Why Write: YA with Steph Sessa

Today Steph Sessa is here to talk about YA and why teen stories have such a profound effect on people of all ages. Enjoy!

Hello, Steph, and welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

Hi! Thanks for having me! I’m a Philadelphia-based writer with obsessions in linguistics, music and ultimate frisbee. When not writing, I work part-time as a linguistic researcher and go to grad school for education. I write primarily YA, particularly speculative fiction, though recently I’ve been dabbling in NA contemporary.

What made you decide to write for young adults?

I think I’m one of the few people who loved high school. Like absolutely loved it. Yes, at times it was tough. But the experiences I had there are some I’ll never forget. It’s the time when everything matters and there’s so many emotions and you feel everything. All the emotions are amplified and part of the reason to read is to feel, so YA was just the obvious choice for me.

You also describe some of your work as speculative fiction — what exactly does that mean?

Speculative fiction is just a broad term for the fantastical genres, so fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, horror, scifi, dystopian etc.

What types of stories does young adult make possible? How about speculative fiction?

So many! YA is the time for self-discovery and new relationships (whether it’s boyfriends or just new friendships). It’s about finding out who you are and how to navigate relationships with other people. Speculative fiction allows the reader to get lost in a different world and to take a break from reality for a second. Readers can discover new worlds and situations that they can’t get in their every day lives. It’s an escape.

Aside from the obvious, what audience do you think YA attracts? Why do you think so many adults love to read YA fiction?

With YA it’s all about the feeling. As I said above, emotions are amplified so everything is terrible or amazing. Insecurities come out in the characters and all readers can relate, because everyone is insecure about something. I think adults like YA because it reminds us of a time in our lives when everything mattered, but we weren’t bogged down with car payments or rent or other boring things like that. It’s about relationships, which really are the most important things in life, and I think young adults and regular adults like to see that.

How does the audience alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

Everything has to be intensified. Since teenagers tend to have shorter attention spans (as do I!) things have to get going right from the beginning. Tension in the first page, first paragraph, first line. Hooking the reader early on is incredibly important because they might not give the book a chance otherwise. So the plot has start early on or the characters have to be interesting enough for the readers to want to spend 250+ pages with them. The characters have to change from the beginning to the end more prominently, because YA is about growth.

How does YA affect the stakes for your characters and your audience? And speculative fiction?

The problems aren’t going to be the same things I face on a day to day basis. For YA, they’re going to be problems that sixteen-year-olds usually have, so a fight with a friend, boyfriend, parent. They’re inter-personal problems. But including speculative fiction means including scenarios that you might not see everyday because of the setting. So maybe there are different species living in that world that’s hostile, or there’s a dystopian government that affects every aspect of life. So it’s the relationship problems plus a big picture problem.

How do you think your genre affects your audience?

My audience is going to be the people who read to feel and read to get lost in a world. Speculative fiction tends to have a lot of world building which can be a lot to take in sometimes. But it also has the chance to enhance the story significantly. It’s growth and emotions of the main character, with a fantastical plot.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

I read almost exclusively YA, and usually it’s either fantasy or light scifi. I do like contemporary YA as well.

Where can readers track you down?

https://twitter.com/stephsessa
http://stephsessa.blogspot.com/

Thanks for stopping by, Steph!

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Why Write: Erotic Romance with Jennah Scott

J.ScottReaders, today we have writer Jennah Scott here to talk about erotic romance! Jennah’s a cross-genre writer, and today she has some great things to say about why people love romance, some of the differences between erotica and erotic romance, and why we all love a good steamy scene in the books we read. Enjoy!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I’m still pretty new when it comes to the publishing community. I’ve been seriously writing for about three years now. I self-published my first book, Making His Mark, in January and just sold Scrap Metal to Liquid Silver Books. Scrap Metal is a contemporary romance that I wrote with my critique partner and very good friend, Alexi Raymond.

What made you decide to write erotic romance?
It was a challenge. When I originally decided I wanted to pursue a career in writing I started writing YA. All of my characters were older, more along the lines of New Adult, but at the time New Adult still wasn’t accepted. Then I decided to push myself and see if I could write romance. The romance challenge turned into writing erotic romance. I wanted to know if I could bring in the physical act of sex and layer in the emotion that comes along with physical attraction. There is so much vulnerability in opening yourself up to someone like that. I wanted to show that, let my readers experience the joy and complications sex can add to a story. A romance will always have tension, but being able to experience that tension play out to pleasure adds to the development of both the characters and relationship—in my opinion.

