Cover Reveal: Alterra by Zachary Bonelli

AlterraFrontCover_600x914I had the pleasure of reading this a while ago, months before the actual release date! And guess what? I loved it! Now, I’m really pleased to show you the cover too. Isn’t it fab? Alterra is Zachary Bonelli’s latest offering after Voyage: Embarkation, which I reviewed here. I also had the chance a while ago to chat to Zachary about his other novel Insomnium.

Alterra is a well thought out novel, full of important moral messages and ideologies that get the reader thinking and questions where their alliance may lie if in the same situation. And instead of having one protagonists, Alterra has three! All very different in their approach to life. I can’t wait for you to read it. Fans of Science Fiction and Contemporary Adventure will find something to enjoy here. Below, you can find the blurb:

Young  people  on  Alterra  must  choose.  After  they  complete  secondary  school,  they   enroll  either  in  University—a  life  of  science  and  mathematical  pursuits—or  Monastery—a   life  of  literature,  history  and  spiritual  depth.  

Initiate  Le  is  in  his  final  year  of  school.  All  his  life,  he  has  prepared  himself  for   University,  but  something  feels  wrong.  Neither  University  nor  Monastery  compel  him   forward.

One  night,  Le  discovers  a  young  man  from  his  school  sneaking  into  a  ‘zone,’  a   dangerous  area  where  nanotechnology  runs  rampant,  cordoned  off  from  the  rest  of  the  city.   Against  all  reason,  Le  follows  Initiate  Stok  inside.  What  he  discovers  will  change  him  and  his   world  forever.

Equal  parts  love  story,  military  adventure  and  social  philosophy, Alterra  is  the  story   of  three  young  men  striving  to  save  two  estranged  parallel  worlds  whose  only  hope  for   survival  is  to  rectify  the  ancient  schism  that  shattered  them.

fuzzy_banner

Alterra is released September 28th 2014

 __________________________________________________________

PreorderBlackPetal

Come and like my Author Facebook Page, Twitter or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

Twitter

Goodreads logo

FB logo

pinterestlogo

Author Interview: Kenneth G. Bennett

EXODUS 2022 banner

When I first read the blurb for Kenneth Bennett’s new book, Exodus 2022, I was instantly intrigued by its eeriness. I had no choice but to get onto the emails and ask him some questions.

ken bennett author pictureKenneth G. Bennett is the author of the young adult novels, THE GAIA WARS and BATTLE FOR CASCADIA, and the new sci-fi thriller, EXODUS 2022. A wilderness enthusiast who loves backpacking, skiing and kayaking, Ken enjoys mysteries, science fiction, action adventure stories and, most especially, novels that explore the relationship between humans and the wild. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and son and two hyperactive Australian Shepherds.

THE GAIA WARS series was optioned for film by Identity Films, LA in 2012, and both GAIA and BATTLE have been featured as Top 100 Bestsellers in Teen Literature and Fiction on Amazon. Kirkus Reviews called THE GAIA WARS “A solid first entry of a promising, imaginative new young-adult fantasy series featuring a well-crafted character.”

___________________________________________________

  • Your new book Exodus 2022 sounds incredibly eerie. Tell EXODUS 2022us about Joe and his dilemma.

 Exodus 2022 is the story of Joe Stanton, a young priest who begins suffering sudden, severe hallucinations while on vacation in the San Juan Islands of Washington State with his girlfriend. Others up and down the coast have suffered identical hallucinations and all have died. As the priest and his girlfriend begin to unravel the mystery of the voices in Joe’s mind—and what they mean for the future of the planet—they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos.

 

  • Where did the idea come from? Did something influence your plot, or was it a sporadic thought?

 I’d been reading about ecological catastrophe and then stumbled on some articles about animal intelligence and the surprising cognitive abilities of non-human species. The two topics came together to form the underlying concept of the book.

  • I’ve read that you have two successful young adult novels to your name, how did it feel writing for an older audience? Did you go about things differently?

