This post is the second of a two part feature on author Isabo Kelly (part one is here). Her science fiction romance e-novella THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN is now in print. For the author, this event is the culmination of a decade long journey for the story. It has action adventure plus elements of science fantasy (and I categorize it as non-erotic SFR in case you’re wondering). If you enjoy stories by Linnea Sinclair, C.J. Barry, Susan Grant, and Susan Kearney, then Isabo Kelly is for you.
If you want a taste of the author’s work right now, she offers Last Call on Eldora Station, a free, very short science fiction romance on her Web site that’s really sweet. Also available on her site, The Venture is another free short story set in the universe of Kierna’Rhoan. And don’t forget to check out Christmas On Eldora Station, her original SFR holiday romance story in the December issue of RT Book Reviews.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Isabo Kelly about her work and creative process. She has also generously offered both a print and digital copy of THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN for a giveaway, so details follow the interview.
Read on to discover what Isabo Kelly reveals about who bites, who blows smoke, and who inspired her pseudonym.
The Galaxy Express: What sparked the writing bug for you, in terms of seeking publication? What SF/F or science fiction romance books/films/TV shows have inspired you as a writer?
Isabo Kelly: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a story teller (I consider any lying done just practice story telling). I was writing the stories down on a regular basis by the time I got to high school. But it wasn’t until I was in college in Hawaii when I figured out how to go about submitting for publication. I’d had people tell me I should try to publish before that. I just didn’t know where to start. Then I met another writer—the brother of a woman I was working with at the dolphin facility in Hawaii—and he was able to point me in the right direction and encourage me. I started as a lot of SF/F writers did at that time. I went to magazines with short stories. Came pretty close once too with a story submitted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Once I started sending my fiction out into the world, there was no turning back. I was focused on getting something published.
I was really influenced early on by movies, particularly Star Wars, Labyrinth, Aliens, and Willow. Anything with another world and a romance in the background got watched a lot! And of course I watched Star Trek growing up. Book-wise, I was influenced a lot by Anne McCaffery’s Dragon Riders of Pern books. Those were my first introduction to fantasy/science fiction. I was a lot farther along in my fantasy reading before I ever got to Lord of the Rings. Authors like Mercedes Lackey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Barbara Hambley, David Eddings, and Raymond E. Feist all had a huge early influence on me. Later on, Lois McMaster Bujold really inspired me. Also, two books I’m not sure many people remember, The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen by Joan D. Vinge, were a huge influence—great space opera, btw! I highly recommend them!
I didn’t realize this until I was searching Amazon to make sure I got the spelling of Vinge’s name right, but she also wrote the novel version of Ladyhawke, and I got my pseudonym from that movie—Isabeau was the heroine’s name!
TGE: What initially prompted you to write THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN?
IK: A dream believe it or not. Well at least the idea for the novel came from a dream. The opening scene of THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN is actually very like the dream, down to the hero being a smoker and the heroine blowing smoke in the face of her ex-husband (the bad guy).
I started writing the novel when a couple of online friends decided to open an electronic publisher. This was more than 11 years ago and Dreams Unlimited was one of the very first e-publishers. They published some great stuff too, including an early Sherrilyn Kenyon paranormal and a story by Diana Gabaldon. When I heard they were starting this venture, I got every excited. I knew they were onto something potentially big and I wanted to submit. But at the time, what I had was all quite long. Since e-books were still so new, I figured something shorter would be better suited to the new medium. I remembered this dream of mine and the idea for the novel that I’d been developing and decided to write it. I wrote the first draft during a 5 week break in between periods of fieldwork for my Ph.D. After three extensive rounds of edits, off it went. And three months later, the book was accepted. Two months after that, it was published. You just have to love that kind of turn around time.
TGE: Do you have any path-to-publication war stories to share, particularly regarding your science fiction romance stories?
IK: LOL. I think I just shared one. When I started adding a lot of romance to my science fiction and fantasy stories (romance was almost always there, btw, I just realized I could add much much more when I learned about the Romance genre), I couldn’t find anyone willing to publish it. My stuff was too science fiction or fantasy for the romance genre and too romance for the science fiction and fantasy genres. I’m still trying to get this balance right. I think I succeeded with THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN. But as I mentioned, I wrote that very specifically for a small press so I felt like I had the room to write the story as it needed to be told. I never imagined it could find a home with a big publisher. I’m still not sure it would.
I did try NY houses with some of my stuff early on, before SFR was an accepted subgenre, but I got a lot of form rejection letters. Even after I was published I still got a lot of these form rejection letters from NY—when they’d respond at all. Some just ignored me, probably because I didn’t have an agent to nag them. I still think it’s a hard genre to sell, but thanks to authors like Linnea Sinclair, Catherine Asaro, Susan Grant and now Ann Aguirre, I’m hoping those sales get easier.
