It wasn’t until last year when i ran Sci Fi Week on my blog that I actually read my first Science Fiction novel – i was never introduced to them as a young child, and so somehow they always slipped me by. But now, I can see why Science Fiction is still one of the most successful genres of fiction. AB Shepherd’s debut offering is very much an adult novel, one filled with loss and self-discovery, and it sounds brilliant. Lifeboat is already receiving some great reviews, boasting 4 five star reviews already on Amazon.
Here is the blurb:
Cass Carmichael has lost everything; her husband, her son, and her will to live.When natural disasters destroy the earth she is rescued by extra-terrestrials and taken to a new world where the human race can rebuild. But something is wrong here. Survivors are vanishing without a trace.Can Cass unravel the riddle in time to save herself?
- Tell us a bit about your wonderful debut Sci-Fi novel, Lifeboat. What is Cass’s story?
Cass is a young widow who is struggling with grief even years after the losses of her husband and son. She’s searching for a reason to go on in a world where she feels very alone. She sees a UFO one night while she is out walking and becomes obsessed with UFOs in general and her UFO in particular. It gives her a focus she’s been lacking.
- What was your inspiration behind the novel? How long did it take you to write?
This isn’t the story I sat out to write. I was inspired to write an adventure novel about a woman UFO hunter loosely inspired by the TV series UFO Chasers. I sat down to write that story. I created Cass – or so I thought at the time. But once Cass was on my computer screen she took over and told her own story and it was far from the free-spirited, fun-loving adventure I sat down to write. I now feel I didn’t create Cass at all. I think she already existed and just used me as a medium for getting her story out there. I wrote the basic story in 30 days during NaNoWriMo, but it’s been revised and edited so many times since then that it has taken far longer to get into a readable form. I could conceivably rewrite it forever, but at some point you have to say, you know what? This is a good story. Let it fly.
- Cass sounds like she has gone through a lot of unfortunate moments in her life. Was it important for you to portray a strong female lead, one who is vulnerable, yet has the strength to carry on?
You are right. Cass has endured a lot in her young life and she has survived it all, although it has left her damaged in some ways. I think in life so many of us are truly fragile creatures who just keep clinging to what little hope there is in life. This is how I see Cass. That UFO she saw gives her that sliver of hope, a reason to keep going knowing there is something more out there. Cass isn’t the ass-kicking heroine of some of my favourite novels. I think she is more realistic. She’s strong, but she can be broken, just like the rest of us. One of my favourite sci-fi heroines is Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies. She’s really tough and she’ll do whatever it takes to survive and protect her child, but she doesn’t come through completely unscathed. The trauma takes a toll. I find there is more of me in Cass than I expected.
- Did you have to do much research for your novel? In the synopsis, it says that natural disasters destroy Earth! Did you look at natural disasters throughout history, or did you let your imagination go wild?
I did a fair amount of research on UFOs, Ufologists and UFO communities, but I didn’t have to research much about the natural disasters. All I needed to do was watch the news, although to be fair I am intrigued by all of the apocalyptic prophesies that float around and I often watch documentaries about how the end of the world could happen. I suppose you could say that was my research.
- Was Lifeboat always intended to be a Sci-Fi novel? Do you think that this particular genre suffers from misconceptions?
As I said before, Lifeboat was intended to be a sci-fi/adventure story rather than a sci-fi/suspense story. Really it is the UFOs and aliens that make it sci-fi at all, at least in my opinion. I think the rest of it is mostly suspense now, but also with a bit of literary fiction thrown in. There is much more to this novel than aliens and UFOs.
- Despite being a Sci-Fi novel, it seems to be that there is most certainly thriller moments too; Cass investigating the disappearing survivors. Mixing genres in this way, I think, is really interesting. Tells us a little bit about why you decided to do this, and your writing habits in general.
I think a great number of novels fit easily into more than one genre of fiction. I didn’t really decide to do this. It just happened. I just wrote Cass’s story and when it was all done I had to try to figure out the genre, or genres, it might fall into. My writing habits in general are pretty boring actually. When the story is flowing I let it flow and if I need to do research on a bit I’ll just put a marker in and focus on capturing the flow. I can go back with the research. I tend to procrastinate however and I’d never get anything done if my darling husband didn’t continuously say, “Honey, should you be writing?”
- Besides Cass, is there a particular character in your book that you had a lot of fun writing? Or maybe, there were characters you scrapped because you just didn’t like them at all?
I felt the most connected to Cass, but I really enjoyed writing all of the characters. I don’t think I scrapped any characters, but I expanded some of them. There are certainly some of them that I didn’t really like, but isn’t that true in life? Yet, if we knew their back stories, we might even find them more sympathetic. My favourite scene is the epilogue where we learn a little bit more about a few of them. That was fun to write and I hope readers will get a kick out of it.
- If a UFO were to come to you in the middle of the night, where would you expect to wake up? Do aliens have those stereotypical green heads?
I guess I might wake up aboard a spacecraft, possibly being probed if I believe all the abduction stories out there. It’s easy for us to think aliens would look somewhat humanoid or even insect-like, because those are species we are familiar with and can easily identify. True aliens could look like anything you could possibly imagine, depending on the environmental conditions in which they would have evolved.
- I’ve read that you have another book in the pipeline, The Beacon. How does this novel differ from Lifeboat?
For one thing, the Beacon is not a science fiction story. It is a suspense for sure, and once completed it may also fall into another category, but that category will not be science fiction. It again, features a strong, but possibly damaged, female lead character, but that and the suspense are the only similarities between the two novels.
- What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt since writing Lifeboat do you think?
I think the most important thing is to let the story write itself. I know it is different for other authors, but I write better when I don’t sit down and try to formulate the entire plot line in my head before I begin writing. For me, the best way to write is to sit down and let the story flow out of my fingers without thinking about where it is coming from or trying to figure it out in advance.
- Apart from yourself of course, are there any other fantastic Science Fiction writers out there people should read? Perhaps they influenced you, or do you prefer to read genres away from your own?
My reading preferences are really varied, and I’ll read pretty much anything except romance. I’ve recently been reading some classic science fiction. I’d highly recommend the Wool series by Hugh Howey, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Hunger Games series, and oh there are so many more I could name. I’m sad to say, I haven’t read enough Indie science fiction to make recommendations there, but I plan to rectify that.
- What I’m sure everyone wants to know however, do aliens exist?
I will say that I am 99.9% sure aliens exist – in some form. The Universe is far too big and we are far too small to rule that out. Whether they exist in a form we would recognize, or whether they might have the technology to visit our world I can’t say. I am far too ignorant. We haven’t even explored 100% of the Earth yet. All the UFOs seen by Earthlings could actually be created by unknown Earthlings. How cool would that be? Feel free to steal that story idea. You are welcome. ❤
Duly noted, Miss Shepherd, duly noted! And what an insightful interview! It’s so great to see that you are influenced by a variety of authors and genres – i think the more we read, the more our minds can create. You can keep up to date with her writing news over on her website. She tweets as @ABHPShepherd and has her own Author Facebook too.
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