Interview with Susan Kite
(Maybe not so short, but here goes!)
The Mendel Experiment – In the distant future, a galactic federation is desperate for rare resources on a remote planet named Mendel, but the system’s sun is deadly to humans. Scientists create a race of young mutated humans who can survive and work on the planet. They are sent to Mendel with suppressed memories, making survival their only goal.
After five years Corree and her small group began having weird dreams. Their hidden memories slowly surface. Corree searches for other mutants and finds that in each place she travels, she mutates to survive in the new environment. When her quest takes her to the desert, Corree discovers Ologrians—aliens that carry her far beyond Mendel’s solar system to their home planet, Alogol.
On Alogol, Greelon, an Ologrian scientist, treats her with kindness and teaches her his language and history. He takes her to the Crystal Forest where she finds a gemstone that seems to enhance her abilities. Federation scientists have been trying to destroy the Ologrians. When Alogol’s sun goes critical, Corree joins Ologrian refugees traveling to Mendel. Using her mutant abilities, Corree is able to prevent a Federation battlecruiser from destroying the Ologrians’ ships.
Blue Fire – The Federation sends specially adapted robots to compel the mutants to mine the planet’s resources. Corree and her friends work together to not only destroy the robots, but to capture the science station where they were created. They recruit recently created mutants, including Corin, the clone of the scientific genius who created Corree and her friends. Then they take the station into the Mendel system.
Power Stone of Alogol – An unknown entity takes control of the orbiting science station, demanding the return of the clone. Corree answers the summons disguised as Corin and travels to the scientist’s starship. She discovers a plan to destroy all non-human species. Alone on an immense battle cruiser, Corree must find a way to stop this destruction.
Q. How did it feel to have the first in the series come second in a literary award?
It felt wonderful! A book is hard work and to get an award like the Royal Palm Literary Award makes the work worthwhile.Q. Your latest sci-fi/fantasy release Realms of the Cat, involves a cat having to cross over to another dimension to help his ‘alternate’ family. It struck me that you opted for ‘another dimension’ rather than the more traditional ‘other world.’ Do you think than in modern times young readers will relate more to the science based alternate universe idea? (In contrast to the religious undertones of Narnia, the pagan traditions of Harry Potter, etc)
The working title of the book was Portals, so I always saw it as a cross-realm/dimension experience. Also an off-handed way to explain that nine lives myth about cats. And then I threw in the King of the Cats thing. The only thing even remotely religious about most of my stories is that fact that I believe in a basic moral decency in my characters, and that decency will eventually prevail. I also grew up reading huge amounts of science fiction, so that has got to be an influence. As to kids relating, I generally think that kids like a ‘rollicking good tale’ whether it’s couched in some science or all in magic.
Q. How is writing for kids different from writing for adults?
For the most part, I write for young adults even when I am writing for adults. I am not comfortable writing love stories, graphic violence and the like whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or anything else. I just finished drafting an adult science fiction, (what in the day would be called a space opera), and I realized that the only difference between it and my young adult sci-fi was that the characters are adults. Any romance is inferred.
Q. I hear you’ve spent many years working in public school libraries. Do you find you’ve been more influenced by the books around you or by the kids themselves?
Mostly the books, because I do love to read. That is one of the biggest things I miss in elementary libraries—discovering the new books that come out and how they affect the kids. When things like Skippyjon Jones, Bad Kitty, Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson fires children’ imaginations, I want to know why. Kids have it tough today; you sometimes see it in their eyes. Books give hope while also giving escape. Maybe that’s another reason I find sci fi and fantasy so fulfilling. You can place hope, heroism, humanity, and courage in a distant setting. You have still touched on those ugly things in life, but it’s not in your face, if that makes sense. I don’t think I could do a credible contemporary novel.
Q. I also hear you’ve been writing for a long time and even have a previous career as fanfiction writer. What can you tell us about your early work?
Up until I got my first (used) computer, everything was in vignettes in my mind while washing clothes or vacuuming the rug. And it was all pretty much fan fiction. I did write some short Star Trek stories in notebooks, even as far as back as high school, but none survived. That’s probably a good thing. Quite simply, after so many years, all those stories in my mind demanded exposure and the internet gave that to me. I also had some ‘mainstream’ stories and novels I began at that time, but I didn’t really know what to do with them, I was still busy raising kids and working full time. I didn’t have time to do more in my spare time than write fan fiction stories. And let’s face it—in fan fiction you have already established characters. It’s easier. I rediscovered Zorro, then tried to do straight sci fi with Lost in Space (hard to do with Dr. Smith in tow), then worked on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and a few other things tossed in. I
Q. Being a writer with experience, do you find it easier to sit down and get right to it; less time just staring at the screen?
Sometimes, but I have found that every stage of life has its own challenges, and retirement from full time work is no exception. I am still getting used to working on a different schedule. There are times when I do stare at the screen; when it is hard to motivate myself and believe me, you can’t force a story. On the other hand, some of my best writing has been in doctor’s office waiting rooms! I always try to keep a notebook with me. I have also tried to challenge myself with short story contests (I have won a few!) and contributions to blogs and newspapers. Another motivator that works for me is the Nanowrimo events. I wrote two novels last year that way.
Q. All your books have great covers by the way. Do you design them yourself?
No. My last four books were done by my publisher. Karen is very talented. I really don’t have good design sense when it comes to that kind of thing. Realms of the Cat went through three incarnations. The publisher had a heck of a time finding the right cat and when she did, I liked the very first design. A local designer friend said it had some things that needed fixing, so I mentioned it to Karen. She made the changes, and again, I said great. Then an artist friend pointed out something else, so I sent another email. The third cover is how is ended up and I think it’s phenomenal. I have had many compliments on it.
Q. Okay, one last question and the chance for a sales pitch. One of your reviews raises the point of how as one gets older, young adult fiction becomes more appealing. Does keeping it simple and focussing on the story and characters make for a better read? Do these books appeal to adults too?
I have had more than one person say the same thing to me. I sure do hope young adult books (mine as well as others), appeal to adults. Of course, I believe that a well written young adult book should also appeal to adults. Many of the themes are universal. These days there are many modern young adult novels that are every bit as complex as your adult suspense thriller. Still, most seem to keep a basic premise. There is a problem or issue that the young person needs to solve.
I think the young adult main character is usually not as complicated, as a Stephen King or an Alan Dean Foster character. For instance, look at Harry Potter. He is just a kid trying to survive in his environment and figure out why he is different. (That is a common thread in most kids’ literature. Kids feel awkward even when they have ‘normal’ lives.)
Corree, in the Mendel Experiment trilogy, is a fourteen-year-old who starts out dealing with survival—hers and her “family’s.” Despite what the Federation throws at her, her basic goal is survival. Even when she is taken across the galaxy to Alogol, the Federation home planet, or to the renegade battlecruiser, she is still trying to survive, and do it with dignity.
Simplicity is more apparent in a Middle grade story. The main characters in Realms of the Cat are cats and dogs (and, of course, Charlie, the crow), who have even less complicated agendas. In this novel, TB has one major objective—to right a wrong, which is saving the little girl who used to be his owner.
Thanks for taking the time on this one Susan. Great answers. And good luck with the new release.
For more information, check out Susan Kite’s amazon page here and her website here . You can also connect with her on goodreads here .