SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH JULIE CZERNEDA
Award-winning Fantasy and Science Fiction author Julie Czerneda is a biologist by education but thankfully turned her hand to writing. She is known for using her background in the sciences to create unique species and fascinating worlds that are a joy to read. As the author of several series including, the Clan Chronicles and Web Shifters as well as her Species Imperative trilogy, she continues to push the envelope by firing the imagination. Intrigue, danger, the science of possibilities, romance (Yes!) and underlying social commentary hallmark her epic novels.
But where does this prolific author find her ingenious ideas? And would she give us a peek and let us know what she has in store for her loyal readers?
I couldn't wait to find out!
1) As a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, do you feel writing is about possibilities? How do you feel your background gives you a unique perspective?
Julie Czerneda: To me, it’s more about storytelling. We’re all storytellers at heart. It’s how we communicate best with one another and how we make sense of our world, but only if the listener—the reader—is drawn into the story too. If they don’t come along, the story fails.
When I write from my imagination, whether science fiction or fantasy, I’m faced with that. Anything’s possible. That’s the easy part. The hard part is ensuring other people will come along with me. If my story has talking toads, how do I help a stranger believe in them? Can I convince a dweller on this world they’re in a starship, travelling through subspace with my characters?
Fortunately, readers of science fiction and fantasy will meet an author more than halfway They’re primed and ready for any possibility. It’s brilliant! Unfortunately, readers unaccustomed to our genres struggle, caught by unfamiliar details and missing the story.
That’s where relationships come into play. We get those. Doesn’t matter what else we like to read or watch, we’re wired to grasp and care about social situations. If I can engage a reader’s emotions through my characters and what they mean to one another, the rest is more likely to flow for them.
My background? Being a biologist is a big help when it comes to creating weird-but-true aliens, but it also gives me the stories I want to tell. Stories about the importance and wonder of living things, including us of course. That’s my perspective.
2) When you wake up each day, are you surprised that you are an award-winning author? How did you find yourself getting interested in and then seriously writing Science Fiction and Fantasy books? Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Julie Czerneda: ::laughs:: I can’t say I think about myself that way--especially in the morning--but thank you. Most kind. I do get those “pinch me” moments, but usually that’s when a reader writes to me about my work or when I’m invited to be a guest at some amazing event. Those are the times when I’m reminded it’s not just me and my little story, but my books and the people out there who have graciously picked them out to read. And love. When that happens, well, I do pinch myself.
I loved reading as a kid. Fantasy was there from the start—it’s kid-stuff, right? When I was ten, I discovered science fiction, and the love affair was on, big time. Tolkien got me back into fantasy when his books arrived in our high school. I adore both to this day. As for writing my own? My Mom gave me her old typewriter and suggested I “fix” a book with an ending I hadn’t enjoyed. I realized almost at once I could write the whole story! Didn’t look back.
My advice to aspiring authors? Do it. Writing is a worthy skill in its own right, as well as creative. If you want to be published, go after that too. The world needs your voice. Trust me, there isn’t a wall in your way, except the one we let doubt build for us.
Oh, and be patient. Publishing can seem to operate at two speeds: dead slow and frantic.
3) Where do you get your ideas for new worlds and cultures? Do you secretly wish you were an alien in disguise on our planet? If so, what powers would you have?!
Julie Czerneda: Everywhere. I collect facts about living things and science, the odder and more unexpected the better, and those end up in my world-building. Sometimes it’s a small thing. I read about shrimp and how they breathe, and that became a new form for my shapeshifter, Esen, complete with the sort of spacesuit she’d need in order to venture on dry land.
As for wishing I was an alien in disguise? Aren’t we all, in a way? Every so often I pause, struck by that feeling of being contained inside this skull, this shape, this place and person. We’re fundamentally isolated from one another, yet can connect with such depth and meaning—or not. Humans are remarkable. Still, I’ll play. If I were an alien on this planet, my special power would be: translation. I’d be able to understand and be understood by any person—or anything—I wished. While some conversations would be very brief, I’ve questions for trees. That could take a while.
4) This September, your latest Clan book, The Gate to Futures Past (Reunification #2) came out. Can you tell us more about it?
