Please welcome Margaret Fortune to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Nova was published on June 2nd by DAW.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Margaret: My first story was written in first grade. According to my mom, my older sister came home from school with the assignment to write a story, to which I said, “I could write a story if I wanted to!” So I did. While I did write some as a child, I didn’t seriously start writing until I graduated from college. I needed something to do while looking for a job. And what do you know? I’m still writing.
As far as whether I’m a panster or a plotter, I’m a bit of both. When I start writing a book, I generally know strategy, but not tactics. In other words, I have a rough idea of where it starts, how it ends, and a vague idea of how to get from here to there. But I don’t know most of the specific events that happen from beginning to end. Those I have to discover as I write.
TQ: You have a BA in Psychology. How does this affect (or not) your writing?
Margaret: I once had a professor tell me that I “think like a psychologist,” by which I think she meant that I have an intuitive grasp of human nature, an ability to put myself in others’ shoes and see things from other people’s perspectives. I don’t think it’s my degree so much as this intuition that affects my writing. While I love to work with an exciting plot or concept, building characters and relationships on the page that are authentic and relatable is probably what I love to do most.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Margaret: Because I know the general plot of the story but not all the events, when I write I’m basically trying to get from one catalyst or inciting event to the next. There will be days when I go to start the next chapter and find myself staring at the blank page going, “I have no idea what’s supposed to be in this chapter.” Those are probably the hardest days.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Margaret: I don’t consider my writing to be influenced by one author or one small set of authors. Rather, my writing has been influenced by the conglomeration of everything I’ve read over my life, both good and bad, which has intuitively shaped the way I express myself on the page. While I don’t know if I’d consider them a literary influence so to speak, I will say that children’s sci-fi novels by Louise Lawrence, H.M. Hoover, and Monica Hughes were some of the books that first inspired my love of sci-fi literature as a kid.
TQ: Describe Nova in 140 characters or less.
Margaret: A genetically engineered human bomb, Lia gets a chance at a life when her countdown clock freezes. But even duds can still blow up...
TQ: Tell us something about Nova that is not in the book description.
Margaret: Nova combines elements of both a slow-building mystery and a fast-paced thriller. It has many twists and turns, and I’ve heard multiple reports of readers missing their subway stops or staying up past their bedtime to read. So consider yourself warned!
TQ: What inspired you to write Nova? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction?
Margaret: Nova started with a random thought along the lines of, “I want to write a story set on a space station!” As I was brainstorming, the line, “My name is Lia, and I’m a genetically engineered human bomb” popped into my head. The rest of the story unfolded from there.
What I really like about writing science fiction, and speculative fiction in general, is the pure freedom it allows you in setting, concept, and plot. As long as you can dream it up, SF will allow you to put it on the page, even if it doesn’t adhere to the rules of life as we know it. This freedom means that you can set up and explore a unique dilemma or contingency that wouldn’t be possible if restricted solely to reality. In the case of Nova: a girl who’s literally a bomb.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Nova?
Margaret: I actually didn’t do a whole lot of research. I looked up a small assortment of random facts as I wrote, but nothing particularly memorable. In general, the things I probably look up the most while writing are the definitions of words. Not because I don’t know what words mean, but because I like to narrow in on the specific connotations of particular words so that I can choose the best phrasing for a certain line or paragraph. While there are some great SF writers that really put the science in “science fiction,” I tend to concentrate more on the writing craft itself: a smart plot, writing that flows, and characters that feel authentic and relatable to readers.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Margaret: I don’t know that any of the characters were “easy” or “hard” per se. Rather, some were more planned and some more organic. For instance, Michael and Rowan were planned characters. They were created to fill specific roles, and proceeded to do so as intended without much deviation. In contrast, characters like Shar and Teal were more organic, in that they were each put in to accomplish some small purpose, but over the course of the story grew into characters much greater than intended, each staking out her own important piece of both the book and the series to come. Lia, the protagonist, is a melding of both. She was initially quite planned out, but she evolved a lot over the course of the book.
TQ: Which question about Nova do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: So, Margaret—Will there be any more Nova books?
A: I’m so glad you asked that! Nova is only the first of a five-book series, so expect four more books to be coming in the not-too distant future. Each book features a different setting and MC, so readers can look forward to seeing much more of their favorite side characters like Michael, Teal, and Shar. While each book has its own standalone plot, together they form the pieces of a much larger story that will finally be put together in the fifth book. I hope readers that enjoy Nova will come back and join me for the rest of the series!
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Nova.
“Even my name is not my name, but another girl’s treasured possession, now taken and bestowed on me. And like any piece of stolen property, it has been worn in by the original owner and I know it will never fit me quite as well as it did her.”
TQ: What's next?
Margaret: With Nova being my debut novel, I feel like my journey as an author has just begun. My plan is simple: to write the best books I possibly can, take every opportunity I can get, and just hang on and enjoy the ride!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
DAW, June 2, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 320 Pages
The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.
My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.
And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.
Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode. But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.
Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up. If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.
Margaret Fortune began writing in the first grade. Her story titled "The Numbers' Birthday Party" got the attention of everyone in her elementary school. She began writing seriously after she graduated college in 2003. Fortune has written numerous short stories that have appeared in Nth Degree, Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, and Space and Time. Her short story Breaking Bread won the Tillie Olsen Women's Studies Award in 2007. She is an avid reader on YA, science fiction, romance, and historical fiction. Nova is her first novel. You can find more information about Margaret at her website, http://margaretfortune.wordpress.com/about/