I recently interviewed Katherine about the second book in her Alien Affairs series. Here’s what she had to say…
SFRB: First of all, Katherine, many congratulations on Close Contact being named a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews, with four-and-a-half stars (their highest rating). That’s quite an endorsement! And congrats again on its debut.
Thanks! Needless to say, I was thrilled when my editor sent me the news. It stoked my energy to work harder on the next book.
SFRB: I love the line from your site: GEPs just want to have fun. For anyone not familiar with Close Encounters, can you explain what GEP means?
GEP stands for Genetically Engineered Person. They are created from the best aspects of human DNA and are smarter, faster and more resistant to disease than “Natural” humans. And to add a little more conflict, my GEP heroines were created by a rogue geneticist with a God complex. Instead of using human DNA to create them, he used DNA from other GEPs and not only improved it, he tinkered until he gave them psi abilities. So I guess you could say they are futuristic superwomen, although they can still be killed if you’re a really good shot.
I suppose it’s more of a spin-off, although that really doesn’t define it either. It has a new main character named Echo Adams, who wasn’t in the first book at all. On the other hand, Kiera Smith, Thor and Dr. Daniels all make several appearances in Close Contact.
SFRB: I’m so glad to hear Kiera and Thor will be back in the next. I’ve gotten attached to those characters. Could you tell us a little about the main characters in Close Contact. What in your opinion makes them stand out or sets them apart from the characters in other SFR novels? What creates the tension or conflict between the characters?
Echo Adams was created to work for the department of protocol and she highly resents being transferred to the Bureau of Alien Affairs when it’s discovered who her creator was. She’s the stereotypical city girl who hates nature, animals, and children. Technology isn’t just her friend, it’s her life. So of course, I gave her a dragon bird, put her on a planet with almost no technology, and set her to rescue two children. She is not a happy camper.
Reynard du’Marr is the commander of the king’s guard, but he’s also the king’s best friend. He owes a lot to the man since the queen saved his life when he was a boy and raised him with her son. And the king has declared Madrea a closed planet. It puts Reynard in a real fix when he falls for Echo. Does he help her or stay loyal to his king? Especially when he knows Echo could never be happy staying on his world and he’s sworn to serve the king for life.
SFRB: Tell us a little about the universe where the Alien Affairs books take place.
In the world of the Alien Affairs stories, humanity has vanished from Earth, wiped out by a virus that swept the planet. The main planet of the Alpha Centauri star system had been colonized by this time, but it left them with a terrible shortage of manpower. Thus, the first GEPs were created. They could be designed for the jobs no one else wanted, and it only took them thirteen cycles to mature. Plus, because they were resistant to diseases and normal human ailments, they lived longer.
As humanity spread they colonized other planets met other, alien, civilizations, and the Galactic Federation was formed to rule them all. The Bureau of Alien Affairs was created by the government to insure all sentient species were treated equally, and to help the different races assimilate into the Federation. They’re also protectors and champions of those races, and police the independent trade companies who try to take advantage of any resources they might have.
I’ve mentioned on several blogs that I came up with the idea for GEPs after watching a news story on designer babies, and that’s true. But it’s also true that the seeds for these stories were sown when I picked up my first Superman comic at age four. I’ve been fascinated by characters who are more than human ever since.
Once upon a time, back in the days before computers while dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I started writing a story by hand. The title was The Ebony Star, and it was about a big black crystal that gave a young girl psi powers. I got thirty pages into it before my hand gave out and I shelved it.
Eventually computers made an appearance, and I began writing in earnest. I was almost done with Close Encounters when I was cleaning out my closet and ran across my attempts to write The Ebony Star. Idly, I thumbed through it and made a startling discovery. I had finally written that book, and the title was now Close Encounters. Of course, it wasn’t identical because I’d learned a lot about the craft of writing since my first attempt, and I’d combined the story with a romance. But the heroine with psi abilities was there, as was the huge black crystal infested with an alien life form. Funny how our subconscious works.
SFRB: Did you originally pitch this as a series to an agent or editor, or as a single story? If you originally started with a single story, what inspired you to expand it and write a sequel?
It was originally pitched as a single story, although I’d already started writing the second book and had a semi-plot for a third swirling in my head. I knew there would be three books, if I could drum up any interest in the first one.
My agent, Laura Bradford, sent the book out in September and told me to relax, it might take a while. In October, four weeks later, she called me to say we’d had two offers on the book. A small bidding war ensued and we ended up going to contract with Eos for two books and an option clause for a third, which I’m working on now.
SFRB: Do you have a favorite quote, line or scene from Close Contact that you'd like to share?
My very favorite line from Close Contact is the first sentence in the book. “Kiera Smith should eat worms and die.” It completely sums up Echo’s attitude and outlook on life.
SFRB: What’s next? Any more novels coming in the Alien Affairs universe?
As mentioned above, I’m working (slowly) on a third book. The main character will be someone you meet in Close Contact, but you’ll just have to wait to see who it is. I can also tell you that both Kiera and Echo will play parts in the third book, and it will bring about a whole new world for the GEPs. So far, it looks like it’s going to be a bit darker than the first two books, although I don’t think I could write a story without some humor tossed in.
SFRB: In closing, can you share with us the blurb and/or an excerpt from Close Contact?
GEPs just want to have fun. . .
A Genetically Engineered Person and self-proclaimed "party girl," Echo Adams loves her diplomatic job entertaining alien bigwigs for the Galactic Federation. But the Bureau of Alien Affairs has discovered she's much more than she thinks-that a rogue scientist endowed her with skills and psi abilities dwarfing those of common GEPs. And suddenly Echo's luxury life is over, replaced with a far more dangerous one: a special agent expected to not only chase bad guys, but eliminate them.
Echo's hates being stuck on Madrea-a planet of technophobes off limits to Federation visitors-hunting for a stolen quartz crystal with a powerful alien lifeform embedded inside. She despises the Bureau's restrictive rules-especially the one warning her away from the dangerously seductive Commander of the King's Forces. And if she doesn't learn how to use her alleged super-psi powers soon, her partying days-in fact all of her days-will be over for good.
The first chapter is posted HERE for anyone who wants a sneak peek!
Congratulations, once again, Katherine. I can’t wait to read the next in the series!
To celebrate release day, Katherine is giving away a copy of both Close Encounters and Close Contact! So once you’ve had your fill of virtual cake and punch, all you need to do is comment below to be included in the random drawing. Have fun and good luck!