Genres: Science Fiction
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The year is 3001, and history takes a critical turn when Earth is destroyed by a solar flare. As Dr. Leigh Lybrand and her colleagues explore ways to survive in orbit of Jupiter, dark matter rips open the fabric of space and time, allowing them to see parallel universes. When the visions reveal that a radical religious group planned Earth’s destruction, Leigh must make a choice: Accept her fate, or use what she’s learned to save humanity; even if it means betraying the one closest to her in a parallel universe and sacrificing herself in this one.
Interview with Author Sherri Moorer
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
This book is about a scientist, Dr. Leigh Lybrand, who is one of the last 1,000 survivors of a solar flare that destroyed Earth. As they ponder how to survive on the only human outpost orbiting Jupiter, dark matter starts to rip open the fabric of space and time, revealing alternate universes that hint at Earth’s destruction being planned by a radical religious group. When Leigh discovers that her fiancé had ties to this group, she suspects that these glimpses of alternate realities are giving Leigh a hint at how to save themselves in ways that nobody thinks is possible.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
Although it was years in the making, it was radical life changes that really gave it shape. In 2010, I faced tremendous change in my personal and professional life – my in-laws moved from 100 miles away to right next door, and my job of 11 years transferred to a new department. It was overwhelming to face so much at once, and it affected a lot of people. I spent months feeling like I had no peace anywhere I went, because these changes included people and circumstances in every area of my life. As I struggled through the natural frustration of having my life changed so radically by other peoples’ decisions, these ideas I had for a sci-fi novel started to take shape in a “what if you really go back and change things” scenario. I decided to enter National Novel Writing Month in 2010 as an effort to get back into writing and to get “back on track” with my life. It helped me tremendously, not only by getting back into my beloved writing, but to help me take a more objective look at my life and the circumstances I was dealing with. I’m happy to say that things have worked out, better than I could have ever imagined. It was a tremendous personal struggle for me, but it also lead to a much better life than I had before.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
That your past should enhance you, not hinder you. We all have “what if” moments, but they’re only as good as what we learn from them and how we apply it to make a better today, tomorrow, and every tomorrow after that. The past can’t be changed and even if we made those different decisions, there’s no guarantee that things would wind out the way we hoped. Regret isn’t productive. We need to take our historical knowledge to make sure that our future is better than our past. Reality is always in motion, and we can’t afford to be bogged down in things that can’t be changed if we want to make the best of every opportunity that’s offered to us.
How long did it take to write the book?
It was a three year process from conception to publication. Although I wrote the rough draft for National Novel Writing Month in 2010, I spent several months prior to that brainstorming and researching the novel, and the next few years rewriting, doing further research, and fine tuning the manuscript. It was a long journey and a lot of work, but it was worth it.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
I really enjoyed the interactions between Leigh Lybrand and Amelia Eaton, her best friend and the doctor on the station. The loss of their families and the life they knew put them in a situation where they bonded more as family than as friends, and I loved the scenes where they were working together or just talking to see how that friendship evolved. It was amazing that they were bound by horrible circumstances, and yet they developed a positive, reinforcing bond that helped both of them deal with the situation they were in.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
I did outlining, but I wound out deleting it by the time I was halfway through the rough draft due to one of those unexpected directions. I didn’t plan for the dark matter to be an element in the novel at all. I had planned on the alternate realities being manifested through a glitch in their neural chips. So imagine my surprise when I found myself writing the scene where Amelia found the dark matter. That shocked even me. I literally stopped typing and said “wait, what the hell just happened?” What was more interesting is that I wrote that scene during my lunch hour at work, so my colleagues were really baffled because they thought they did something wrong! I had some explaining to do to them, and some quick research to do myself so I could figure out how to integrate this new element into the manuscript.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
The only thing I would change is the one small element that I failed to consider in all of my brainstorming and planning – the radiation coming off Jupiter. I didn’t even realize that was an issue I should have planned for until the final edits were done on the manuscript and it was turned in for final publication preparation. I hope that if readers realized this oversight, they would assume that either the neural chip helped them adapt to the higher radiation, or that the station had adequate protection mechanisms in place against it.
How did you come up with the cover?
I have to thank Gemini Judson, my cover artist through Whiskey Creek Press, on that one. When she sent me the cover art form, I was completely stumped on any vision for the cover. I just didn’t know how to graphically depict this novel. She took the synopsis and descriptions I provided and came up with an outstanding cover that I believe really captures the essence of the book better than I could have imagined.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. As a child, I drew pictures in my books to embellish my stories until I learned to write, then I filled up notebooks with my own stories. I thought everybody made up stories and wrote them, so I was surprised as I grew older and people complained about the writing assignments in school. I did put it aside in high school and college as I worked through my studies, but I picked it back up and started pursuing publication when my husband and I bought our first computer in 2001.
What are you favorite books and authors?
My absolute favorites are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I also like R.A. Salvatore, Ben Bova, Kim Stanley Robinson, and P.D. James. I’ve recently started reading a lot of books by independent authors, and I’m excited to see their work develop and see what new writers and books I discover in that arena.
