Q. What is your background? What are your interests outside of writing?
A. I was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved to California at age 8. I then bounced back and forth between the coasts until I met my now-husband and moved with him to the Midwest. I now consider myself a Hoosier. I'm Jewish, the first generation of my family to be born in this country: my parents and their immediate families barely escaped Hitler's Europe.
My other interests include politics, history, photography, and whatever my daughters are up to.
Q. What is Twin-Bred about?
A. Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb? In Twin-Bred, the human colony on Tofarn and the indigenous Tofa have great difficulty communicating with and basically comprehending each other. Scientist Mara Cadell proposes that host mothers of either or both species carry twins, one human and one Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept Levi alive in her mind as a companion and collaborator.
Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?
Q. What inspired you to write Twin-Bred?
A. I read an article online about interactions between twins in utero -- synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either this article or a comment on the article mentioned the longterm effect of losing a twin in utero. As an avid science fiction reader, I tend to see the sci-fi potential in any event or discovery. I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin; it would be intriguing if she were a twin survivor, and if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story.
On a deeper level, I have always been fascinated by communication issues and the struggle to understand what is different.
Q. What did you learn from writing Twin-Bred?
A. As this was my first novel since age 10 (completed novel) or age 14 (novel abandoned after 40 pages or so), it taught me a great deal about myself as a writer, and about the process of writing fiction. I learned that most of the writing takes place on a subconscious level -- that I had to sit down and be ready to write, ask a few key questions about my characters' emotions and situations, and then get out of the way. I confirmed the validity of Stephen King's observation that an author is like a paleontologist uncovering a fossil, piece by piece. (Like many a paleontologist, I found myself frequently unsure of how those pieces should be arranged.)
Q. What traits do you share with your main character?
A. Like Mara, I'm impatient, although I am not quite as likely to explode as a result. I am no scientist, but I have an inquiring mind. I'm persistent and stubborn. I am not terrific at forming social connections, although I am not as socially isolated as Mara. Mara's artistic talents are borrowed from my older daughter, an art student and my cover artist.
Q. What would you most like readers to tell others about this book?
A. That it's a thought-provoking and engrossing read, with likeable, loveable and/or intriguing characters, and a conclusion that doesn't disappoint. And to buy the book! J
Q. What led you to self-publish Twin-Bred?
A. Once I finished the rough draft of Twin-Bred, I began reading every blog and Twitter feed I could find, as well as several books, about the publishing process. At first, I was learning how to query agents and publishers, and how to format a manuscript for submission. But the more I read, the more I realized two things:
--Self-publishing was eminently feasible and would give me much more control over content, marketing and timing.
--In the current unsettled state of the industry, there are serious risks involved in the traditional route. More and more agency and publication contracts include language that can seriously limit an author's future options, and offer relatively little in exchange. Nor can one have great confidence that the publisher who's preparing your book for publication in eighteen months will be in business that long.
Q. Are there any specific authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?
A. Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God are brilliant treatments of the theme of human-alien communication difficulties. These books inspire me even as their excellence intimidates me.
Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is another excellent, and very entertaining, treatment of the same theme, although in a different context (alien invasion of Earth). I particularly enjoyed the role that Niven and Pournelle gave to science fiction authors in the analysis of the alien threat. While I did not use this device, it may have influenced my decision to have my colonists name their various towns after science fiction authors.
Q. What is your greatest strength as a writer?
A. I'd be interested in readers' answer to this question! -- but my guess would be: my way with language. Another possibility: my affection for and good wishes for humanity/sentient species in general.
Q. What do you like best about being a writer, and what do you dislike most about it?
A. I love it when the story decides to write itself! It's a bit like being a medium and channeling some spirit. I dislike my ongoing battle to keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay.
Q. In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?
A. My family; politics (not saying in which direction!); reading; the beauty of everyday details.
Q. What other books will we be seeing from you?
A. This summer, I completed a rough draft of a second novel, tentatively titled Reflections, which is general fiction. It has two alternative tag lines: "Death is what you make it" and "Will you need courage in heaven?" It is set in an afterlife with certain features which lend themselves to the confrontation of lingering personal issues and unfinished business. For example, you can relive any memory in perfect detail -- and if someone else who took part in the remembered scene is there with you, you can trade places and remember the events from the other person's perspective. There are other aspects of the afterlife that, while serving this same purpose, are also just plain fun. You can be any age at any time, and visit any place that you remember or that anyone you meet -- from any time in Earth's history -- remembers.
Reflections concerns a mother who desperately wanted a child, but who left that child in the care of her parents and grandmother for unknown reasons. The child, grandparents and great-grandmother die in an auto accident four years after the mother's mysterious departure; the mother dies of stress cardiomyopathy ("broken heart syndrome") some time later, and is reunited with the family she left behind.
I recently published a short story (free on Smashwords) called "The Baby," which involves human cloning. I am planning to write additional stories set in the same near future, some of them involving the legal issues that human cloning may raise. I hope to release the additional stories one at a time or save them for a collection.
And finally, I just finished the rough draft of the sequel to Twin-Bred during the 2011 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If the process of editing Twin-Bred is any guide, it will be at least autumn of 2012 before that sequel (presently unnamed) will be available.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers?
A. OK, long answer coming up:
--Read, read, read. Read fiction, biography, history -- whatever interests you. Read authors whose voice appeals to you.
--Don't let anyone tell you whether you're meant to be, or whether you are, a writer. Even well-meaning folks may be poor critics, and not everyone who makes pronouncements on your potential will be well-meaning.
--Keep pen and paper, or some other means of taking notes, with you at all times. Don't assume you'll remember your great idea 5 minutes from now -- write it down immediately!
--Become compulsive about multiple backups of your idea notes, works in progress, rough drafts, subsequent drafts, etc. Use the cloud, e.g., Dropbox or Evernote. Email attachments to yourself. Put files on a separate hard drive and on flash drives.
--Keep your inner editor gagged and stuffed in a closet when you're working on rough drafts. Don't be afraid to leave blanks or bracketed notes as you go. (My latest rough draft has one that reads "[insert appropriate South American country here].") National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) is a great way to accomplish this. There'll be time enough later for lots and lots or rewriting.
--Learn about self-publishing, and about the publishing industry. There's a wealth of info and support out there for indie authors. Conversely, this is a risky time to sign a contract with an agent or publisher. Because of the uncertain and fast-changing conditions in the publishing industry, many agents and publishers are inserting "rights grabs" and other clauses in their contracts that could cripple an author's career. If you do sign with an agent or publisher, pay a good IP attorney to go through the contract with a microscope. Don't let the allure of "being published" lead you to grab at an offer of representation or publication without vetting it thoroughly.
Q. Where is Twin-Bred available?
A. Here are the purchase links:
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005VDVHQ2
Smashwords (various ebook formats): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/94490
Q. If your book were to be made into a film, whom would you cast?
A. Roughly half my cast would have to be CGI with heavily tweaked voices. As for Mara Cadell: is there a younger Lisa Edelstein out there? Or a younger, female Scott Glenn? J Jamie Gertz might be good, if she can be made up to look younger; or Keira Knightley (in her less glamorous mode). Smadar Sayar is another possibility.
Q. What would we find under your bed?
A. A large collection of dust puppies. Dust puppies are like dust bunnies, except that they are composed primarily of dog hair.
Thank you Karen. It sounds like we share a love of dogs as well as science and fiction. I really enjoyed your book and wish you every success with it.