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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Interview with Karen A. Wyle


Welcome to Jagged Edge!
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved to California at age 8. I then bounced back and forth between the coasts until I met my husband and moved with him to the Midwest. I now consider myself a Hoosier. I'm Jewish, the first generation of my family to be born in this country: my parents and their immediate families barely escaped Hitler's Europe.
My interests (besides reading and writing books) include politics, history, photography, and whatever my daughters are up to.

What inspired you to write?
From early childhood, I considered myself a writer. I had a poem (not a very good one) published in the local paper when I was in 3rd grade. When I was ten years old, it was my ambition to be the youngest published author ever, and I was somewhat crestfallen to learn that a nine-year-old girl had claimed that honor. For the next ten years, I tried to find the right form for my writing: novels? poetry? short stories? Nothing seemed right, and I gave up for a long time.

When I started having children in my mid-thirties, I also started writing picture book manuscripts. My older daughter is a gifted artist; when she was eight or so, she would do drawings and I would write silly poems to accompany them. Ten years later, she took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) for the first time. Her second year in NaNo, I joined her – and produced the rough draft of my first self-published novel, Twin-Bred (available as a paperback and ebook on Amazon and elsewhere). I’ve since used NaNo and its summertime version, Camp Nano, to write rough drafts of two more novels.

What drives me to continue? 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. And I am glad to keep faith, finally, with that ten-year-old girl I used to be.

What authors influenced you as a writer?
I have been reading both genre and literary fiction for many years. It would be next to impossible for me to trace the influence of the many authors whose books I have read and re-read. However, I can point to three authors who may well have had an impact on my science fiction novel Twin-Bred.

Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God are brilliant treatments of the theme of human-alien communication difficulties. These books inspire me even as their excellence intimidates me.

Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is another excellent, and very entertaining, treatment of the same theme, although in a different context (alien invasion of Earth). I particularly enjoyed the role that Niven and Pournelle gave to science fiction authors in the analysis of the alien threat. While I did not use this device, it may have influenced my decision to have my colonists name their various towns after science fiction authors.
George Eliot's treatments of moral dilemmas and moral choice have had a profound impact on me. I don't know that her books have directly influenced mine, but I suspect they helped to form my underlying approach to fiction.

What is your favorite quote?
It might be one invented word: "TANSTAAFL," introduced in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It's an acronym for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world, which would it be?
It might be the human colony on the planet Chiron in James P. Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear. The resources of the planet are ample, given the available technology, to provide well for all the inhabitants. Rather than create artificial scarcity controlled by typical economic exchange, the residents of Chiron trade in respect. A citizen's status -- to the extent any such thing exists -- is determined by his/her skills and expertise. Chiron's people are an independent, self-reliant and optimistic lot.

What is at least one thing that every writer needs to have or do?
I would say that a writer needs to love the craft of handling words.

Also, a writer needs to be deeply interested in something -- preferably in human beings and how they tick.

Are your books different than your personal favorite books by other authors?
That's hard for me to say -- I'm too close to my own books. There's some overlap of subject matter, theme and emphasis.

What led you to writing in this genre?
I don't remember when I started reading science fiction, but I'd guess I was around ten or eleven. I have been reading it ever since. The day I met my husband, twenty-five years ago, we talked for two hours about Robert A. Heinlein and assorted other SF authors. As you might suppose, our marriage exposed me to even more of the genre.

I love reading and writing science fiction, for a host of reasons.

Science fiction explores how human beings – whether acknowledged as such, or in any of innumerable disguises – react to the unexpected. How do they – how would we – cope with the fulfillment of anything from dream to nightmare? How will the future we anticipate surprise us? How will we surprise ourselves when we confront it?

Science fiction's imaginative settings allow us to examine familiar themes and problems with a fresh eye. (Star Trek, despite its flaws, was often excellent at using the trappings of science fiction to explore issues like racism, war and peace, patriotism, gender identity, ambition, love versus career, et cetera.) I am a lawyer; I am writing a series of short stories which will eventually include legal issues raised by certain future technologies. I have long been fascinated by twins: my novel Twin-Bred features fraternal twins (carried by host mothers) belonging to different species. I have been deeply interested in parenthood since becoming a mother: I can create aliens for whom parenthood is in many ways different, and in some fundamental ways the same.

Science fiction paves the way. Its authors, often scientists themselves, extrapolate from current technology and knowledge, and make educated guesses about what we will be able to invent. Often they guess correctly. It might be easier to identify the scientific advances of the last sixty years that were not predicted in science fiction than to list those that were. By working within the constraints of scientific theory, science fiction honors those who have spent their lives helping us understand our universe (and any meta-universe which may include it).

Finally, science fiction gives the would-be builder of worlds a place to play. While fantasy does the same, science fiction imposes certain constraints – and as many a poet would testify, some constraints can actually spur creativity. At any rate, I find satisfaction in knowing that what I have imagined, or what another author lays before me, could possibly exist.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love it when the story decides to write itself -- for example, when a character responds to a situation I set up in a way I didn't expect, or when some fact I inserted in the story for one purpose turns out to serve another and more important purpose.

Least favorite part of the writing process?
Incipient carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are you currently working on?
I am revising my first novel that is not science fiction, tentatively titled Reflections.

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.

Where readers can find you?
They can visit my website at www.KarenAWyle.net, or my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KarenAWyle. If they want updates on reviews of Twin-Bred, or on my ongoing Playlist Promotion, they can stop by Twin-Bred's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TwinBred (no hyphen). I also have a blog, Looking Around, at http://looking-around.blogspot.com.

LAST QUESTION:
Was there a question you wish I would have asked but didn't?
Here's one:

Q. What would you most like readers to tell others about Twin-Bred?
A. That it's a thought-provoking and engrossing read, with likeable, loveable and/or intriguing characters, and a conclusion that doesn't disappoint. And to buy the book! The ebook is about the price of a latte, and I hope it'll stay with the reader for a good bit longer.

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