Today we’re please to welcome author Anna Butler to TNA on the Heart Scarab blog tour. Enjoy Anna’s interview and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of the following prizes:
*a copy of my novella, FlashWired (epub, mobi or pdf) on every stop to one random commenter
Chance to enter a Rafflecopter for:
*top prize of a $50 Amazon gift voucher
*second prize, winner’s choice of a Heart Scarab iPad cover or Kindle cover
*third prize, a Gyrfalcon iPad cover
WP: Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Anna Butler, author of Heart Scarab.
Hi Anna, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
AB: Hi! And thank you for hosting me today. I’m delighted to be here.
Heart Scarab is the second of the Taking Shield series, which charts the life and loves of Shield Captain Bennet. Taking Shield is both a sweeping sci-fi story (old school sci-fi with spaceships and lasers, aliens and handsome heroes) and an equally sweeping love story. I should warn you, though, that it isn’t a romance in the sense that it won’t be what most m/m romance readers would expect.
Thousands of years after an alternate-universe Earth went dark, the people of one of her colonies, Albion, are struggling in a war that’s probably unwinnable, against aliens called the Maess. Although humans have been fighting the aliens’ cyborg drones for over a century, they haven’t seen a real, organic Maess. Set against the war, is the love story between Bennet and Fleet Lieutenant Flynn. They meet in the first book, Gyrfalcon, but for various reasons theirs isn’t going to be an easy love. They meet and part several times before the end. In Heart Scarab, Bennet’s return after being declared missing in action, presumed dead, puts intolerable strain on his relationship with his long term partner, Joss, but paves the way for a reunion with Flynn.
As for me, I worked for the UK civil service for many years as a communications specialist, working on everything from marketing employment programmes to running an internal TV service. These days I’m concentrating on trying to make it as a writer, combining my love of old school science fiction and m/m themes. I live in London with my husband and our cockapoo, Molly. We’re currently house hunting, looking for a country retreat.
WP: Where do you find your inspiration?
AB: Telling you that Star Trek first whetted my appetite for science fiction probably gives my age away, but it’s true that the ground-breaking nature of Trek—the way it casually mixed the nations and races of Earth, for example—is a primary influence on me. I started watching and reading sci-fi avidly. Taking Shield is rooted in all the old school science fiction stories and series : Star Trek, Star Wars, BSG, Independence Day, Doctor Who. I grew up with those, with Heinlein’s and Clarke’s novels. So mostly I’m inspired by the idea of humanity coming up against an enemy they can’t fathom, and having to dig deep within themselves to find the skills and fortitude to survive.
But I think the series that influenced me most in terms of structuring the Taking Shield series is Babylon Five. I loved how so many small, seemingly random events and images came back, much later in the story arc, to show their significance. What B5 proved was that you don’t have to give everything away in the first book/episode/film. You can take time to build a world and its characters slowly and not hurry to wrap up everything neatly until the story itself is fully told. I’ve tried to use this method in the Shield series.
WP: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
AB: I can’t remember not being a storyteller, although writing them down came later. I’ve told/written stories since childhood, starting with the adventures of Jimpy, the soft-toy chimpanzee I took everywhere with me. I moved on to write fanfiction for many years, and although some people decry it, I found it a wonderful, safe place to hone the craft of writing.
I think I first considered myself a writer when I wrote my first long fanfiction that didn’t pander to the tropes and expectations of the fandom, and where I abandoned the usual hurt/comfort storyline for something that was more about exploring the characters and making them, and their motivations, the pivot for the plot. It was certainly a pivotal moment for me.
WP: Do your characters become like real people to you?
AB: Gosh, yes.
It starts early, when I’m first thinking about the character and who he is, where he came from and what he looked like. For the main characters I use a Character Analysis table, answering questions as diverse as how tall he is, what his favourite colour is, and how he deals with disappointment or setbacks—it takes time to complete, so I tend to use this only for the two main characters. By the end of that, the picture of the characters is pretty clear, and I supplement that on Pinterest by searching out images that match the picture in my head.
The important thing is to think about what the character’s faults are. I want them to be rounded human beings, not cardboard cutouts with a few personality traits attached to them. So Bennet, for example, doesn’t always realise how selfish he is, how much he expects things to go the way he’s decreed them to be, because he grew up with wealth and privilege and he doesn’t even think twice about being in command. Flynn’s selfish too, but he’s far more self aware about the devil-may-care attitude he has and how he uses it to keep people at a distance. Frankly, both of them can be jerks, even if the reason for it comes from different backgrounds and experiences.
By the time I start writing, I am usually be pretty clear about why he does (or doesn’t do) something. And I know a lot about them that won’t ever appear in the books, but are part of what’s made them who they are.
WP: If you weren’t a writer, what else would you like to have done?
AB: I’d have loved to have been an opera singer. I took singing lessons for years, but although I had a reasonable soprano voice, it had limited range and power. I’d never be able to hold the stage at Covent Garden! I still regret giving up lessons and concentrating on my career instead, but you can’t go back on things like that for a do-over. Unless you use your voice and practice constantly, it will fade away. Sadly, mine isn’t even the ghost of what it once was, so that door is closed for ever.
WP: What do you want your tombstone to say?
AB: “She had a lot of fun.”
Blurb: Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Shield Captain Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can—a task that leaves him lying on Telnos while the last cutter of evacuees escapes in the teeth of the Maess invasion.
Bennet is listed missing in action, believed dead on a planet now overrun by Maess drones. His family is grieving. His long-term partner, Joss, is both mourning and guilt-ridden.
And Fleet Lieutenant Flynn? Flynn is desolate. Flynn is heart-broken… no. Flynn is just broken.
About the author: Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.
Tour Dates & Stops: Wednesdays July 22 – November 4, 2015
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