Monday, 16 October 2017

Meet the #Author: S.J. Higbee #NA #scifi @lolasblogtours

Running Out of Space banner

This is my stop during the blog tour for Running Out of Space by S.J. Higbee. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 11 till 31 October. You can check see the tour schedule here.

First, I’d like to thank you, Pippa, for inviting me along to tell you a bit about myself and my space opera adventure Running Out of Space.
You're welcome! Please tell us a bit about yourself:
I have been writing since forever. I used to write stories when I was a child – long, drawn-out affairs and continued into my teens. However I gave up writing – and reading fiction – during those busy years when I was studying, then married and raising children. I deliberately didn’t go near a book when my children were little – I’m one of those who gets lost between the covers so knew that if I picked up a story, the poor mites could throw themselves down the stairs or drink bleach and I probably wouldn’t notice. But I started writing again once the family were grown and haven’t really stopped. This is my first foray into self-publishing and I also have a post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure novel, Netted, due to be published by Grimbold Publishing in 2019.

Tell us about Running Out of Space
It is a coming-of-age story about a space merchanter’s daughter who yearns to follow in her father’s footsteps, but the trouble is that she is a fertile girl and as such, is expected to marry early and produce lots of babies. The book charts Elizabeth’s struggles to overcome that prejudice and what happens to her along the way. And a great deal happens, including kidnap, a shuttle crash and murder. Running Out of Space is the first book in the Sunblinded trilogy and I’m hoping to release the second book, Dying for Space, later in the year.

What inspired you to write this particular story?:
I had already written two novels, both standalones, set in this particular world and knew it very well. The space merchanters played a small but crucial part in one of the books and I found myself wondering about them and their lifestyle. But what actually triggered this particular book with this particular opening was hearing Regina Spektor’s song ‘Sansom’ – which gave me the character of Wynn, who features heavily in the story.
It was originally intended to be a single novel, but Elizabeth’s story grew into the trilogy – and I am still not finished with her, as she is going to feature in a new, related series as my space opera crime-fighting private investigator in the Homespace Investigations novels.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:
Okay. This is an extract after the shuttle crash I mentioned earlier…

