Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Interview With ISOLATION Author A.B. Gayle, Plus Giveaway

A.B. Gayle’s space opera science fiction romance ISOLATION is out this week and what a celebration we have for you today! First, I’m going to provide you with some non-spoiler tags for this story. Second, the author came aboard for an interview so we can learn more about the story’s creation. Third, I’m hosting a giveaway of the book!

So without further ado, here’s my spotlight on A.B. Gayle’s ISOLATION:

Mmmm...mature hero on the cover
Publisher: Total-E-Bound

Length: novel (start of a series, but works as a stand alone)

Book one in the Saa'ar Chronicles Series

Isolated, they are vulnerable. Working together, they might just survive.

Stranded on an alien space station at the edge of the Solar System, Dr Dana Sinclair has never felt so alone in her life.

While she and her fellow travellers wait for a spaceship to take them on the rest of their journey to the aliens’ home planet, first the remaining Saa’ar on board then her superior, the chief Medical Officer all die mysteriously.

The health and welfare of the remaining humans is now her responsibility. Will she discover the truth behind their deaths in time?

Ethan O’Reilly, a disabled war hero and second in charge of the mission may be able to help, but can she trust him?

Romance-SF ratio: 50-50

Setting: alien space station orbiting Neptune in the near-future (so if you like SFR set within our own solar system, there you go!); first contact elements

Tone: Mildly suspenseful

Notable elements, Hero: Ethan has a disability. He’s a double amputee and wears prosthetics (the story features great details about the tech aspects as well as exploration of how he adjusts).

Notable elements, Heroine: Dana is a doctor and a reluctant hero of sorts who rises above her ordinary status to fight for justice.

Multicultural?: The hero and heroine are Caucasian, but many of the secondary characters are people of color.

Tech: some description of alien technology; story has a slight mysterious alien artifact vibe, but it’s not central to the plot; for all of you gamers, there’s a role-playing video game element that ties into the suspense plot.

Heat level: Total-E-Bound classifies ISOLATION's erotic content as “Total e-sizzling” with a "Sexometer" of 1.

My take is that while the explicit love scenes are present early on and there’s lots of mental lusting, just as much time if not more is devoted to other aspects of the romance as well as to the external plot. This story falls on the softer edge of erotic since the focus is more on the characters and how they cope with their situation vs. the erotic journey.

Introspection: Yes, and also angst.

Action-adventure quotient: Low (for me—your mileage may vary). ISOLATION is a character-driven SFR with moderate pacing. The story becomes a “day in the life” tale about the stranded crew.

Nature of the villain: Corporate; personified by one of the crew


Now that you’re an informed consumer of ISOLATION, here’s my interview with A.B. Gayle:

The Galaxy Express: You are my travel agent and I’m seeking your advice about visiting the setting where ISOLATION takes place. What are three basic things I should know before starting my journey?

A.B. Gayle: Imagine you’ve embarked on a round-the-world cruise, but along the way, your liner is found to be too small, so you’re forced to wait on a coral island until a bigger ship arrives. In this case, the “island” is the alien space station which is located on the far side of the planet Neptune and completely out of mobile range or for that matter, any other means of “phoning home.”

Secondly, even if you could let your parents know that you were stranded and needed a lift, without the technology provided by our new acquaintances, it’s going to be impossible for anyone to make the five billion kilometer journey to the edge of the solar system. Heck, three months in an induced coma-like sleep on board a space ship that looks more like a submarine than anything seen in scifi movies is more likely to lead to demands for your money back!

The only good thing I can say about it, is that thanks to Astrid Dreher, the leader of the expedition, your accommodation would be familiar. That’s assuming you’re used to staying in modular housing commonly used for setting up temporary army bases. In fact, if they hadn’t brought enough food and gear to build a new colony on Saa’ar, who knows what the facilities would have been like. At least you would have your own room…..

TGE: So many action-adventure SF books and films feature heroic journeys involving a single protagonist. The blurb for ISOLATION suggests that only by working as a team can the hero and heroine succeed in the mission. Did anything in particular inspire you to write a science fiction romance with its built-in dual-hero approach?

ABG: I have a confession to make. Over the years, I’ve spent many a happy hour playing RPG’s (role playing games) on my computer. The ones where you have to go on quests. Sometimes, the computer generates your helpers, but other games are played online where you team up with real people and your characters travel together.

Because of the wonders of the internet, your team-mate or mates could be (and usually are) in other countries. Often you have no idea who you’re playing with - they could be male or female and any age. The important thing is that you have to work together to achieve your goals.

