in the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. Absolutely brilliant in every way, and SO fun!

About Shallee McArthur

Shallee McArthur, author of The Unhappening of Genisis Lee
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Photo credit Erin Summerill Photography

Shallee McArthur is the author of The Unhappening Of Genesis Lee. She originally wanted to be a scientist, until she discovered she liked her science best in fictional form. When she’s not writing young adult science fiction and fantasy, she’s attempting to raise her son and daughter as proper geeks. A little part of her heart is devoted to Africa after volunteering twice in Ghana. She has a degree in English from Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with her husband and three children.

Find out more about Shallee and her books on her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

YA Sci-fi giveaway

Win a copy of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee, along with six other awesome YA sci-fi books, in our giveaway running from 8 April 2016 to 10 April 2016.

Sign up to be notified about this and future giveaways.

Feature image courtesy of clement127 (via Flickr). Used with a Creative Commons license.

Win 7 YA Sci-fi books!

Love YA Sci-Fi?

As part of the 2016 Brain to Books Cyber Convention, I’ve teamed up with six fantastic sci-fi authors–N.K. Traver, Janine A. Southard, Jenny Martin, Susan Adrian, Shallee McArthur & Fonda Lee–to offer you the chance to win some awesome books!

The giveaway starts 12 am on 8 April and ends 11:59 pm on 10 April. To enter, simply choose one, two or all of the options below. The winner will be drawn at random and notified via email.

Sign up to be kept up-to-date about this and future giveaways.

Win 7 YA sci-fi novels, signed by the authors!
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want more?

Don’t forget to check out my booth at the Brains to Books Cyber Convention for more awesome giveaways!

On space opera, YA and druids: an interview with Janine A. Southard

Queen & Commander by Janine A Southard
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Janine A. Southard is the author of the Hive Queen Saga, a sci-fi (space opera, to be exact) trilogy about a group of teenagers who steal (kinda) a spaceship and take off on the adventure of their lives.

If you haven’t read the first book, you can find out how to get a free copy of Queen & Commander at the end of the interview.

BELINDA: I love space opera, but as a genre it can be hard to define and often means different things to different people. Personally, I like to think of it as underdogs in space, sticking it to the universe. How do you like to think of space opera?

JANINE: I love space opera too! I think of it as fiction which is both set far enough in the future that the technology involved isn’t currently possible and also where the plot is more focused on the non-technological aspects.

Even though the tech is an important backdrop piece, it isn’t what a space opera story is about. For instance, a space opera mystery is about the whodunit, not figuring out how the robot serial killer gained its sentience.

Additionally, I think of space opera as an innately hopeful form. It presupposes that our current society has continued to improve technologically while also not imploding.

BELINDA: That’s a great way to think of it, and a nice break from the trend towards the dystopian, particularly in young adult (YA) fiction. Speaking of YA, your Hive Queen Saga is among the first in a new wave of YA space opera. Apart from those genres being awesome, what drew you to mashing them up?

JANINE: That is what drew me to mashing them up! I was really nervous about it during the writing phase because you didn’t see any young adult space opera at the time (now there’s a lot more). I wasn’t sure how it was going to do, but it was the book I wanted to write. So I did! It turns out to be popular enough that you’ve heard of me. (Phew!)

BELINDA: What do you think about the YA space opera you see today, is it the kind of thing you expect when you think ‘space opera’ or do you think YA is putting a unique spin on it?

JANINE: I haven’t actually seen a lot of new YA space opera yet. I mean, I love Beth Revis’ Across the Universe… and I just finished reading Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall, though the latter is more middle grade than young adult. Give me your recommendations?

BELINDA: I sure can! Earth GirlAvalon and These Broken Stars are some of my faves, but you can find a whole host of others here.
 
In the Hive Queen Saga, there’s a heavy emphasis on Welsh mythology. What inspired you to create an entire society based around it?

JANINE: Thank you! I’ve got a bunch of these in my reading queue now. Plus, hey, I’d already read about half of the first page.

Oh my gosh, the Welsh mythology. It was kind of an accident.

See, before I started writing, I knew I wanted to name a ship Ceridwen’s Cauldron for all its symbolism regarding inspiration (great for YA characters discovering themselves) and, y’know, being a bucket people could live in. I also knew that I wanted to rename said ship as Manawyddan’s Mousetrap for how the characters grow in the face of adversity.

So this meant two things: some characters had to know a bit of Welsh mythology and building a society cool with alliteration. (Note that the book titles all alliterate: Queen & CommanderHive & HeistReign & Revolution.)

It probably could have stopped there and just been one character’s quirk. However, when I was picking my favorite mathematics for an FTL drive, I found out that the physicist whose work I liked best had studied at the University of Cardiff. (Miguel Alcubierre. He’s Mexican and a wonderful physicist.)

That was too much coincidence for me. So I went for it.

I had a small medievalist background in Welsh otherworld literature already, which helped in making things up. Then I dove into the language, the current political climate, and (of course) druidry. Using all of this, I tried to picture what a future would be like where a Welsh colony was settled by the people who want a return to the old ways as they rebuild their national heritage.

It pretty much has nothing to do with modern politics or druidry at this point, but my Cymraeg language skills got better.

Aside: for book 3 (which comes out in a few months), I got to learn about all the different kinds of Welsh and Anglo-Welsh poetry. My new favorite poet may just be Gillian Clarke, who is the current National Poet of Wales.