I opened my eyes to find myself lying on my back, staring at the sky – a shock. After nearly a year in a spacecraft, so much fresh air overstimmed my slagged senses. Apart from anything else, it stank. Of earth and greenness and rain. I sucked at the water trickling across my mouth because I was very thirsty, as well as soaking wet and cold. My teeth started to chatter.
Maybe it would be a zesting notion to get up. It took a while to struggle onto my knees and shakily scramble to my feet. Partly because everything hurt and partly because I couldn’t shake the idea I must be badly injured. I’d been in a shuttle crash, for Earth’s sake! But although my head was hammering hard enough to shiver my vision and I’d an impressive collection of cuts and purpling bruises, nothing seemed broken. I shaded my stinging eyes from the too-bright outdoor lighting, and tried to get my bearings.
The sodden landscape was cheerlessly grey, with rain falling sideways in swirling gusts that plastered torn overalls against my rapidly numbing body. I squinted sore eyes. That grey smudge. There... behind that stand of trees. That’s smoke.
I squelched across the gouge marks scarring the field, following the trail of shredded shuttle-stuff while my head thudded with vicious intensity. The tail section sheared off, here. The rest cleared the fence and finally ended up in the next field. I must’ve been thrown out.
It took a long light year to trudge through the vile gloop the Cerens like to call soil. I fell over. Twice. The second time, I nearly didn’t get up. The only thing that kept me going was the sure knowledge that if I stayed sitting in the gluey mess, I’d die of hypothermia. Or disgust. I didn’t survive a dregging shuttle crash just to end up as fertiliser for some food crop. Besides, what if Wynn finds me? I flinched at the thought of his beautiful blue eyes staring at my mucky corpse.
The going got easier once I reached the knee-high grass bordering the field as the tall plax-mesh fence offered significant shelter from the rain-laden wind. I headed for the track intersecting the fencing. A thick pall of smoke swirled through the opening long before I reached it. The chemical smell, overlaid with a cooked meat scent, made me cough like an apron-clad bloke downwind of the barbie. I used a shard of dura carbon to hack off the breast pocket on my overalls and cover my nose against the stinking smoke. But I could do nothing about the dread snaking in my belly.
If Wynn survived, why haven’t I seen him? No way would he wander off without searching for me. I stumbled to a halt, as icy certainty gripped me. That’s it, then. He’s dead. I buried my face in my hands, despairing. Until a new voice zipped through my head like a fireball.
Wynn could die out there, while you’re behaving like a baby. Haul it together, Lizzy!
Jessica, that you? It sounded like her, for sure. Whether it was or not, just hearing her bossy voice ringing around the inside of my skull was sufficient to help me haul it together. On trembling legs, I rounded the corner and took in the mess. Judging by the torn earth and burning remains, the shuttle must have cartwheeled half the length of the field before finally coming to a halt upside down. I shivered as I imagined the force needed to create such large gouges, while wading through the quagmire and peering into each gaping hole, already half-full of water. Looking around the rainy, smoke-grimed mudscape at the flaming remains of the shuttle, I wondered if there was a bleaker spot in the whole universe.
I spotted the first body, while stumbling through the wreckage. His head was tilted back at an impossible angle. His helmet had been torn off and his face was a red ruin. I shuddered. Hopefully, it was quick.
I moved onto the next hole, dropped to my knees, and prodded at the water with a length of casing. My stomach slid somewhere around my mud-caked thighs when I realised someone was down there.
Mark the spot, then move on. You can come back later, if you don’t find Wynn elsewhere.
Typical Jessica. Still bossy, even when dead. Nevertheless, I draped shredded insulation in the rough shape of an arrow, before moving towards the burning remains of the shuttle. It was now a question of numbers. I’d found two bodies, one unidentified. Aboard the shuttle, there’d been Helmethead, the pilot, Wynn, and the three guards sitting opposite. Six, apart from me.
The pilot was easy to find. His charred body was still strapped into the burnt-out remains of the cockpit, clearly beyond help. Another badly burned merc was hanging out of a ripped hole in the fuselage, but I couldn’t get close enough to see if he was still alive. Heat radiated from the blackened carcass of the shuttle. Further back, the fuel tanks were still burning.
Upwind of the thick, stinking smoke, the warmth was almost pleasant. I caught sight of someone was lying on open ground about ten yards in front of the shuttle, so mud-covered, I couldn’t tell whether he was wearing a uniform. Or alive.
Hurry up, it could be Wynn.
Yeah, I’m on it, Jessica. I half-ran, half-slithered towards the prone figure. But I slid to a stop a few feet away, as I realised the dregger was wearing a helmet. His arm twitched.
Mercury’s Dust, he’s alive. I couldn’t walk away. Kneeling beside him, I felt for his pulse. He’s warm to the touch... Which was when I recognised the numbers on the side of his helmet – I’d been staring at them when he’d hit me. It’s Helmethead! Wonder how he—

His hand snaked out and gripped my arm as he surged to his knees. “Hello, girlie. Must be my lucky day, after all.”

Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:
I do have a sense of my protagonist’s appearance – but it has to be the personality and situation that is my starting point and that frequently starts with a dream or news story.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:
I’m also a Creative Writing tutor at Northbrook College and have been teaching there since 2009, so have watched a lot of beginners make a start on books and I have two pieces of advice – the first is to write down that first draft. Don’t keep going back and fiddling with the beginning, unless you have hit a brick wall and can’t write and while you are writing, find what works for you and keep doing it. Secondly, once you have that first draft written, put it away and work on something else for at least six months and can gain some distance – and only then start editing it. It’s also important to find yourself a community – other writers who you can trust to share work with and talk about it. It’s a lonely old business, but if you look at the back of any published book, you’ll find a list of people the author thanks and most of them will be that writing group who helped the author knock the manuscript into shape.

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?:
I’m a baby-boomer and vividly recall my expectation that by the time I was grown up, we would have colonised the Moon and be on our way to Mars. So if I could go back and change anything – it would be that disastrous, wrong-headed decision to STOP the drive into space just because Man had walked on the Moon!
It’s comparable to Christopher Columbus returning to Spain and announcing he had discovered a new land and Queen Isabella turning to King Ferdinand and say, ‘Zounds, what an achievement!’ Then looking back at Chris before adding, ‘Um, next trip, just pop over to France, will you? We’ll not bother going to that new continent anymore…’

What super-power would you choose?:
Flight. I used to sit on the end of my bed for hours as a child and watch the night sky, yearning to be able to be nearer the stars. Though that was in Zambia which is a LOT warmer and realistically I wouldn’t be flying high very often in England as it is way too nippy even in summer. There’s a reason witches wear long black dresses and long pointy hats where they can store their hot water bottles and flasks of tea. And those cats on the end of the broomstick are in reality curled up on their laps for warmth.