What types of stories does erotic romance make possible? Does the addition of the classification “erotica” influence the romances you write?
I think any story idea with the right characters could be erotic romance. Certain genres, like YA, don’t allow for erotic romance, which is fine with me. Personally, I don’t want to read about teenagers getting down and dirty. That should be a time they are exploring, so I’m good keeping it behind doors. Other than that, let the creativity flow. The thing about erotic romance is that the sex enhances the story. It’s not THE story. When it’s THE story then it’s erotica. Big difference. Erotic romance has a plot, character development, and a happily ever after. Writing erotic romance, for me, allows me to write without any restrictions.

What audience do you think erotic romance attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
Good question! I’m usually surprised by the people that tell me they like erotic romance. In general though, I think the audience is women in their late twenties and up. The great thing about it is that you can love any genre and find an author that writes erotic romance in that genre. So it’s not limited to contemporary. The audience doesn’t alter my writing. If I’ve got a story I want to write, I write it. More than once I’ve decided to write a story because I couldn’t find one that I wanted to read. For instance, I just finished a story whose main characters are both in the video game development industry. There aren’t a whole lot of nerdy type males in books, so I wrote one.

How does erotic romance affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?
It increases the stakes. When you bring that layer into the mix it’s harder to leave and when the characters face problems the heartbreak is greater. Taking that step from a simple relationship to a more physical relationship can be a big deal. Depending on your character and their desires, there is a lot of trust building up. When that’s broken, it hurts. If I’ve written the story well enough, then my audience feels the pain and heartache.

Why do you think people love to read erotic romance?
Because you can let go of all your inhibitions. The characters do. Even if they have worries about what friends, family, etc. thinks they find a way to move past that. I think erotic romance gives readers a chance to let go of the stigma about sex and just enjoy.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
Contemporary romance is my favorite. But I’ll read almost anything. My favorite authors span across multiple genres from paranormal to historical, YA, New Adult, and everything in between. I love contemporary because I can easily relate to the locations, characters, etc. But there is something to be said about a good paranormal or fantasy that takes you into a whole new world you don’t want to leave.

Where can readers track you down?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennah_scott

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorjennahscott

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jennahscott/

Website: http://www.jennahscott.com

Thanks for stopping by, Jennah!

Guilty Pleasures

*cough* This is a really old post that’s been in my drafts folder since January. I thought you guys might actually like to read it!

I spent most of today out with a friend and running errands, so I haven’t had time to write.

Translation: I didn’t get home till three and that felt too late to get any real work done, so I decided to do some less productive crafty work and watch old episodes of The Vampire Diaries. Episodes I’ve seen before. Episodes that aren’t particularly noteworthy except for the abundance of pretty people moping about who’s not sleeping with whom.

Yep. I’m a shameless lover of teen vampires. In fact, while I’m confessing things, I’ll admit that I’ve read Twilight. More than once. The Kindle was a godsend because it meant I no longer had to deal with my husband’s mockery when I wanted to read something really and truly awful—now I don’t have to face the shame of, say, the cover of Breaking Dawn staring at him from my nightstand, giving away my weakness. I read Twilight like some women read bodice-rippers, the ones with shiny, shirtless men on the covers: furtively, pop-eyed, and generally while hiding the evidence.

Come to think of it, that sounds rather like one of the signs of addiction. The one where you lie about your problem. Also the one where you feel guilt and shame. And that other one, where you put time and effort into your habit.

I only know about those signs for research, of course. Totally.

I like literature, too, I’ll have you know. I reread Jane Austen’s complete works every year. A Farewell to Arms is one of two books that makes me cry. I am capable of exerting some self control and occasionally reading things that actually merit my love.

But, damn it, every now and then I just like to lose myself in a fluffy, high-stakes romance between two pretty (and often fanged) people. I also like dipping my fries in mustard. Whatchu gonna do, sue me?

I AM NOT ASHAMED.*

The fact is, I’m not alone. Twilight sold a flobbity-gillion copies. Margot Adler incorporated her obsession with vampire novels (including Twilight) into a series of academic lectures. How many people watch The Vampire Diaries? More than a few, judging by Twitter on Thursday nights.

Everyone has a few guilty pleasures. Maybe for you it’s not teen vampires. Maybe it’s wealthy teens who sleep around a lot. Maybe it’s those afternoon soap operas. (Do those still exist anymore?) Maybe it’s some terrible sitcom.

But you know… you can tell me.

This is a safe space. No one here will judge you.** C’mon. you know you want to share. What’s your guilty pleasure?

