1. The first novel of your series, Ardulum, has been released and the second in the series is set to be released in October. You seem to be really productive! What's your secret to writing these amazing novels so close together? I'm having some real writer jealousy over here…
I wish I had some magic secret. The reality is that I’d been querying ARDULUM on and off for three years. During that time I wrote the rest of the series, just to have something to keep my mind from the querying process. Everything took off after #DVpit, which is how I found Ninestar, but by the time they signed me, I had the second book already written, and the third was being drafted. So, no secret at all! They querying process really is a drag, so spending that time writing can be an unexpected benefit.
In fact, I think I’m probably a pretty slow writer. I can write a 100K or so book in about four months, but that’s just draft zero. It usually takes me seven or so rewrites before it is ready to go to an editor, and those edits can take me another four to six months, easily. Having a full time job really slows things down, too!
2. What's one idea you've seen in a review of your book that either surprised or amused you? Or do you manage to avoid reading the reviews at all?
I love reading reviews! I’m a professor, so I work with peer-review all the time. There is nothing a fiction reviewer can say to me that will break through the callouses built up from the scientific community. BRING IT ON! For ARDULUM, I’m most amused by how people seem to either think it is a very slow starting book, or it runs at breakneck pace. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Personal preference just matters so much in terms of how a reader sees your book. That’s a great thing to keep in mind, too, when reading reviews.
3. Finish this sentence: Don't you just wish books…..
came with pictures. Not a ton, but I’d love it if sci fi books, especially, had a few more illustrations in them. Could be alien species, or sketches of the main characters. Something. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I don’t like a good illustration.
4. What appeals to you about writing Sci-Fi?
I work in a hard science field, so for me, sci fi writing is a chance to play around with all of the cutting edge tech I see on a daily basis, that may not hit the general public for decades. Even better, science fiction allows me to stretch the science, ignore some of the rules, and make something that is plausible yet fantastic. Perhaps the best part is that if I stay within my field, it doesn’t take a great deal of research for me to write a sci fi story. All those years of graduate school had more than one use!
ARDULUM in particular was fun to write, because as far as I know, no one has really explored near-future cellulose use in fiction. So much of the tech in ARDULUM is already here, or just a decade or so off, but seems fantastic in a space setting. I took a number of liberties with the chemistry side of it though, so I’m just waiting for a grad student in my department to come in, set the book down on my desk, and start off on the disordered regions of crystalline cellulose and bond breakage, and how if we had telekinesis that isn’t really how it would happen…
5. What would you like to see more (or less) of in Sci-Fi books, films, shows etc.?
6. Beer or wine?
Gross. Whiskey—single malt scotch
7. What's more challenging: Providing your thoughts for the cover art of your books, or helping to write the blurbs?
I’ll take option C - the frustration of realizing that stock images just doesn’t have enough POC or non-sexualized women to accurately represent the characters in my books. Then trying to suggest a cover image that will be true to your story, but somehow not using the main characters. ARGH!
8. Thank you so much for your time, J.S.! To finish up, one last question. Are you a planner, a pantser, or something in between?
I’m 100% a discover writer. I’ve tried outlining, but I can’t ever keep to the outline. The characters go where and how they want. I usually start with a location concept (tramp transport, moon, etc), then decide on the primary relationship (I like kissing in my books, and I am not ashamed to admit it). From those two points I start writing, and build the plot as I go.
I once had a reviewer for ARDULUM comment that they didn’t know how I wrote such a complex book. The truth is, none of it was planned. Each layer goes on individually, and each edit works on braiding in the new elements from the last pass. Seven or eight rewrites in, and the book is ready to go out into the world.
Thank you so much for having me! This has been a delight!
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