Friday, September 21, 2012

Past the Final Fronteer: Interview with Author Phoebe North

Hello, fellow book lovers! Today, on the Lantern, we have the pleasure of welcoming Phoebe North, debut author and blogger for The Intergalactic Academy, who agreed to talk to us about her upcoming release and the changing faces of publishing.
Phoebe, welcome!

“Starglass”, your debut novel, comes out in 2013. In your words, how would you describe it?

Starglass is soft science fiction with a commitment to psychological realism. It's the story of Terra, a sixteen-year-old girl trying to cope (largely unsuccessfully) with the specter of grief, and what happens when she's pulled into a rebellion on the generation ship where she lives. It's got botany and boys and secret meetings in musty libraries--all things I love. I hope readers love it, too.

Do you have a favorite character to write about?

Something I decided early on with Starglass was that whenever possible, I'd show women in positions of power, flexing their intellectual and leadership muscles. Nowhere did that work out better than with Mara Stone, the ship's botanist--a woman who doesn't suffer fools easily. She's easily the most fun character to write, a pistol who is great at what she does (but not so great with people).

What is the most important thing to you in a sci-fi novel, as a reader and as a writer?

Hmm, accurate xenobiology?

Just kidding! What I look for most is a world that sucks you in, one that feels wild and complex and just as real as ours. Accurate worldbuilding helps, and so does immersive writing.

Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication? Was it quite as you expected it to be?

Publication is crazy. Over the past eight months, I've been known to pop my head into my husband's office and just shout "Book!" It's really still that shocking, still that strange.

I queried two novels--and wrote four--before I hit on something that worked with Starglass. I was very, very lucky; my agent Michelle Andelman (who rejected me on a previous book) read a snippet on my website and reached out before it was even finished. After I finished the novel and signed with Michelle, we edited for six months before we went on submission. And after the book deal, it was another six months or so of editing with my editor at Simon and Schuster, Navah Wolfe. What's surprised me the most is how dedicated publishing professionals truly are. Both Navah and Michelle care deeply about quality. Publishing is challenging--intellectually, emotionally. But it's very, very rewarding.

You’re running a blog with a focus on speculative and sci-fi YA, “The Intergalactic Academy”. How would you describe the effect of the increased writer-reader interactions through the Internet?

It certainly keeps things interesting! As you know, I've been a reviewer far longer than I've been a writer, and I've never really been one of those reviewers who felt it as wan inevitable disaster when writers engage in dialogue with their readership. In fact, I think a lot of good can come out of those interactions, so long as they're undertaken with empathy and respect.

Come to think of it, that's a good guideline for MOST interactions.

 What are, to you, the best examples of genre fiction in YA?

I'm a sucker for the soft sci-fi of the 70s, and 80s, and as an old school sci-fi fan, I absolutely adored Karen Sandler's Tankborn. She created a beautifully-drawn world with a compelling central character. The same could be said of Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, on the fantasy side of things. But there are a lot of other fantastic genre YA titles out there right now: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows and Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi are great examples of the possible strengths of the dystopian trend. The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman is terrifically weird, and shows what can happen on the fringes of the genre. And of course, Patrick Ness and Beth Revis both did an amazing job of opening up modern YA to the possibilities of science fiction. The Knife of Never Letting Go and Across the Universe are both stellar books--it's easy to see why they were trendsetters.

How about the books you were most influenced by?

My biggest influences are two little-known soft science fiction novels. The first is a sci-fi romance called The Merro Tree by an author named Katie Waitman. It's the story of an alien performance master and his soulmate and their battle against the worst villains in the universe--censors.

The other is a novel by Megan Lindholm, who is better known for her fantasy titles written under the name Robin Hobb. It's called Alien Earth, and it tells the story of humanity after we've been "saved" by aliens with sinister purposes. It had a living ship years before Farscape featured Moya--Evangeline and her pilot Tug are incredibly rendered as both characters and as extraterrestrials.

What is your favorite strange-but-true story?

The Velvet Underground played their first-ever concert in 1965 at a high school in New Jersey. They opened for another band, and played three songs--"Venus in Furs," "There She Goes Again" and "Heroin." Can you imagine being one of those teenagers in the audience that night? Lou Reed must have seemed like a space alien.

And finally…. Who is your favorite Doctor?

 Eight! I absolutely adore Paul McGann, and I think he got short shrift with the movie. His vocal performances on the audio dramas bring a tremendous amount of depth to the role. If you're a Whovian, they're worth a listen. Hope they bring him in for the fiftieth.

Thank you so much for this interview, Phoebe.

Phoebe North is a YA writer and blogger. Follow her on twitter @phoebenorth, or  check out her website at You can also check out her sci-fi YA blog at

Starglass comes out in 2013 from Simon and Schuster.

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