Thanks for asking. I learned a great deal writing my YA novels, THE GAIA WARS and BATTLE FOR CASCADIA, so I felt more experienced. More capable. But I didn’t write any differently—just tried to tell the story to the best of my ability, same as before.

  • What is it that you like about the Science Fiction genre? What books of this genre inspire you and which ones do you think are often overlooked?

 I enjoy science fiction because of the way it ignites my imagination and makes me consider possibilities I hadn’t considered before.  The best sci-fi book I’ve read recently is Hugh Howey’s WOOL.

  • Your antagonist in Exodus 2022 is a billionaire weapons contractor. (Without Spoilers) can you tell us why he is so interested in Joe’s problem and what makes him tick?

 The billionaire weapons contractor Sheldon Beck is interested in Joe for two reasons. One reason is inexplicable at first—a sort of “voice” whispering in his mind. The second reason is that he gradually realizes that Joe could be the key to a vast untouched resource worth trillions of dollars.

  • Apart from Joe, who was your favourite character from Exodus 2022 and why?

I’m very fond of the character Mia because of her unusual background and characteristics. She was a lot of fun to write.

  • Do you think the Science Fiction genre is, perhaps, seen to be only suited to certain types of readers? Do you think the genre needs rejuvenating, and if so, how do you think this should be done?

The sci-fi genre is pretty vast and I believe there are science fiction books (and movies) out there to appeal to almost anyone.  I think more readers who don’t normally go near sci-fi should give it a try. They might be pleasantly surprised.

  • What book do you consider your guilty pleasure?

 The REACHER books by Lee Child. I love those books. The whole series brilliant and well written.

  • What is the hardest aspect of being an author?

 Finding the time to write consistently, day in and day out, while also working full time and being involved with family.

____________________________________________________

To read an exclusive excerpt from Exodus 2022 you can do so here

EXODUS 2022There is also a fantastic giveaway on offer to celebrate this release! The prizes are:

1 Kindle Fire

15 signed paperbacks

To Enter click here

 __________________________________________________________

PreorderBlackPetal

Come and like my Author Facebook Page, Twitter or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

Twitter

Goodreads logo

FB logo

pinterestlogo

Voyage Embarkation by Zachary Bonelli – Book Review

Voyage Embarkation coverFirst released as singular ‘episodes’, Zachary Bonelli’s debut, Voyage Embarkation is the first volume in what is hopefully going to be an extensive collection of world hopping science fiction adventures. I have come to love a good sci-fi book, but they do have to have interesting concepts and thought provoking characters for it catch my attention. When I was given the chance to read and review this first volume before its release, I instantly agreed. Its blurb caught my attention with its mention of travelling from world to world, from discovering the beautiful natural wonders that may exist to social decay of others.

We begin with Kal, the teenage protagonist, who has lived in exile upon a foreign world that is populated by giant cats. With nanotechnology commonly used upon Earth, Kal has found that he is extremely allergic to the collective radiation that is produced as a result, putting him in a coma. But through his expertise in computer programming, Kal has found a way to enter the metaxia – ‘an unspace between universes’ as the author explains. With this, he begins his journey, exploring foreign cultures, ever in hope of discovering a cure to his allergy so he can once again return home to where he belongs. Voyage Embarkation is the first chronicle of sorts in Kal’s adventures, and believe me, it is so captivating and wonderous to read.

From tropical jungles where people live in tree baubles, to clay people worshiping a not so benevolent deity; from totalitarian fascist run states where coups are hiding away, to a re-imagining of Norse mythology, this novel crosses the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy culminating in a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride. The author has such an inventive and creative imagination, and describes each world in such vivid detail, you can really get a taste of what life is like for its inhabitants.

What is also so interesting about these alternate realities, is how rich in detail they are in regards to social and political elements. Some are more cultural based where others have a political hierarchy that must be adhered to at all costs. Zachary Bonelli is one clever man, as he manages to show extreme opposites in rather close proximity to one another, which as a reader gives us an insight into what our world may become. It never comes across as preachy, but rather informative, factual and although Kal may disagree with some of the worlds’ habits, Bonelli never forces morals and rights and wrongs onto you, instead cleverly getting you to ask your own questions. There are some complex issues discussed within, so this may not be a light read, but it does pull you in.

