Published by Hades Publications on 5-15-2015
Genres: Science Fiction
» Buy on Amazon
On his deathbed, Kia's father discloses a secret to her alone: a magnificent diamond he has been hiding for years. Fearing he stole it, she too keeps it secret. She learns it comes from the distant colonized planet of Malem, where her father caught the illness that eventually killed him. Now she is even more convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.
When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a translator, she is co-opted by a series of events into travelling as a translator to Malem. Using her skill in languages and another skill she picked up after her father s death, the skill of picking locks - she unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner. But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humour and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia's opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs."
Interview with J.A. McLachlan
Hello, I’m J. A. McLachlan, the author of The Occasional Diamond Thief. I’m so pleased to be meeting you, and I’d like to thank Michael for having me here on Michael SciFan today. This blog tour is part of my online launch of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and I’ll have something different at each stop – book excerpts, author and character reveals, vlogs, reviews and blog posts – for you to enjoy. You can find The Occasional Diamond Thief at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NF9NYJM And you can find me at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com
Check here for the other places I’ll be from May 18th until May 29th: http://yaboundbooktours.blogspot.ca/2015/03/blog-tour-sign-up-occasional-diamond.html
Why do you write science fiction?
I write science fiction for the same reason I’ve been reading it all my life: because science fiction is the literature of ideas. Science fiction lets us get outside our culture, our present-day beliefs and values and understandings, even outside our own planet, and examine those things from an objective, distant point of view. Will they still matter in 100 years? What future changes and discoveries will change how we think? What will be the issues humans face it the future, and how will they view the ones we’re facing today? All of this fascinates me. That’s why I prefer the term “speculative fiction” to “science fiction”.
Why do you write young adult fiction?
I started reading science fiction when I was about twelve. Back then, there was no YA designation in science fiction; there were children’s books and adult books. About the closest thing, was Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. And those, like all SF books with young protagonists, had adult themes. Orsen Scott Card’s Ender series is another series I loved, and it was originally adult fiction. I guess I like most young protagonists facing adult struggles and themes.
What do you find to be the hardest thing about writing YA fiction? What is your favorite part of writing YA books?
The hardest thing for me is keeping up the pace. YA has to move quickly, and I tend to get interested in the characters’ thoughts and conversations and ideas. When I edit, I have to really pare down to the essentials and keep the story moving.
My favorite thing? I love that age group. I taught college for years, and really enjoyed the mix of idealism and “cool” exterior, the sweetness and toughness of youth, their openness and vulnerability and honesty, and the way everything matters so much to them. I love writing characters like that. I love the way they’re exploring life, trying to find out who they are, what matters. It’s a time of change, discovery and insight, and that always makes for a good story.
The ship is quiet except for the subliminal vibration and the low, persistent hum of its drive, which has begun to sound like the murmur of unpleasant voices. It’s no bigger than the Homestar: a two-man operation—captain and engineer—with a cargo bay, rooms for a couple of passengers, the caf, the cockpit, the com room, and the drive. It makes me feel claustrophobic, this tiny shell we’re hurtling through space in.
I head to the caf, a cramped little room with cold metal walls on all six sides. It makes me feel like a worm, a small black slug caught inside a tin can, living off the contents. But it’s time for Agatha’s morning language lesson, and the caf is the only eat and meet space on this ship. My head aches from lack of sleep, but Agatha can’t afford to miss another lesson.
She isn’t there, so I head for the com room, and there she is, standing in front of the portal, her eyes shining and her hands clasped together.
“Come to the portal,” she says. “You can see Iterria.”
Iterria, viewed through the portal, looks huge. It’s the only other habitable planet around Malem’s sun, and it blocks them both out, casting a reddish glow in the dark of space.
“What’s it like?” I should have researched Malem’s solar system as well as the language and culture.
“It’s very hot, a desert planet. They harvest the few precious clouds that form over the mountains at night, for water. It’s not enough, though, to support the present population. Without another water supply, their civilization could die.”
I look at her, reevaluating. She has done some research. “Why don’t they take hydrogen from the stars?”
“Iterria’s oxygen is very thin, not up to the task of converting the hydrogen into water. Besides, there aren’t any large stars close enough to make that practical.”
“What about a comet?”
“There’s no oort cloud near this solar system.”
I’m beginning to get the picture: “So Malem is mostly water.”
Agatha nods. “Iterria wants to buy enough of Malem’s water to create a closed, self-replenishing system on Iterria. Malem could easily spare it.”
The cost of lifting that much water off a planet staggers me. “How would they do it?”
“Iterria and Malem are small, low-g planets with stable orbits. They’re both suitable for skyhook towers. Iterria already has one; they want to build another on Malem.”
“And send water up and down the elevators. The only transport they’d need would be between the satellites, in space.”
Agatha nods again.
“Iterria must be rich.” I look out at the glowing planet.
“Rich, and desperate.”
“Why not just land on an uninhabited part of Malem and take the water they need?” As soon as I say it, I wish I could take it back. There is no uninhabited part of Malem. With only one continent, every bit of land is precious. Agatha doesn’t answer. She’s probably stuck on the “just take what you need” part. I look out the portal.
That’s that, then. Inter-planetary strife is left up to each world to settle on its own, but intra-planetary aggression is forbidden. If Iterria attacks Malem for water, they’ll be fighting the entire Alliance.
“They need a trade agreement,” Agatha says. “It would be a good solution. Iterria’s a technological world, they have a lot to offer Malem.”
“But Malem doesn’t want it.”
“And you’re supposed to make them want Iterria’s technology?”
“I’m supposed to try to bring them into the Alliance.”
“They don’t want that either.” I’m guessing, but it fits what I saw of the Malemese couple I translated for: reserved and self-sufficient. “How are you supposed to get them to join?”
Agatha’s anxious frown reappears. “I don’t know. I only know the problem, not the solution. This is my first posting.”
“You haven’t been given instructions?”
“Not yet.” Agatha looks out at Iterria. Her face clears. “I will be told in time.”
“Aren’t they cutting it a little close? Malem isn’t on the cyber link.”
“God doesn’t need the cyber link.”
I let that one lie. If God decides to talk to her, I’m pretty sure I won’t be asked to translate.
“Why won’t Malem just give it to them?” I ask, looking out the portal. “Malem has more water than they’ll ever use.”
“I don’t know. There must be a reason.”
Iterria hangs red-hot outside the portal, a dying planet surrounded by cold space. All those people having to leave their homes, and the O.U.B. sends a novice Select with a sixteen-year-old language teacher.
“Chalk one up for space,” I murmur; “One down for humans.”
“Not yet,” Agatha says.