Sunday, June 6, 2010

Written on

An Interview With KS Augustin & A Giveaway

 KS Augustin IN ENEMY HANDSKS Augustin is the author of IN ENEMY HANDS, one of three science fiction romance launch titles from Carina Press. June 7, 2010 is the official launch date of this new digital-first publisher, and to help celebrate its opening as well as the release of another SFR, it’s my pleasure to present an interview with KS Augustin. In addition to featuring the ebook’s cover back in April, I contacted the author so we could learn more about the story itself.

Also, KS Augustin is hosting a giveaway of IN ENEMY HANDS at her blog (details follow the interview).

And away we go…

The Galaxy Express: According to your bio, you’ve had jobs ranging from running your own IT consultancy business to being a martial arts instructor. When did you decide to become a writer, and why? What attracts you to science fiction romance?

KS Augustin: It may not be fashionable to admit, but I really believe that there's a genetic component to the writing bug. I'm not saying that you can't be a great writer without it, but I believe there's a little “kick” there from having it in your genes.

My pseudonym, for example, takes the Augustin name from my paternal side, where a number of them, and their descendants, were known for their skill in written communication. And, before I began writing fiction in earnest—as a way of making a career out of it—I was already writing non-fiction for 15 years.

As for science fiction romance, well, my very first love was science fiction. (Yes, even before boys!) It was Harry Harrison, with his Stainless Steel Rat series, who first tuned me in to relationships within sf. Jim di Griz's wife, Angelina, must be one of the original kick-ass heroines. She's smart, protective and lethal. I fell in love with her instantly! As I continued reading, however, I noticed a certain lack of strong relationships between men and women and so set out to start redressing the balance. No big ego here! :)

TGE: Without going into spoilers, what kind of setting and characters can readers expect from IN ENEMY HANDS?

KSA: You know, I've always said that I can't write series and yet here I am with three! IN ENEMY HANDS is a Republic novel, which means it's set in my Republic universe although, rest assured, you don't have to read any of the others in order to make sense of this one. I like my series standalone. In the far future, humans have dominated a sizeable fraction of the galaxy, but have remained in control through subjugating other species. In order to make this work, the Republic has to squash any hint of dissent that dares make an appearance. The keyword here is “control”.

IN ENEMY HANDS is about astrophysicist, Moon Thadin. Moon is brilliant and craves recognition for her ground-breaking work in stellar mechanics. She was under suspicion of being a terrorist, was reluctantly exonerated and is trying hard to pick up the pieces of her research. As you can imagine, the last thing she wants is to get involved in any kind of controversy.

Then she meets Srin Flerovs, who is also brilliant in his own way, outwardly serene and completely charming. She is stunned when she finds out that he only has a two-day memory because of a strict drug regime he is under. This is so he and his abilities can be kept under control. What is Moon going to do about it? Can she do anything about it? Does she even want to?

TGE: What kind of research did you do for the story? What was the path to publication like for IN ENEMY HANDS?

KSA: Oh my! Got a couple of spare weeks, Heather? LOL

Research. Because my husband, J, is such a physics geek, we have loads of books on quantum mechanics, from Einstein to Feynman to Penrose and a couple of Russian classics. I browsed through them all when trying to put together the mechanism of stellar re-ignition that I use in the novel. I also did a crash course in chemistry and biochemistry/pharmacology for a couple of other elements in the book. It can really hold me up because I won't move from a point until I have some piece of technology worked out. I'm not the sort to just keep writing and come back to it later because the make-up of the technology often has repercussions on the plot itself, so everything's got to wait until something gets sorted.

Path to publication. I thought this novel was a goner even when I was polishing it! Terrorists? Non-white characters? Drugs? I tried some literary agents with it but, while they described my writing as “strong”, they told me it wasn't commercial enough, and a couple felt that it had “too little sf” to be sold as sf, and “too little romance” to be sold as a romance! When Quartet Press started up, I subbed a partial to them, mostly because I know digital presses are bigger risk-takers than traditional publishers. They liked it and asked for a full then, one month later, they folded! Aaarrgggghhhhh!

Then I heard about Carina Press. Still doubtful, I gave my little novel a kiss on the forehead and sent it off. The good thing about Carina is that they only accept completed manuscripts, so I thought the chop, when it came, would be quick and merciful! I was stunned and delighted to find out that editor, Michael Banks, wanted to acquire it for Carina, and the entire Carina team have been very supportive of the novel. I'm still walking around with a glazed look on my face.

TGE: What’s on the itinerary when Srin and Moon go out for a date?

