Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Science Fiction Author Mary Andrews and The Fireborn Chronicles

Joining us today is author Mary Andrews whose first novel, The Fireborn Chronicles will be released this month from Swimming Kangaroo Books. Her taste in all things is eclectic and you’ll find she does a variety of different things--from puppetry to drumming to researching gypsies.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Mary. It’s great to have you here.

Thank you Cheryl. It’s an honor to be here. I love what you’ve done with the place.

Let’s get started by finding out more about you. How long have you been writing? What experiences in your life have inspired your writing? Do you have a mentor or a source of inspiration?

Hmmm. I guess I officially started writing in the early 80’s. I had joined a local Star Trek group and became involved with Sci Fi conventions and writers. I’ve always gravitated towards creative people, and next thing I knew, I was trying my hand at it.

I couldn’t believe all the opportunities that the conventions offered. I got to meet professional writers and learn straight from them. It was inspiring. At my first convention I met Robert Aspirin. The night before the convention I was told that he had offered to critique up to 20 pages of a work during the weekend. So I pulled up my old muscle building, memory less, liquid white erasable, ribbon using, manual typewriter, and I stayed up all night typing up the first twenty pages of what eventually became The Fireborn Chronicles to give to him to be critiqued.

In retrospect, I guess I was pretty naïve. Who in their right mind would expect someone to read 20 pages of anything that they receive during the convention? But that never even occurred to me back then, and nobody told me that submittals had to be turned in before the convention. So I took my twenty hand typed, badly formatted, first draft pages to the convention and tried to turn it in. Of course the people running the convention made it clear to me that I had missed the deadline. So I was pouting while arranging the little unicorns and dragons on my dealer’s table when a man came up and started talking to me about the dragons. Eventually I told him my sad story and lo and behold he introduced himself as Bob Asprin. (small world, huh?)

He actually was kind enough to read my 20 pages and asked me to submit something to the Thieves World anthology that was in full swing back there. He told me my story probably wouldn’t be chosen from among all the pro’s that were submitting, but that I had a propensity for what they were doing with the anthology. (When I first started The Fireborn Chronicles, everything was much harsher than it turned out in the end.)

In the long run it really inspired me but just then, I blew the opportunity (even though I did come up with a character that would have worked well). Youth is wasted on the young. *Sigh*

Anyway, we also discussed starting a fanzine of sorts—something to make others aware of the opportunities fandom had to offer. If I had been told at a younger age about these magical gatherings of skill, talent, and creativity, If I had known of this arena where prospective talent could readily be discovered, I would have directed my interest, talent and youthful energy towards a career I would have loved. I had always been told that the arts were a hobby.

Bob suggested that we name the magazine after a character from a well known writer’s book. He suggested Gordon R. Dickson because “Gordy likes to help new talent.” That’s how my magazine for aspiring artist and writers, Gorbash, came into existence. After that, all I had to do was to walk up to all of these talented and famous people and ask for an interview. I got to meet and interview some wonderful people just for the asking.

Looking back, I cringe at what I had done, but the old adage ‘Ignorance is bliss’ keeps coming to mind.

After that, writing became another of my creative outlets. When I had no home to set my new and improved electric typewriter, I scrawled poetry or songs on napkins at bars. Over the years, though life got in the way of my writing, it also gave me things to say.

With so many problems and misconceptions in the world, I found it frustrating not to be able to make others actually listen to reason. But in Science Fiction, every world starts anew and it’s possible to sneak in a thought or two without tripping personal alarms—and I do love adventures.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?

With my new book coming out now, I swear I have hardly had any time to do any actual writing. Marketing has become such a priority. Websites and Chat rooms and Blogs—oh my!

BUT, when/if I can get back to the projects I’m working on, I do have a kind of routine I follow. I like to write every day—usually from midnight to whenever I notice I’m tired. Since the phone doesn’t ring and we don’t have cable tv, the distractions are minimal except for my cat. Diamond. (Around 5 am he demands attention and nothing is safe for a while. He walks on tables and stuff.)

