Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Interview with Jess Granger, Author of BEYOND THE RAIN

Jess GrangerJess Granger is no stranger to all of us aboard The Galaxy Express. Today is the official release date of her debut science fiction romance novel BEYOND THE RAIN (Berkley Trade).

To celebrate the book’s release, Jess Granger is hosting Release Week Madness at her Butterfly Blog. She’s giving away a signed copy of her book to one lucky winner every day this week!

Today’s post is Meet Our Heroine. Check out the interview with her heroine Cyani and get your name into the hat for a chance to win.

Ms. Granger was also kind enough to participate in an interview. Read on!

The Galaxy Express: What inspired you to write science fiction romance?

Jess Granger: I think a lot of things inspired me to write science fiction romance. One of the main reasons I love writing in the genre is I discovered I really love world building. When I was younger, some of the earliest attempts at writing were more high fantasy. Now I’ve found I enjoy the more grounded nature of science fiction. Sure, using an energy converter to leap macrospace by cutting through dimensions might be just as much of a fantasy as casting a spell to influence the weather, but there’s something about that sort of world building that fascinates me.

I like it when things feel like they could be real. I also like looking up at the stars and imagining the universe as an endless possibility. Even with high fantasy, I’ve always tried to make the magic world mesh with Earth, then just felt disappointed when I figured it couldn’t really exist anywhere on the planet. I even felt that way about OZ when I was a little kid, and I still try to figure out where in the heck Middle Earth is supposed to be. Talk about frustrating.

When I can look up at the stars and believe that Azra is out there somewhere, it makes everything seem more tangible.

As far as romance goes, when I started writing, I knew I wanted to write romance. I’ve been a big fan of the genre since I was a teen. Romance is awesome, so I put the romance story arc front and center. I don’t see why the romantic arc ever needs to take a back seat.

TGE: Describe BEYOND THE RAIN in three words.

JG: Dark, emotional, and explosive.

TGE: What kind of research did you do for the story?

Beyond The RainJG: I turned to lessons I learned on cultural anthropology to help create some of the cultures in the story. For example, the Makkolen people are non-nomadic, and their fortified “cities” become like islands on the savannah. Genetic diversity is going to be in their cultural interest. Needless to say, “mixing things up” is an important part of their cultural heritage. Figuring out their marriage rituals, then trying to view those rituals through their eyes, instead of my cultural perception, was really entertaining.

I’ve watched a lot of documentaries on the early formation of the earth in prehistoric times to see how different chemical compositions of the atmosphere have influenced the climate of the Earth, and how tides and ocean currents can change weather patterns.

I also have a keen interest in animals, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how a fox would evolve into an arboreal species, becoming more catlike, while retaining many of its canine qualities, or how a cat could become a true rainforest canopy dweller and efficient hunter.

So a lot of little tidbits went into my world building to try to make the worlds seem rich and real, but still something beyond our world.

TGE: Please share the story about your path to publication.

JG: I took a writing class to goof off my last quarter of college. I had to fill out my schedule, and it looked like fun. I’d always enjoyed writing. I had a great time, and other students were very encouraging. I came out of the class feeling like I had the glimmer of some sort of talent at this, even if I was severely lacking some basic skills.

I decided I wanted to try to write a romance novel, because making a career of this business seemed like a natural fit for me. I loved the genre, and I knew I had my best shot at breaking in to romance. That was back in 2000. Needless to say, it took me a while to break in to this market.

I wrote three shape-shifter full length novels. If I looked at them now, my face would probably melt like the dudes at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. After realizing I had some learning to do, I practiced by writing fan fiction. It helped me get a handle on the basics, learn great pacing skills, and I honed my voice.

After that, I wrote a short novella for an e-pub. It was another historical shape-shifter story. When I tried my hand at writing Space Opera, everything seemed to fall into place. I found a critique partner worth her weight in conductive trillide, and two years later, I sold my first full length novel to Berkley.

TGE: What was the most exciting aspect of worldbuilding for BEYOND THE RAIN? The most challenging?

JG: I love everything about world building. I like developing my characters as well, but when I work on my planets, they almost become like characters to me. When I feel like I can live and breathe in these places, I know I’ve done my job.

The biggest challenge for me are the tech aspects of the story. I have some fun with it, but I’m a notorious Luddite, and so I’ve got to stretch to create ships, com systems, weapons, robots, etc. I’m working on that though. I find I get most inspired by illustrations artists do of ships and star bases. I’m also inspired by the art in science fiction themed video games.

TGE: What are some of your favorite science fiction romance books, films, and/or television shows?

JG: My family used to have a tradition to watch the Star Wars trilogy like a big marathon every Christmas. We also used to watch Star Trek the Next Generation during dinner at eight every night. My older brother had Battlestar Galactica bedsheets. I played with my very own Transformers, and got up every Saturday extra early to watch Voltron. I loved Stargate. I really loved Galaxy Quest. I enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s stories, and Asimov. I was completely taken in by Gattaca, and loved the subtlety and romance of that story.

Shoot, I’m surprised I didn’t spend every weekend as a teen dressed up and at a convention somewhere. These things were so deeply ingrained into my being as a child, they’re a part of me. I think it’s part of the reason Space Opera feels so natural.

TGE: If you could take only one kind of butterfly to a desert island, which kind would you take?

JG: One that could survive. I don’t know if there’s a butterfly that hosts on a coconut palm, but that would probably be the best bet since coconuts are the single greatest oceanic travelling plant species on the planet. If I were on a desert island, chances are, coconuts would be there too.

But I think I’m being a little too practical. If you are really asking what one species I would like to have around if I couldn’t have any other species around, it would probably be a tiger swallowtail. My breathing stops when I see them in the garden.

TGE: Do you have any news to share regarding future projects?

JG: I am so excited that BEYOND THE SHADOWS is slotted to be a May ’10 release. That’s tentative, but hopefully everything will work out. Beyond the Shadows is the story of Cyani’s twin brother Cyn, and how he turns the tables on the bloodhunter assigned to find him and bring him to justice. I’m so excited about this story. The dynamic between the two main characters is amazing.

Details should be coming soon, with the cover art and back cover copy on my website at www.jessgranger.com.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Heather. I’m a huge fan of your blog.

Click on the links below to discover more about the author and her work:

Book Talk With J&J: Interview with Jess Granger
Ms. Granger guest blogs at The Bradford Bunch
In Hello Your Highness, the author shares her sources of inspiration for BEYOND THE RAIN.

Many happy sales, Ms. Granger!

Joyfully yours,