Friday 20 September 2013

Guest Author Interview - S. J. Hunter

Today's featured author in our final guest author interview of the week is science fiction author S. J. Hunter. This interview was also requested by one of this blog's readers, if you know an andie author that you'd like to see interviewed then let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I write under the name S.J. Hunter. Some of that is real, some of it is a pen name, some of it is a translation of my real name.

Now, I’m a writer. I’m also a veterinarian, and before I was either of those, I was a librarian, and before I was that, before the university (the first one), I was a Midwestern farm girl. As na├»ve as they come, and determined to rectify that in the best possible way. People who don’t know me are surprised when I mention my career change from libraries to veterinary work, but those are people who don’t realize that I’ve really come full circle. The work is very different, but I’m back to being surrounded by animals and people who love animals and that’s what matters to me. Otherwise the undercurrent has remained the same – books, reading, and writing.

The other strong influences that have shaped who I am are my husband and cultural diversity. In the U.S., we’ve been exposed to some of that by living in Maine, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Michigan, Connecticut, Washington D.C. and Florida. Otherwise, we’ve traveled to Egypt, Peru, Mexico, and many times to Europe, where we’ve enjoyed mingling and blending in as well as two blue-eyed Midwestern-born non-polyglots can.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to express myself, I can’t sing, dance, or draw, and I love words. I need to avoid getting starry-eyed here, but how the heck did we get so lucky? I mean, I have respect, veneration even, for the way animals sense things and communicate, and here we are, with millions of words at our disposal, and behind each one: meaning. Okay, there was no way I was going to be able to express that without sounding starry-eyed, but the question is about inspiration.

I wrote my first book when I was still a librarian. Readers at several publishing houses sent it back but offered encouragement, but that happened shortly before I decided to go veterinary school, and my priorities changed. That book was historical fiction and I’m sure I can find it somewhere in a closet if I ever take the time to look.

And what drew you to science fiction?
I’d like to skip the obvious things, like I’ve always loved reading it, and I have a strong science/social science background, and in what other genre can you explore so many aspects of the human condition so creatively? We have some important breakthrough technologies looming over our heads, and some of them will have the potential to shatter societies. We aren’t hanging together all that well even now, so how are we going to manage when we have all these new capabilities? I like to explore the possibilities, and I admit to having intense interest in how things work out in the new future.

The Longevity process that drives the conflict in my Longevity Law Enforcement series is based on technologies that are developing now. "Technological immortality is the prospect for much longer life spans made possible by scientific advances in a variety of fields: nanotechnology, emergency room procedures, genetics, biological engineering, regenerative medicine, microbiology, and others." - "Immortality" in Wikipedia

You also write humour/suspense stories for animal lovers, do you find it easy to switch between genres?
I’ve only written one of the humor/suspense stories. I find that humor creeps in no matter what I write, so that isn’t in any way a switch. On the other hand, my suspense novel will only be appreciated by animal lovers because much of the humor deals with the natural reactions of dogs and cats and the unnatural reactions of a man who just doesn’t ‘get’ them. That book was only my second novel, and I hope to write more in that obscure genre some day.

Switching to science fiction was no problem. Conceptually they are very different but managing the rest – the characters, the setting, the plot – all followed from that. I suppose that means my work is mainly character-driven, and that in the universe I write about people are still people. So far my science fiction is, after all, near-future science fiction.

Animal lovers can find something special for them in my science fiction as well. In my Longevity Law Enforcement trilogy the main characters have a neurologically-enhanced canine detective-partner. Louie is still very much a normal dog, just an especially smart normal dog. It was important to me that he is right on that edge – he never does anything that a bright, exceptionally well-trained normal dog couldn’t do.

Which author do you most admire and why?
Connie Willis. With Doomsday Book she took me back with her time-traveling heroine to the era of the Bubonic Plague with immediacy that I can’t imagine any other author achieving. Ditto for Blackout and All Clear and the Blitz. Have I mentioned that I love history for the some of the same reasons that I love science fiction? The diversity of human experience. I also loved Willis’ style of humor in To Say Nothing of the Dog. The same sort of humor is evident in Bellwether, and I think the concept of that book is especially brilliant.

You know it’s really hard to pick just one, don’t you? A list would be better.

What is your favourite word?
Enigmatic. My patients… my cat… they all look me in the eye. What is going on in their friendly-alien brains? I think I know the friends I’ve had for decades, but can I really?

All writers love receiving a good review, what has been your favourite so far?
My favorite is Paul Spooner’s review of the third book in my Longevity Law Enforcement trilogy, The Dog on the Moon. It’s hugely rewarding when a reader picks up on everything you tried to do in your writing and lets you know that your efforts were, for at least one reader, successful.

This time I insist on picking a second: Jason Reeser’s review of Longevity, the first book in my trilogy. It’s a pleasure when someone tells you in a review that they had fun reading your book. Asking readers to think is important (science fiction readers seem to like to do that anyway) but Jason understands that reading fiction has to be fun, too.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing Livvy’s prequel to my Longevity Law Enforcement trilogy. This prequel is set in San Francisco, which allows me to show some of the effects of Longevity in a very different environment. Livvy has not yet joined LLE and, in fact, she has some issues with the way they intrude on a case that she’s working.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
My most recently completed work is The Third Curse, which explores the early days of Longevity and the difficult first years of Longevity Law Enforcement. Once I finished the trilogy I was reluctant to leave the Longevity universe behind and I’ve grown very fond of the characters, as have my readers. I wanted to tell their ‘backstories’ while at the same time exploring more of the Longevity world. Chris’ prequel and the books of the trilogy: Longevity, The Burning Rivers, The Dog on the Moon, all take place in Washington D.C., although the third book only starts there. Every book is case-based, with a major case that challenges the detectives and, in the trilogy, their canine partner, Louie.

When I finish Livvy’s prequel (Pretty Woman, Floating), I’ll be going much further into the future.

Readers can find out more about my books on Amazon, Goodreads, and

Books by S. J. Hunter on Amazon

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