I think what really makes this book is Kal. He is such an endearing main character, one with strong morals; constantly always trying to do the right thing at heart, but sometimes actually messes up. He has such a strong voice, but also the vulnerability to evoke emotion. He’s just a lad who wants to return home, but knows he actually can’t. At times you really feel for the guy. What Bonelli does extremely well with kal, is the subtle development as the book progresses. They aren’t noticeable at first, but as Kal realises his previous mistakes, he starts to amend his behaviour, taking other characters’ feelings into account before he acts. At first, he’s quite a naive young man, thinking that he has the technology and expertise to help the societies he visits – make them better. But over the course of the book, he begins to realise that he isn’t a god, he can’t solve all the problems that face him, and sometimes the connections he makes along the way have to be severed for him to move on.

What is a real gem though, is the character of Tria, Kal’s holographic brother of sorts, the one person who sticks with him along his journey. I found Tria’s witty remarks and brilliant insights really engaging. Especially as we see Kal and Tria’s attachment and relationship grow into something really meaningful with strong foundations. It is hard to imagine the book without Tria actually. I think he is the secret cog in the background that holds everything together – and it also adds an extra level to the novel. The story arc of searching the realms for a way to create Tria a real body is also motivation enough to read.

Voyage Embarkation is the first novel I’ve read that features it central character being gay. It Zacahry Bonelliisn’t something you pick up on at first, but the little clues dotted among the pages do make you think. I do think this is a great part to the story, and why shouldn’t great book have gay protagonists? Zachary Bonelli writes with such conviction and confidence in kal, that only adds to his endearment. It isn’t until the chapter (book) ‘Taboo’ where we really get to see Kal’s sexual orientation come to the fore, with most of that story as kal as the unfortunate victim of hate because of his preferences. I really do think that Bonelli found the right balance of emotion in that chapter, because it would have been too easy to trail of the path as such. The chapter shocks you into shouting at Kal to leave that world. Kal’s vulnerability really does become apparent in that chapter.

I did find the technical sides of this book a little confusing at times, which sort of made things a little slow for me in the beginning. For someone who reads predominately science fiction, I doubt this would be a problem. From nanotechnology, to radiation, to programming, to computer displays and other semantic terms, I think it sometimes shows that Bonelli may have forgotten to clarify some areas, as he is probably so atuned to them already. It certainly doesn’t hinder the novel, and when you do start to pick them up, you can really get into the story more.

Another slightly disadvantage the book has is, well the concept of world hopping really. Trust me, it is an original idea and presented extremely well, but you can’t deny that the forever move to one world to another doesn’t really give you a chance to get your teeth into some of the other characters. This is because as you move on to another world, you are introduced all over again to new characters, never returning to characters you met earlier on. There are some great side characters in here – I certainly hope we get to see some of them again.

Voyage Embarkation is a great sci-fi read, one that touches upon so many bases. It is clever, rich in detail and extremely well written; plus with some great conceptual illustrations inside too. Yes the technical terms can be a little confusing at times, but once you really get behind Kal, you begin to open your eyes that little bit wider and spur him on, enjoying his exploration along with him. Tria is a fab character, one I’m keen to read more about. If world hopping, multi-layered levels of political and cultural symbolism science fiction is your thing, then this will definitely grab your attention. I probably wouldn’t describe it as young adult, more new adult (NA) with its sometimes deep messages and complicated questioning, but that’s a great thing. Zachary Bonelli’s debut is full of exceptional imagination that is only affirmed by his rare, fresh voice. Surely, he is the new face of conceptual science fiction?