Back when I first started writing, I had three very young sons and a husband to take care of, so I would write from around 10pm til 1am because I’ve always needed only 5 hours of sleep to be fully functional.

To make this window as productive as possible, I took a page from Pavlov. Every night, I would play the same two albums (Intergalactic touring band and I Robot by Allan Parsons) over and over while I wrote. To this day, whenever I play those albums I get creative. (Alice Cooper makes me want to clean house.)

Only downside to my system was that I also crave a soft drink since I always kept a drink with me at the desk.

The Fireborn Chronicles is your first published novel. Are you excited? What has it been like seeing your first book getting ready to be made available to the public? Have you enjoyed it? Were there any tense moments?

Excited…hmmm. I’m not sure if excited is the right word, terrified and confused might be better. The thing about firsts is that everything you do is new and therefore subject to failure. It’s really scary knowing that. One moment I’m feeling sure and confident, and the next…well I just don’t know.

I sure have learned a lot through it all though. It’s been a real adventure, and I like having adventures.

Tell us about The Fireborn Chronicles. What’s the gist of the story? What inspired you to write this novel?

The gist of the book is the inevitable fusion of man, machine, and the paranormal. I’m calling this “PSIonic Sci Fi.”

Everything about life is inspiring to me. If you look around at the world today, we’ve got addictive temperaments, all kinds of drug problems, an underpaid unappreciated temporary workforce with no future, cast out people, and a lack of incentive to aspire to becoming a productive member of society. Computers have become linked to every aspect of our lives. Paranormal themes are becoming more and more common in books, games, programs.

Here’s how all this has plays out in my writing:

The Universal Government has found an enticing solution to bolster cooperation and membership. Each planet remains free to determine for themselves what constitutes an unacceptable faction. Then The Universal Government will remove them, and employ them on the Hive Planet.

Workers of the Hive are addicted to a wonderful and all-encompassing drug that can only be earned by working, thus converting each planet’s formerly unproductive and dangerous elements into a universal workforce that provides the ultimate interplanetary temp service across a truly universal web.
Since its creation, only one person has ever escaped the Government’s universal workforce on the Hive Planet: A newborn, fully implanted with compu-link interface temple plates, but not yet introduced to the drug meant to enslave him. He now leads a Dark Ops unit for The Gov on a mission to uncover a PSIonic ring of criminals who have inexplicably taken control of an important Government Ambassador.

What they find will change the universe.

In Chapter One, we meet Commander Kree who is awaiting the appearance of someone. Is he always uptight or is it just the situation of being left waiting for the operative from the Dark Ops Team?

Poor Kree. A lot of people seem to wonder about him. Originally, I placed him in the book in reference to a comment that Ira says in the beginning of Part 2 The Wall Master:

Alandra shook sand from her shift and pulled on her sweater before starting away. "Be grateful for what you have, Ira. What we do at The Wall is important, and perhaps, someday, we'll earn transfers."

Ira glared at her. "To where? To some alien planet where green-eyed, tendrilled buglets romp about and make clicking noises? Come, sister." He grabbed her arm and whirled her around to face him. "I'll rid them of their problems. I'll tranquilize them with my sheer presence. I'll force them to be happy, whether they want to be or not, and you can teach them to be honest. Like a good little telepath should."

I’ve already had enough people ask about Kree and his home world, that I’ve outlined a short story about his people and their petition to join The Universal Government. As insectoids, they tend to see and react to things differently. Kree has had to acclimate to not just working with, but commanding a mostly humanoid Star Base. Hmmm, maybe I’ll write another story just about him too. It could be fun.

Speaking of the Dark Ops Team--who are they? What role do they play in The Fireborn Chronicles? Sounds like they are the bad guys.

Depends on who you ask.

The Nemesis Team works for The Universal Government. They operate very much like any modern day black ops team would now, except that their parameters are much wider.

In this chapter we also meet Ira Haze and Laynald Lockheim. What is their relationship? Are they friends, as well as, coworkers? What positions do they hold in the Dark Ops Team?

