I engage with readers a lot. I really enjoy the conversations we have. You may or may not be aware that I am very active on Twitter and happily answer questions there, but I can give more in depth answers to questions in my Facebook group called Speroancora Crew. Join us there if that sounds interesting to you!
Recently a crew member asked this question:
Here was my reply (written late late late at night…)
Apparently I don't see him [Alan] the way everyone else seems to perceive him. Huh. Where to start.
First of all, one of my favorite characters ever on television was Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis. I was definitely thinking about some of his traits when I created Alan. But Alan is NOT Rodney in disguise.
Second, NASA astronauts as a group are very homogeneous. That's problematic when you're writing a novel and need conflict and variety. I had people complain that Tom Compton and Ronald Gibbs were too similar. These two characters--and Ajaya Varma--were all based on typical NASA astronaut personalities.
These people don't get excited about anything. They are even tempered, methodical, cooperative. NASA very specifically LOOKS for these traits. There has been talk that maybe NASA should incorporate some other personality types for long flights because it might be a better group dynamic.
If I wrote a book about 5 of these people going to space…well…I didn't see how I could create much conflict between them.
So, WALSH was modeled after the early astronauts--the test pilots in the 50s that were the first to go into space. These guys were mavericks. I gave him a strong military background so he would be disciplined and good under pressure. But then I threw a fly in the ointment by having him be the FIRST to be affected by the nanites (which most people don't realize--and they think I was simply writing a stereotypical drill sergeant asshole. I wasn't. Jane describes Walsh as being fair but difficult to convince, but maybe people forget she says that and react emotionally to his irrational and bullheaded behavior that comes out under the influence of the nanites affecting his central nervous system.
And ALAN needed to break the mold as well. I needed him to be a foil. He was rejected for the astronaut program originally. He is only included on this journey because of his experience reverse engineering alien tech. He's the best and brightest. And sometimes the best and brightest have difficult personalities.
As for why he's so negative… This catches me off guard. Because I don't see him that way. He's a lot like ME. He grumbles about stuff in a snarky way. He calls people on their bullshit and he's right most of the time. It's not always easy being the smartest dude in the room (not saying THAT'S like me by a long shot!). But that's where he's coming from.
What does Jane see in him? He's REAL. He's always straight with her when her own ex was more of a obfuscator of facts. He's been vulnerable with her. They see and appreciate each other's ambition and drive. She knows he doesn't know what he's doing. He's never been in a serious relationship. She finds that endearing. She thinks he's funny. All that grumbling is cute to her. There are women who find this sort of thing attractive.
I've been accused of making Jane a Mary Sue. The truth is Alan is more like me than Jane ever was.
I've been accused of making them act like teenagers. Well, love does that to people. It puts them off kilter. It makes them act weird. Even grown-ass 30-somethings. I've seen it. I've experienced it as a 43 year old newly divorced woman.
I've been accused of man-bashing. Well, I don't know where that comes from and I can't even begin to address it. I wrote characters that felt like real people I've known. I love every single one of them. I don't hate any of them. And I don't believe I present any of them in an unfavorable light. Writing characters that have foibles and issues isn't bashing them.
Jane has issues too! Um. Commitment, much? ;D
And then another crew member made this comment which I felt was truly awesome and really articulated how I felt about it well (I'd been writing all day and it was late at night!):
Brilliant, right?! Way to out-author the author! I tend to be so close to my characters that it's hard even for me to describe them. So this was GREAT!
If you want to hang out and chat with me like this or about science, space, fandoms and general geekery, think about joining the crew or follow me on Twitter! Keep the conversation going! (And keep reading! It's good for you--you need vitamin R!)
Audio Book News...
The audio book production of REMANENCE is almost complete. I heard from Susanna Burney a few days ago. She's finishing up the last few chapters now. Then sicsound will master the audio and take out page turns and flubs etc. That will take some time. The audio book should be available by the end of this month! Yay!
What I'm Reading Now...
I've been devouring space opera audio books lately at quite an insane pace. I don't get a lot of time to read on my kindle much anymore but I listen to audio books when doing any kind of mundane chore like driving, folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, cooking etc.
You'd be surprised how fast you can read an audio book when you cram it into otherwise boring moments. Last night I was listening to an audio book while popping popcorn on the stove and I was so engrossed that I ended up standing in the kitchen eating said popcorn (and throwing a few kernels to Link because he's so adorable--he takes ONE piece and trots off to another room to chew on it then comes back for another) while listening.
Here's a list of the books I've been listening to lately (in case you're as hungry for great space opera as I am!)
The Expanse series by James SA Corey
The Legacy Fleet series by Nick Webb
Darkship series by Sarah Hoyt
The Aurora Rhapsody series by G.S. Jennsen
Armada by Ernie Cline
Hyperion Cantos books by Dan Simmons
The Paradox Series by Rachel Bach
Have you read any of these? How did you feel about them? Let's keep the discussion going!
Jennifer Foehner Wells
I'm an author of the Space Opera variety.