Star Base - 4

Voyage Embarkation is released by Fuzzy Hedgehog Press at the end of December 2013

Zachary Bonelli’s Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

____________________________________________________________

Come and like my Author Facebook Page, Twitter or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

TwitterFB logo Goodreads logo

pinterestlogo

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY UK STORE

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY US/AUS STORE

Blue Dust: Destiny by Katy Krump – Book Review

blue_dust_destinySecond books are always eagerly anticipated, as they reintroduce you to characters you fell in love with from their first outing. When I first heard of this Sci-Fi sequel, I was itching to get my hands on it, as Blue Dust: Forbidden was so original and so well written, I just knew that Blue Dust: Destiny would blow me away. After finally finishing it, I was unprepared at how fantastic this book was going to be.

In the first book, we follow Qea’s plight as she must come to terms of what running from a powerful warlord means. She falls for Adam, a boy from Earth, who doesn’t know what he’s let himself in for, but is dragged along into space, encountering everything that Qea has tried to escape from. But through determination, Qea and Adam help the ‘forbidden’ children, where Qea learns of her destiny; the path the spiritual ‘Troiqa’ has set out for her. In Destiny, we follow Qea’s quest to rescue more of the forbidden children, destroying the Detention Hubs along the way. But this book isn’t just about defeating Inquisitors, grimy spectre-like beings that suck the souls of children. This is about Qea’s journey from just a naive leader of a small army into a mature phenomenon that will undoubtedly test her more than she ever imagined. She must infiltrate the ‘Citadel’ – a glass prison and battle an evil she never thought possible.

This is one action packed book – a book that captures your attention from page one, shaking it to its core and doesn’t let go even as you flip the last page. From battles with Inquisitors, to chasing an invisible army hell-bent on stealing children, to sabotaging the inner-workings of the dogmatic regime found in the glass Citadel; Qea has her work cut out for her.

I found Qea a delight to read and follow. She’s a young woman who grows throughout the course of the book; learning severe lessons along the way. She must learn to trust others, think before rushing into fights, as well as coming to terms with the truth about her early life. She’s naturally inquisitive; a trait I found mesmerising, as it gives the author ample opportunity to flex her creative mind and introduce us to other-worldly things. I found this maturing journey of Qea rather realistic, showing how smart this book really is. This is not just Qea’s path in terms of destiny, it’s the bridge of transforming from naive teenager to mature young woman.

But Qea learns the hard way that she not infallible, and so this gives way to a host of absolutely brilliant side characters. Adam is missing for a good chunk of Destiny, but this works fine as the other characters we come across all have their own nuances that are simply adorable. Zaq is the leader of an all boy tribe, and his moral compass is charming, whereas the female leader of the Mae-Zons matches his willingness to protect with her own witty allure. I loved how Katy Krump has re-invented the Amazons of myth. The whole case of characters here actually only enhance the story twice-fold, and I couldn’t help but wish to myself that non of them die later on in the book – I don’t think I would have coped!

Yet this is a book where characters will die, will shed blood and tears, never afraidKaty Krump2 of pulling punches and testing the reader’s resolve. There are moments here that are a little gruesome, but that’s not a bad thing, it’s brilliant! It needs to be, and it’s a testament to the author’s ability. She doesn’t patronise her readers with fluffy endings, happily ever after moments, as in the Octad at least, life is hard, where enemies will come at you from all angles, forcing you to survive by any means necessary.

I think with science fiction nowadays, it pays to be original, especially when it is really easy to ‘copy’ ideas that already exist within the Sci-Fi world, and Blue Dust: Destiny only expands on its uniqueness found from its first in the series. Katy Krump certainly has a clever and exceptional mind. I particularly found the entire glass-making element very interesting, yet completely plausible. And I think that is what works – it may be fantasy, yet you could so easily believe what it is you are reading.

Blue Dust: Destiny is a must read for anyone who is looking for a lose-yourself-in-a-fantastic-story read; one that is impressively well-written, has a brilliant structure and a cast of characters that you really feel for. Katy Krump’s writing style is astoundingly intense, detailed, yet easily accessible for the Young Adult market. The science fiction teenage tilt is so original, there just isn’t anything else like it out there. I fell in love with the whole book, as it not only expands upon Blue Dust: Forbidden, but also excels it in every conceivable way. The action is so unbelievably real and addictive, I often found goosebumps sizzling up my arms, only for me to ignore the time and my body screaming for my bed, to carry on reading until my eyes stung. Now all I have to do is wait until the final book comes out!

