Author: Janine A. Southard
Publication Date: 3/8/13
Source: Provided by Author
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Blurb (GR): On a world where high school test scores determine your future, six students rebel. They’ll outrun society as fast as their questionably obtained spaceship will take them.
Rhiannon doesn’t technically cheat the Test. She’s smarter than the computers that administer it, and she uses that to her advantage. She emerges from Test Day with the most prestigious future career possible: Hive Queen.
Gwyn & Victor are madly in love, but their Test results will tear them apart. Good thing Rhiannon is Gwyn’s best friend. Rhiannon can fix this. Queens can do anything.
Gavin is the wild card. Raised off-planet, he can’t wait to leave again... and he’s heard of an empty ship in orbit. The Ceridwen’s Cauldron.
Both Luciano and Alan fit in the system. They don’t need to leave. Only their devotion to Rhiannon spurs them to join the Cauldron’s crew.
Spaceships. Blackmail. Anywhere but here.
1. How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to write as a career?
I’ve been writing forever. I started a million novels on my parents’ computers in grade school. I wrote short stories in the back of my essay bluebooks during exams.
In high school, I tried selling my stories and didn’t get very far. That was when I decided to be an editor instead. My very first editorial internship, I learned two things:
1) I’m pretty awesome as an editor
2) Some fairly mediocre stuff gets published (and, in fact, should get published)
Once I started aiming for mediocre, writing seemed much less daunting. And, with the practice, I got a heck of a lot better. (I’d like to think I’m good or even great now. Not mediocre anymore.)
Anyway, I still wasn’t writing as a career, until a few years ago. Well, I was writing marketing copy and company newsletters, but not narrative fiction. I only went full-time on that when three things happened:
1) My unemployment benefits ended (hey it’s a recession), so I could decide whether it was worth hunting for any job in my field or whether I should spend time writing.
2) I got married, and my spouse’s paycheck was good enough that I could have the starving artist’s career without having to endure the starving part (which, let me tell you, makes for a much lower barrier of entry).
3) I got paid for creative writing, and that validated my skills. I’ve been contracting for videogames and selling short stories in niche markets.
2. What inspired you to integrate Wales and Welsh language into Queen & Commander? Do you have any connections with that area?
It started when I named the spaceship, the Ceridwen’s Cauldron. (Great symbolism for coming of age and learning about the world.) Then there’s what I wanted to change the name of the spaceship to: the Manawyddan’s Mousetrap. (Symbolism for when you have to stop turning the other cheek, but in a peaceful way.) Eventually, the ship name will change. I thought it’d happen in Queen & Commander, but now it’s looking like it’ll be in book 3.
Anyway, I had this background in Medieval Romance Literature of the Otherworld from my university days. So I was hip to how I wanted to name my ship. But that didn’t necessarily have to tie in to the whole world yet. It could’ve been a company policy. Or my main character could’ve had a thing for The Mabinogion.
But then the coincidences started piling up. I did my research for my FTL (“faster than light”) drive, and the scientist whose work I wanted to use was Miguel Alcubierre. (Wikipedia on his theories here.) And it turned out that he’d done his graduate work at the University of Wales, Cardiff. (I keep thinking he was an Aberystwyth man, and I keep being wrong.)
Once that happened, I knew I had to Welsh-ify my details. And it was perfect! What other society would be so separatist as to try to keep their own colonial planet culturally pure... and then make up details to include? (I love the current Welsh culture champions who backfill their own versions of druidry, etc., and work hard to make sure that people understand the essential Welshness of their constructs. They care. They’re sincere. And it’s a beautiful thing.)
So they were the perfect group to perform an experiment in standardized testing and societal restructuring and make it stick.
As far as a personal connection to Wales, umm. Well. My UK copyeditor is Welsh (much to my relief) and I went there on vacation once. But I’m learning a bit of the language now and very much enjoy all the research I get to do for this series.
3. Do you have the entire story arc/s planned out for the series or are you innovating as you write?
I have the important parts of the next two Hive Queen books planned out already. The details, though, I’m filling in before drafting each book. (For example, I first thought book two was going to be a frontier planet sheep-stealing thing. It isn’t. It’s on the space station where book one ends. But the important story arc bits—not telling: spoilers!—are the same from my original concept to the finished version.)
4. What's your usual writing atmosphere and schedule like? Do you have a routine?
I tend to do my actual draft writing in cafes. I find it near-impossible to write at home with all the distractions. So my routine is something like: buy a spicy mocha, read my notes while drinking said mocha, get through at least one scene before buying something else.
When I’m not working a full-time contract, I’ll meet up with other local writers 2-3 times per week, as well, which creates an atmosphere of enforced creativity.
When I’m plotting or editing, I can be anywhere. And I tend to do my promo work (like this interview) and my administrative stuff (e.g., accounting spreadsheets, ebook programming) at home... where I don’t feel guilty about taking a break for a bit.
5. I was very interested in the idea of hives and finding out as a teenager that you may live a life of service and devotion to another, though I can see parallels to the organization of earlier times, particularly monarchical societies with knights, ladies in waiting, etc. Where did this idea come from?
