Sinclair kindly agreed to take time out from preparations for her appearance at the upcoming Romantic Times BOOKLovers Convention in Columbus OH (April 26-May 1) to share some of her news and views with the SFR Brigade. SFR Brigadier Donna S. Frelick conducted the interview via email.
SFRB: The latest in your Dock Five Universe, REBELS AND LOVERS, recently hit the stands. What do fans have to look forward to with this book?
LS: REBELS is Devin Guthrie’s story. He’s Admiral Philip Guthrie’s youngest brother, and a character who’s been mentioned only obliquely in HOPE’S FOLLY. But unlike his illustrious older brother, Devin is non-military and definitely a geek. He idolizes Philip, but his path was a different one—or so he thought. Where FOLLY, and to some extent GABRIEL’S GHOST and SHADES OF DARK, had a more military SF tone, REBELS doesn’t…because Devin isn’t. I call him my ‘reluctant hero.’
The book in some aspects is about loyalty—earned and misplaced—and about how our view of our family defines not only how we see ourselves, but how we see our possibilities. It’s also a rip-roaring, high-action space opera story with lots of chases down back corridors with bad guys shooting at good guys, some edge-of-your-seat starship flying, and great love scenes.
SFRB: You have a short story appearing in an anthology called SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH: TALES OF STAR-CROSSED LOVE, which is due out in November. This is HUGE news—an anthology of stories blending SF, fantasy and ROMANCE, edited by SF stalwarts George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Tell us about the project and what you think it means for the wider acceptance of romantic elements in science fiction.
Do I foresee 100 % acceptance from both camps? No. There are and always will be SF readers who reject any kind of romantic subplot in their stories, and there are and always will be romance readers who shy from the intricacies of tech and/or the “strangeness” of alien worlds. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction for at least alerting both camps to the possibilities found in the other.
SFRB: There is always a great deal of debate within the SFR community about the “dynamic tension” between romance and science fiction in our subgenre. How do you find a balance between the two in your work? Do you feel pressure from representatives of the market, or from fans, or from anyone else, to steer your work in any particular direction, and how do you deal with that pressure?
LS: My first inclination is to say that I don’t find any kind of balance, that I write what I want to read, but then I also acknowledge that probably because I read a lot of SF that there are things permanently embedded in my brain that affect what and how I write. Once I’m through the first draft I do, yes, go over with an eye to both genres and their arcs in the story. But even if I were to write pure SF, I’m a character-driven writer not plot-driven, so the emotional component would always be in there.
Now, granted, there are those SF readers who want every tech detail explained. But that feels unnatural to me. I don’t think about who invented the microwave oven when I pop my popcorn. I don’t even know who invented it, nor do I care. I care that it works and doesn’t burn my popcorn. Now, if I were also an appliance repair-person, sure, then when making popcorn I might think of how the unit works. So if I write a character who’s an appliance repair person or a starship jumpdrive technician—then yes, the tech detail belongs there. But the tendency to make everyone in an SF story a techno-whiz-kid reads falsely to me.
In the same sense, I try to make the romance arc of the story make sense to the characters and the action. Just as everyone in the universe isn’t a techno-geek, everyone in the universe isn’t always hankering to get it on. I have a problem with romance novels where—when bullets are flying—the two main characters can think of nothing but getting into each other’s pants. Sorry, but I’ve had the business end of a gun pointed at me (I’m a retired private detective) and the last thing on any (normal) person’s mind at that moment is sexual satisfaction.
So as to pressure from readers or fans or bloggers, sure, those are the kinds of things I get from time to time: why aren’t your characters groping each other on page four? Why haven’t you detailed the schematics of the jump drive in chapter one? The answer to both things is because that doesn’t belong at that point in the book. Both the world and the characters’ emotional reactions are organic to the plot in the way that I write, and yes, that’s my judgment call.
If I get a sincere fan mail from a reader asking those questions, then I might, yes, explain as I have here that there are actually biological reasons that nullify the human sex drive during a fight-or-flight reaction (which is why getting it on while bullets fly doesn’t work for me—the human body won’t logically cooperate). Other times, I’ll just say ‘thank you for sharing.’ However, if my editor or another author in my genre whose work I’ve read and respect comes at me with those kinds of questions, I will seriously look at the scene in question. Eight books and one novella don’t make me an expert. I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing. I still take workshops and online classes. Someday I may even learn to plot (I’m a pantser).
SFRB: The romance market has seen the repackaging and republishing of a number of older SFR titles by established writers in recent months. Sherrilyn Kenyon did it with great success with her LEAGUE series, but Jayne Ann Krentz (writing as Jayne Castle) is also trying it with three titles originally published in the ‘90’s. Are these simply smart marketing moves for the individual writers, or do they have positive implications for those of us hoping to convince an agent or editor there’s a market for SFR?
I’m not sure what it signals on the part of the authors or the market since neither author has confided in me. I can guess that with movies like the new STAR TREK and AVATAR, that authors and marketing people are recognizing that there is a continuing interest in things SF-y. But that’s only a guess on my part. Both Kenyon and Krentz are hugely respected names, and I’m thrilled with any contribution to the genre they’d care to make. I do think their name recognition could bring in new readers, and that can only be a good thing.
SFRB: Care to predict any trends? If SFR were to take off sales-wise in the next year or two, which way(s) do you think it would go? (And steampunk or YA don’t count—that’s too easy!)
LS: Nope, no predictions. Wish I could, but I’m not privy to any inside information, other than what you’ve obviously heard: steampunk is big and the YA paranormal market shows no signs of tapering off (and a recent PW article noted its trend toward dystopianism…if that’s even a word). SF has long embraced dystopian plots, so I can see an alignment there, and steampunk has long embraced things technical, so I can see a melding there.
SFRB: What's in your WIP file? Anything new and exciting you'd like to share with us?
SFRB: Okay, this may seem like a cliched question, but we're writers and you know we'll all be hanging on the answer: what is the best piece of writing advice you ever received? And what would you advise us as writers slogging away in the star freighter engine rooms of the SFR world?
LS: Read Dwight V Swain’s TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER. My first crit partner—a long-time HQN author and Trekker—gave me that advice. She refused to critique me until I read Swain. She was right. Swain’s writing advice is flawless, timeless, and spot-on. I judge several national writing contests and at least eighty per cent of the mistakes I see (and deduct for) in those manuscripts are easily avoided if the writer would only read (and employ) Swain’s teachings. It doesn’t matter which genre you write in. Swain’s book is the CRAFT part. It’s what gets and keeps readers hooked (and editors and agents before them, because if you don’t hook an editor or agent, you’ll never get a chance to hook a reader.)
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
The SFR Brigade wishes to thanks Linnea Sinclair for sharing her knowledge, insights and time in answering these questions, and to SFR Brigade member Donna S. Frelick for conducting her interview.
As a very special bonus, Linnea Sinclair has a huge giveaway to offer readers who comment below. She will award one each of her novels, GAMES OF COMMAND, SHADES OF DARK and her recent release, REBELS AND LOVERS to three commenters. (If the winning commenter resides in a foreign country, a PDF of the novel will be substituted). OR if like many fans, you have already read and savored all of these great novels, she is offering the selection of one product from her Intergalactic Bar & Grille Café Press store as an alternative prize. Twitter Brigade and bloggers, let's get the word out and get this party started.