Following on from my review of “Non-Compliance – The Sector” (see previous post), I’m really happy to be hosting an interview with the lovely Paige Daniels. Here’s what she had to say.
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ooh, talking about myself my favourite thing! Just kidding. I’m pretty boring really. I’m a mom and engineer who has an unhealthy obsession with Adam Baldwin and robots. After the kids go to bed I sit at my computer and make up stories and amazingly people seem to want to shell out money for them so that’s pretty cool!
Oooh, tell us more about the robots, because I know you do things like Robot Wars. Do you build them?
Sort of. My job is to create programs to get kids excited about science and engineering and one of the ways I do that is introduce them to various robotic competitions. As a part of that I build some of the robots just so I know how to do it before I tell the kids how to do it. It’s a pretty fun job. I’m pretty psyched about getting kids into science. You’ve probably seen that part of my book proceeds are going to a scholarship fund to send a girl to engineering school.
I’ve just reviewed your first novel, “Non-Compliance: The Sector”, which I really enjoyed. I know the sequel “NC: The Transition” was released recently. Could you tell us a little bit about the series?
Thank you very much! Non-Compliance take place in the not so distant future where the government has made a law: take an invasive implanted tracking chip or be shipped off to a run-down ghetto called a Non-Compliance Sector. Life in the sector is pretty harsh and people need to be innovative in order to survive. The series follows Shea Kelly, a McGyver-esque, beer swilling, ass kicking chick, and her friends as they try to keep the peace in the sector and discover secrets about the chip.
I particularly love your characters (especially Shea!) How have you developed your characters? Do you have a favourite?
That’s a hard one, picking my favourite characters is kind of like picking my favourite kid, but depending on the day sometimes that’s not too hard. Some of the characters I based a bit on real people or characters from movies/TV/books that I really like. For instance, I’ve made no bones about my celebrity crush on Adam Baldwin and Quinn is based on some the characters he’s played: Jayne Cobb and John Casey, but there is also a healthy dose of my husband in there. Shea’s dad is a harsher version of my dad. But there are others that I just kind of made up.
Shea might be my alter-ego she’s always saying smart-ass things I wish I could get away with. I also created Shea just because I felt there weren’t any female characters out there I could really identify with. I wanted someone smart, but not uber suave and self assured. Shea is kind of awkward dork. And I thought it would be cool if the nerdy dork got the hot dude for a change.
I guess I didn’t answer who was my favourite. I really like writing the interaction scenes between Shea and Quinn. I also like Wynne and Shea’s dad. Ugh, so hard to choose. I guess I’ll say I love all my babies equally. Except Danny Rose, that guy’s a jerk.
As we’re talking about female characters – which female characters in SFF do you really like? And who do you think writes really good female characters?
I don’t know if this sounds unoriginal, but I really like the characters Joss Whedon has created. One of my favorites is Miss Kaylee Frye the engineer/mechanic for Serenity. What I really liked about her character is that she was really smart, but not in a stuffy uber academic way. She loved to tinker with things and to get her hands dirty, but she wasn’t afraid to be girly either. She wasn’t a grumpy, gun toting, badass chick she was bright and happy and was unapologetic about it. I love Kaylee. I also liked Dr. Susan Calvin in I, Robot series by Isaac Asimov she was smart and didn’t take any of the guys’ crap in the robot stories. Another favorite is Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica. She was one of guys, but still smokin’ hot.
What is your favourite part of writing? Which parts do you find easy? Is there any particular aspect of writing that you struggle with, and how have you overcome it?
I guess my favourite part of writing is getting to do what I want to do when I want to do it. All day long at work and home you have to take others into consideration when you create things. Will my kids eat this dinner? Does this document I’m creating for work meet all the standards? When I sit down and write anything goes, mostly, and it’s kind of freeing.
I don’t know if I find any parts of writing easy. It’s not in my normal wheelhouse. I’m an engineer-science type, but if I had to pick I’d say writing dialogue. Once I get on a roll it just kind of flows.
I struggle with details. I’m not the type to write five pages on how beautiful a sunset is and therefore my writing tends to be a little sparse. I have to go back and add details after the fact and it’s hard for me.
