Karen A. Wyle

Read more about Karen A. Wyle.

Interview By: Tamazon

Date: January 02, 2012

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Twin-Bred | Science Fiction | Released 10-15-2011

Humans have lived on Tofarn, planet of creeks and rivers, for seventy years, but they still don’t understand the Tofa. The Tofa are an enigma, from their featureless faces to the four arms that sometimes seem to be five. They take arbitrary umbrage at the simplest human activities, while annoying their human neighbors in seemingly pointless ways. The next infuriating, inexplicable incident may explode into war.

Scientist Mara Cadell has a radical proposal: that host mothers carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, who might understand each other better. Mara knows about the bond between twins: her own twin Levi died in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.

The human Council approves the project. The Tofa agree to cooperate, although no one is sure they understand the project’s purpose. In fact, the Tofa have their own agenda. And so does one member of the Council, who believes the human colonists should have wiped out the Tofa before setting foot on Tofarn. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred project through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee.

The Twin-Bred were born to bring peace to their two peoples. But will their unique upbringing leave them too different, too alien, to achieve this goal? Will Councilman Kimball turn the Tofa Twin-Bred into a devastating weapon against their own species? And what is it the Tofa really want?

Please tell us your latest news!

I am revising my first novel that is not science fiction, tentatively titled Reflections. I may alternate between that task and revising the rough draft of the still-unnamed sequel to Twin-Bred.

Reflections has two alternative tag lines: "Death is what you make it" and "Will you need courage in heaven?" It is set in an afterlife with certain features which lend themselves to the confrontation of lingering personal issues and unfinished business. For example, you can relive any memory in perfect detail -- and if someone else who took part in the remembered scene is there with you, you can trade places and remember the events from the other person's perspective. There are other aspects of the afterlife that, while serving this same purpose, are also just plain fun. You can be any age at any time, and visit any place that you remember or that anyone you meet -- from any time in Earth's history -- remembers.

Reflections concerns a mother who desperately wanted a child, but who left that child in the care of her parents and grandmother for unknown reasons. The child, grandparents and great-grandmother die in an auto accident four years after the mother's mysterious departure; the mother dies of stress cardiomyopathy ("broken heart syndrome") some time later, and is reunited with the family she left behind.

I'll probably take the occasional breather from the revision process to write a short story. I've published one science fiction story about human cloning -- "The Baby," free on Smashwords and 99 cents on Amazon -- and I expect to write others soon on the same general subject.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I'm not good at picking favorites, but my favorite author may be Mary Doria Russell. Whether inventing characters from scratch, as in her science fiction novels The Sparrow and Children of God, or reintroducing us to historical characters such as Doc Holliday in Doc, she makes us fall in love with her characters and want to spend as much time as possible with them. She is a marvelous writer, and her warmth and caring come through no matter what she is writing.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

--Read, read, read. Read fiction, biography, history -- whatever interests you. Read authors whose voice appeals to you.

--Don't let anyone tell you whether you're meant to be, or whether you are, a writer. Even well-meaning folks may be poor critics, and not everyone who makes pronouncements on your potential will be well-meaning.

--Keep pen and paper, or some other means of taking notes, with you at all times. Don't assume you'll remember your great idea 5 minutes from now -- write it down immediately!

--Become compulsive about multiple backups of your idea notes, works in progress, rough drafts, subsequent drafts, etc. Use the cloud, e.g., Dropbox or Evernote. Email attachments to yourself. Put files on a separate hard drive and on flash drives.

--Keep your inner editor gagged and stuffed in a closet when you're working on rough drafts. Don't be afraid to leave blanks or bracketed notes as you go. (My latest rough draft has one that reads "[insert appropriate South American country here].") National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) is a great way to accomplish this. There'll be time enough later for lots and lots or rewriting.

--Learn about self-publishing, and about the publishing industry. There's a wealth of info and support out there for indie authors. Conversely, this is a risky time to sign a contract with an agent or publisher. Because of the uncertain and fast-changing conditions in the publishing industry, many agents and publishers are inserting "rights grabs" and other clauses in their contracts that could cripple an author's career. If you do sign with an agent or publisher, pay a good IP attorney to go through the contract with a microscope. Don't let the allure of "being published" lead you to grab at an offer of representation or publication without vetting it thoroughly.

What main genre do you write in?

Science Fiction

Please describe your writing environment.

Most of the time, I write in a hideously cluttered home office. When my writing group meets, I write at a netbook at Barnes & Noble or occasionally other hospitable sites. I also keep pen and paper with me constantly -- in my coat pocket when walking the dog, on the nightstand when I go to sleep.

What’s been the most challenging part of writing for you?

I am not a patient person. There is no area in my life in which I have mastered patience. It is certainly challenging to spend months revising a book, and then months (so far -- I expect it will be years) promoting it and waiting to see how many readers it will reach.

Do you like to mix genres?

Twin-Bred has been called literary fiction as well as sci-fi. As a former English major and lifelong reader of both literary and genre work, I no doubt bring to my writing some interests and habits that come from that background.

The book I'm currently revising is in what may be an emerging genre: fictional treatments of unconventional afterlifes. I use the features of an invented afterlife to address themes of family interaction and unfinished business.

What book are you reading now? What are your thoughts on it?

Argh! I'm between books, trying to decide what to read next. I just finished and greatly enjoyed Elizabeth Moon's Remnant Population. Like Twin-Bred, it involves communication between humans and the indigenous sentient species on another planet. That species was intriguing, but what I most liked was the main character, Ofelia, and her personal evolution. (I've contacted Ms. Moon and offered her a free copy of Twin-Bred in gratitude for the pleasure her books have given me, but I haven't heard back as yet.)

What inspires your writing?

I love to imagine characters and situations, and to find out from my characters what they will do with the situations. I love the art and craft of working with words. There are themes that resonate with me -- family communication, unintended consequences, unfinished business -- and I find it satisfying to explore them through storytelling.

Do you have any cool promo tricks you can share with other writers?

I don't know yet how successful this will be, but I'm running a Playlist Promotion. The first person to suggest what I consider an appropriate song for a Twin-Bred playlist will have their name and suggestion listed in an appendix to a future edition of Twin-Bred. I ask participants to email me their suggestion, with an mp3 file or link, to kawyle@att.net, and I intend to post updates on Twin-Bred's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TwinBred. One doesn't have to read the book to enter, but of course those who have read the book will have a better chance of picking a song that works for me.

I am still learning my craft. I'm proud of Twin-Bred, and pleased with the reviews it has received, but I can already see things I would have done differently with even the modest amount of experience I have gained since. I look forward to writing and improving for a long time to come.

Karen A. Wyle