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Susan Kaye Quinn Interview
Susan Kaye Quinn writes brilliantly. And believably! The best way to truly introduce you to her books is to ask you to go to her website and watch the trailers for her books. I havenít said WOW about a book in a very long time; Susan Kay Quinnís series Mindjack will make you say it, too.
When did you first discover speculative fiction and how did it affect you?
I discovered speculative fiction TODAY as I went to look up exactly what this meant! I had never heard the term, although Iíve been writing speculative fiction for five years. Now that I know speculative fic is a subversive form (subversive of the literary establishment, that is) of spec fic, Iím kind of in love with it.
What are your three favorite books and/or authors and why?
Wool by Hugh Howey, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This are my modern favs (the classics favorites are too numerous to count), and now that I think about it, they are all speculative fic! But the reason I love them is because they are the best of SF Ė classic look at what if? but with tremendous heart as well. Science fiction can be cold. Mechanical. I like my SF with lots of emotional heart-stirring, whether itís gasping when Peeta announces his love for Katniss to the Capitol (thus putting her in an impossible position), or girl aviator Deryn trying to pass for a man but falling in love with a prince, or Juliette unwilling to accept her fate and stay inside the silo. These writers bring tremendous heart to their stories. Theyíre who I want to be when I grow up.
What is the hardest part of writing speculative fiction? How do you cope with that?
The addiction. Seriously, writing is a crazy, reality-bending need for me, and trying to balance my desire to immerse myself in my worlds and write 24/7 with my desire to actually have something resembling a normal life and not neglect my kids is a constant struggle.
What are you working on now?
Iím finishing up the first draft of Legacy (Singularity#1) , the first book in a new series about a post-Singularity world, where most of humanity has ascended into a post-human robotic intelligence. Itís told from the pov of a Legacy human boy (Legacy humans are kept by the ascenders, preserved for their genetic diversity, like the rainforest). Itís a story about a boy who wants to be a robot and, without question, is the most emotionally intense thing Iíve written so far.
Every speculative fiction writer specializes in something Ė universes, creatures, languages, technology, magic, etc. What are your specialties?
I write across ages (everything from middle grade to adult), but I would say the common theme is creating worlds that make my readers think, waitÖ that could totally happen! Even if itís a world where everyone reads minds (Mindjack ) or where debt collectors come to extract your life energy when your debts exceed your future potential earnings (Debt Collector ), Iíve had readers tell me the worlds felt true-to-lifeÖ and they start looking over their shoulders for mindjackers and debt collectors.
What are some of the values you want your fans to take away from your novels?
That important issues about freedom and bigotry and how we value human life are not easily reduced to platitudes. They have nuance. And we should think them through.
What are your professional and/or personal goals for the next decade?
Ah, excellent question! My professional goal is to continue to make a living with my works, so I can justify the inordinate amount of time I spend writing (see: addiction, above). My personal goal is to find a way to do this without losing my sanity. As a creative goal, I want to build a body of works that reflects some of my heart issues (see above about freedom, bigotry, and human life).
Since Speculative Fiction is often interwoven with spirituality (myths, legends, science, etc), please describe your personal spiritual path and how it is reflected in your writing.
Oh, such a timely question, given that my Singularity series is all about the mind-body-soul connection, and what exactly do those things mean, in terms of consciousness and creativity and eternal (or perhaps perpetual) life? My personal spiritual path included becoming Catholic as an adult, but I have a wide tolerance for believers (and non-believers) of all stripes. I think the spirituality question transcends religion and has never been more important as machines are becoming more integral to our lives Ė both extending our knowledge and our mental capabilities, as well as physically enhancing our reach. The question of what it means to be human has never been more pertinent than it is today.
Conventions Ė do you attend?
I donít do cons! Mainly because Iím the primary caretaker for three boys who insist on having lives of their own. Also: Iím a hermit.
Do you have a motto?
No. But now I think I should.
What advice and/or warnings do you have for burgeoning writers?
Donít burgeon. BE. If you write, you are a writer. Own it. Beyond that, write as much as you can. Writing is a craft best learned by doing a huge volume of work (hat tip to Neil Gaiman).
You canít tell a book by its cover; however, you must SELL a book by its cover. Tell us about your book covers and how they came about.
I put a lot of thought-time into my covers. Theyíre emotional, instinctual, and have to communicate quickly the kind of experience a reader can expect. Once I have my thoughts together, I work with a pro designer to create something gorgeous that (we hope) will draw people in. If weíve done our job right, our covers will not only entice people to pick up the book, but will have them saying, Oh the cover is perfect! after theyíve read the book (and hopefully recommend it to a friend).
Do you follow specific blogs, tweets, or other column-type formats? Which ones and why?
I have a few blogs on the industry that I follow (like Jane Friedmanís), and a few nerdy-mind-geek ones (like Brain Pickings), but mostly I check out the stuff my friends think is cool. They have good taste.
How do you feel about movie conversions of books and novelizations of movies?
Film is such a different medium from novels. Iím working on a script right now (the prequel to the Singularity series) and telling a story this way is so very different. I think the best stories can jump the gap, but most are better told in one format or the other.
If one of your books becomes a movie, who would you want cast into which roles?
I am definitely not a caster Ė I hardly follow Hollywood ins and outs at all. I have complete confidence the movie people would do a better job of it. But it was fascinating to work with some indie movie people on the live-action trailer for Mindjack Ė talking to the camera folks, hanging in the break room with the actors, watching the director at work, bringing my story to life in just two short minutes on film. Being on set to consult (how exactly do you act like a mindreader?) was a thrilling experience. The best part: everyone was there for the love of making film and telling stories.
What was the oddest experience you've had selling your books?
It was so odd, I've blanked it from my memory. Seriously, putting my books out into the world has been a tremendously rewarding experience. The negative bumps along the way are quickly forgotten when someone posts on my FB wall that theyíve read every single one of my books, and would I please write more? Just canít beat that.
Do you belong to a writers group or any other support/hobby group? What, how long and why?
Iíve belonged to a few groups along the way. Iím currently in a monthly SCBWI crit group, plus my screenwriting class buddies, but most of my crit partners are one-on-one relationships. And I wouldnít be the writer I am without them.
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