 

 

*Okay, I’m a little ashamed. Fine, a lot. That doesn’t stop me, though.

**Much

 

Why Write: Speculative Fiction with Morgen Rich

Morgen Rich V1Readers, today we greet Morgen Rich, writer of boundary-pushing epics. She has some fantastic things to say (and some great recommendations to make!), so be sure to check out her work when you’re done!

Hi Morgen, and welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

First, I want to thank Kristin McFarland for hosting this series of author interviews from various genres. I think it’s a fascinating study of differences and commonalities among writers and genres, and I will be following it to discover what those are!  I hope others will, too, and that they’ll join in the discussion here on Kristin’s blog.

Why, you’re welcome! I do plan on posting some follow-up analysis to all of these interviews. I’m just finishing a book right now, I swear.

About me?  I’m tempted to use Steve Martin’s line in The Jerk and say, “I was born a poor, Black child,” but that’s because I’m mischievous.  I am a hybrid of Scottish, Irish, Cherokee, and Comanche ancestry.  I was born and spent most of my youth and some of my adulthood in the southwest.  I’ve lived in a lot of places in the U.S. and Western Europe.  I have a background in academia and still teach university courses in English and Communications from time to time, though I consider myself a full-time author and independent publisher now.  I started my literary life as an early reader, and I’ve been writing fiction and poetry for well over 20 years, though I hadn’t considered publishing commercially until about 5 years ago.

Over the years, I’ve written medieval fantasy, poetry, and contemporary literary fiction (mostly short stories, at which I think I truly suck).  My main writing interest is Speculative Fiction with a decidedly feminist slant, and I lean toward epics.  I’m in the process of releasing my current work, the first novel in The Staves of Warrant series, in serial form.  The novel’s parts will be the first released by my independent publishing house, Bookmite Press. I hope to have the company open for submissions by the end of this year.

 You describe your work as speculative fiction. What exactly does that mean?

Laughs.  Let’s just get right to the hard question, shall we?

That’s why they pay me the big bucks. And by “they,” I mean me, and by “big bucks,” I mean nothing at all. *grins*

Speculative fiction is most often an umbrella category for works of fiction that are difficult to categorize in traditional genres.  Speculative Fiction has a lot of sub-genres.  For instance, one sub-genre, science fantasy, is a blend of science fiction and fantasy.  When one tosses in the epic aspect, something like Star Wars or the Pern series would fit into the category.

Although there was political discussion about specific works being speculative in ancient Greece, the term “Speculative Fiction” seems to have been coined in literary circles in 1889 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in an article on Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward.  That short novel is something of a dystopian Rip Van Winkle tale that grows around a science-fiction element—in this case, something akin to (but definitely not) cryosleep.

Since the term was coined, however, the genre has all but refused to be defined, and there are about as many definitions as there are definers.  Nathan E. Lilly at Greententacles, for instance, has an assortment of definitions by a variety of literary types.  For anyone interested in exploring the topic further, I’d say Lilly’s list is a good place to start.  Interestingly enough, the list is housed on a section of the site entitled “Articles That Never Die.” The fact that the definitions were posted in 2002 and are all, without exception, still relevant to the discussion of what constitutes Spec-Fic speaks volumes for the nebulous nature of the genre itself.  Looking backward to Bellamy (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) and the birth of the term in relatively contemporary literary discussion, Spec-Fic definitions have been debated for over 200 years.  I can’t resolve that debate.

Speculative fiction elements in my own work include:

  • More than one genre (epic, fantasy, science fiction = epic science fantasy)
  • Magic in the same narrative space as science and technology
  • The “what-if,” interrogatory nature of the story

 And you write epic fantasy, too?

Without injecting spoilers, I will say The Staves of Warrant trilogy is set in the Shifting Worlds universe, and the first world that readers see is described by characters and appears to function like a medieval fantasy world.  The story is epic in the traditional sense, both in scope and in length.

 What made you decide to write across these genres?

My muse couldn’t resist the imaginative possibilities.  I laughingly say that as an Aquarian, I just can’t resist What Ifs.  I’m sure I drove my parents insane with all of my “But why” or “But why not?” questions as a child.  And maybe because so many of those questions weren’t or couldn’t be answered, playing with boundaries, mixing up the Whys and Why Nots with the What Ifs, feels right to me.  Spec-Fic allows me to keep asking questions, some of which may never have answers.

My own personality aside, published authors really shined the light on Spec-Fic for me, particularly female authors who pushed the boundaries of genre in their works.  Mary Shelley, Madeline L’Engle, Zora Neale Hurston, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Paula Gunn Allen, so many more.  But the main influence was Octavia E. Butler.