Star Base - 5

Blue Dust: Destiny is released on October 17th 2013 by Ghostly Publishing and is available to pre-order now from:

Amazon UK / Amazon US & AUS / The Book Depository

It is already available in eBook from:

Amazon UK / Amazon US & AUS

Katy Krump’s Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

____________________________________________________________

Come and like my Author Facebook Page, Twitter or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

TwitterFB logo Goodreads logo

pinterestlogo

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY UK STORE

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY US/AUS STORE

Book Preview: Blue Dust: Destiny by Katy Krump

blue_dust_destiny

One Rising Evil – One Girl – One Destiny

Last year, I threw caution to the wind and began to open up my reading habits. Science Fiction was never a genre that had ‘attracted’ me, but thankfully that was rather quickly rectified. I interviewed Young Adult Science Fiction author, Katy Krump about her debut novel Blue Dust: Forbidden, and when I began reading, i was quickly dragged into a new world of warlords and galactic imagination. I remember saying: “If you are new to the Sci Fi genre, then Blue Dust: Forbidden is exactly the introduction you need and with it’s pacey, well structured story interwoven amongst a backdrop of callous warlords and crime …”

Well, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Katy Krump, following her Facebook, Twitter and website updates, and I’m delighted to reveal the details about the sequel. Blue Dust: Destiny reintroduces us to rather spunky, yet courageous heroine, Qea as she follows up her responsibilities of freeing the ‘Forbidden Children’ in The Octad. Here is the blurb:

Following on from the epic first novel, Blue Dust: Forbidden, Katy Krump’s Blue Dust: Destiny continues the saga of Qea, a fugitive renegade whose mission it is to free the oppressed children of the Qarntaz Octad. This wonderful book explores even more of Qea’s back story and has some startling revelations about her personal life as well as exploring even more of the fantastical Blue Dust Universe.

As Adam and Qea get separated, Qea is forced into befriending some of the fearsome otherworldly tribes that inhabit The Octad. Together with a mysterious hooded boy, they face a new, rising evil, finding themselves imprisoned in the imposing “Citadel”, a place made almost entirely of glass, which brainwashes the captive children to carry out the will of the sinister Primax.

It’s great to see Adam back here. I felt like he was a really strong character in the first novel, a character that managed to bring out the best in Qea, who struggled to balance out her fight for survival, and the new emotions of the heart.

But perhaps, I’m most intrigued about, is the exploration of Qea’s back story. It was the flashback scenes in Blue Dust: Forbidden that really spiced things up and was one of the many highlights. Qea is an extremely complex character, one whose story from birth is original and interesting. She’s not a normal heroine, she has a darker side; a side that was formulated to enhance her chances of survival in a world (or multiple worlds) much different from our own.

Hopefully, I will have a review for you before the novel is released.

blue dust cover2I reviewed the debut novel last year; check it out and get up-to-date before the sequel is released later this year. Blue Dust: Forbidden is available in both paperback and eBook from:

Amazon US & AUS / Amazon UK / Waterstones / Barnes & Noble

Blue Dust: Destiny is available to Pre-order now

UPDATE: TO READ MY REVIEW OF BLUE DUST: DESTINY CLICK HERE

About the Author:

Katy was an English and music teacher before almost losing her sense of humour (and Katy Krump2mind) and deciding she needed to devote herself to the thing she loved most – writing. She published a number of children’s musicals and then became a full-time television scriptwriter for children, entered a nationwide scriptwriting competition and was selected to be on the writing team of a popular South African soap. She also worked as an advertising copywriter, wrote radio ads and jingles, educational textbooks and readers…anything writing-related to keep the wolf from the door. Basically, she’s constantly writing, books and TV scripts and if not that then plotting, planning and scheming how to take over the world!

