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Where did your writing adventure begin?

Storytelling has always been a part of my life and growing up an only child in a rural area inspired me to create my own friends and worlds through imagination. As I got older the drive to tell stories--especially ones where people like me existed--remained. I first took the leap to write professionally in university, publishing Smoke and Rain in between lab times, overnight shifts, and exams. 

Are there elements of your non-writing life in your books?

Of course! It’s more obvious with my Stars Edge: Nel Bently Books, as those adventures follow a fellow archaeologist, but as a keen observer and anthropologist, a lot of what I encounter in everyday life winds up somewhere in my work. Many of the less-dramatic obstacle’s Nel faces are drawn from real projects, or issues the industry faces. While many people think Nel is the most similar to me, I think all of my characters have equal, if different, parts of me woven through them. 

In each of my series I also have an opportunity for readers to be written in as side characters! Teera in Heretics and Hylier in Madness and Gods and Blood and Mercy are both modeled after wonderful readers who are members of my Explorers team. Writing them in is a singularly fun experience!

What is your writing process?

It’s recently changed, since our lives have been turned completely upside down over the past year and a half. I always have multiple projects going at once, usually with very different tones or genres. I draft first by pantsing all the scenes I’m inspired to write. I never force myself to work chronologically until I embark on revisions. My day job’s schedule is fickle and tough, and so my writing has to be scheduled in too, or it falls by the wayside. Typically I aim for a thousand words a day average in whatever project I’m most inspired for that day (unless, of course, the dreaded deadlines are looming!)

Has your writing changed/ evolved over the years?

I would hope so! But in all seriousness, it certainly has. Each project I tackle hones my skills and I am always looking for a new tool to add to my kit. I mentioned earlier that my process has recently changed--I was a heavy outliner for a few years, but I felt that it was hindering my writing--there is a lot of great writing advice out there but I wholly believe you have to find a system that works for you. Since I switched my process up and jettisoned some bad advice I’ve found that my voice is much stronger. I’ve also learned that one of the benefits to being a hybrid or indie author is you can bend some of the rules. Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with style and format as a way to enhance the story’s power. 

How does you work stand out from others in similar genres?

I have a bit of an eclectic style--my science fiction has a very different tone from my fantasy--but in all my writing I languish in the language I use. I enjoy playing with alliteration and rhythm. I also center imperfect protagonists who are often disabled or queer. While stories of “overcoming” those identities are popular, I prefer to focus on the casually queer or disabled person--we are just as complicated, human, and imperfect as our able, cis, straight counterparts and just as capable of happy endings, titanic powers, and saving the world. 

How important is it to you to include diverse characters in your writing?

Well, I may have already waxed poetic on this, but it’s imperative. Part of the beauty of working in speculative genres is we have the unique opportunity to craft worlds from scratch. This means we can build worlds we want to see, worlds we fear or hope ours will become. It wasn’t until I was well through middle school that I first saw a character that looked a bit like me on the cover of a book and as someone who never fit in (and still doesn’t) it changed my life to see I could be a protagonist. A person like me could be more than a sidekick or the butt of a joke. Additionally, when others only see us painted in certain ways, those stereotypes become how we’re expected to be, which can literally become an issue of life or death. Our world misses out on some truly incredible voices when we spread the message that only some deserve to be heard. 

Are there messages to be found within your novels that you hope readers grasp on to? What might they be?

I weave a lot of my philosophy on life into my work, and I always am thrilled when a reader picks up some of what I’m putting down. Honestly, though, I hope my readers find something that helps. I hope they find people loving in the hard, complicated ways so many of us do, and surviving. I hope they find the faith and kindness I choose to see in humanity. I hope they find bad puns and moments of stillness. 

To my readers: all of my books are love letters, whether to goodbyes, death, humanity, or science, but foremost, all of them are love letters to you.

What are the advantages and challenges of writing a series?

I have room to stretch my legs! I enjoy the journey of a story, and I’m a big fan of slow-burning fiction and subtly. Writing a series, for me, gives me the space to do that, and really dig into the weird internal worlds of my characters in a way I might not normally. While I have dallied frequently in short fiction, to date only one of my full-length works-in-progress has been a standalone--despite the fact that they all started out that way! One of the big challenges is keeping everything straight. While I’m fairly organized, keeping track of side characters and seasons and time when working with a large scope can be pretty challenging. Having completed the first arc in my Blood of Titan’s world last summer, with Blood and Mercy, however, I can say with confidence it is one of the most rewarding feelings!

Can you tell us a bit about the character of Dr. Nel Bently? How has she grown/ changed over the course of several books?

Nel is a delight to write. I joke she gets to say all the things I can’t and that’s partially true. She’s angry and grumpy and a commitment phobe, but over the course of the books both I and my readers have watched her find out why she’s angry, and what to do with it, how to channel it. We’ve watched her fall in love, both with a strange, equally complex woman, and with where she came from. A lot of the advice she receives from those around her are things I’ve heard that resonated with me--particularly when her therapist (who is inspired by a very dear physiologist friend of mine) tells her that anger is smoke, and fear is the fire. 

I’ve really enjoyed exploring her mindset as she decolonizes her research and faces death, horror, and forgiveness. I’ve also realized recently that she and my spouse are very similar, which is quite funny to me. 

What is your latest release and what will readers find within its pages?

Heretics is the fourth book in my Stars Edge: Nel Bently series (there will be a total of six) and hits stores May 8th! Nel returns to Earth in an attempt to save her planet from killer sound waves, but while she’s surrounded by allies, she doesn’t trust anyone. She wanted nothing more than to come home, but realizes she no longer fits in the space she left. Much of my work discusses the burden of expectations, both of others and of ourselves, which is rooted in my own disability and queerness. Like all of Nel’s adventures, readers can expect snark, crass language, a few steamy scenes and, as always, lots of explosions!

If you’re new to the series you can grab the first three at books2read.com/nelbently 

Interview provided by:

Award-winning Canadian authors, Jenna Greene (YA Fantasy) and Miranda Oh (Contemporary Chick lit) pair up to provide you with engaging interviews with authors from all genres to give you a sneak peak into their lives and writing styles.