The first of Butler’s novels that I read was Dawn, the first book in the Xenogensis Trilogy.  Butler’s depictions of change, language constructions, and a third gender in her trilogy blew me away, particularly when the third gender evolved.  After that, I knew I wanted to explore science fiction.  Fortunately, I was attending a university that houses the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Library, so I started digging up all kinds of information and decided to write a Masters Thesis on Butler’s work.  When I got to Kindred, I was confounded as to why it had been categorized as “fiction.”  A book about involuntary time travel without machines and interaction with one’s own ancestors as fiction without any genre label, not even science fiction or fantasy?  Why was the categorization of Kindred so disconnected from the elements in that novel?  I didn’t realize at the time that science fiction had such a negative connotation in the literary world because so much of what I’d read in the genre had been just as good as the “Classics.”  I suspect, though couldn’t prove, that look down the nose is partly why Butler’s publisher chose fiction as the bookshelf it would sit on at Barnes and Noble and in libraries.  The last time I looked, Kindred had sold well over a million copies, and many of those copies were to students, as the book became quite popular in high-school and college English courses.  I still wonder how much influence the categorization as fiction had on Kindred’s academic use and commercial success.  If I had to label Kindred as anything other than Spec-Fic, I’d call it historical science fiction or historical fantasy or historical science fantasy.  The label fiction just doesn’t do justice to its genre complexity.

Wow, that’s some food for thought: genre labels as either limiting or frontier-opening. I think I’ll throw that idea open to the blog readers.

In the case of The Staves of Warrant trilogy, the story insisted it was science fantasy.  I tried initially writing it as a medieval fantasy with a single point of view, but I discovered that the story of Grainne and other characters couldn’t be told in the confines of a single voice, a single novel, a single world, or a single genre.   The crossovers between culture, magic, myth, science, and technology demanded diversity.  I tossed out the whole lot of drafts (5 novels in total) and started over, this time with a Spec-Fic premise from the beginning, working to reveal that premise little by little.

What types of stories does fantasy/spec-fic/epic fantasy make possible?

Stories that defy boundaries.  Stories of revolution (think Star Wars).  Tales about how we evolve and adapt over time, space, and cultures.  Tales of warning.  That’s not to say that revolutionary, evolutionary, or cautionary tales are unique to fantasy/spec-fic/epic fantasy genres, but Spec-Fic is a fertile breeding ground for them.

What audience do you think your work attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

My work is definitely for readers 18 and older.  Writing for a mature audience gives me the freedom to explore gritty, unjust situations without fear of scarring some unwitting child’s innocence.  I can create characters who are absolute scum and who do awful things to others.  Writing for adults means laying the responsibility of choosing to read and think about issues like human trafficking, rape, and other social violence and injustices at the feet of those best-prepared to handle them emotionally and psychologically.

My beta readers are fans of Speculative Fiction, Feminist Fiction, Fantasy, and Science Fiction.  Throughout the trilogy, neither Fantasy nor Science Fiction is absent, though readers may not realize that fact immediately.  My hope is that my particular blend of those two genres will appeal to readers of both genres, as well as readers who enjoy stories with strong, yet flawed,  female protagonists.

How does an epic scope affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

In epics, the stakes for characters are high and challenges not easily overcome, though those elements are not unique to epics.  Progress and failure are interdependent, and in an epic tale, take time to unravel.  The epic hero/ine, for instance, usually travels away from home to learn the lessons that s/he brings back.  Depending on the complexity of what s/he must do and learn, the story can take a substantial amount of time and pages to unfold, particularly in the context of sub-plots.

From the sheer standpoint of the amount of time it takes to read an epic story, readers set off on a journey in which their time is a tangible stake.  I am painfully conscious of that commitment and stake.  Yet, a story that spans a broad distance (time, space, culture, etc.) also gives readers a chance to see characters develop in a multitude of environments and circumstances.  That’s something of a trade-off, and I hope readers feel the investment was worth it in the end.