TGE: You worked with dolphins for over two years. Are you fluent in like, dolphin-speak? What’s the most fascinating fact you learned about them?
IK: LOL on dolphin-speak. No, they’re too smart for me. They were able to learn our language, though—sentence structure and everything! They knew the difference between things like “bring the ball to the surfboard” and “bring the surfboard to the ball”. That showed a complex understanding of language that not all animals get. But we never could figure out what they were saying to each other. That in and of itself was a pretty fascinating discovery for me.
The other thing I learned and that people still find amazing when I tell them is that dolphins bite. Yes, they get grumpy and they lash out. They’re predators, they hunt and chew on fish. Most people forget that when thinking about them. All that air fairy “dolphins are the harbingers of peace and harmony” stuff is a lot of crap. (Sorry everyone who liked the fantasy.) They’re animals just like we are. There are nice ones and mean ones, they do good things and bad things. Their society in the wild is very complex and it’s different from location to location and species to species. And they most definitely bite! (Fortunately, I move pretty quickly when giant, sharp teeth are heading my way or I would have had a pretty set of teeth marks on my stomach—bugger ended up only getting a bit of my shirt.)
TGE: MARSHALL’S GUARD is your novel-length science fiction romance. What factors served as the inspiration for that story? Please highlight three elements in the book that would appeal most to fans of science fiction romance.
IK: I was snoozing on the couch one day with Futurama on in the background and thinking about what it would be like for someone from our time who was really cool and considered super handsome to land into a time when he was considered…well not so handsome. And then vise-versa, what about a guy who’s considered kind of ugly now but he lands into a future time when he represents the ideal of male beauty. From that idle musing came the initial idea for MARSHALL’S GUARD. I was supposed to be working on something else when I got this idea, but the characters really appealed to me, so I started writing and didn’t stop till I had a novel.
Personally, I think readers of SFR will like the perspective of the hero. He gets brought 3,000 years into the future, to a completely different galaxy, and as he’s taking in this new, strange place, he can’t help but reference science fiction movies. I think a lot of us would find ourselves thinking about Star Wars if one day we woke up in another galaxy far far away. The heroine is strong and kick-ass, which we all like, but she has a soft spot for the protective hero—she even likes that he tries to rescue her once when she’s the one who’s supposed to be protecting him. We tough women find that pretty cute in our men. And there are space pirates. Who doesn’t like space pirates?
TGE: Congratulations on winning a Prism earlier this year for your SF erotic romance SIREN SINGING (Ellora’s Cave)! Please tell us a bit about the story premise.
IK: Thanks very much. I was thrilled with that win. I can thank my friend Dr. Claire Cave for helping to inspire this story. We were talking about arranged marriages and what happened when one of the people involved fell in love while the other was still in love with someone else (this conversation came out of a book she was reading at the time). She thought I should take that idea and put it in space. So I did. Here’s the formal blurb (since I’m not very good at describing my own stories—I know, I know, I’m working on getting better at it):
She is a Siren, capable of driving men mad with her song.
Sonia has been preparing for her marriage to Vander since before her father announced their betrothal. Their marriage will unite their homeworlds against a common enemy, and Sonia has done everything in her power to be ready for that union. All her study has had an unexpected side effect, however: she’s fallen in love with him.
He is a genetically engineered soldier determined to save his homeworld.
Vander had no intention of being married in anything but name, but as soon as he meets Sonia, he knows he must have her in his bed. And as soon as he hears her song, he realizes her powerful voice will be an unmatched asset to the war effort…and will put Sonia in terrible danger.
With enemies on all sides and treachery at every pass, Sonia must find a way to use her extraordinary voice to hold back the Selmorahn Empire…and use her mind and body to win the heart of the man she loves.
TGE: Can you share any information about upcoming projects or releases?
IK: The next thing I’m working on is the re-writes for the sequel to THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN. I got a bit carried away with the biology in this book and have to tighten things up a bit Then I have to write the third book in this planned trilogy (Raf Tygran from KIERNA’RHOAN is the hero so you know it’ll be fun). I also have four more books planned to follow SIREN SINGING. And I’ve got a new paranormal romance about to start the submission rounds. Also, if I get enough interest, I’m thinking of writing regular short stories for my blog, all set on Eldora Space Station—the setting for a free short story on my website and also for the short story I just had published in the December issue of Romance Times Magazine. That’s still in the planning stages, though. I’ll keep readers updated on my website (www.isabokelly.com).
Thanks for such excellent questions, Heather! I really enjoyed this interview.
Right back at you, Ms. Kelly, and thanks for your art.
Now for the giveaway: Two lucky passengers will receive a copy of Isabo Kelly’s THE PROMISE OF KIERNA’RHOAN. To enter, leave a comment for this post. The print copy prize is limited to U.S. residents, so for my international passengers, please specify if you are interested in being entered for a digital copy. The deadline to enter is 6 p.m. EST on Saturday, November 28, 2009.