Initially it came from the way I observed guys in college all circle around one girl as the center of their social circle. Then I married that observation to historical courtier circles (especially the intrigue around Queen Elizabeth I*) and (I admit) a teenage love of the anime/manga Fushigi Yuugi** which was about teenage girls as the focal points of 7-person groups.
* Queen Elizabeth I in fiction – Ink and Steel by Elizabeth Bear
** Fushigi Yuugi by Yuu Watase – note that I’ve never read this in English translation
6. What kinds of stories and books do you like to read? Any particular reason why you went with science fiction for your debut novel?
I love space opera. (For those unfamiliar with the term “space opera” tends to refer to stories in the far future with spaceships and space colonies, but where the emphasis is on interpersonal relationships and epic worldbuilding rather than science itself.) Largely, this is for the inherent optimism.
I mean, the story itself might be about something really depressing. Say, unending war (The Forever War by Joe Haldeman) or unethical cloning (Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold). But in order to get to the really depressing subject matter, humanity had to continue and progress. Western society as we know it had to improve and make its way out among the stars! The depressing subject is just a setback on a long upward trend.
So, it was kind of obvious that I’d write something in the space opera genre to start. It’s my own kind of optimism: I’m going to be successful. Heck, this is the first book in a series! If that’s not optimism, what is?
7. As someone who has created what I consider to be a very professional self-published book, what has been your favorite part of that process thus far? Are there any aspects of self-publishing you do not particularly enjoy?
My favorite part, hands down, is the editorial control. I mean, here I have a YA novel with multiple POVs on a spaceship. A literary agent or publishing house right now would tell you that “ensemble isn’t in right now” and “spaceships are so passé” and “shouldn’t there be a romance in a YA novel?”.
And they’d be right, as far as sales to the largest market go, I’m sure. But everything is cyclic. And, darn it, I wanted to write (and would love to read) some non-romance ensemble YA!
As for what I don’t like, there are two things that spring to mind:
1) Details – I’m not a detail person. But I make my own ebooks (HTML and CSS) and layout my own print editions and track all my expenses for tax purposes.
2) Uncertainty – In the end, I don’t have that editorial validation. No one said, “Oh! I love your manuscript and I’m picking it up for my young adult line of [major publishing house].” When I make a giant change, there’s no one to say, “You’ve gone too far with that Welsh stuff.” It’s nerve-wracking.
8. If you could hand sell your book to a YA sci fi reader in a few sentences, what would be your pitch?
It’s a young adult space opera story with an ensemble cast. If you used to read the tie-in Star Trek novels about junior ensigns, this will totally be your thing. Also, there’s a whole bunch of really dark undertones that you can think to pieces... or ignore in favor of the action adventure part. Plus: teenagers being smart even though they have no life experience. You’ll love it.
9. What are some of your favorite young adult books? Is there a story you wish you would've written or a writer whose work your particularly admire?
My favorite young adult books tend to live on the younger side of young adult. I’m a huge fan of pretty much anything by Gordon Korman. (Most recently of his, I’ve read Son of the Mob which reminds me a lot of Son of Interflux --oh, also by Korman! And the middle grade Schooled.) I also love Alanna by Tamora Pierce , Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater, Whip It by Shauna Cross , and Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst.
10. What's next for you? How much work do you have left on the series? Any other story ideas buzzing around your brain?
Queen & Commander has two planned sequels with their major plot arcs all worked out. There may or may not be books four and beyond, but I haven’t started thinking about those yet. I HAVE started planning out a few alternate-universe novellas in the Hive Queen universe. (For instance, the alternate version of book three—in the world where Rhiannon Tested as a Perceiver instead of a Queen—is a murder mystery.)
I’m also reworking a novella which I refer to “The Menaechmus Twins in space with shapeshifting cats,” which is a comedy-romance of mistaken identities in a far future where humanity is not alone in the universe.
And probably next year I’ll either finish or scrap a contemporary YA/MG novel, Kimiko’s Metal Life, about a teenager who joins a heavy metal bar band (mostly of 40-60 year old men who ride Harley Davidson motorcycles on the weekend) to use her classical music skills in a fun way. There are thrift store costumes, unhappy bartenders who look the other way at her nonexistent ID, and heartwarming moments when her mom becomes her biggest fan.
Janine has teamed up with the other Ippy Award winners in her category to run a fantastic giveaway for Kindle Paperwhite, tons of books and ebooks, and other book-related prizes. There's a free entry but you can gain extra entries by adding all three award-winners to your Goodreads shelves, buying a copy (they are $4.95 or less and one is currently free!), following on Facebook and Twitter, etc. For more details on the books, the prizes, and the giveaway, please visit this site. The other giveaway is being run by me. I will buy a paperback copy of the book for one lucky reader in US/Canada (maybe I'll even get it personalized!) Three international (or US) readers will win an e-copy of the book. Good luck!
BOTH GIVEAWAYS HAVE ENDED. THE WINNERS FOR OURS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED BY EMAIL. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOUR OF YOU!