The nature of an epic is tragic, though not always in the sense of “and the main character dies,” and there is a fine line between tragedy that bums out a reader and tragedy that is situated in a more satisfying conclusion.  So, readers have a stake in the endings of epic stories.  The risk that the story won’t turn out the way they’d expected or a beloved character will die, are stakes.  Readers are savvy.  If they invest time and emotional energy in a story, they expect satisfying fruition.  Bilbo Baggins survives, but is he happy after his own adventures have ended?  Is the end of Tolkien’s epic satisfying to the reader?  I can’t speak for all readers.  For me, it was satisfying despite the element of tragedy with Frodo.  As a reader, I expect an epic to tell a big story with a lot of smaller stories inside of it.  By using smaller stories to ameliorate the tragedy in his tale, Tolkien was able to bring his story to satisfying fruition for me.  He proved to me that I’d invested my time wisely.  My stakes in his story paid off, despite the cost of my emotional tie to an endearing, heroic character who doesn’t survive.

Why do you think people love to read speculative fiction? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

I hate to speak for readers other than myself, but I’d guess readers who love Spec-Fic do so partly because they are drawn to the worlds of possibility the genre delivers.  Spec-Fic lets readers’ imaginations soar in directions they might not have otherwise—beyond the realms of reality, plausibility, and probability to cohesive possibility.  Consider China Miéville’s Railsea or Perdido Street Station.  They contain settings and characters that are unreal and both implausible and improbable, but within the stories’ plots, settings, and characterizations lie cohesive possibilities—someones, sometimes, somethings, and somewheres that readers can accept as what Miéville molds them into, as well as what they may represent to readers.

I think Spec-Fic readers enjoy flights of fancy, too.  Because Spec-Fic has no boundaries except those the author inserts or readers interpret, it is fluid, and fluidity is a desirable trait in flights of fancy.

Speculative fiction draws readers into the story, prompting them to ask themselves the same questions the author and the characters are asking. What would happen if . . . ?  How would this change culture, relationships, perspectives, me?  Could something like this really happen? Has it happened already?

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

That’s a tough one because I’ll read anything that’s well-written.  In addition to fantasy, science fiction, and spec-fic, I have been known to pick up a detective novel or dozen, a horror story, a romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, and “Classic literary fiction.”  As a child, books and reading were my windows into worlds that interested me more than the one I lived in.  I guess I’ve never gotten over that entirely, though I now also see them as windows into a world more complex than my child-mind could comprehend.  I read all genres because I’m compelled to stare out into the world through every sliver in the stained-glass window of literature.

incorrigible-finalD smallHow can readers get in touch with you?

I love to connect with readers and other writers and just about anyone interested in writing, publishing, or Speculative Fiction.  I adore hooking up with people who love gardening, architecture, and animals, especially big dogs!  News about my work is always posted on the sites listed below:

World Enough and Time is my Website and blog, which includes book reviews of works by other authors, articles on various topics I’m interested in or that readers and friends have asked me to discuss, links to my interviews, and coming in the very near future, author interviews and posts by some of my writer friends!

I also hang out on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

For occasional e-mails with news about releases, sales, and giveaways, I have a mailing list that people can subscribe to (and unsubscribe from at any time).

Thanks, Morgen, for spending some time here! I definitely want to throw some of these topics open to blog-readers; what do you guys think about genres that are every genre and no genre at all? Are genre labels limiting? What shelves do you shop in the store?

Why Write: Dystopian Fiction with S.K. Falls

Hey gang! Today we’re going to talk to S. K. Falls, another of my writer-pals and a truly versatile and talented lady. I asked her to talk specifically about dystopian fiction, since that’s a genre you don’t see ’round these parts (meaning: my blog) all that often. 

Hello, Sandhya! For those who don’t know, Sandhya is one of my fellow Spellbound Scribes and another member of #teamawesome! Welcome to the blog!

Thank you, Kristin! I’m so excited to be here. 😀 Always happy to assist a fellow Scribe and #teamawesome solider…er, member.

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m the author formerly known as Adriana Ryan, so I wrote World of Shell and Bone, a science fiction dystopian. 🙂 I’ve also written bits of romance and urban fantasy.

 What made you decide to write dystopian fiction?

The idea struck me and didn’t let go. I absolutely loved the concept of a futuristic North and South America where females supposedly were given all the power. Of course, that’s not quite how it works out…

 What types of stories does a dystopian setting make possible?

Stories that are ultimately about hope, I think. You have this horribly dreary world with (usually) militaristic regimes, and then all it takes is one person or a small group of people to completely change that.

 What audience do you think dystopian attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

I think dystopian fiction attracts people from all walks of life. With YA titles like the Hunger Games, we’ve attracted youth and those young at heart (wink) and with adult titles like The Road or The Handmaid’s Tale, we’ve attracted those who like literary fiction.

