Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview With GHOST PLANET Author Sharon Lynn Fisher, Plus Giveaway

Hear ye, hear ye! Sharon LynnFisher debuts with her science fiction romance GHOST PLANET (October 2012, Tor)!
A world in peril. A bond deeper than love. 
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world - a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet. 
As a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy - creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone - oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love - Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence. 
But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man she loves.
Learn more about the story’s premise in the First Look feature I wrote for Heroes and Heartbreakers.com.

A couple of elements in particular about GHOST PLANET struck me as I read it. First, I really dig the story’s high concept premise. I love mystery in my SF, especially when it has to do with aliens. So color me riveted when the first part of the book pulled me deep into that plot thread.
Secondly, the high concept premise tied in closely with the story’s other notable element, namely, that GHOST PLANET features a sci-fi romance version of soul mates.

Other romance subgenres, particularly paranormal, frequently explore the concept of soul mates. Sci-fi romance faces a challenge in that regard because it can’t rely on the idea of fated mates through magical/supernatural means. In other words, it’s a challenge for this subgenre to explore the soul mate concept in a plausible way while also avoiding the schmaltz/cliche factor.

In GHOST PLANET, the soul mate aspect is tightly wound with the science fictional elements, ones that are presented in an earnest, believable fashion. It’s like a “coded” soul mate story—a puzzle to be solved by both characters and reader.

GHOST PLANET also features a heroine with extraordinary role/abilities, which is always refreshing to encounter. There’s a bit of action-adventure and accessible science. All of the above make for a story that easily straddles the science fiction and romance aisles.

Intrigued? You can enter a giveaway here for a chance to win a print copy of GHOST PLANET! Details follow the interview.

There is a spoiler alert during the interview regarding the fact that the story's opening hook will be discussed, so if you really don’t want to know, skip question #5.

And now for my interview with Sharon Lynn Fisher:

The Galaxy Express: Please tell us about yourself. When did you decide to become a writer?

Sharon Lynn Fisher: I was one of those kids who knew by about age 6. I spent all my free time reading and I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I wrote short stories, mostly derivative of whatever I was reading, and I churned out little newspapers for my family. The first story I remember writing was about a little girl who shrank and went on an adventure in her grandmother’s strawberry patch. I have always written speculative fiction, as both a little kid and a big one.

TGE: GHOST PLANET has a very high concept premise, namely, the titular “ghost” characters. That alone would make for a compelling story, but a prominent romance is also part of the tale. What prompted you to mix SF and romance?

SLF: I think I don’t know how to write anything else. J Seriously – I just wrote the kind of story I like to read. I love stories – in books, film, or television -- that combine speculative elements and romance.

As for GHOST PLANET, the whole thing started with the idea of a symbiotic bond. A man and woman who had not chosen each other, yet could not get away from each other. As a writer drawn to speculative worlds, romance, and science, that idea was fascinating to me.

TGE: Please describe “ghost planet” Ardagh 1, but in the form of a travel brochure.

Image source: Let's Watch the Love Boat
SLF: Ha, funny you should ask! The very first version of my novel, written in early 2008, included a bit about “reunion tourism.” I had this idea of a company who’d built a business around luring folks from Earth to vacation with a regenerated loved one. Sort of like a ghostly Love Boat (does anyone remember that show?). I cut that pretty quickly, realizing it was far too light and silly for the story.    

I think the closest thing to a travel brochure for Ardagh 1 would be the recruitment brochures circulated on college campuses, which would probably tout the pristine, Earth-like setting, and the opportunity to be part of a first-contact experience. As my heroine points out, very similar to the military promising travel in exotic lands while failing to mention people may be shooting at you.

TGE: Finish this sentence: When Grayson Murphy gets off work, he…

SLF: . . . drops by the market; whips up something simple yet fabulous, like salmon with apricot-mustard glaze, new potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary, and beet and arugula salad; enjoys his dinner with a glass of wine and a psychology journal for company; and works at least two more hours before going to bed.

TGE: What was the most fun about writing GHOST PLANET? The most challenging?


The most challenging, hands-down, was writing the scenes where Elizabeth learns she’s died en route to the planet, and gradually comes to accept this as her new reality. One of my favorite scenes, and in my view the most powerful, is one I had to be convinced by beta readers to include: the scene where she sees her body. I think that’s one of the really wonderful aspects of writing speculative fiction – stretching your brain to describe stuff no one has ever experienced.

I think I had the most fun writing the scenes where Murphy begins to break down -- all the little glances and gestures that show she’s getting to him. That he’s falling for her despite the fact it could strip away everything that’s important to him. I also loved writing the hypothesizing that takes place between Elizabeth and the men in her life, and her intellectual wrestling matches with Maria Mitchell.

TGE: Describe Elizabeth’s main five character traits.

SLF: She’s scientifically curious and doesn’t like unanswered questions. She’s self-reliant and stubborn, sometimes to a fault. She’s warm-hearted and empathetic; it comes naturally to her to appreciate other people’s perspectives.

TGE: Burning question time: What is your favorite breakfast food?

SLF: So glad you asked. Biscuits and gravy. Pecan pancakes. Eggs Benedict. Blueberry waffles. Scones, any kind without raisins. Bacon and fried eggs, over-medium. Donuts. Bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Really, we should eat breakfast for every meal.

But if you’re asking what I actually eat for breakfast most days – yogurt, nuts, fruit. YAWN.

TGE: Please describe a few of your favorite sci-fi romance books, films, or television shows.

SOLARIS (1972); Image source: Super Marcey's Super Website
SLF: I grew up on Star Wars, and like so many others it shaped me. I kept waiting for Luke to come to my door and reveal to me that I had the potential to become a great Jedi, and the rebellion needed me. (And so did he.)

I also watched the original Battlestar Galactica, and mostly remember my crush on Apollo. I never went for the scoundrels for some reason. I tend to like my heroes strong, principled, and sensitive, with a dash of geek.

I LOVED the Battlestar reboot. All good and shiny things -- action, adventure, romance, mystery, humor. Ditto for Firefly.

I’ve been inspired by a lot of stories that are SF without the R, like Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem, and the grim tales of Margaret Atwood, both of whom I paid tribute to in GHOST PLANET.

One of my two most beloved books as a child was A Wrinkle in Time, which does have a touch of romance. And the gorgeous Danny Boyle film Sunshine, with not a drop of romance, made a huge impression on me. As a matter of fact, the Grayson Murphy character was inspired by Sunshine’s physicist hero, played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy.

TGE: What can readers look forward to from you?

SLF: Book 2 from Tor, working title THE OPHELIA PROPHECY, post-apocalyptic bio-punk romance. A twisty tale with lots of color and texture, science, politics, and adventure.

Hopefully a short or two in the interim -- a story set in the earliest days of colonization on Ardagh 1, and this unrelated zombie romance thing I’ve had simmering. J


Oooh, did you hear that, folks? A story from Ardagh 1’s early days. That would be *sweet*! Ahem. No pressure, of course.

Ms. Fisher, thanks so much for your time, and for your art.

Now for the giveaway! One lucky passenger can win a print copy of Sharon Lynn Fisher’s GHOST PLANET! (contest limited to U.S. and Canadian residents).

To enter, leave a comment for this post. Share a spooky ghost experience you’ve had or heard about. The deadline to enter is Sunday, November 4 at 12 midnight PST.

But wait, there’s more! Sharon Lynn Fisher has all kinds of fun for you as she celebrates the release of GHOST PLANET. Click here to check out her various online launch parties, guest posts, interviews, and giveaways!

Joyfully yours,