1) Tell us about your current or last science fiction novel. What is it about and how did you come up with the concept?
My latest sci-fi novel is called Project Tau. It’s set at a time when human cloning is just starting to take off, and the clones (called Projects) are seen as no more than livestock. The MC accepts this just fine, until something goes very wrong and he finds himself on the other side of the fence.
I actually never started out to write about human cloning. At the time, I was represented by a literary agent who was no good at her job – I think she later showed up on the Water Cooler under the Beware section – and she told me that publishers only wanted books that could be adapted into movies, and that it was impossible to write a sci-fi novel without lots of expensive CGI. As soon as she said that, I thought, “Oh yeah? Wanna bet?”
So the concept was basically to write a sci-fi story that could be adapted into a movie on a very low budget. Flashy CGI was out, aliens were out and huge space battles were definitely out! Both the protagonist and the antagonists had to be human, so it made sense to bring in the cloning angle. It kind of built from there, and I ended up with a fleshed out novel that would actually be pretty cheap and easy to adapt 😉
2) How did you get started writing science fiction?
Oh, I was always writing SF/fantasy, from a very young age. I really love creating new worlds and cultures, so it was a bit of a foregone conclusion that this would be my genre.
3) What specific sub-genres within science fiction do you write in and why?
Space opera and soft science fiction. I struggle to write standalone novels, so long story arcs are the best for me, and I prefer focusing on the story to the science.
4) What tropes do you think are important for that sub-genre?
For both the author and the reader, the MST3K Mantra trope is the most vital. Does it matter how humans are living on Mars? How they colonized Mercury, or Venus? If the story is about the colonization itself, then yes, absolutely. If the colony’s firmly established and has been for a couple hundred years, it’s not something the characters (or, indeed, the reader) should be agonizing over. I worked with a fairly bad editor in the past who insisted I need to explain how the characters can possibly exist on the other planets in our solar system, despite the fact that the characters themselves were teenagers who wouldn’t know or particularly care. (To draw a parallel, American teenagers might be able to tell you what year their city was founded, but how many of them can tell you how to build a house and – later – lay on electricity and running water?)
I have a small confession to make though: in the case of that particular editor, before I sent the rewrite back, I got fed up trying to justify my right to tell a story, so I sat down and worked out all the relevant scientific information, equipment and chemical equations necessary for colonizing the planets and their moons, and adapting the atmospheres into something breathable. She never mentioned it to me again XD
5) Do you prefer to write in first or third person and past or present tense?
Generally, I write in third person omniscient, past tense. I’ve written stuff in first person, but I tend to find it too restrictive, and I don’t write in present tense at all.
6) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
It would definitely be the writing. For me, I can’t not write.
7) What is the hardest part about being a writer?
For an indie writer like me, it’s definitely getting your work seen. I haven’t given up hope of securing a good agent, but it’s a long slog!
8) What stories or authors influence your writing?
It’s more games and movies than stories, to be honest. There’s an unfortunate tendency for some people to insist the author justify everything (how did we do this, why wouldn’t your character react the way I think he should, etc). Games and movies – particularly ones like you see here in Japan – take the attitude of, “Who cares? This is the story; let’s get on with it!” Major influences: Shining Force, Star Wars (original trilogy), Sir Terry Pratchett.
Don’t get me wrong; a novel does have to make sense and, as an author, you need to take constructive criticism, but you can have too much of a good thing.
9) Recommend a great science fiction book or movie that we might have missed you didn’t create?
Ring Rise, Ring Set by Monica Hughes. It’s short and more YA than adult, but it’s a great story. Also, the Isis trilogy by the same author. Movies…this might sound strange, but I actually don’t watch a lot of SF movies. Most of them follow the same pattern of blowing up everything, and while I like a good action sequence as much as the next girl, I find them too predictable to be really interesting. There are some exceptions such as the first two Alien movies, but they’re hardly something that anyone would have missed 😉
10) Anything else about you or your novel that you would like us to know?
One thing I would like people to know is that despite what you might think, Project Tau is definitely not dystopian! I don’t get sci-fi writers who think that the future is going to be terrible; I have a far more optimistic outlook!
11) What’s the best way to find you online?
Either Twitter (@JudeAustin18) or my Goodreads author page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5858345.Jude_Austin
I also have my own website https://www.judeaustin.net
(but I only update it when something big happens.)