Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Interview with sci-fi author Sherrill Nilson

Sci-fi author Sherrill Nilson joins me today and we’re chatting about her new YA/NA fantasy novel, Karda-Adalta Vol I.

Sherrill Nilson used to raise horses. Now she writes about flying horses—with hawk heads and wicked talons. Author of the Adalta Series, she’s been a cattle rancher, horse breeder, environmentalist, mother of three, traveler to exotic places–even a tarot card reader.

She lived in Santa Fe (where she built a straw bale house) and Ruidoso, NM, San Francisco, and Austin after leaving the hills of Eastern Oklahoma and her ranch. Now she’s back in Tulsa where she started.

Her studies for her PhD opened her to the world of ancient myth and story. Writing all those many papers and her dissertation was so much fun, she took a leap of faith and did what she's always wanted to do––write fiction. She started writing Karda and Hunter–the first two books in the Adalta series. She’s now working on Falling, the third book, and lurking in the back of her mind is another series about the trees deciding whether or not to leave Earth.

She lives, reads, and writes SciFi/fantasy (and occasionally poetry) in Tulsa, Oklahoma—back where she started as the oldest of seven kids (don’t ask to drive). Three of whom are writers. (And use too much red ink when she asks them to look at her work.)

She doesn’t have a dog, a cat, or even a bird, but she does have an old Volvo convertible and loves to drive around in her sunglasses with the wind blowing her hair. It’s how she gets her vitamin D.

Welcome, Sherrill. Please tell us about your current release.
Karda is the revised and illustrated edition of the first book in a fantasy-sci-fi series, Adalta, with technophobic humans on a living planet, majestic hawk-headed flying horses, a power struggle between brothers, and a plucky female hero who must learn to tap into powers she never knew she had––powers that scare her––to save the place and the people she comes to love.

With the collapse of Earth’s systems, a flurry of Ark Ships leaves to establish colonies through the universe. In the confusion, a handful of these ships are lost. The colony landing on Adalta was one.

Five hundred years later, Marta Rowan rests beneath a short, twisted evergreen beside a spring in the midst of a barren area of Adalta. This is not her first mission for Alal Trade Consortium. In fact, she’s been doing clandestine fact-finding missions like this her whole life. She arrives on a planet, does her fact-finding, then leaves.

But this planet is different. Empathic connections to Adalta and its creatures begin to assault her senses. She is chosen by a Karda, one of the huge flying horse with hawk-head and fierce talons native to the planet, and their bond grows deeper and deeper, threatening her determination not to get attached—she can’t—when the mission is over, she must leave Adalta.

The trade ship’s goal of introducing high-tech products to this low-tech world proves impossible as Marta discovers the colonists and the planet itself are technophobic. None of their trade items work. The traders find an ally in Readen Me’Vere who uses blood, sex, and death to release a malevolent force intent on seizing control and stripping Adalta of its resources.

A blood magic assassination attempt opens telepathic communication between Marta, her Karda, and Altan, handsome, arrogant heir to one of the Quadrants.

Together Marta, Altan, and their Karda, fight the Consortium plot to smuggle forbidden hi-tech weapons in return for valuable minerals. They must work together to stop this rapacious attack by the ship and by the awakened alien power.

What inspired you to write this book?
I am a voracious reader, and I love fantasy. One day I put down the book I was reading and thought, “I’m going to run out of books to read, of new worlds to live in.” So, I decided to create my own. I bred running Quarter Horses for several years, so I had to include horses in some form. Why not intelligent flying horses on this new world who could communicate telepathically? I talked to my horses a lot—they are good listeners—so why not have them talk back?

Excerpt from Karda-Adalta Vol I
(from Chapter Three):