Well, Moon likes her food. That's even more obvious after three years of incarceration, where she had to make do with meals barely above survival rations. And Srin is delighted with anything that arouses Moon's passions as well as keeping track of novel sensations himself. It's his way of throwing himself back into life. Putting that together, I think that Srin is likely to hunt out an exotic restaurant hidden away somewhere that serves delicious, but obscure, galactic dishes. He'll make a reservation and then surprise Moon by taking her there.

Moon will order a bottle of wine that reminds her of Drue Jeen (the captain of the combat ship, the Differential, where Moon and Srin first met). They'll eat and laugh but there'll be a slight bittersweet edge to the evening and they'll make love tenderly that night and fall asleep in each other's arms.

TGE: Please describe a few of the techniques you use to balance the romance/SF/heat elements in your stories.

KSA: I have an A4 spiral-bound notebook that I keep all my story outlines in. When starting a new story, I'll open to a pair of blank pages and start outlining—word count, then chapter count. Then I flesh out the characters by doing profiles of each of the major ones. Then I'll break the story down by Act (three acts) and numbered chapters with usually two scenes per chapter. I do a one-sentence outline of each scene, and then look at what aspect I'm concentrating on in each.

If it seems out of balance, I'll add scenes that fill out more of the universe particulars or a character's background or emotional context, or whatever seems to be lacking. That planning usually takes two days, then I'm ready to write.

Now, that might seem awfully quick but let's take a step back. Before I even open that notebook, I have to have the beginning, the penultimate chapter and at least three other scenes (as well as all the major characters) complete in my head. Now that process can take anything from one month to three years or more. And I edit in my head before I even put fingers to keyboard so, by the time a scene comes out, I've been through it maybe a dozen times, changing the pov or the setting, reworking the dialogue, or what have you. It's much quicker doing it in your head than trying to rejig things once they're on the screen.

Of course if I've forgotten one of the scenes (and it happens because, worst case, nothing has been written down or best case, only one meta-sentence exists), then I figure it wasn't powerful enough to be in the novel in the first place.

Dr. Who CookbookTGE: What are your favorite science fiction romance books, films, and/or television shows?

KSA: Of course I read Linnea Sinclair, Susan Grant and Lois McMaster Bujold! But I tend to spend most of my time reading and watching non-fiction. Documentaries. Textbooks. Cookbooks. I love reading cookbooks!

I find it difficult to read fiction without analysing it. Would I have said it the same way? Why did they approach the scene like that? What device did they use in order to achieve X? Of course it doesn't help living with a man who once had an ambition to be a literature critic!

TGE: Do you have any advice for authors considering a career writing science fiction romance and/or ebooks?

KSA: General advice for anyone considering being an author is to (a) treat it as a small business, (b) cultivate self-discipline, and (c) understand your market. You may not write to what you ostensibly think of as your market, but understand what rule you're trying to break before you try breaking it. I know that sounds a little zen, but that's the best way I can put it.

As for ebooks, as you pointed out in a post [http://sfrcontests.blogspot.com/2010/04/ebooks-science-fiction-romance-match.html] you wrote for SF Brigade, Heather, SFR authors can start being more interactive and elastic with what they write. I'm thinking a bit about that for a steampunk I have knocking around in my head at the moment. By definition, we are authors and readers who are very comfortable around technology, and love researching it, so here's a digital advance that we can all leverage.

TGE: Is there anything else you’d like to share about IN ENEMY HANDS?

KSA: I'm really curious about what readers will think of it. I hope they like the characters, and find enough intrigue in the universe to want to come back to it. And I hope I show that you don't have to have a blaster in your hand to get your way.

TGE: What else can readers look forward to from you?

KSA: I currently have a straight sf out on submission, but have another two SFRs that I'm working on.

The first is “War Games”. It's set in the Fusion universe and concerns a war criminal and the woman she falls in love with whilst in the middle of a planetary war-zone. I originally had this serialised on my website, then I pulled it, added almost 30,000 words to it to make it flow more smoothly and I'm currently polishing it.

The second is still very much a wip, and set in the Republic, with a working title of “Quinten's Story”. It's about a developing relationship between a damaged and cynical human who's lost the love of his life, the secret shapeshifter who works for him, and a tough choice she must make between saving her people or loving a member of the species hounding her kind to extinction.

If anyone's interested in what I'm doing, or what I've written, my website is http://www.ksaugustin.com, I blog at http://blog.ksaugustin.com and I'm also on Facebook and Twitter. Just look for “ksaugustin”. And thanks so much, Heather, for inviting me here!

Ms. Augustin, thanks for your time, and for your art.

Now for the giveaway details: KS Augustin has two copies of IN ENEMY HANDS waiting to be won! The winners will also receive bookmarks and a collection of items mentioned in the novel. To enter, visit this post at her blog and leave a comment indicating you read her interview at TGE. She’ll draw the winners’ names on July 1, 2010.

Joyfully yours,

Heather