Like her creation Qea, the feisty heroine in Blue Dust: Forbidden, Katy understands something about being an alien after she embarked on a new journey, crossing the galaxy to settle on a new planet (England) many moons ago. Some like to call this process ‘immigration’. Katy is now a proud possessor of a maroon Intergalactic Wayfarer Permit and has come to love the aliens she mixes with daily.

Katy Krump’s Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

____________________________________________________________

Come and like my Author Facebook Page or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

FB logo Goodreads logo pinterestlogo

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY UK STORE

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY US/AUS STORE

Author Interview: Fiona Faith Ross

When Fiona Faith Ross got in touch about the possibility of her appearing as a guest on myFar Out Cover blog I almost snatched her hand off! Her debut Science Fiction novel, Far Out, sounded so intriguing and original I simply had to find out more. Mixing family connections with a dystopian feel, Far Out has been incredibly well received and in fact I can’t wait to get stuck into this myself. If you remember I previewed Sharon Sant’s dystopian offering just the other week, and since learning about dystopian fiction, I felt an interview with Fiona Faith Ross was an incredible follow-up.

Here is the blurb:

Pitched into the deprivation of the Seaweed Slum at eight years old, Saffron lost her mother to the fever. She and her broken-hearted father bonded and they look out for each other, but he is vulnerable too, and Saffron feels threatened when new neighbour Marianne captures his heart. When he disappears on his secret missions, she worries the patrols will get him and she’ll never see him again. In 2113, Saffron turns eighteen, and she yearns to grow up and pursue her ambition to become a master herbalist. Hermione the hippie scrapes a living with her quack medicine and her meat pies, but Saffron wants to do better. When she qualifies, she can sell her products to the rich people in Server City. Nate the astronomer appears in their lives and Saffron needs her independence, but will her father let her go? She resists his control, but when he and Nate are arrested she must venture into the deadly Server City to rescue the men she loves.

Sounds captivating, doesn’t it? I had some great fun writing some questions for Fiona and thankfully, she welcomed them with open arms. Coming from a family of English teachers, Fiona lives in East Devon (England) within earshot of the Dartmouth Steam Railway. At school, they called her “The Swot” because they’d find her in the library reading the Oxford English Dictionary. Along with her interest in the written word, she’s always liked science and techy stuff. As a reader, she’ll go for science fiction and techno-thrillers and the big “Why are we here?” themes mostly, and lots of other genres too. Her interest as a writer focuses on the interaction between humans and technology, and the wonderful and scary things that could come out of it. Her second novel, CODED, is almost ready to go.

  • Far Out is your debut Science Fiction novel, which follows the story of Saffron. Tell us a little about her story.

Saffron is a 17-year-old growing up in 2113, after “The Big Collapse”, when millions of humans died of starvation due to the mass failure of crop production under modern farming methods and global warming. The destruction of the middle classes – the glue of a civilised society – by unfettered capitalism, has created a society polarised with only two groups, the super-rich at the top – The Servants – and the poor, who are the “Slummers”.  (Do you think I am trying to make a contemporary political statement here?) Before Saffron and her parents moved to the Seaweed Slum, her father was an astronautics engineer at the university in Server City and they lived the rich lifestyle. She often asks him why he got thrown out, but he refuses to talk about it. Saffron is determined not to be a slummer forever, and she has set her heart on training as a herbalist.

  • What was it that compelled you to write in the Science Fiction genre? Were you influenced by other works, or did you always know that this was the genre for you?

I love Science Fiction. I’ve been reading it since I was about ten, starting with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, John Wyndham, H.G. Wells, Brian Aldiss, Jules Verne and progressing onto Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick…many others…and now contemporary writers such as Iain M. Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, Richard Morgan, China Mieville, Hanu Rajaniemi and A.A. Attanasio. I didn’t know whether I could write it. I’d been searching for my genre for decades, and then I completed a BSc in Information Technology at the University of Reading (2010) and something clicked.