Age wise Ira and Laynald are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Ira is in his early twenties and Laynald is in his fifties. Part Three of the book tells how they met.

They’ve been team mates for over five years when Part Four of the Chronicles begin. They pretty much understand each other by then, but I think Laynald has kind of gotten used to looking out for Ira since he’s still so young.

Tell us a bit more about Laynald Lockheim. He is a healer and an assassin. His sinister smile is mentioned twice in the first few pages of the book. How bad is he? What motivates him? Will readers like him or despise him?

Strangely enough, Laynald seems to be favored by most readers. Though his demeanor is often harsh, he is actually the most human of the bunch. He is duty oriented and disciplined—a totally self contained person. Neither emotions nor logic dictate his choices. He sees straight through complicated situations and is willing to do whatever needs to be done.

However, he really does respect and care for his team mates. In a lot of ways, he watches over them and he will always have their backs.

After reading the first chapter, I’m amazed at how well you described everything--Ira, the Nemesis, the instruments used by those onboard. How did you go about creating these people and the environment they live in? Did you do a lot of research? If so, how much was done prior to sitting down to write it?

Early on, a generality was enough when I first drafted a scene, but with a book and a connected line of stories, continuity became necessary. I’ve gotten to a point where I tend to sketch out the layouts of rooms, ships, stations.

Part One: Rael was actually my most recently written story. By the time I got to the Dark Ops Station, I realized that I would have to have some blue prints of my station to work with each scene. I have a pretty diverse knowledge of science and theory for science fiction, and my husband’s a regular Mr. Wizard at solving physics/engineer problems for me. So I sat down with a pencil and paper and started moving furniture in my mind. I mean, if you had to live, work, raise a family on a station in space, there would be more than offices and landing ports involved.

Most of it’s a simple case of thinking things through and asking ‘what if.’

In fact, the first thing I designed was the evacuation system for the Space station where Rael had just moved to. I’m thinking that when things slow down a little bit this month, I want to open up a page on my website with excerpts and some of my diagrams—just for fun.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Fireborn Chronicles?

As soon as the cover is completed it will be available in eBook form at http://www.swimmingkangaroo.com/index.php. The print copies will probably be out within a couple of weeks after that. They will also be carried at fictionwise, amazoncom, barnesandnoblescom and many other websites.

I keep up-to-date info about the book and ‘me sightings’ on my website’s homepage at http://www.freewebs.com/mary-andrews/ so feel free to drop by any time.

What is up next for you? Are you working on any projects you would like to share with us?

I’ve got a second book in The Fireborn Chronicles well on its way, and I’ve got a romance short story, The Beholder, that I want to turn into a book, and I’m planning to write an autobiography,My Macroscopic Memoirs: the work place, about the secret to success in every workplace for my NaNoWriMo challenge this year. (To find out more about the November’s National Writer’s Month challenge visit http://www.nanowrimo.org/)

Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes, I’ll be Karina’s Fabian’s guest on this Thursday night’s Fab chat (http://karinafabian.tripod.com/id15.html). This will be my first online live guest appearance, so I’m really excited about it. I’m hoping to discuss PSIonic Science Fiction and we can all compare notes about paranormal writing. The weekly chats run from 9-11 pm EST.

Also, on Monday, October 29th my publisher, Swimming Kangaroo is holding a release party for our three latest books—including mine. There will be prizes, and fun for all as well as a chance to meet the authors.

And Mark Eller has invited me to appear on his pod show, The Hell Hole Tavern (http://www.podshow.com/search/?search_area=show&keyword=hell+hole+tavern) within the next month. I’m going to try my hand at reading a chapter of my book.

See, yet another adventure. I learn something new every day.

Cheryl, I really appreciate your efforts here. When it comes to interviews, you’re the best. Thank you for inviting me.

Thanks for joining us today, Mary. It’s been great getting to know more about you and The Fireborn Chronicles. Good luck with the release of your first novel!

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