Kim realized these young women were much like her, unable to find themselves in the text. At that moment Kim realized she needed to write science fiction and fantasy stories to help those young women and all women have a voice. She wanted to introduce them to the far off realms she dreamed of as a child.
1. How did your work as a science teacher inform your process of writing science fiction novels?
It was during my time as a science teacher that I became re-invigorated to write fiction again. I used to teach at a local adult high school. Many of my female science students were struggling with their coursework. A few of them confided that they didn't have many female role models in this area. I was faced with a lack of student interest driven by an under-represented population who saw themselves as people isolated from the coursework based on gender stereotypes, so I knew I had to do something to help.
Many students suffer from motivational problems when they don't find representations of themselves in the text. It's a classic text-to-self distinction that wasn't happening for the young women in my class, due to a lack of role models that existed then continued to exist in science, even today. More gender-neutral curriculum content needed to be introduced to the science curriculum. I knew that I had always loved the great why questions that science fiction answered, and as I brought those into the classroom and tried to incorporate more female role models into the curriculum, I watched these young women's marks climb and they became more engaged with the science material.
Science fiction has been overpopulated with male protagonists from its inception. I wanted to create science fiction stories with well-rounded, three-dimensional female characters, not the two-dimensional side characters that were peppered throughout science fiction's past. Above all else, I was determined to write stories with female protagonists, ones that my students could relate to and ones that I so desperately longed for as a young female teen.
2. What inspired you to create the characters of Lyrissa and Peggy as the leads of Going Home?
Lyrissa grew out of my desire to have a vulnerable woman, who deep down harbored a sense of self that she needed to let rise to the surface. Her part of the series allows for her character to grow. These frailties she has are brought to light with the help of other characters. She may very well overcome them; then again she may not, but in the end it's about character growth and Lyrissa's story.
Peggy developed in the first book as a mirror of Lyrissa's personality, almost like her alter self in a way. She became a great well-rounded female character to play off Lyrissa's weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
I liked Peggy's character so much that she has become the female protagonist in the second installment of the series, Gone Home, which is due out on Kindle the third week in June. I enjoyed Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan Series and wanted to work in a back and forth point of view dynamic between the two lead characters as he does in his novels, so I've done that with Lyrissa and Peggy in the Alien Encounters Series. Book 3, Going Back, will be from Lyrissa's point of view on Earth and should be out sometime in July. I'm just putting the finishing touches on it now and will have it out to my editor soon. The cover art is still being negotiated, but that is coming together as well.
All of my Kindle novels are written in Canadian English.
3. What are the particular challenges of writing a series of novels and what do you enjoy about the process of carrying out your ideas over the course of several books?
Going Home was originally a stand-alone novella. I liked Lyrissa's character so much that I knew I had to breathe more life into her character and that it needed to go beyond one book. She and Peggy had great stories to tell.
I'm a huge Stephen King fan. I really love the way he experiments with format. His novel, The Green Mile--great book by the way--was originally a serial novel with six parts. I loved this idea and wanted to try something like that myself. Originally I thought there would be at least four books in the series, but it looks like five serials will tell both Lyrissa's and Peggy's stories better. Much like Stephen King's serials, the first two books are novellas, but Book 3, Going Back, is a true novel of over 40,000 words. I've had people say Going Home is too short. I don't think they realize it's not meant to be a novel.
In terms of process, the story seems to flow. I like to write the first draft of a novella/novel more or less in a few weeks, and then I fill it out over a couple of revisions before it goes to my editor.
Each novella/novel has a central theme and story premise based on the point of view character, which comes to a conclusion at the end, but then there are greater themes and an overarching story arc that carries throughout the series.
4. Could you tell a little about your forthcoming trilogy, the Deeps?
Thanks for asking about my upcoming work, Mandy. Jane Austen was a woman before her time. She wrote intelligent, well-rounded, witty, female protagonists with moral fortitude and constitution, something that lacked in many other novels from that era; I think these are some of the reasons why her writing is still loved today. Did you know that she repeatedly wrote about the right of primogeniture, that is to say the right of the eldest boy to inherit all lands, properties, and titles, from his father? British Parliament finally denounced it this year in a royal edict. I think this would have thrilled Jane Austen. What it means is that if William, Prince of Wales and his new wife Kate, have a daughter before they have a son, then she will in fact inherit the right to the throne before he will. It took what, over three hundred years since Ms. Austen wrote about it, but if finally came to pass.
Well, because of this cause that Ms. Austen writes about and so many others, I felt compelled to write a paranormal romance, to turn the notions of what should have been considered feminine on its head. These are horror novels with potentially a gothic twist and my way of paying homage to a great female author.
The Deeps spans three generations and involves first a mother, then her daughter, and finally her granddaughter. Each harbors a grave secret that even they are unaware of. We, the reader, learn of their secrets just as Rebecca, Claire, and Jane do. The novels span the later part of the 18th century and into the 19th century. They begin in England, but the female protagonists travels take them elsewhere.
Mandy, I don't want to give too much away, but I can tell you that these women are not meek, they do have means, and they are witty, much like Austen's characters. They also have a relationship with the Deeps that requires something more of the story and the plot. The first two novels are being edited and the last is still being created. I may send them to a publisher instead of going the Kindle, self-publishing route. I haven’t decided at this point.
5. How do you balance work as a teacher with your work as a writer--when do you find time to write?
Mandy, I've been writing since 2001. My first novel is called Strange Days. That one is going out to a publisher this year. It's a new adult science fiction series about an inquisitive young woman who's far more special than she realizes.
I have ideas for at least seven other novels in this series. The female protagonist, Lizzy, grows up over the course of the series from age 16, to, well, that's a secret at this point. Lizzy is my baby, the novel and character that started it all. Back then it was very difficult juggling my teaching career with my writing. I would be up late at night with my writing, once those all important lesson plans were created or revised.
I have been diagnosed with a disability since then, and over the course of several years, the school board I worked for could no longer accommodate my needs. It was a very difficult time. To go from teaching classrooms full of students and all of the social activity that goes along with being a teacher, to almost no face-to-face contact and with a select few people because of scented products. They have become so ubiquitous in our culture, things like laundry detergent (I have to buy a special kind), dish detergents (I use non-scented, and it's hard to get), creams, fabric softener (which I don't use), deodorants, and other products I can't be around. Places, like my former workplace, have so-called scent policies, but they aren't enforced by the people who enact them, so people like me are left out of work and socially isolated.
That's where I was in, I guess, 2010, without work in my chosen field after about 7 years of post secondary education, as you need a Bachelor of Education to be a licensed teacher in Nova Scotia where I live. As I say, it was a difficult time. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband, whom I was smart enough to marry in 2010. He encouraged me to stay home and write full time, so I did.
I think I, like so many writers, was afraid that I wouldn't have enough material to keep me going. I've learned to stockpile and organize my ideas over the years. So once the Alien Encounters Series is done, I have another series in mind, waiting on the back burner for next year. I'm optimistic about this idea for the Cheshire Queen and I'm sure the ideas will continue to flow.