  • From the book’s synopsis, it seems to chronicle Saffron’s journey from childhood, through the teenage years, and finally as a young adult. What an interesting concept; tell us, was it important for you to show various aspects of Saffron’s life growing up?

In fact, the back story is the minimum required to place Saffron a few months from her eighteenth birthday, and the span of the story is six months.  The focus is on her becoming an adult emotionally, readjusting her values, her responsibilities and her priorities, and finding her new identity as a young adult, no longer “Daddy’s little girl”. Her biggest turning point is to learn that he has vulnerabilities too and that she sometimes has to protect him.

  • Saffron’s ambition seems to be to improve her abilities to become a ‘master herbalist’. What an original idea! Tell us a little bit about this role? What is a herbalist? Did you have to do much research; is so, what did you find?

“Herbalism” is also referred to as Herbal Medicine and is popular today. Many years ago a friend gave me a reproduction of a Victorian illustrated book called “The Language of Flowers”. I’ve had an urge to use it as a theme in fiction since then. I worked with herbs and spices for ten years and one of my interests is the culinary and medicinal properties of them. These are powerful products of nature and we underestimate them to our detriment. Many medicines we take come from natural sources. Yes, I did quite a bit of research. I scour the charity shops looking for out of print editions of obscure manuals, encyclopaedias of plants etc. I found a wonderful book, beautifully researched, which describes in detail the horrendous medical practices in sixteenth century Britain, and it inspired Hermione and her quack medicine, which is not fiction; they really did those disgusting things with snails – and worse.

  • After Saffron loses her mother, it only seems natural for her bond with her father to become even stronger. Yet, I get the impression that as she gets older and more independent, tension grows between them. Tell us about this complex father – daughter relationship.

The core theme of the book is the father-daughter relationship in which the father is widowed, so they resemble a binary star, two bodies revolving around each other. If a third body comes into this orbit, such as Marianne for the engineer, or Nate for Saffron, it throws the pair off balance. During the course of the book, their magnanimity of spirit and generosity for each other are tested according to their willingness to tolerate these other emotional influences. Torn loyalties are inevitable, and create the testing ground on which the new familial relationship must be forged. The step-parent theme is a big issue in Britain today, with so many broken homes and “serial parenting”. A large percentage of our younger generation wrestle with this issue.

  • Do you think the Science Fiction genre is, perhaps, seen to be only suited to certain types of readers? Do you think the genre needs rejuvenating, and if so, how do you think this should be done?

I think the genre is evolving beautifully. It is already rejuvenated. Authors are writing everything from classic hard science fiction to the exciting and roller-coaster experiences of the new dystopian and soft science fiction sub genres and a whole spectrum of sf/fantasy mix. My favourite examples are great writers like the late Douglas Adams, and the late Michael Crichton, the inventive genius who created the techno-thriller, most famously Jurassic Park. Science and technology are so embedded in our lives they can no longer be left in the outer orbits of fiction marketing.  I think the huge popularity of concepts like The Hunger Games, Divergent and the more metaphysical His Dark Materials make it clear science fiction now has mass appeal.

In my writing, I have one hard and fast rule. I make an effort to base my future technology on “real” science, in that I can provide you with the technical argument for how something might work. The only exception in Far Out is the power source of the flying pods. I’ve taken a gamble that in one hundred years’ time, we could have small fusion-powered units for fuelling transport. This is risky, because fusion-generated electricity has been experimental for a long time, but recently governments have invested enough money in it for us to believe it may eventually happen.

  • It seems to me that there are many messages to be taken from Far Out, about the way we use natural resources today and how we see our roles in the not too distant future. Was it important for you to have these, almost sub-conscious, messages within?

Thank you. It was deliberate. The fiction “skin” needs a solid supporting argument. It helps a fiction writer to infuse passion if he deals with things that really bug him and he can bang on about them to his heart’s content, provided he does it artfully and unobtrusively. So, during last autumn and winter, when I was pounding away at this manuscript and whingeing on about what would happen if we killed all our pollinating insects for good, what happens? Suddenly the media is full of it. Okay, I am not saying anything new, but at least I am saying it, and I am topical. There is subconscious stuff in Far Out, although I think a lot of it is still buried. It might be for others to say.