How does dystopian affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

Characters have to be plunged into horrible situations before the audience can feel truly bad for them, I think. At least, that’s true for me as a reader of dystopian fiction. I don’t want to see something bad happen that could happen in my life today. I want the story to take me beyond, so that I can really sit back and say, “Wow. That sucks. I’m so glad my life isn’t that bad.” It also sets the stage up for the characters to do truly amazing things as the story progresses, to change the courses of their lives.

Why do you think people love to read dystopian fiction? What effect does it have on its audience?

I think, like I said above, that people like to see how bad things could really get. It helps us to peek over that fence to the other side in a safe, contained manner. We can escape to a dark place, but we know we can always come back. And when a character triumphs in such a hard situation, it helps us feel like we can triumph in all our hard situations, too.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

This changes all the time. Currently I’m loving memoirs and biographies because it’s a great place to learn more about my favorite subject—psychology.

How can readers reach you?

Website: http://www.skfalls.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/skfallssc

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorskfalls

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks so much, Kristin! 🙂

Why Write: Sci-Fi With N. E. White

Today we welcome N. E. White, one of my very first blogging-writer friends! She writes fabulous sci-fi and fantasy, and even won that kooky contest Emmie Mears and I ran over Halloween. Today she’s hear to talk about why she writes sci-fi, so let’s give a big, warm welcome to Nila! *pause for applause*

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m a five foot tall, married, chubby runner/cyclist/kayaker/former fire ecologist/current geographic information specialist that also likes to write. Oh, and I have a fourteen-year-old dog that still thinks he’s two.

I write mostly in the fantasy/science fiction genre, though I’ve been known to play around with magical realism and I’ve even attempted a few literary pieces. After shelving a novel series, my concentration has been on short stories. Currently, I’m working collaboratively on a novella with Joe Bailey about an ageless serial killer on a mining space ship.

What made you decide to write sci-fi?

Science fiction allows a writer to explore questions of social distress in terms of technology that we create for ourselves. In essence, as we rely more heavily on complicated technology to live, we set our own traps and maybe even our ultimate demise. Setting my characters in these situations makes for good drama and, working in the context of a future that we’ve built, allows me to put a mirror up to our desires. Sometimes what we see makes us question the world around us and our own participation in that world. I hope what I write makes people question why certain systems are the way they are or what it truly means to move over to a new technology.

What types of stories does sci-fi make possible?

Stories with awesome space ships! And cool technology! (That’s for sure! Sci-fi scares me because I’m afraid to make up nonsensical pseudoscience.) 

Seriously, though, for me, it is about the how technology changes us. I mean, look at how it has changed the way we, meaning you and me, live today. We are virtually connected to millions of people around the world. Yet, that connection is only secured in rich, stable regions of the world and it is a superficial connect at best. And what about the rest of humanity that doesn’t have the luxury of instant information at their fingertips? What dichotomous states are we seeding and what will that look like in the future?

Then there’s just the way people interact with technology today. So many young people rely on their devices for directions to their destination, or find the best used bookstore in town, even who your next sexual partner might be. We also use it to research items on the fly. But just how reliable or accurate is that information? And just who is feeding us that information? What filters are being used to give us an answer?

One of the issues Joe and I are exploring in our novella is how a young detective uses a virtual data room that stores centuries worth of information about the space ship they live on. The database is accessed through a three-dimensional, holographic interface. However, the algorithms used to retrieve the data “fills in the blanks” for either missing data or makes guesses at what information the detective might need, thus subtly influencing how an investigation might go, or not go. We see this today with Google search algorithms. Google essentially gives us what we want to see, not everything we should.

What audience do you think sci-fi attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

Wow, that’s a good question. I know I’m attracted to science fiction and my background is a mix of environmental activism and computer modeling. Most of the writers I hang out with over on SFFWorld.com have IT and/or science backgrounds. So, I guess, folks like me.

When I first started to write science fiction, one thing I realized early on is that most science fiction readers are really smart. A lot smarter than me. I thought, if I want to continue writing science fiction, my characters would have to get a lot smarter! The stories I try to tell pit smart characters against terribly hard choices.

How does sci-fi affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

It offers choice.

In other genres, especially some that follow the traditional fantasy tropes, many of the characters have limited options on how they can act, and what influences their behavior can be limiting. But in science fiction settings, I find the opposite is true. The possibilities are limitless and that gives the character (and the reader) a glut of choices. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it is one that makes you think.