BELINDA: Wow, I love that you chose the FTL you used based upon the mathematics, almost as much as the matriarchal/hive-based society that’s a feature of the series. What inspired you to create such a different society?

JANINE: I do get a bit nerdy about my science research. Never let someone tell you that space opera writers don’t care about science. (It’s more that so much doesn’t make it onto the page because they’re not necessary to the story. The things I have learned about modern neuroscience!)

As for the Queen-centric Hives, they’re a case of art imitating life through a cracked lens. I think everyone has noticed that large groups of friends tend to have a leader, right? That’s just the way things are.

But when I was a college freshman, I noticed something else: a bunch of smart guys will all form an interest in the same young woman. There’s no set criteria to which woman they pick, and it’s clearly a case of “she’s so cool” rather than “let’s all agree to go after the same person.”

So I wanted to combine these things: an informal group leader with a lady people followed out of love as well as admiration. Thus, the basics of the Hive system were born.

After creating that base plan, I worked in some more sensible structures, read up on the court of Elizabeth Regina I, and added the standardized testing angle (which I’d previously made the focus of another book that hadn’t worked out).

With each book in the series, I send my characters off to another society, which is also fun for me. Yes, Book 1 was all Hives of future Wales, but Book 2 did an American Frontier space station, and Book 3 is set largely on a Chinese (mainland-descended) research lab. I had a blast deciding the right things to futurize.

BELINDA: That’s a great observation about the formation of friendship groups. I’m going to have to research that myself and no doubt tuck it away in the creative compost heap where I keep my worldbuilding ideas 🙂 

Do you have a particular method you use when building your worlds?

JANINE: Well, I usually start with a fairly strong idea for some part the story setting. Sometimes that’s a general sense of space and time; others, a particular aspect of society (such as theatre actors). To take it deeper, past that initial idea, I like those lists of questions that you see everywhere. The list makers always come up with something that would not have occurred to me. At the moment, my favorite list comes from Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. It has great questions like “What kind of clothes are in style?” and “What historical epochs have shaped society?”

Actually, I recommend this book to any writer who doesn’t yet have an outlining method. The exercises are great!

BELINDA: When does the research come into it, and how do you keep track of all the data you collect?

JANINE: Research is a strange beast. For a novel that’s been percolating for a while before I even start outlining it, I’ll have done a bunch of “unofficial” research until I have a strong sense of something that’ll go into a story.

During my outlining phase (3-6 weeks usually), I’ll go deeper. Often my research will inform my final outline by integrating with the plot. What does the tech have to do? How does society work? The novel has to make sense in a larger context.

Anything relevant goes into the outline. (I’m a die-hard outliner. My latest novel has 35k words of outline.) For instance, I can copy a quote from a neuroscience article into my worldbuilding section, or include a photo with a link under it.

Some stuff, though, is less easy to describe. For instance, we talked about Welsh mythology earlier. Yes, I let modern druidry inform my version of future druidry, but they are emphatically not the same. So I’ll listen to the DruidCast podcast while I walk, and that will end up flavoring my stories but isn’t directly documented. Alternatively, I have a character who translates idioms from his own language, and I don’t document those at all other than the fact that he does it (so I can look up an appropriate saying from a “learn to speak” book or website as needed).

After a draft is complete, I’ll do a bunch of passive research while it’s out with beta readers and my editor. That way when someone says “I want more about X,” I’ve got a stronger foundation. I’m really horrible about documenting stuff that comes in during the editing phase though.

BELINDA: You’re releasing the third book in the Hive Queen Saga this year, do you plan to write any more stories in the series or will you be starting on a new project?

JANINE: Reign & Revolution wraps up the current story arc, which still leaves a lot of room in the Hive Queen universe! I currently have lots of plans for shorter fiction there. I’m very excited about doing alternate universe novellas, for instance. (I might have planned out the AU of book three before even outlining R&R.) Plus, I’m intending multiple origin stories for how the sentient robot has gained sentience over the years; the first of these is already available: “The Robot Who Stole Herself.”

But I’m definitely taking a short break from these for a while. My next two expected projects are

  1. A 7-part novelette series about Victorian Vampire Vice Cops. Episode one is already written (though not available yet) and entitled “The Death of Sloth.” I see it as sort of a Sherlock Holmes and Matt Helm pastiche starring Ada Lovelace and her vampire great-great-great-grandfather.
  2. A medieval quest fantasy “done backwards” that I’ve been working on for, oh, a decade, which is almost ready to see the light of day. It takes every point of order that belongs in a book of this type and twists it. The blond farm boy? Actually a manipulative villain. The mercenary with a heart of gold? Actually a sadist. The dragon the villagers defeat? Just grandstanding.

About Janine A. Southard

Janine A. Southard
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Janine A. Southard is the IPPY award-winning author of Queen & Commander (and other books in The Hive Queen Saga). She lives in Seattle, WA, where she writes speculative fiction novels, novellas, and short stories… and reads them aloud to her cat.

All Janine’s books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.

Right now, get Queen & Commander as a free ebook when you sign up for Janine A. Southard’s newsletter. The newsletter will keep you current on things like her latest release dates (and fun news like when her next Kickstarter project is coming). Usually, this is once a month or so, but sometimes goes longer or shorter. Your address will never be shared, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Plus: free ebook!

You can hang out with Janine online where she’s crazy about twitter (@jani_s) and periodically updates her website with free fiction and novel inspirations (www.janinesouthard.com).

Featured image courtesy of davidd. Used with a Creative Commons license.