She managed one step forward, and the Karda's mantled wings spread wall to wall. She raised her head. The large dark eyes in her predator's head looked Marta over, imperious, appraising her. Marta took another step. She took a deep breath, then another, and her shoulders loosened. This colossal creature with its fierce hooked beak should terrify her. But she didn't.
Marta's breath stopped again. It was hard to get her words out. “You're leaving me here with her? What do you mean if she selects me? What do I do?” All of a sudden, she wasn't sure she wanted to be left alone with this huge creature, its fierce hooked beak, its piercing eyes.
Cailyn smiled and walked away, saying over her shoulder, “You'll be all right. More than all right if she chooses you.” Then she turned back, her body still, her tone somber. “It's the way to become a Mi'hiru, Marta—the only way.” She left.
Marta stepped, one slow foot at a time, toward Sidhari, looking up at the proud head, getting as close as she dared. The Karda's dark eyes caught hers. Sidhari held her entranced, examined her, exposed her to the core of her being. Marta sensed a rock-like solidity, an intelligence sharp and discerning, a quest for connection. Marta felt herself leaning toward it. Fear jolted her. Such deep connection was frightening, dangerous.
Her heart beating a timpani concerto in her chest, her hand reached to touch the soft, sleek hair of the long graceful neck, and she lost herself in the Karda's vast mind. Her consciousness spread wider and wider until she was the entire planet, her mind, her heart swirled beyond time and matter, until the scattered atoms of her being gathered with a soft susurrus of feathers sliding together, surrounding her, holding her. She was held, cherished, safe for the first time since her father died.
Her fingers curled, feeling the loose straw and the rough stones of the floor, feeling warmth against her cheek. She was sitting, resting against the warm shoulder of the Karda. Sidhari lay with her feet curled under her. Marta never wanted to move again. Light through the clerestory windows was dark with the deep rose of twilight. Marta started as she heard footsteps echo down the stone hallway of the mews.
“It looks like you've found a match, Sidhari.” Cailyn leaned against the wide archway to Sidhari's stall. “You've been here all afternoon, Marta.”
Marta stood, her legs shook. “Has it been that long? It felt like a few minutes.” She managed to pull the words out of the fog in her head.
“The first time is always like that. You were lost, weren't you?”
“No.” She rested her hand on Sidhari's shoulder, nearly the height of her own though Sidhari laid on the flagstones, her legs tucked under her body. Marta was still shaky. “I think I was found.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I just published Hunter-Adalta Vol. II and am working on Falling, the third volume. The space ship is not going to be leaving Adalta. What is going to happen to the twenty-five-hundred people who must be rescued? Families who have lived for generations on the trade ship, people who have never set foot on a planet will have to learn to adapt, not only to life on living ground, but on a planet that is alive and sentient. And they must learn to deal with the elemental magic they will all have, triggered by Adalta when they first set foot on her soil. And all this takes place in the middle of a war with unimaginable monsters that must somehow culminate in this final volume.

Then I intend to finish the young adult book(s) I started before Karda—about the trees deciding whether or not to stay on earth—with a lot of Sumerian and Ancient Near East mythology, an evil corporate cabal, and angry spirits of extinct species who blame humans for the deaths of their species.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Before I learned to read and write, I used to make ‘writing marks’ across the yellow pages of my dad’s legal pads, imagining stories. I started by first novel when I was eleven—about an orphan girl and horses. (I was eleven.)

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I try to write full time. I’m retired, so finding the time isn’t that hard. Sometimes opening the computer is the hardest part. I’m not very disciplined. But once I get it open and there’s nothing interesting in my email, I can write for hours. I can get lost either reading a book or writing a book. As I heard or saw on FB or somewhere,” A book a day keeps reality away.” Whether you are reading or writing it.

And I love working with my son, Kurt Nilson, who does the covers and illustrations for my books. He lives in Brazil.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can’t plot. Well, I can, but when I think I have it all figured out and look at it again after I’ve written my first few chapters, my characters are not doing what I thought they’d be doing, and sometimes they aren’t even the same characters. I have learned that having the ending firmly in my mind is very important, otherwise I get close to the end and the book starts wandering all over the place while I try to figure out where it’s going. Kind of like asking Google Map to plot a route to “somewhere in Arizona, or maybe New Mexico.”

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to live on a ranch, have horses, and write books. I’ve lived on a ranch. I’ve had horses. And now I’m writing books. None of that was as glamorous as I thought it would be. Horses and ranch were often hard, dirty work. And writing books is hard on the ego––all that red ink. But all three­­­­––oh, so rewarding.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes. My sister Alice V Brock is writing a series of historical western mid-grade books. Her first book, River of Cattle, won Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best Western YA/Children Fiction of 2016, Was a finalist for their Best First Western Novel of 2016. She also was fourth for the 2017 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction, Younger Readers. I tell her she’s writing Lonesome Dove for kids. She just sent the second book in her series, Pecos River Mystery, to her publisher. It should be out in November.

My brother Phil Vincent’s thriller manuscript of his first novel, Varuna, was picked as a finalist in the 2018 Unpublished Mystery/Thriller category by Pacific Northwest Writers Association


Thanks for stopping by today!

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