I deliberately created contrasting themes: Planet Earth and Space; communication by flowers contrasted with communication by digital and analogue signal; wondrous, unsullied heavenly bodies against man-made space junk – a great, big orbiting land fill (or should we say “space fill”?).  I’ve juxtaposed herbalism and quackery, and nature and hippies contrasting with the high-tech Server City. I think contrast adds colour for the reader. I had a huge amount of fun reversing the roles of humans and technology. I put the technology in charge, with dreadful consequences for us. The wonderful thing about writing fiction is you can write anything, as long as it is convincing.

  • I’ve read that Far Out was your NaNoWriMo project last year. It just goes to show how successful these sorts of challenges are. Tell us some advantages and disadvantages about taking part in NaNoWriMo.

I hadn’t done it before. I enjoyed it hugely. The best thing about it was being “in the zone”, the pressure, the month whizzing by as you hammered the keyboard in an effort to keep up. I made some wonderful friends, including a young physicist who gave me some valuable pointers on the astronomy, so I knew where to go for my research. I have absolutely no idea who he was (you only go by your usernames on Nano) and he was a great friend. The worst thing about Nanowrimo is the physical strain. Your whole body aches and some days you think your fingers are going to drop off.

  • When you are not writing, what takes your fancy? I’ve read that you like to paint. You are obviously a creative person.

I tend to dive into whatever I have committed to, so these days it is really only writing that takes my fancy, unless I am reading, and now I have learned so much, I love being able to analyse the structure of other writers’ work. I used to paint full time in oils and watercolour, my speciality being shorelines and old fishing boats, but I haven’t been able to do that for the last five years. Last summer it was too wet here to go out, and I don’t know if I will pick it up again or not. I also love blogging. I love cinema, travel, and being out and about, and tech, of course. I can’t be off the internet for more than 12 hours without breaking into a sweat. I always want to know how something works.

  • What is next for you?

“The big novel”, Coded, (100,000 words), will be the next out. Far Out 2 (working title) will be my Nanowrimo 2013 project, so I can have it polished and edited for online publication in March 2014 and I’m outlining it now.

  • Describe Far Out in just five words.

Imagination is boundless like infinity.

I’ve always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo Fiona, but I’ve always been sceptical at just how successful it really is as a writing process – I’m not sure I would be able to keep up a daily word count. But your success shows exactly why so many people take part each year! Good luck with Coded and with Far Out #2.

You can keep up to date with Fiona’s writing news on her website. She tweets as @fionafaithross and has an Author Facebook page too – do check them out. But Fiona is kindly giving away 5 copies of Far Out. Enter the rafflecopter below!

Far Out is available from

Amazon UK / Amazon US&AUS / Smashwords

Click Here to ENTER the FAR OUT Rafflecopter giveaway

____________________________________________________________

Come and like my Author Facebook Page or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

FB logo Goodreads logo pinterestlogo

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY STORE

Author Interview: AB Shepherd

It wasn’t until last year when i ran Sci Fi Week on my blog that I actually read my first Lifeboat CoverScience 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?
A.B. Shepherd authorI’ve managed to pull AB Shepherd down from the night’s sky and badger her with some questions. An American by birth, AB Shepherd now lives in Australia with her husband, and has two grown children. She openly admits that she loves to read a wide variety of books, and she is currently working on her second novel. I couldn’t resist but ask her about her love for Science Fiction and the truth behind those strange beings we call Aliens.
  • 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.

You can buy her debut Science Fiction novel Lifeboat as an eBook on Amazon UK and Amazon US/AUS. You can also show her some love by adding it to your ‘To Read’ shelf over on Goodreads.

____________________________________________________________

Come and like my Author Facebook Page or join me over at Goodreads or Pinterest

FB logo Goodreads logo pinterestlogo

BUY MY BOOKS FROM MY STORE