Julie Czerneda: My pleasure. GATE is the climax to the story I began with my first published novel, A Thousand Words for Stranger. That book introduced Sira di Sarc, the most powerful Chooser (not yet reproductive female) of the alien Clan, and Jason Morgan, Human, telepath, and captain of the Silver Fox. Sira’s species may look Human, but are not. The Clan have lived in secret among Humans and thought they could continue to do so. Unfortunately, Sira’s birth marked the beginning of what may be their end: females too powerful to mate. That’s the science “what if…?” underlying the series: what if an intelligent species willingly bred itself for some advantage in the next generation, only to find they’d doomed themselves.
That said, it’s space opera with aliens everywhere, starships, a Trade Pact of mostly peaceful mutual agreement, adventure, humour, and, oh yes, a love story.
Which didn’t answer my “what if…” so after several years of thought—and other books—I returned to Sira’s kind and wrote the prequel trilogy (Stratification) to show how the Clan came to be as they are and how they arrived in Human space. Last year, I began writing the concluding trilogy, Reunification. Book #1 of that, This Gulf of Time and Stars, knits the previous books together as we return to Sira and Morgan at a time of crisis for the present-day Clan. GATE? Is where I tackle my “what if…” by answering “who are the Clan” in the first place.
5) What inspired you to create the Clan? Can you tell us how your main characters came to mind? What makes Sira so special?
Julie Czerneda: The inspiration for the Clan was a minnow species I was researching, evolved with a reproductive strategy that changes the bodies of males during mating season, putting them at greater risk from predators. Clearly reproduction is worth it, but when wouldn’t it be? That got me thinking.
My main characters? Morgan is both heroic starship captain (because who doesn’t love those?) and a vulnerable person who has overcome a dark past. He’s the best of us: cares deeply, has his own firm moral centre, and, while he doesn’t interfere lightly, he’s the one who steps up to correct injustice. Nothing like the Clan upbringing Sira’s had, with politics and status determined by individual power and where the choosing of a mate no longer involves love. Morgan is her role model for a different type of relationship, one we learn in Stratification was normal for the Clan, but forgotten.
Aryl Sarc and her love, Enris Mendolar are the main characters of Stratification. She’s Sira’s great-grandmother and the first to meet a Human. They are whole, as the upcoming generations are not.
I should mention Barac, Sira’s cousin, before readers protest I haven’t. He started as the typical ordinary Clansman, there to show the consequences to those who aren’t as powerful. His story grew throughout, as did that of others. Huido, the giant lobster-esque being who is Morgan’s best friend and owner of the Claws and Jaws restaurant, is another who instantly caught the attention of readers—and keeps reappearing.
Sira herself? I couldn’t imagine who else to make my point of view character than the first female doomed by her own “gift.” Make no mistake, however. Sira is never a victim.
Sira and Morgan’s love for one another has been a pleasure to write, especially as it grew while they became partners in their lives as well.
6) How difficult is it to create new worlds and keep them all congruent? Do you ever find yourself wishing you hadn't made certain 'rules' later in the storyline?
Julie Czerneda: It’s tricky, that’s for sure. I’ve notebooks and lists. As for making rules etc. I may regret later? These days I’m careful to look ahead and not box myself in, but I hadn’t expected to be writing an entire nine book series about the Clan when I started. Words in print can’t be changed, so I dealt with all the twists and side bits while muttering under my breath. Could happen again, since I’m revisiting my Web Shifter series soon, but Esen’s plots weren’t…political?...as Sira’s, so I think I’ll be fine. Remind me I said that.
7) Which was the hardest book you had to write and why?
Julie Czerneda: The Gate to Futures Past. I knew it would be, which is why I took so long getting to it, but I’m pleased with the result.
Anyone who’s read the book will know why it was hard. I sobbed. Often. What helped was being utterly certain I was doing the right thing for the entire series and the characters.
If anyone doubted I’d bring the Clan Chronicles to an end, I imagine they’re convinced now.
8) As a woman, I enjoy reading about strong female leads. What do you think makes having a female main character so compelling?
