Today is the release day for Sara Creasy's Children of Scarabaeus--the second book in her wonderful Scarabaeus duology. I'm delighted to be celebrating release day with an interview with Ms. Creasy. I picked up Song of Scarabaeus a couple of weeks ago, fell immediately in love, and set about getting my hands on an ARC of the sequel as quickly as possible (you can read my reviews here and here). This is the kind of science fiction I love--character-driven and exciting, set against the background of a fully developed and eerily fascinating world. If you haven't had a chance to pick up these books, now is the perfect time. Please welcome Sara Creasy!
First things first: The Covers. I am kind of a fan of Chris McGrath’s covers, and I love the little touches on these two that make them unique to Edie & Finn’s story. Did you have any input on the covers and what was your reaction upon seeing the first one?
Isn’t his work amazing? As soon as I found out he was doing my SONG OF SCARABAEUS cover I knew it would be awesome. For that book, my editor asked me to put together some ideas so I sent her a few covers I liked (a lot of them were monochromatic, like my covers are) along with an idea of Finn’s and Edie’s appearances in generic terms, and an idea of the clothes they might wear. I described Finn as the US Marine type. I described Edie as pixie-ish and not the kick-ass woman you see on so many urban fantasy covers these days, because that’s just not who Edie is at all.
When the email arrived with the cover art attached, I closed my eyes and made my husband look at it first. I was excited and terrified! But it was everything I hoped for. I love the background spaceship. In the original art you can see all the hardware – very cool. I was a bit more relaxed about the second cover, and I like it even better. I had simply asked that Edie look more assertive, because she does mature and take control, and that Finn have a bigger gun.
You have a degree and background in science and biology, and I think it really enhances your treatment of the world of Scarabaeus, as well as the ways in which Edie interacts with that world—almost as though it’s a character in its own right. What was your initial vision for Scarabaeus, and how did it evolve over the process of writing the books?
I always had the idea that the planet would have these discrete pockets of jungle, giving the characters a defined “stage” where the story takes place. I wanted them to climb down into the jungle from the canopy, as a change from moving through it horizontally. It’s an alien world and it’s highly mutated beyond what a natural evolutionary process would create, so I wanted to describe it quite specifically. I didn’t have much idea of exactly what it would look like until I came to writing it. I used ideas from an embroidery craft book, of all things.
For the second book, the world has been evolving rapidly in a different direction again for many months, so it looks quite different when Edie returns. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that I had to think hard about what it would look like given how the technology has changed. There was a need for a certain sense of drama about the “stage” where the action took place.
I’ve read a fair amount of science fiction and science fiction romance and I really fell in love with the balance you struck between the two in this series. How did you decide how much was just right as far as the romance aspect goes?
I didn’t intend to write a romance book at all, although I knew there would be a relationship in the story. A romance, to me, is when the relationship is the main focus and the plot revolves around it. Characters do what they do because of their developing feelings for each other, not so much because of external plot. The Scarabaeus books are first and foremost science fiction stories but I was keen to develop the romantic tension as well. The second book takes the relationship quite a bit further and that’s a natural progression of what happened in book 1. What would not have felt right would be rushing these two characters into a lust-driven relationship. Their situation gives them too much else to worry about. I wanted to show that they develop a mutual trust and understanding before they even think about getting physical or expressing undying love for each other.
What’s it like being married to another author, and could you share the story of how you two met?
We met online on a discussion forum about 6 years ago. We’d both been frequenting the forum on and off for years, but never run into each other before. He impressed me with his ability to correctly use a semi-colon. I impressed him with my affinity for Firefly. So we exchanged manuscripts. Within weeks, he came out to Australia to visit me and then I visited him in Arizona for a few months to see what I thought of the place. We decided to take the big step, and I migrated to America at the end of 2005. We got married a month later. We moved back to Australia last year to raise our daughter.
My husband’s name is M C Planck and his first book, a science fiction novel, comes out from Tor next year. It’s called Fireax.
It’s fantastic being married to another writer. We understand each other very well in terms of what it takes to write and to just find time to write. We have a ready beta reader who will be honest and constructive and supportive. When he’s sitting next to me writing, I feel guilty if I’m not also writing (and vice versa) so that helps us with our wordcounts.
How do you go about naming your characters?
Naming characters is my bugbear. I change character and place names repeatedly. Finn was always Finn, and Cat was always Cat, but Edie is Edie’s third name. Captain Rackham had at least half a dozen names before I was done with him. The rover ship, the Hoi Polloi, used to be the Icarus. Even Scarabaeus originally had a boring sci-fi name (Proximity Rho, if you must know).
I use name generators and baby name websites and foreign dictionaries. I don’t usually worry too much about the meanings – it just has to sound right. The word Saeth, though, is Welsh for “arrow” (as in, flying true), and the ship in book 2, the Learo Dochais, means “ray of hope” in Irish. I do love those Gaelic words.
You’re a new mother (congratulations!) and, as I’m about to have a baby myself, I’m intrigued to find out how that life change has affected your writing and your writing schedule?
Thank you, and congrats to you, too! My writing schedule is non-existent at the moment. I try to write when she’s napping but in the afternoon I usually need to take a nap myself. So I try to write in the evening but I’m always aware that I need to get to bed because she’ll be up at 6.30. Until she’s better able to entertain herself, I think my productivity will remain rather low.
As for my writing – when I was writing Children of Scarabaeus I found that it was really difficult to be mean to the children in the story. This has affected my reading habits too. I’m just not interested in reading anything where children get hurt. Not that I ever was, really, but these days it makes me feel awful to hear about even fictional stories like that.
Is there a Song of Scarabaeus soundtrack?
The closest thing to a soundtrack would be Jean Michel Jarre’s Rendez Vous, which I listened to early on when I was developing the plot. I generally write in silence.
It’s my understanding that the Scarabaeus books are a duology and Children of Scarabaeus will finish Edie & Finn’s story. Is that correct, and what are you working on now?
That’s correct, there are no more Scarabaeus books planned. That doesn’t mean I won’t get back to those characters eventually, but I have too much other stuff going on. I’m working on three quite different books, which has been useful because I can just open up whichever one I feel like doing that day. One is a sci-fi adventure/romance, one is a middle grade contemporary fantasy, and one is a fantasy/steampunk/romance crossover that I started years ago.
What’s the one book and/or series you’ve been gushing about nonstop lately?
I haven’t finished a gushworthy book since – let’s see, since my baby was born. I recently ordered about five books, some of them quite old, in the sci-fi romance genre. I hope to discover some gems. Meanwhile, I’m open to suggestions from your readers. Please!
And just for fun, what’s the first word that comes to mind when I say:
Books: Dr Seuss
Music: violin (argh! I wish that wasn’t the first word that comes to mind – I played for years and hated it)
Science Fiction: possibilities
Thanks so much, Sara! Come back anytime.
Thanks for having me, and I’d love to come back another time.