Today we are very excited to host author Cindy Koepp for an interview here at the Seventh Star. We wanted to ask her about her science fiction series that includes Remnant in the Stars and the Loudest Actions, as well as a few questions about the genre itself, her writing and her world!
What inspired the creation of your science fiction series and how has it evolved between Remnant in the Stars and The Loudest Actions?
Remnant in the Stars started as a RPG scenario I played with some pals in high school. If you ever managed to convince me to show you the original “Adventures of Aerosmith” (not kidding, that’s what it was called), you wouldn’t see much similarity, but there’s a convoluted path between the RPG and the current novel. Other influences included a major illness that took a year to figure out and a good deal of “I wonder what would happen if…”
The evolution from Remnant to The Loudest Actions was much simpler. The Loudest Actions takes place five years later, so I considered how everyone would have changed, if they did. Vincent, for example, was already an elderly fellow in Remnant, so five years later, he’s a little creakier and not quite a fast and lively as he was. Kirsten, on the other hand, got past the issues plaguing her in Remnant, so she’s doing MUCH better now. The process to create The Loudest Actions started off with some mental imaging of a couple scenes, and then I built the rest of the tale around those scenes.
What characters in these books have you enjoyed writing the most, and why?
The characters I had the most fun writing were Sora and Janice. They both have some facet of my wacko sense of humor.
Two other characters I enjoyed writing were Kirsten and Peter. Kirsten’s troubles in Remnant in the Stars were based on a year-long medical misadventure I had. Peter’s internal battles in The Loudest Actions drew in part on a similar bout of too-persistent memories. In each case, the exact difficulties were different from what I faced (I do not have a prosthetic arm, nor was I trapped in a burning ship), but a lot of the emotional turmoil was similar. Writing those characters was kind of cathartic.
How would you describe your writing style to a reader?
That’s complicated. 😉 I tell complex stories that focus on the characters and the ways they overcome personal weaknesses and the challenges on the situation. I often see scenes like a movie in my brain, so I try to communicate the same detail to the readers so they can see the “movie” I did.
As a writer of science fiction, what draws you to the genre? What aspects of the genre do you feel it offers readers that cannot be found as often in other kinds of genres?
I write both science fiction and fantasy, but I tend to be more prolific in science fiction. Science fiction gives me greater latitude to play “What if…”
In Remnant in the Stars, it was “What if a scoutship was attacked by a superior force and taken down so quickly, it couldn’t get a distress call out?” and “What if someone had a medical condition that no one could figure out … and it turned out to be something stupidly simple?” and “What if a father had to choose between helping his youngest daughter and searching for his oldest?” and “How would someone help a friend plagued by guilt for an accident that happened years ago?” … Okay, so that’s not a “what if” but it’s in the same area.
In The Loudest Actions, it was “What if an expert was such a jerk, he actually interfered with progress? What would cause him to be like that?” and “What if a first contact team encountered a race with no verbal language?” and “What if someone who is usually self-sufficient had to ask for help?” and “If you have a kid who learns differently, how do you know she’s mastered something?”
Science fiction removes the situation from the reader’s sphere of influence. In many cases, science fiction has addressed hot-button issues like racism and freedom of expression in ways that get people thinking. The same issues in other genres result in smashed toes and books being banned. Star Trek, for example, dealt with racism and sexism routinely. (A woman bridge officer? AND she’s NOT CAUCASIAN?? *gasp* These days, not a big deal. When the show was produced, that was huge, so I’m told).
I don’t pretend that I’ve addressed major issues as well or as effectively as other major works, but the two books together deal with issues like…
- Helping a suffering friend
- Being brave enough to seek help
- Taking responsibility for your actions
- Forgiving those who have hurt you
- Forgiving yourself
What are a few areas of research that you delved into during the writing of these books?
Well, I didn’t use them all, but for these books, I researched all kinds of weird stuff including…
- Aerial combat (Kirsten is a combat pilot)
- Mechs/robotics (The Bad Guys fly mechs)
- Prosthetics (Kirsten has a prosthetic arm)
- Sword combat (not rapier like my fantasy tales, but heavier, bigger swords. An early version of the mechs used a sword – that’s why the bigger mechs are called Samurai. That didn’t stick around because in the first test-scene I wrote between a mech and a fighter, I found myself in an Indiana Jones situation: The fighter could hang out beyond the mech’s sword range and just shoot the thing).
- Cochlear implants (the basis for implant communicators)
- Nonspoken/Non-verbal languages (ASL, Morse code, pictographs, etc)
- PTSD (Peter goes head to head with it)
What other genres appeal to you for exploring as a writer in the future?
I tried my hand at writing a sorta-western for the Medieval Mars anthology. The editor/publisher let me keep the sorta-western elements because I didn’t go too crazy with it, but some day, I might try to write a western for fun.