For instance, I’m working on a short story titled G.O.D.S., for government overt detection system. I know, that’s not a very imaginative acronym, but real-life government acronyms are often very bland so my lack of creativity works for this piece! Anyway, it’s about a society where strict oversight is managed by an artificial intelligence. It tracks everyone’s habits and behaviors, and weeds out unsavory individuals. On many accounts, life is great. Those in the center, who live by the rules, enjoy a level of freedom that we currently enjoy but with the added benefit of feeling completely safe. No rape. No bullying. No murder. No domestic violence. It is all taken care of by the G.O.D.S. In order to maintain this system, all citizens are required to give up the most intimate details of their lives. And most willingly do that – much as we do now with social media like Facebook and Twitter. However, doing so means that your behavior is monitored and corrections can be administered. The final decision to make those corrections (either through corporal or capital punishment) comes from a human, of course. We can’t have AIs going around hurting or killing people, right? The AIs rely on human supervisors to review data when someone is in need of a correction.

The crux of this story is that not everyone is happy with this so-called utopia. They feel stifled and controlled. A rebellion is organized. They infiltrate the ranks of the G.O.D.S supervisors, intent on planting a virus that will destroy the G.O.D.S. database. But our main character, a woman, who has been in the G.O.D.S. training for some time is given a correction case to review – one of a repeated sex offender.

Remember, most people in this society do not know what it feels like to fear people who are close to you. There are no pedophile uncles preying on their nieces and nephews, nor priest or teachers taking advantage of their students. So she is introduced to a world of depravity that is only heard of in stories passed down from aging relatives. The things this one sex offender has done to innocent children shock this rebel, and she has a choice to make: Dole out this man’s punishment (in this case, capital punishment after a series of behavior modifications that did not work) or destroy the system that was used to catch him before he could molest more children. Which would you choose?

Those are the kind of choices science fiction allows me to explore.

Why do you think people love to read sci-fi? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

I think people read science fiction for the same reasons they read other genres – a good story. Of course, in this case, it is a good story with high-tech suits, robots, space ships and aliens.

I can’t say how the genre affects its audience, but I can tell you how it affects me. It makes me question my basic assumptions of what I think is right and wrong, and just what is morality when looked at in terms of the universe. Does an asteroid have a moral code? Would other sentient species? And if they did, what would it look like compared to the myriad versions we have here on earth?

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

That’s a hard one. Geez. I can’t say. I love both science fiction and fantasy, but I suppose as long as it is a good story, the setting really doesn’t matter. As long as the world-building is done well, and it is written carefully, I’ll enjoy whatever you put in front of me.

How can readers find you?

Come read my rant about writing at http://nilaewhite.wordpress.com. If you like apocalyptic tales, check out the free anthology I put together with the writers over at SFFWorld.com: The End – Visions of Apocalypse (it has a sci-fi bent).

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for having me. I’ve enjoyed it.

Why Write: Arthurian Fiction with Nicole Evelina

Readers, today we have one of my writing buddies, Nicole Evelina, here to talk about Arthurtian fiction! This is a genre dear to my heart, because I went through a very long period of Arthurian-obsession, and I’ll admit—that obsession persists today. Nicole has some great things to say about historical fiction and fantasy, mythological settings, and strong women in history. Check it out!

Hello, Nicole! You’re one of my #teamawesome buddies, but this is your first time here at the blog, so welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

Thanks, Kristin. I’m a historical fiction writer. I’m currently writing an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view. I’m also planning a book about Tristan and Isolde, who are part of the Arthurian legend.

You write Arthurian novels! That delights me — my ten-year-old self desperately wanted to write Arthurian fantasy. What made you decide to write tales of Camelot?

It sounds like you and I had a lot in common growing up. Guinevere was one of my childhood heroes. I always liked her more than Arthur or Merlin. As I grew and read more and more, I realized that Guinevere really isn’t portrayed well in these stories. She’s pretty much known for being a faithless wife who is sometimes kidnapped, and often fought over. When I read The Mists of Avalon in college, I really disliked Marion Zimmer Bradley’s portrayal of Guinevere (I loved the book overall). (I had the same reaction to The Mists of Avalon. Her Guinever? BLECH!) So I started thinking, what is her story? We only hear about her while she’s with Arthur, but surely she had to have done something before and after him. In many ways, I’m doing for Guinevere what MZB did for Morgaine/Morgan in Mists.

What types of stories does the Arthurian setting make possible?