Julie Czerneda: I don’t know. For me, it doesn’t matter who or what the main character is so long as they *are* compelling. I have to believe in them, and their being at the centre of that story, and find them interesting.
In my writing, the personality who’ll be that main character flows logically—or from my gut—during the process of asking my question, building my world, and forming the edges of the plot. I can’t go very far without that person in my head, so developing her/him/it is crucial.
Mackenzie Connor from Species Imperative is a case in point. I wanted a realistic research biologist working with fish—which was me, I suppose, though I’m not Mac--but also many of the people I’d studied with as well. I’d no interest or plan about a statement re: female scientists, I simply followed my gut and wrote her as real as I could.
I’ve male main characters. Aaron Pardell (In the Company of Others) lives apart from society, maintaining his humanity through a single lifelong friendship. That dynamic, “buds,” is something I treasure and wanted here. I could have written him as female, but this felt right.
Of course, there’s Esen (Beholder’s Eye etc.,) but she’s only a she because biologists talk like that about species without sexes.
9) Okay, I'm sure you know but....I love that you have romance in your books! Would you ever write a 'straightforward' romance novel? And if so, what genre would you find fun to write about?
Julie Czerneda: Thanks! I’m a big fan of warm and happy endings myself.
If by ‘straightforward’ you mean not Science fiction or Fantasy, no. I’ve too many such stories to tell—and contracted to write, which means I’d better get telling them—to envision branching out.
With romance in them, if that’s where the plot takes me.
In the future? I don’t know. I’m still pinching myself that I get to do this stuff.
10) Speaking of which, can you tell us about any future books your have in rolling around in your mind?!
Julie Czerneda: Glad to!
Up next will be the finale to the Clan Chronicles, Reunification #3, To Guard Against the Dark. That’s what I’m writing now and it’s scheduled for release October 2017, 20 years after Thousand. I won’t spoil Gate for readers, but suffice to say you’ll be seeing familiar faces again. And…Assemblers.
I’m going back to the Web Shifters and my beloved blob, Esen-alit-quar. This November, DAW Books will release gorgeous trade paperback editions of her first three books: Beholder’s Eye, Changing Vision, and Hidden in Sight. I’ll start Search Image, a new novel in that series shortly. WHooOO!
I’ve four other fantasy novels to come: three more in my Night’s Edge series and a standalone. Plus I’m doing research on a standalone science fiction that’ll be a future project. (Ideas are never the problem.)
There’s some shorter work underway as well, but as you can see, I’ve a good amount on my writerly plate. All fun!
Wow, I can’t wait! This has been such a honor! Thanks you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Julie Czerneda: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
For Additional information you can check Julie Czerneda out at:
Recent and Upcoming Books by Julie Czerneda:
This Gulf of Time and Stars: Reunification #1 Sep 6, 2016
This Gulf of Time and Stars begins the hard sci-fi Reunification series, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.
Sira di Sarc, the leader of an alien race hiding in plain sight among humans, must find a way to take her Clan home, in this trilogy within the award-winning Clan Chronicles series.
To save their world, the most powerful of the Om’ray left their homes. They left behind all memory of their past. Calling themselves the Clan, they settled among Humanity, hiding in plain sight, using their ability to slip past normal space to travel where they wished, using their ability to control minds to ensure their place and security.
They are no longer hidden.
For the Clan face a crisis. Their reproduction is tied to individual power, and their latest generation of females, Choosers, are too strong to safely mate. Their attempt to force others to help failed until Sira di Sarc, their leader and the most powerful of their kind, successfully Joined with a human, Jason Morgan, starship captain and telepath. With Morgan, Sira forged the first peace between her kind and the Trade Pact.
But it is a peace about to shatter. Those the Clan have controlled all these years will rise against them. Her people dying around her, war about to consume the Trade Pact, Sira will be left with only one choice. She must find the way back. And take the Clan home.
The Gate To Futures Past: Reunification #2 Sep 6, 2016
Second novel in the hard sci-fi Reunification series, The Gate to Futures Past continues the Clan Chronicles, perfect for space opera readers looking for unique aliens and interstellar civilizations.