To me, life is like that. Although we as individuals do our own thing, we can’t be expert at everything, so we need to utilize the talents of others to achieve great results. When I asked myself the big “what if” and aliens did invite humans to form a colony on their planet, the first question that came into my mind was: “Who would go?”

TGE: Ethan O’Reilly is a hero with a disability. I applaud you for taking such a risk. Why was it important to you to feature this kind of character?

ABG: I know a couple of people who have disabilities, but who still do remarkable things. Life is not easy for them, yet they continue to inspire me with how they refuse to let their disability define who they are.

Although my hero sees the loss of his legs as being a fate worse than death and can’t believe anyone would ever love him because of his injuries, through her work in war-torn countries, my heroine has come into contact with children and innocent bystanders suffering the same fate and rather than being put off, is angry at the wars that cause them.

In the story, I feature a quote by the great educator, Kurt Hahn: “Your disability is your opportunity.” This doesn’t even need to be a physical or mental disability, but a setback in your life. Instead of regretting that things aren’t as we would want them to be, life is much easier and more fulfilling if everything is seen as just a new direction offering different possibilities.

By tradition, science fiction often poses ethical questions and deals in serious matters. Despite its light-hearted romantic love scenes and amongst its exciting action, “Isolation” is no exception.

I wanted to pay tribute to people who follow that philosophy. My heroine keeps “forgetting” Ethan is disabled (he wears long trousers all the time) and hopefully, so will the reader. There have been other scifi stories where the hero has physical problems. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan is a fabulous example.

Too often, heroes are perfect. I even had a beta reader beg me to make him less disfigured. None of us are perfect, and it’s good to learn to see the person underneath and not just the exterior. However, for those affected, it can’t be denied that it does have an effect on their lives, purely because of the way people react to what they see.

Interestingly, Total Ebound never brought this aspect up during the editing or publishing process, and it isn’t something that we’re pushing. It’s just a fact of life for Ethan. In a way, his mental problems from the incidents that led to his scarring are more relevant.

TGE: How did you approach the worldbuilding for ISOLATION?

ABG: Heaps of reading on aspects like creating artificial gravity and new developments in medicine, science, weaponry and power creation.

I also thought about changes that have occurred in my lifetime. (One of the advantages of being a “mature” writer!) Some things such as telecommunication and computing have advanced dramatically, but others have changed very little. We still drive cars with four wheels. We still live in houses. We still wear similar clothes. So extrapolating that concept of same old same old and reading about “breakthrough” types of research, I’ve tried to make the world and plot as realistic as possible. Something that might happen to us, and that the reader can relate to.

Too often, science fiction borders on fantasy, with the genre being used to explain away inconvenient scientific facts. But once you start researching what would be involved in actually traveling to another star system, let alone a different galaxy, the sheer weight of numbers becomes mind boggling.

For example, two space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched by NASA back in 1977 and still haven’t left our Solar System. In fact, no man-made object ever has.

To deal with this in fiction, we get worm holes, warp drive and space ships that look like cruise liners ala Star Trek and Star Wars. But what if this “First Contact” was real and in our lifetime?

Without getting bogged down in scientific explanations or even discussing them too much, I wanted to address these matters and find plausible answers. Just for the aliens to discover Earth and realize there were sentient beings would be a huge coincidence. As Isaac Lindberg, the first human to make contact with them explains in my story:

“A year ago, as part of a university experiment, I was sending signals to the NASA orbital that has been stationed near Jupiter’s moon Callisto since 2040. One day, I received an unusual response. At first, I thought it was from the orbiter, but the signal was stronger, with a different pattern. I mentioned my discovery to a few people, but they dismissed it, saying it must be a malfunction, or I was doing something wrong. Next time, I sent musical notes and some binary code. The following day, there was a different signal again. The binary was there, but the music was repeated with a spectral inversion. There was no way the sequence could have come from the orbiter. Over the next few days, I sent more messages, making them more complex, and received more and more complex replies.”
Balancing the world building, a suspense story and romance is not easy. I’ve hardly touched on the main plot which revolves around the mysterious deaths of the aliens who remained behind with them while the majority left for their home planet.

TGE: Can you tell us a little bit about a few of the secondary characters readers will meet in this story?

ABG: Once again, I asked myself another “What if?” If a hundred humans are to be the basis for an ongoing colony, wouldn’t genetic diversity be advisable to prevent in-breeding? Because no-one really knew how long it would take to reach their destination, they called for personnel who were young and at their child-bearing peak. According to the Swiss commander of the expedition, Astrid Dreher, trying to choose between the thousands that volunteered based on their age, skill set, experience and nationality was not an easy task.

