This month I’m hosting the talented Jessie Kwak, a fellow cycling writer. Jessie and I have shared space in the bikey short fiction anthologies published by Elly Blue, and her current work-in-progress will be published as the next novel in the Bikes In Space series, following The Velocipede Races as a pioneer in the emerging bicycle fiction genre.
She is a freelancer writer of many talents and projects living in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working with B2B marketers to tell their brand’s story, you can find her scribbling away on her latest novel, riding her bike to the brewpub, or sewing something fun. Her latest fiction work is Starfall, set in a futuristic world of space bikes and gangsters.
EJS: Pitch your featured book in three sentences.
JK: When Starla Dusai, the deaf daughter of a notorious space pirate clan, is captured by the Alliance, she finds herself in a remote prison with no idea what happened to the rest of her family. Rumors of her family’s destruction quickly make their way through the black market underbelly of New Sarjun, where they reach the ears of her godfather, Willem Jaantzen. As the jaws of the Alliance’s justice system close in around her, will Starla be able to find her way out – or Jaantzen, in?
EJS: Is your book indie-published or traditionally published? Tell us a little about that journey.
JK: It’s indie-published. I’m working on a novel right now for Microcosm Publishing set in this same world. Starla and her godfather, Jaantzen, are minor characters in this novel, but they kept nudging me to tell more about their story. I started Starfall as a quick backstory sketch, but it quickly took on a life of its own.
Even though it’s short, I put a ton of care into the production. I commissioned the cover art of Starla – which I adore – and worked with a professional editor and cover designer to make sure everything’s as perfect as it can be.
I own my own freelance writing business, so the business side of indie publishing is really attractive to me. Plus, I love the ability to work on my own timeline and release something when it’s ready.
EJS: Why sci-fi?
JK: I’ve been referring to Starfall as “gangster sci-fi,” which is a label I’ll probably apply to the rest of the novellas I have planned in the series. I would say the series is very much more inspired by movies like The Godfather and Ronin – just set in a far-future world.
For my entire life, I’ve loved immersing myself in fantastical places – both in what I read, and the stories I made up. I’ve shied away from writing sci-fi for a long time, mostly because I was scared of the science-y aspects of the worldbuilding.
I’ll be the first to admit Starfall is very soft sci-fi, though. My stories are all very character-driven – my goal is first and foremost to tell a good story with people you want to spend time with, then make sure the world is realistic enough that it doesn’t knock you out of the story.
EJS: What’s a favorite sci-fi book and why?
JK: Growing up, Dune and Ender’s Game were my absolute favorites. Now, though, I have too many to count! I love Rachel Bach’s Paradox Trilogy – there’s adventure, romance, and kick-ass characters. I’m also thoroughly enjoying James S.A Corey’s Expanse Series. Rollicking adventures and fabulous characters – so much fun!
EJS: What makes a sentence great?
JK: It has an element of surprise to it, and the reader feels it in their soul. Margaret Atwood and Margot Lanagan are both masters of great sentences.
EJS: How and when did you first know you were a writer?
JK: When I filled two spiral bound notebooks with a story in middle school.
EJS: What are your writing rituals?
JK: Since I’m a freelance writer for my day job, I have to make a clear delineation between when/where I write fiction, and when/where I do client work. For client work, I sit at a desk with my schedule and phone and notepad beside me. When it’s fiction-writing time, I’ll take my laptop to the armchair or couch and put my feet up with a cup of tea or glass of wine, depending on the time of day. For me, evening is often a better time to do creative writing, while morning is a better time to edit and outline.
Learn more about Jessie: http://www.jessiekwak.com/
Read an excerpt from Starfall: http://www.jessiekwak.com/starfall-an-excerpt/
Get Starfall for free by signing up for Jessie’s mailing list: http://www.jessiekwak.com/get-starfall-for-free/
Follow her on Twitter: (@jkwak).