Oh, there are so many possibilities. We don’t know for sure if King Arthur existed, and if so, when or exactly where. Some stories are set in the Middle Ages, but I’ve chosen to go with current theory on Arthur’s life and set mine in the late Celtic era, roughly 480-530 AD. That’s the tumultuous time after the Romans left Britain, but before the Saxons gained power. It enables me, as a writer, to tell the stories of many different peoples: the native Britons, the Romanized Britons, Saxons, Irish, Picts, lowlanders (known as the people of the Gododdin), the Bretons, Christians and Druids. Plus, there are all the stories that traditionally go with Arthurian legend: the great battles, Camelot, Merlin, The Grail Quest, the Knights of the Round Table, the isle of Avalon, just to name a few. I could honestly write in Arthurian legend for the rest of my life and never run out of material.

Some of these stories are so familiar to many people — how does that influence your writing?

It’s an interesting situation to be in. There’s a certain amount of expectation on the part of the reader when they go into a story with which they’re already somewhat familiar. So, to an extent, I’m constrained by tradition. But I’m also free in many ways, simply because the story has been told so many different ways over the years. I feel a duty to stay true to the basics of the story, while free to put my own spin on it, just as those who came before me did. I love the idea of taking something familiar and turning it on its head in way that reflects my unique perspective, as well as the sensibilities of modern readers.

What audience do you think Arthurian novels attract? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

It really depends on the focus of the story. Usually stories focused on Arthur, Merlin, the knights and the battles attract a male audience, whereas those focused on the chivalry and courtly love themes attract women. I’m writing a story about an Arthurian woman – the Arthurian woman – so I expect to attract a mostly female audience. Because of this I’m careful to have strong, intelligent women in my books. I want Guinevere, Morgan, Elaine, Isolde, and the other women of Camelot to be role models that women of all ages can look up to (even if some of the characters are less than virtuous). Throughout history, they’ve often been portrayed as weak and docile, but if they truly lived in the Celtic time period I’ve set my books in, they would have been fierce women. So I try to make sure I’m true to that cultural aspect, while still staying true to the core of who they’ve always been.

How does the mythological setting affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

Mythology opens up a wealth of possibilities in these stories. There are a variety of traditions to draw upon when telling the story, and it frees me to add an element of fantasy to my novels. I made a choice early on that I would portray Merlin as the Archdruid of Britain, rather than the traditional idea of a wizard.

The same goes for Morgan. She, like many of my female characters, is a priestess of Avalon. But you won’t find Merlin hurling lightning bolts or fireballs at anyone (much as he might wish to), or see Morgan putting spells on people. I’ve chosen to portray a type of magic that is much more subtle and was very much a part of Celtic life. This means manipulation of natural energy and connection to the elements and their power. Some characters have Second Sight, while others are gifted storytellers. These are all abilities you see throughout early Welsh and Irish literature, the exact stories that today we call myth, but which the people of the time would have grown up hearing – just as I grew up hearing about Arthur and Guinevere.

Why do you think people love to read Arthurian stories? How do you think these stories affect their audience?

Everyone needs a hero and Arthur has filled that role for centuries. He’s the “once and future king,” the unifying savior of a people who is promised to come again. When times get tough, we turn to stories such as these to escape reality, to live in someone else’s world for a while. We read them to feel hope.

Camelot is a powerful symbol of the peace and unity we all seek. It’s the perfect kingdom, the utopia we all strive to create in our own lives. But what’s interesting is that even within its own story, it doesn’t last. It’s never quite as perfect as it could or should be, because it is the creation of human beings with weaknesses that ultimately cause its destruction. I think that as much as we yearn to create its perfection, we also identify with its downfall because we see the same thing played out in our own lives. We try to be good, but often, we fail. Yet, that’s never the end of things. Camlann may have killed the king, but he’s not really dead. Even as Arthur lies sleeping, waiting to be awakened when the time is right, Camelot and Arthurian legend show us that we’re never at an immutable end either; we can always try again.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

On my gosh. I read all kinds of stories, from historical fiction to urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I even enjoy light murder mysteries. I guess if I had to pick one, it would be tied between historical fiction and fantasy (including all of its subgenres like historical fantasy, urban, dystopian). I love reading historical fiction for the same reason I love writing it: you get the chance to tell or read the story of someone who otherwise may have been lost in the pages of history. I read fantasy because I love stories involving magic. I’ve always wanted supernatural powers and when I’m reading a fantasy book, I get them, even if only for a short time. I also have thing for elves and faeries, but that’s a story for another day.

How can readers get in touch with you?

My blog is http://nicoleevelina.com. I share new tidbits of Arthurian and Celtic history or musings on being a writer once a week. I’m on Twitter at least once a day at @nicoleevelina. I’m also on FB, Pinterest, Push Pages and Goodreads as Nicole Evelina. You’re welcome to look me up and follow/friend me.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.