Hence, to mention a few, you get the Korean botanist, Sook Yung Lee, a Maori veterinarian, Rory Te Morenga, the Mexican head of security, Ernesto Ramirez, the Israeli astronomer, Isaac Lindbergh, and of course my Aussie heroine, Dana Sinclair and the Irish, Ethan O’Reilly.

Some of these secondary characters will play bigger parts in subsequent stories in the series. Perhaps there are a confusing number, but with a hundred people on board a fairly small space station, there was no way the story could be just about my two main protagonists (although they do manage to get on their own as much as possible!)

TGE: How would you describe the heat level in this story?

How to answer that! Let's just say that the sex scenes are there because they fit the story and my poor sexually frustrated hero and heroine were more than willing to oblige? Mind you, trust and emotional commitment took longer to eventuate. I like to think that every sex scene in the book contributes something to the characterisation, the plot and the emotional arc.

In true erotica, the sex drives the plot. In my story, the sex accompanies the plot, so it’s really a romance. Those looking for non-stop explicit sex scenes with graphic descriptions of wet panties, hard cocks and what goes where should perhaps try a different book.

From initial wariness, bordering on downright dislike, my hero and heroine soon find they have a lot in common, especially enjoying the act of sex, seeing they’ve both, for various reasons, been a bit lacking in that department lately. Unfortunately, privacy and a big bed are not readily available, so I can guarantee that my love scenes are not “traditional” in any way. Who does what to who and where becomes a vital part of the plot. One day, hopefully, they’ll manage some “normal” love-making. In the meantime…

TGE: Please describe a few of your favorite science fiction romance books, films, and/or television shows.

ABG: Discovering Linnea Sinclair’s scifi romances was a revelation to me. Spunky, sassy heroines and males who have their flaws but still command respect and ultimately love. “Finders Keepers” is still one of my favorites. I’ve enjoyed other writers in the genre, eg Susan Grant’s “Contact” and Ann Aguirre’s “Grimspace”. A lot of scifi is more fantasy to me, as the alien-ness of the setting is too totally out of this world. I like my scifi to have some connection with Earth or at least involve some humans.

As far as films and television go, there’s lots of scifi which might have a minor romantic plot line, eg “Farscape” and “Stargate” (both of which I’m a big fan of), but neither really qualify as scifi romance.

As for straight scifi, I can still remember the impatience I felt while waiting for the next episode of the original “Star Wars” trilogy to be released. One of my abiding sensory memories was the opening sequence as the huge spaceship thundered overhead.

I’ve never been a Trekkie, but I’m happy to watch episodes and the films. I’ve watched a few episodes of “Battlestar Galactica” but avoided watching too many as I don’t want to be influenced when writing my next books in the series.

Then there’s Doctor Who.

How long have you got???

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

ABG: I also write m/m romances and have “Red + Blue” coming out with Dreamspinner Press in April. Although this is contemporary and set on Earth, there is still a “what if” aspect to the story. What if a young out and proud backwoods boy from Minnesota meets up with a mature sophisticated man from Long Island?

After that? We’ll see. I already know what happens in the next two books in the Saa’ar series but have still to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard as it is nowadays).

If I do write more, here’s a teaser for what you can expect. The aliens they first meet are like small albino children with pale skin, colorless hair and eyes that shy away from harsh lights, but as Sookie asks at one point: “How do we know they’re all the same?”


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

Want to know more? The author blogged about her research efforts in Myscifi romance “Isolation” – how feasible is the science behind the story?

For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of science fiction is this ability to craft the ultimate "What If".

Before I started writing, "Isolation" I saw my characters trapped on an alien Space Station near Neptune (our outermost planet) with their ability to go anywhere else totally out of their control. This obviously led to questions about why they were there, how they got there and when would they be "rescued".

Answering these and other questions led me to research, and if you keep enough true science in science fiction, then the whole scenario of inter-stellar and even inter-planetary travel becomes mind boggling.

Other SFR works

A. B. Gayle wrote REVERSAL, a fun, raunchy erotic m/m short about android lovin’ in the anthology ECHOES OF THE FUTURE (Noble Romance). It’s told entirely from one of the heroes’ point of view and has a mild D/s theme.

Giveaway time!

A.B. Gayle has donated a digital copy of ISOLATION for one lucky passenger to win! Available format: PDF.

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment for this post (if you like, tell me your favorite thing about Neptune!!). The deadline to enter is 12 midnight EST on Sunday, March 11, 2012.

Joyfully yours,