What are you working on next?
My current work in progress is a sci-fi novella titled Incursion. This is also a futuristic thriller, but it has more of a political bend to it. It’s about a cargo ship that finds itself in orbit when two Earth sectors that are at work launch a nuclear attack. They’re ordered to retreat, but soon after they discover that a strange carrier wave they picked up just before the attack has altered their neural chips. They have to make a decision: obey orders at the risk of their health, or return to Earth to find out what happened there so they can fix their chips, and figure out the truth behind the attacks.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I have two pieces of advice – first, patience is a virtue you must be well versed in. This is a time consuming, rejection-heavy business, and fortune favors the persistent. You have to keep trying, keep learning, keep working, and keep improving. Plus, progress is much slower in the writing world. What takes a year in the rest of the world can take 10 years in the writing world. It can be frustration, but it’s rewarding if you hang in there. The second is to consider going the indie route. It’s extremely hard to break into the traditional publishing realm, and even if you do, you still have to do most of your own publicity. Why not go indie? Check out e-publishers, or self publish. You can hire out good editors and cover artists, and start building your audience and readership immediately instead of banging your head against agents and publishers that aren’t willing to take a chance on something new. Plus, you still have the freedom to change genres or make any changes to your writing that you desire. So be patient, and go indie. That’s my advice.
How do you juggle writing with family time?
People think this is no problem for me because my husband and I don’t have children, but it’s actually more difficult than they can imagine! Both of our parents are still alive and live in the two houses next to us (we live on family land – my brother and sister-in-law also live within walking distance of our home). Plus, I have a full time job, we have three birds (two sun conures and a parakeet), and my husband and I are active in our church and have several friends we like to spend time with regularly. My life is full and fitting in writing time can be a challenge. I’ve found that you have to be an expert in scheduling and that there’s no such thing as a wasted minute. I write nights, weekends, and even take my laptop to work and write on lunch breaks (that’s five extra writing hours in a week, if you work it right). But I also have “hands off” times that are earmarked for my husband, home, and family. I almost never write on Saturdays because that’s my “day off” to nurture my relationships, and holidays and vacations are always off limits. Smartphones and tablets make it easier to keep up with correspondence and promotional efforts, and can save you time because you can reply to easy or simple requests with a few taps on a break or between chores/errands. I will admit that there are times of frustration and slow progress because, as the people I work with on my day job like to say, “life gets in the way,” but you have to learn that patience I mentioned above and accept that any progress is good, no matter how small or slow. No, it’s never easy, no matter how you slice it. But it can be done if you’re determined and commit yourself to having a firm grip on your schedule and your life.
They awoke sixteen hours later to the thump of the ship as it docked with Jovan I. The intercom crackled to life and Valerie’s melodious voice floated through the ship. “Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for your cooperation. Please exit the ship and follow your escort to the safety area for processing and debriefing.”
“Processing and debriefing already?” Amelia asked. “What’s going on? They only put you in stasis if there’s an emergency.”
“You’ll find out when you board,” the stern woman snapped. “Welcome to Jovan I, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Dr. Regina Rosemblume, astrophysicist, assistant director of Jovan I, and your escort. Please follow me and keep your spacesuits on until you’re given the clear to remove them.”
“What a grump,” Leigh mumbled, falling in the middle of the line. They exited the transport ship and proceeded through a long corridor that lead from the docking bay to the station.
“Look at that! Have you ever seen such a thing?” Amelia exclaimed. The corridor was made of clear tubing.
“It’s like walking in space!” Leigh exclaimed.
The line proceeded through the corridor as people marveled at the sights of outer space surrounding them: Jupiter and Eurpoa above, Gandymede in the distance, the stars surrounding them, and the diminished glow of the sun in the distance. Leigh squinted as she saw what looked like a streak of fire waving in space. She
stopped and pointed.
“What’s that?” she asked.
The line stopped as Dr. Rosemblume approached her position. Sure enough, a fiery streak rippled through the void of space. Leigh squinted to take in the flashes that erupted as the streak passed through objects between them and the Asteroid Belt.
“That’s a CME!” Leigh shouted.
“A CME?” Amelia asked. “What’s that?”
“A coronal mass ejection,” Leigh said. “A solar flare.”
She paled and turned to Dr. Rosemblume. “Do you have a safety area on the station that’s shielded from radiation?”
Dr. Rosemblume nodded. “We do, but Jupiter’s magnetosphere should protect us.”
Leigh turned toward the streak that seemed to grow as it passed through space, burning everything in its path. She recalled a saying she heard her childhood teachers use in her Christian School.
The first time man died by water. The second time man dies by fire.
The station vibrated as the front edge of the CME approached Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Fire spread in an arc around them. “It’s
not just a solar flare. It’s Armageddon.” Leigh turned to the shocked faces behind her. “Run! Everybody in the station!”
The corridor erupted in screams and bodies rushing for the door as the flame surrounded them with fire.