Interview with author Karen Wiesner
Please tell us about your science fiction series currently in progress.
I write in nearly every genre of fiction you can imagine, along with nonfiction and writing reference, children’s books and poetry. Science fiction horror is my favorite genre to read. I’m the biggest fan of the Alien movie franchise, and that’s not being done as often as I’d like to see in fiction, whether in books or movies. I’ve always wanted to write a story that combined those two genres. I’ve written horror but never science fiction before.
The premise I started Arrow of Time Chronicles with was a sci-fi story set not too far in the future when mankind has finally begun traveling the stars, mainly in in desperate and dire need of finding new homes for displaced Earthers. What if Humans built habitations for their people in orbit of a planet that’s in a nuclear winter, initially believing there are no survivors? What if they found out in the process of building these new homes that there are survivors? And what if there are others originally from the planet (who achieved space travel before the war that destroyed their planet) who return to find Humans “squatting” in orbit of their homeworld–a blatant claim of ownership…and the grounds for war? That catalyst is what led me to writing this series, but another thing that compelled me was the idea of having alien cultures spread across the galaxy that, genetically, are so similar, it begs a billion scientific, cosmological, and theological questions. The horror angle I wanted to develop in this series turned mild with phantom energy, an unconscious force of dark energy, dominating and “expanding” the universe.
Because I don’t have anything like a science background, I didn’t want to “invent the wheel” when it came to science fiction standard operating procedures (like folding space and time with wormholes and space corridors and faster-than-light travel and communication, orbital habitations, dark energy, and even what forced Humans to leave Earth to begin looking for homes in space, which was Global Warming). So I used scientific speculations that are already being talked about these days to provide the train tracks to get this story rolling. In other words, I didn’t want any of those things to be the focus of this series. I wanted to set them down as SOP and then unfold the story I wanted to tell over the course of four volumes.
Three things really surprised me about writing in this genre. The first thing is the amount of advance research that would be required. I spent an entire summer (2018, I believe it was) doing massive amounts of research, some of it the SOP stuff that I wanted to mention in the first book and thus establish so I didn’t need to dwell on any of that in future volumes. I filled five medium binders and one enormous one with everything “foundational” I would need to write the series.
The second thing that shocked me were how few developmental resources there are out there for authors of science fiction. I bought every writing reference manual I could find that even looked like it might have something about science fiction that might help me. Frustrated, I turned to videogame and Dungeons & Dragons guides because those had the most helpful development tools. I took what I needed and could use from all these references. Essentially, I came up with my own worksheets and resources for my world- and character-building for this series. There might be a new writing reference in there for me, given how little there is for authors of this genre, and my own worksheets were a crucial help in fleshing out this series. In terms of research, that summer in 2018 was only the beginning of what was required. Each outline before I wrote the stories back to back (in addition to writing other books for other series in-between) over the course of the next two years necessitated enormous amounts of research as well.
Finally, the thing that most astonished me about writing in this genre is that a series of this scope forbade me from getting to know the characters in the depth I usually do. Almost exclusively, my books have no more than three point-of-view characters so I can really get to know each character down to shopping list details in the process of writing them. This series had more or less thirty POV characters, with about seven different characters “telling” their specific portion of the story in each book. Additionally, I also had to create numerous homeworlds and cultural lore for all the “aliens” in the galaxy featured in the series. Don’t get me wrong, my research and development created fully developed characters and settings, but there was no way to use everything without overloading the books to the point of spawning side stories left and right (kind of like the A Song of Fire and Ice series does). I had to focus on the story I wanted to tell in this series and not go off on tangents, which was hard for me. I’ve never written so lean before and, in truth, by the time I got to the outlining of Book 3–which, incidentally, I thought was going to be the last in the series, but I realized at that point I needed a fourth to finish everything–I started wondering if I should do some spin-off series novellas for each of the cultures, so I could get to know them in the bone-deep depth I usually do with all my POV characters. That idea is on a backburner for now.
Also of note concerning the people populating this series, one of the main characters–Astoria “Tori” Bertoletti–is a descendant of my original Clumsy Girl Zoë Rossdale and her husband Curt Bertoletti, who were in my Family and Friendship Heirlooms series. Specifically, Zoë and Curt were the main characters in Clumsy Girl’s Guide to Falling in Love, Book 1, and Clumsy Girl’s Guide to Having a Baby, Book 6: Friendship Heirlooms Series (though also featured in many other books in these two series).
For the first two books in the series, I was deeply bothered by the fact that they weren’t stand-alones. That’s been a point of pride for me in all my series–each story had to stand alone and you didn’t need to read the others in the series to make sense of it. But, with a story this sprawling, the scope of the series arc was so contradictorily big and small, there was no way to make any of the installments stand-alones. In part, I couldn’t do it because it would have meant repeating information from one book to the next in a way that could have become overwhelming in a hurry. That’s part of the reason why I provided appendices with a Human timeline/history, culture specifics, and a dictionary of terms in the backmatter of each book in the series. That was also a way to provide a concise summary of the lore for each culture and homeworld in the series, which I always need to reference while I’m reading (and writing) a series.
While I believe this series is unlike any other science fiction one out there (no comparisons in books or movies come to mind), I hope readers find it a compelling snapshot into a potential future. As hard as it was, I enjoyed the journey that certainly felt like my magnum opus as I was writing it.
What else are you working on now?
Now that I’ve finished Arrow of Time Chronicles, which has been my main project for the last two years, I’m focusing on finishing up a bunch of other series that have been left lagging a bit because of the sci-fi project.
My Adventures in Amethyst Series will conclude with An Adventures in Amethyst Series Trio of Holiday Romances, which has three short novels that are utterly interconnected and flow into one another, moving in a linear way through the holidays Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with three amazing couples. It was a fun experience writing entwined stories. That should be published in June this year.
In March, I was outlining what I expect may be the last Woodcutter’s Grim Series story, a fantasy novel. Bridge of Fire, Book 9, fits into the series after The Deep, Book 8, and before Hunter’s Blues, A Woodcutter’s Grim Series Futuristic Story and “The Amethyst Tower”, The Final Chapter. If all goes well, that book will be available by Halloween of this year.
Also on deck this year, I’ll be outlining and writing the next two Bloodmoon Cove Spirits Series titles. I’ve outlined Hidden, Book 6, and this one is outright horror. I’m both terrified and excited about writing that story in April for release later this year. I expect this series to have quite a few more offerings.
I’m also working on a few more novels in my Peaceful Pilgrim unofficial series of romantic fiction.
In addition to having been a popular writing reference instructor and writer, professional blurbologist and freelance editor, Karen Wiesner is the accomplished author of 156 titles published, which have been nominated/won for over a hundred and thirty awards. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, thriller, paranormal, supernatural, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, inspirational/Christian, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles which have been repackaged in the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection. Karen will begin illustrating children’s books starting in 2024.
You can check out more of Karen’s many books with Writers Exchange on her author page: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Karen-Wiesner/.