I’ve also entertained the idea of writing a historical. My first effort at that for a tale in the Renaissance era (Lines of Succession’s original idea) turned into a fantasy … Griffins showed up and the main character was a girlie person who studies rapier and archery. 😀
Then there’s the idea kicking around in my brain about a tale set in Ancient Israel. No worries. There are no plans to have the main character run into Jesus or other major persons of the Bible, but I have an idea based on the City of Refuge concept. I just need to gather enough info about the culture of Ancient Israel to be able to pull the story off credibly. I tried to write it as a sci-fi serial, and it fell flat. I may try to resurrect it as an historical.
Who are some of your writing influences?
Oh, I read that wrong. I thought you said “What…” Who, though…
It’s a varied and odd assortment of characters…
- Gordon R. Dickson (Childe Cycle Series)
- Janet Kagan (Hellspark and Mirabile)
- Victor Hugo (Les Miserables)
- George Lucas (Star Wars)
- Bruce Hale (Chet Gecko Series)
- Jude Watson (The Jedi Apprentice Series)
- Timothy Zahn (Heir to the Empire)
- Michael A. Stackpole (X-wing Series; I, Jedi)
- My various editors and critique partners, past and present
Describe your process a little bit? Any regular habits like a favorite place or listening to music while writing?
My writing process starts with generating an idea or two or a couple characters. After my brain plays with the plot and the characters for a while, I sit down with pen and paper and start building the world: maps, descriptions, cultural notes, government structure, physical/psychological norms, values, and so on. Next, I come up with the cast of characters and the premise of the basic plotline. Each character – both good guys and bad guys – gets a character arc that has to fit within the basic premise somewhere. Once I have all the character arcs and the basic plotline sorted out, my next step to plan scene by scene what’s going to happen, kind of like a story board. Sometimes I include conversation bits and other things that come to mind. Finally, when everything is mapped, plotted, and detailed out, I start writing the first draft. Those notes end up being malleable. I change maps and other things as I go when I discover that I needed something to be different to make the plot go where I want it to.
My favorite place to write is a comfy chair with a notebook and pen in hand and my notes and a glass of water nearby. Following the death of my smartpen, I compose into the computer now because writing it all out then typing it all in proves too time consuming and often results in a lot of pain in my wrist. I will, sometimes, write a scene or part of one on a piece of scrap paper when I’m out somewhere then type it in when I get home.
I prefer total quiet, but I can tolerate white noise and birdie squeaks and beeps, no problem.
What is the toughest part about being an author in this day and age?
Marketing. I stink at it. I’ve tried everything the “experts” recommend. I’m contractually obligated to run a blog. I do. I don’t notice much for results. I get interaction from 2 people. I’m required to keep a social media presence including the hokey instructions for posting X number of times per day/week about Y topics. I do, but I get cricket noise when I post stuff. I try to hold events, and I get minimal interaction (but the people who do interact are a hoot! 😀 )
This year, I decided to try 3 new strategies: make a book trailer … done!, host a Facebook event … done! (with plans for another one soon), and get the help of someone with a clue to set up a blog tour … doing it! … and I did a 4th one: book signing … done!
I’m not sure at this point whether any of those efforts have helped, but I’m game to keep trying things!
What kinds of things do you like to do to unwind? Any interests or passions of yours that your readers might not guess or know about you yet?
- This is a common question, so I’m not sure I have any new things to add that no one would know. But…
- I do needle arts (sew, quilt, crochet, embroider), make jewelry, and whistle with my nutty parrot.
- I had a short-lived comic strip that I posted on the wall where I taught. It was about some of the goofiness that goes on in schools. Someone tore down and threw away two of my comic strips, so I stopped playing.
- Things I used to do and would like to do again as the joint shenanigans I deal with will permit (and if I can find a venue to do it in and folks to do it with): Renaissance fencing and archery
- Things I’d like to do but have never done because joint shenanigans make these things extra challenging: target shooting, martial arts, falconry
- Other interests… well… I like stained glass, birds (particularly birds of prey and parrots), exegetical/expositional Bible studies, and coming up with weird recipes I can try. 😀
Be sure to connect with Cindy Koepp online at the following locations:
Here are Kindle links to Remnant in the Stars and The Loudest Actions:
Kindle Link for Remnant in the Stars
Kindle Link for The Loudest Actions
Also be sure to see all the activities on Cindy’s current blog tour:
Tour Schedule and Activities
11/7 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
11/7 The Seventh Star Interview
11/8 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview
11/9 Jordan Hirsch Review
11/10 Magic of Books Guest Post
11/10 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! Top Ten’s List
11/11 Sheila’s Guests and Reviews Guest Post
11/11 Novel-ties Review
11/12 KylieJude.com Top-Tens List (Blogger Picks Topic)
11/13 Darkling Delights Guest Post
11/14 Enchanted Alley Guest Post
11/15 Bee’s Knees Reviews Review
11/15 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Guest Post
11/16 Jorie Loves a Story Review
11/16 The Word Nerds Guest Post
11/17 SpecMusicMuse Review
11/18 Jorie Loves a Story Q and A
11/18 Sapphyria’s Book Reviews Guest Post
11/19 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
11/20 Jorie Loves a Story Review
11/20 D.L. Gardner Blog Guest Post
11/21 The Swill Blog Review
11/21 Willow Star Serenity Review