Please welcome Brenda Cooper to the blog! Brenda is the author of 6 books, including The Creative Fire (Book One of Ruby’s Song), which is out today, and she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions!
I’ve also got a copy of The Creative Fire up for grabs, courtesy of PYR, so be sure to check out the giveaway details!
Brenda, you have 5 novels out (one with Larry Niven!) already, not to mention numerous short stories to your credit, and your new book, The Creative Fire, is out this week with Pyr! You’re also a futurist who gives talks on the future, technology and writing! Whew! You’re a busy lady. So, my first question is have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I have always been a writer. As a child and a teenager I wrote poetry. I became a single mom at 19, and while I was pregnant I submitted my first-ever science fiction story to Asimov’s. That yielded a personal rejection that went something like “Your idea is hackneyed but your writing is interesting. Please send more.” Motherhood and school distracted me except that I did journal and write more poetry, and I went back to writing when my son turned 18. At that point, I decided if I really wanted to be a published author, I needed to get to it. By then I had been lucky enough to meet Steven Barnes, who was teaching Lifewriting at that time, and I learned some of what I needed to succeed from him. I also met a great poet, Joseph Green, who was teaching a creative writing class which I took. And thus I learned enough to start publishing. That was fourteen years ago, and now I’m six novels and a number of stories into a really fun career.
When I saw the cover of The Creative Fire, I couldn’t help but think of Kaylee from Firefly (it’s a great cover.) She’s holding some heavy artillery, and looks like she might be able to kick some butt if she needed to. Will you tell us a little about Ruby Martin?
Ruby is loosely based on Eva Peron. She comes from the underside of society and uses a combination of singing, fighting, love (some of it misguided) and sheer guts to help run a revolution. Ruby’s not a perfect character – she’s flawed and yet strong. The society she is fighting her way up through is patriarchal and rigid, and she has to find ways to succeed in spite of that. Because she’s young, she’s naïve. She grew up in a brutal society and has street smarts that help her navigate. So you get to see her both make mistakes and figure her way through them. In some ways, she’s a counterpoint to the perfect kick-ass female heroines that are sleeping and fighting their way through a lot of really enjoyable urban fantasy right now.
Do you think recent sci-fi has been better about featuring strong women? What is your take on that?
There are a lot more women writing SF than there were before, and that has improved the female characters. It has also resulted in more women readers, so most science fiction writers are paying more attention to their female characters. The same thing has happened to racial diversity. There’s not enough, but that, too, is getting better. As groups get more power in society, they gain visibility and power in fiction. That’s a good thing. That said, I think that the SF readership and list of successful writers remains more white male than society at large. We haven’t attracted women readers as well as we perhaps could. When I meet women in the non-geek parts of my life and say that I’m a writer, they perk up until I mention that I write science fiction. Then they change the subject. This is a problem I don’t have the answer for, other that that we should just keep writing great science fiction.
If someone were just now dipping their toes in the sci-fi genre, where would you suggest they start?
As readers? To some extent that depends on taste. But I would suggest that people pick up Robert Sawyer’s “Wake” which is very accessible, Allen Steele’s Coyote series, and just about anything by Nancy Kress or Connie Willis or Louise Marley. I also love Kim Stanley Robinson, and I think his global warming series is pretty darned relevant right now. It starts with Forty Signs of Rain. I’d suggest they read some of our classics, such as Dune and Ursula LeGuins’ wonderful short story “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas.” I guess I’ll stop there, but there are hundreds of our books I would recommend.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Heinlein. Niven (Which made writing with him later pretty fabulous). Nevil Shute. Frank Herbert.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished vN by Madeline Ashby (a female sf writer and futurist who I just discovered). I’m three degrees through Six Degrees, which is a climate change book, and about half way through David Brin’s Existence. I’m about to start Apocalyptic Planet by Craig Childs, and I’m hoping to start Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, although I have a few books I promised to look at to blurb and am feeling like I need to get to those as well.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Frank Herbert’s Dune.
When you manage to find some time to yourself, how do you like to spend it?
Exercising. Mostly, I like riding street bicycles (I did one 204 mile ride this summer). And of course I love time with family and walking my dogs. Generally, moving. I don’t get nearly enough time to move.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m working on the sequel to The Creative Fire, which is called The Diamond Deep. It’s been a blast to write, and now I’ve got the daunting task of cutting it since the manuscript insisted on coming in long. I’m also finishing up a YA called “Post” that is a near-future adventure story of discovery for a young woman named Sage.
Keep up with Brenda: Website | Twitter
About The Creative Fire:
Nothing can match the power of a single voice… .
Ruby Martin expects to spend her days repairing robots while avoiding the dangerous peacekeeping forces that roam the corridors of the generation ship the Creative Fire. The social structure of the ship is rigidly divided, with Ruby and her friends on the bottom. Then a ship-wide accident gives Ruby a chance to fight for the freedom she craves. Her enemies are numerous, well armed, and knowledgeable. Her weapons are a fabulous voice, a quick mind, and a deep stubbornness. Complicating it all—an unreliable AI and an enigmatic man she met—and kissed—exactly once—who may hold the key to her success. If Ruby can’t transform from a rebellious teen to the leader of a revolution, she and all her friends will lose all say in their future.
Like the historical Evita Peron, Ruby rises from the dregs of society to hold incredible popularity and power. Her story is about love and lust and need and a thirst for knowledge and influence so deep that it burns.
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