Thursday, 18 December 2014

An Interview with Jo Zebedee, author of the Abendau Trilogy

I’m delighted to say that the very talented Jo Zebedee, author of the forthcoming Abendau Trilogy, has agreed to a little interview. So, here it is:

You've got a trilogy coming out, starting with Abendau's Child. What's the premise?

Abendau is set in a stellar cluster ruled by an empress who needs a blood heir, but has been left barren after the birth of twins. The children were taken from her by their father and brought up as space nomads until a space collision killed their father and one of the twins. The surviving child, Kare, holds his mother responsible for the accident and, as an adult, joins a rebellion against her rule, incurring her considerable wrath. The story explores his defiance to her rule and what happens when she extracts a vengeance which, even if he survives, will leave a legacy of mental damage. It's very character focused, set against a classic space-opera background.

Is it set in the real universe or a fictional one?

It's completely fictional, even in terms of the stellar cluster not being identifiable. It's a big space opera world, with lots of politics, in-fighting and dynastic history. The main planet, Abendau, is a desert planet, a contrast of an ancient city and the futuristic.

Abendau's Child, the first book in your trilogy, is due out in early 2015. Any word on when books 2 and 3 will be out?

Sunset over Abendau will be out in Autumn 2015, with Abendau Falling to follow.

When writing the trilogy, did you sketch the whole plot out before starting on the first book in detail, or did you complete the plot for the first book, then work on the second and third?

I worked on each chronologically but am now working between the three books as Teresa Edgerton, my amazing editor, reviews them and I build the level of depth needed into book 3 and adjust book 2 where needed.

It has meant a bit of backwards and forward working, particularly between book two and three which are chronologically linked, whereas ten years has passed between book one and two, but as I write more the world grows bigger and that needs reflecting. By the time it's published, I think Abendau's Child will have had about 20 rewrites from its original concept.

Do you prefer to plan in extensive detail ahead of time, or adopt a more spontaneous approach to writing?

I'm totally spontaneous. At most I'll plot a couple of chapters ahead, but mostly I just write and revise later. I am totally in awe of planners, though, and wish I could be a bit more effective at it. I blame the characters, actually. They don't appear to want to do what's logical. I'm also fairly open to rewriting, which I think most pantsters have to be.

Is your approach to writing sci-fi one where you try and make the technical details as scientifically accurate/plausible as possible (hard sci-fi, if you will), or one where you're happy for technical detail to remain in the background?

I'm very much at the escapist end of sci-fi. I do have a few scientists I know who are endlessly patient when I ask questions, and some beta-readers are quick to point out when things are completely off-beam, which helps a lot. I also try to put some semblance of rationality into the world but the technical stuff is very much in the background.

As the books have a feel of fantasy running through them - psi powers are a big element as are a race of space nomads linked to each other by a psychic mesh - I think the lighter touch better matches the tone.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

It's a slow business and bags of patience are needed; I think you have to really love writing to maintain the interest when things are tough and slow. Write lots, as well. I do flash fiction pieces and short work between longer pieces, and that helps keep me fresh. And find some supporters - there are days when virtual cake is the only way forward and being able to cry out for it makes such a difference.

Which authors/books inspired you, either in childhood or more recently?

I read a lot of non-genre books, but most of my inspiration comes from sci-fi. Most recently, I've been reading the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I've been loving them. I like her blend of characters with sci-fi, and Abendau is very much cut from that same cloth.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I adore The Time Traveler's Wife. I love the close character writing, and how plausible Audrey Niffenegger makes the unusual.
I also adore Neil Gaiman, and Zafon, so my tastes are quite eclectic.

Further back, I love the classics of sci-fi: Heinlein, Clarke, Logan's Run, Dune, and each of these have had an influence on Abendau.

What aspect of writing do you struggle with the most?

Well, I run a small consultancy (something has to pay the bills), have two kids (and a husband) and numerous pets, so I'd have to say finding time can be a challenge. It helps that I'm a fast writer.

I also find switching off is hard. I could write all day happily but, obviously, need a break. When I wrote Abendau's Child it exploded out of me and I could think of nothing else. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. As I'm starting to do more and more writing, the need to find ways to switch off is increasingly urgent.

What's your favourite part of being a writer?

I love getting lost in the world, and forgetting any worries I might have for a while. I also enjoy the craft - I'm one of the few writers I know who adores a good rewrite.

Oddly, for such a solitary activity, I enjoy the camaraderie. I've met friends through writing from all over the world, doing all sorts of jobs, and it's fascinating. I've also made some close friends through it and, whilst most of my socialising with them is virtual (which is what I get for living in the sticks), it's a nice diversion and I get lots of giggles.

Do you plan on writing some stand-alone novels or sticking with series?
I'd love to write more in Abendau, but don't plan to write anymore about Kare - this trilogy tells enough of his story. I'd actually like to write something about the second male character, Lichio. There is a lot he hides about himself which we only come to know in the later books, and I think getting to know him better would be nice. He's also one of the most popular characters, so I think it could be fun to follow his story. And there's a second generation who are ready to blossom into
their own people.

I'm working on a number of standalones, including some fantasy which I'm enjoying, and some YA, which I love writing.

I also have several short stories out - two in an anthology, Malevolence, from Tickety-boo press and two on-line, with Kraxon magazine, and I work on shorts when the fancy takes me. I enter flash-fiction comps every month, on the and sometimes that germ of 75 words cries out for exploration.
I'm lucky to be represented by Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency, who supports and guides me in the various ways my mind takes me really well.

Outside of writing, how do you like to unwind?

I do a lot of gardening. I bring on my own seeds and grow flowers and veg, and get a lot of enjoyment from that.I also love spending time with my family, and my long-suffering writing-neglected kids. We don't always go far, but shopping, ice-creams, beaches - all those sort of things appeal.

I like cooking, too, and, like most writers, I'm a pretty voracious reader. I also juggle pretty badly.

Thanks Jo, and best of luck with the Abendau Trilogy. [And consider growing radishes. Very easy, and you get two crops in a single year].


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