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?:
That every person in the world should receive enough to eat; that every person in the world should have a decent roof over their head; that every child in the world should receive an education. The shame and disgrace is that we currently have the resources to do it – we just lack the political will.

Coffee, tea or wine?:
Oh tea – every time. My two favourites at present are Lapsang Souchong and Peppermint & Licorice. Yum!

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):
Oh nooo… really?? Just one? I can’t – I really CAN’T choose one book… I can give you favourite authors – Kage Baker, Terry Pratchett, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Moon, N.K. Jemisin, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jo Walton – okay – two books… And they’ll probably be different next year, because I do read quite a bit – Among Others by Jo Walton and After Atlas by Emma Newman – two more wonderful authors, by the way.

Favourite genre and why?:
Speculative fiction. I love the fact that I open a book and be taken ANYWHERE.  The world might be balanced on the back of a turtle, or peopled with aliens in a universe where light creates energy and has no absolute speed. I may read about characters related to a bunch of randy, highly magical aunties or a famous mother who disappeared off to space and abandoned him on Earth… It can be a fast, enjoyable read or so full of densely written cool ideas my brain hurts as I break off to take in all the amazing concepts. Wonderful…

Favourite colour?:
I love yellows – the colour of happiness and sunshine. Much of my house is decorated in yellow and in the garden lots of the flowers are yellow, though tragically I can no longer grow marigolds and sunflowers, my favourites, as the snails and slugs devour them.

Upcoming news and plans for the future?:
I’m planning to release the sequel to Running Out of Space called Dying for Space in December, all being well and the final book in the trilogy, Breathing Space early in the new year. The first book in my space opera crime series, Bloodless, is currently burning a hole in my brain while it’s on hold as I’m reworking a book that won’t leave me alone – Miranda’s Tempest which is a fantasy story about what happens to Miranda and Prospero after they leave the enchanted island and is the sequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It’s the most ambitious book I’ve written so far and you won’t be surprised to hear it’s giving me a few problems in getting it nailed.
I have a short story, ‘A Dire Emergency’ coming out in an anthology called Holding On By Our Fingtertips, edited by Amanda Rutter, who was the commissioning editor for that wonderful imprint Strange Chemistry. The premise is that all the stories are about what happens when we only have twenty-four hours before it all goes to hell in a handcart – great stuff!
And then, I’m also very much looking forward to the release of Netted, my post-apocalyptic adventure set in Maine, in 2019 by Grimbold Publishing, who produce a steady stream of fabulous books.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!

Thank you so much for asking me along to chat – it’s been a real pleasure. As you may have gathered, I’m not the strong, silent type…

For a limited time Running Out of Space will be only $0.99 on Amazon

Running Out of SpaceRunning Out of Space (The Sunblinded Trilogy#1)
By S.J. Higbee
Genre: Science Fiction
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: 11 October, 2017

Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and my shipmates were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile English girls can also deal with danger.

The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

You can find Running Out of Space on Goodreads

Buy Running Out of Space for only $0.99!
You can buy Running Out of Space for only $0.99 on Amazon!

SJ HigbeeAbout the Author:
Born the same year as the Russians launched Sputnik, I confidently expected that by the time I reached adulthood, the human race would have a pioneer colony on the Moon and be heading off towards Mars. So I was at a loss to know what to do once I realised the Final Frontier wasn’t an option and rather lost my head - I tried a lot of jobs I didn’t like and married a totally unsuitable man.

Now I've finally come to terms with the fact that I’ll never leave Earth, I have a lovely time writing science fiction and fantasy novels while teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook College in Worthing. I’ve had a number of short stories, articles and poems published – the most recent being my story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ which appeared last year in Fox Spirit’s anthology Eve of War. I recently signed a publishing contract with Grimbold Publishing for my science fiction novel Netted, which is due to be released in 2019.

I live in Littlehampton on the English south coast with a wonderful husband and a ridiculous number of books. I can be found online chatting about books at my book review blog and you’re very welcome to pop onto my website and my Facebook page

You can find and contact S.J. Higbee here:

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking part in the blog tour and asking such interesting questions - I really enjoyed answering them. I have tried to follow your blog - but it came back as an Error 403 - whatever one of those is:(


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