What made you want to be a writer? Was there anything that drew you to SF in particular?
I don’t know if I ever wanted to be a ‘writer’ per se. I never really thought I had the chops for that. I just had a story rattling around in my noggin that I had to get out of there before it drove me nuts. I had just finished my master’s degree and I was in the habit of sitting on my butt in front of the computer doing homework after the kids went to bed so I decided to start writing down this story. I thought if I hated writing I’d just stop, but to my surprise I liked it. The rest is history.
I’ve always loved science fiction. My family is a bunch of sci-fi / fantasy nerds. Mom would always put on episodes of Star Trek for us to watch and read the Hobbit and LOTR to us before bed. I remember my aunt and uncle coming over on weekends to play Dungeons and Dragons with my parents (I’m completely serious about this). I had a really weird upbringing. So it was just natural that I’d do the science fiction thing.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given? Any tips for writers struggling with that Difficult Second Book?
I think the best advice is to be true to yourself and write a book you’d want read. If you’re writing something you’re uncomfortable writing then it’s going to show.
I’m not sure I’m enough of an authority on writing to hand out tips. But as I was writing the second book I kept saying, “Man, people are going to hate this. It’s so different from the first book.” Then I finally came to the conclusion it’s supposed to be different. Characters are supposed to grow and change and plots are supposed to develop. It’s always an annoyance to me when I get several books deep in a series and think, “Man, this almost the same exact book as the first book.” So don’t be afraid to maybe show different sides to your characters. I think it was a risk that paid off in book 2 and I hope it will pay off in book 3. We’ll see though.
NC – The Sector was one of the first books to be published by Kristell Ink. How did you come to be published by them? What’s it like working with a fledgling indie publisher?
I met the fine folks at Kristell Ink from the writer’s site Authonomy. When I finished the first draft of Non-Compliance: The Sector, I had a book and no clue what to do with it. I did some research on the interwebs and it led me to that site and I learned a lot. Ultimately, I made contact with Kristell Ink this way and met some pretty cool author people (like you).
I think it’s great working with Kristell Ink. I came into this writing thing with zero clues and expectations about writing and publishing. It’s been great having someone gently guide me and give me invaluable advice. I kind of look at it as going to school, but without the exorbitant tuition.
Can you share some of your favourite books and movies of the last few years?
I know this is horrible for an author to say, but I don’t get a lot of time to read with the 40+ hour a week job, kids and their extracurricular activities, a mini-farm, and life in general. I’ve read all the titles out from Kristell Ink and I’ve enjoyed them all (plug plug plug). They are very diverse and unique in their own way. Other than that I just read “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer and I LOVED it. What’s not to love about a teenage girl who happens to be a cyborg mechanic? I really want to read the follow-ons “Scarlett” and “Cress” I just haven’t had time, maybe during the winter Holidays I’ll have time.
My favourite shows are all cancelled – I loved “Chuck” and “Firefly” (Adam Baldwin). Seriously, it wasn’t just because of him; I loved the sense of family both of these shows had and it’s something I tried to incorporate into my series. “Castle” is pretty cool because Nathan Fillion is adorable. I’m starting to get into “Almost Human” – lots of droids, but I’m sure it’ll be cancelled as soon as I get into it. But mostly I watch cooking and home improvement shows and science documentaries. Yes I know, I’m BORING.
What are your plans for your next book?
I just finished the first draft of book 3. It’s actually the longest of all the books sitting at 92K words, which is a huge accomplishment for me. This book wraps up the series and it’s been a challenge. I really want to bring it with this book. I probably could’ve eked out a couple of more books in the series, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome either. I want to leave the readers wanting more and not thinking, “Geez, she should’ve ended this series a long time ago.” Having said that there are definitely some big big changes in the third book and I know the ending won’t make everyone happy, but going back to Question #6, I have to write what I’m happy with and not what will make the world happy.
Any links that you’d like to share with us?
Sure, feel free to cyberstalk me at the following places
My blog: www.nerdypaige.com
The Book of Faces: www.facebook.com/paigedanielsauthor
My handle on that Birdie website: @tclosser
Thanks to Paige for being a good sport and answering all my questions!