Betrayed and attacked, the Clan fled the Trade Pact for Cersi, believing that world their long-lost home. With them went a lone alien, the Human named Jason Morgan, Chosen of their leader, Sira di Sarc. Tragically, their arrival upset the Balance between Cersi’s three sentient species. And so the Clan, with their newfound kin, must flee again.
Their starship, powered by the M’hir, follows a course set long ago, for Clan abilities came from an experiment their ancestors—the Hoveny—conducted on themselves. But it’s a perilous journey. The Clan must endure more than cramped conditions and inner turmoil.
Their dead are Calling.
Sira must keep her people from answering, for if they do, they die. Morgan searches the ship for answers, afraid the Hoveny’s tech is beyond his grasp. Their only hope? To reach their destination.
Little do Sira and Morgan realize their destination holds the gravest threat of all....
No Place Like Home Feb 1, 2016 Reprint ebook
The alien Umlari sent out a thousand starships in search of resources and to find, if they can, their long-lost home world. Walkers like Drewe are trained to use a custom-grown body to explore each new world. If she and her crechemates find the one where the Umlari first evolved, it will be the greatest discovery of their time. Or will it? For a terrible secret binds their lives together, and learning the truth may mean the end of all.
A Turn of Light: Night's Edge: Book One Mar 4, 2014
The pastoral valley of Marrowdell is home to a small pioneer settlement of refugees, lush fields of grain, enigmatic house toads—and Jenn Nalynn, the miller's daughter. Life here is full of laughter and peace, as well as hard work, and no one bothers overmuch about the outside world.
Except Jenn Nalynn.
Jenn longs to travel, to seek what's missing in her life. Not that she's sure what that is, but since this summer began, she's felt a strange and powerful yearning. She's certain she'll find what she needs, if only she can leave the valley.
But she must not.
Jenn is turn-born and cursed, born by the light of two worlds and bound to both. For the valley is more than it seems. Long ago, a cataclysm of misused power pinned Marrowdell to the Verge, a place of wild magic, home to dragons and even stranger creatures. Should Jenn step beyond Marrowdell, she will pull the worlds asunder.
To prevent this, powers from the Verge have sent a guard to watch over her, a disgraced dragon Jenn knows as Wisp, her invisible playmate. Wisp's duty is to keep Jenn in Marrowdell.
By love, if he can. By her death, if he must.
But time is running out. What Jenn unknowingly feels is the rise of the Verge's magic within her, a magic that will threaten her and those she loves. Worse, this summer will end with a Great Turn, and strangers seeking power at any cost have come to Marrowdell to try to force an opening into the Verge, to the ruin of all.
A Play of Shadow: Night's Edge: Book Two Nov 3, 2015
In A Turn of Light, veteran science fiction writer Julie E. Czerneda’s first venture into fantasy, she introduced readers to Marrowdell, a pastoral valley that is home to a small pioneer settlement of refugees, lush fields of grain, enigmatic house toads—and Jenn Nalynn, the miller’s daughter. Jenn Nalynn—turn-born.
Though Jenn has always dreamed of venturing beyond this sheltered valley when she came of age, she is soon faced with the grim reality that for her, setting foot beyond Marrowdell’s borders in the normal way is impossible.
Then Bannan Larmensu—the truthseer who won Jenn’s heart—learns that his brother-in-law has disappeared in Channen, the capital of the mysterious domain of Mellynne. And when Bannan’s young nephews arrive in Marrowdell in the midst of a devastating storm, he fears that his sister has gone in search of her husband, leaving her sons in his care.
The law forbids the exiled Bannan from leaving Marrowdell and traveling to Mellynne to help his sister. At least, in this world. But as a turn-born, Jenn has the power to cross into the magical realm of the Verge—and take Bannan with her. Once there, they could find a way into Mellynne, if they survive.
The Verge is wild and deadly, alive with strange magic. Dragons roar and kruar wait in ambush, and not all the powerful turn-born who tend their world care for Jenn Nalynn. But Jenn is willing to try. Their friends Wisp and Scourge—and the house toads—offer their help.
But what none of them know is that Channen is rife with magic that flows from the Verge itself. And not even a turn-born will be safe there.