Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Author Interview: Karen A. Wyle, Author of Twin-Bred

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Karen A. Wyle, author of Twin-Bred!

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews Karen! Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved to California at age eight. After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, I went south to Los Angeles, where I met my now-husband, who hates L.A. We eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. I now consider myself a Hoosier. 

How long have you been a writer?

That depends on whether you subtract my fallow period - see my answer to question #3, below.

Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?

My day-and-night jobs are: appellate attorney, photographer, Mommy Taxi. These days, however, I spend more time writing/editing/promoting than I do taking or processing photographs.

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey of becoming a writer.

From early childhood, I considered myself a writer. I had a poem (not a very good one) published in the local paper when I was in 3rd grade. When I was ten years old, it was my ambition to be the youngest published author ever, and I was somewhat crestfallen to learn that a nine-year-old girl had claimed that honor. For the next ten years, I tried to find the right form for my writing: novels? poetry? short stories? Nothing seemed right, and I gave up for a long time. In the meantime, I became an appellate attorney, and learned to write in quantity, fairly painlessly, for the first time. 

When I started having children, in my mid-thirties, I also started writing picture book manuscripts. My older daughter is a gifted artist, when she was eight or so, she would do drawings and I would write silly poems to accompany them. Ten years later, she took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) for the first time. Her second year in NaNo, I joined her - and produced the rough draft of my first novel, Twin-Bred.

Please give a brief description / storyline about Twin-Bred.

Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?

After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists and the native Tofa still know very little about each other. Misunderstanding breeds conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell's radical proposal: that host mothers of either species carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between the twins can bridge the gap between the species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator. 

Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project - but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely? ...

What was the inspiration for this story?

I read an article online about interactions between twins in utero - synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either this article or a comment on the article mentioned the long-term effect of losing a twin in utero. As an avid science fiction reader, I tend to see the sci-fi potential in any event or discovery. I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin; it would be intriguing if she were a twin survivor, and if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story. 

On a deeper level, I have always been fascinated by communication issues and the struggle to understand what is different.

Are your books written for a specific genre?

Twin-Bred and its sequel are science fiction (or more specifically, sociological science fiction), as is my short story, "The Baby." Reflections (working title), which is now in the hands of beta readers, is either "general fiction" or some genre I haven't yet pinpointed. It's a family drama with mystery elements, set in an afterlife of my own devising. 

What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I'm very fond of science fiction and historical fiction. 

Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God are brilliant treatments of the theme of human-alien communication difficulties. These books inspire me even as their excellence intimidates me. 

The Mote in God's Eye and Footfall, both by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, are also excellent, and very entertaining, treatments of the same theme. (I particularly enjoyed the role that Niven and Pournelle gave to science fiction authors in Footfall. The President of the US enlists them to form two analytical teams, one assuming that the approaching aliens are friendly, the other assuming them to be hostile. )

As for historical fiction, I've enjoyed and learned a great deal from Mary Renault's novels about ancient Greece and Colleen McCullough's series about the Roman Republic.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

As an Indie author, I published my first book, rather than having it published. And it was quite a thrill.

Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?

I write most readily on my desktop computer, which sits on an ergonomically unsound desk in a cluttered room in my house.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

I've read so much science fiction for so long that any event, observation or news item is likely to give rise to some sort of science fiction idea.

I wish I could remember how I came up with the idea for Reflections. All I can recall is sitting down and writing the first page, and then showing it to my younger daughter. She's generally a tough critic, but she ordered me to write the rest of the book.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

So far, I've written my novels during NaNoWriMo or its summer variant, Camp Nano. This means writing a rough (ROUGH) draft of at least 50,000 words within one month. (I'm what they call a "NaNo rebel": I sometimes start the month with a paragraph or a page already written, which is technically against the rules.) I then spend many months revising the heck out of that rough draft. 

I have written one short story outside of NaNo framework. I've been intending that story to be the first in a series - but I've only got part way through a second. Evidently, I haven't figured out how to get much done without NaNo crutch. 

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

I greatly enjoy placing a character in a situation and finding out what he/she/it is going to do with it. 

I struggle with description. I don't greatly care for description as a reader (although Kelley Eskridge, author of the SF novel Solitaire, has such a gift for the right amount and type of description that I love reading hers), and I tend to avoid including much description in my early drafts.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I love to read. In fact, I'm a compulsive reader. I'll read placemats and cereal boxes if nothing else is handy. 

I like going for walks on relatively level terrain in mild weather.

I love eating out. I'm not an adventurous diner, and I'm a wimp about spices - but I can enjoy anything from Denny's to fancy French to Japanese or Thai food.

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

To write a first draft without stopping to edit or second-guess myself.

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

I love it when a story decides to write itself! This can happen in various ways: a character reacts in an unexpected way to a situation I set up, or a detail I considered unimportant added color turns out to play a key role in the plot. (My experience tends to confirm Stephen King's observation that being a novelist is much like uncovering a fossil. I would add that, like a paleontologist, an author may have some difficulty figuring out how the various pieces are supposed to fit together ...)

It's also most gratifying when a reader, through a review or a Facebook comment, tells me that my book has made a deep impression of some kind.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

I have an author Facebook page, and a separate Facebook page for Twin-Bred. I also tweet on Twitter:

Are anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

Re: Twin-Bred: Mara's situation vis-a-vis Levi is based on what I've read about lost twin syndrome and twin survivors - although I don't have any specific information about a twin survivor maintaining a twin construct well into adulthood as Mara does. The depiction of government bureaucracy is, in  my possibly jaundiced view, pretty realistic. The comprehension gap between human and Tofa is extrapolated from how different human cultures have misunderstood each other. The (vaguely described) genetic tinkering necessary for the Twin-Bred's gestation seems plausible to me, given reasonable advances in biogenetics. As for the Tofa themselves - the jury's still out on the likelihood and prevalence of intelligent life in the rest of the galaxy. If in fact we have plenty of company, I don't think it'd be a huge surprise to find the Tofa out there somewhere. 

As for my own experiences: Melly is loosely based on my younger daughter, while Mara's artistic gifts are borrowed from my elder daughter, the art student.

One of the main character in Reflections has a good deal in common with my late brother.

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

I have been reading both genre and literary fiction for many years. It would be next to impossible for me to trace the influence of the many authors whose books I have read and re-read. However, I can point to four authors (two of them writing together) who may well have had an impact on Twin-Bred.

Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God are brilliant treatments of the theme of human-alien communication difficulties. These books inspire me even as their excellence intimidates me.

Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is another excellent, and very entertaining, treatment of the same theme, although in a different context (alien invasion of Earth). I particularly enjoyed the role that Niven and Pournelle gave to science fiction authors in the analysis of the alien threat. While I did not use this device, it may have influenced my decision to have my colonists name their various towns after science fiction authors. 

George Eliot's treatments of moral dilemmas and moral choice have had a profound impact on me. I don't know that her books have directly influenced mine, but I suspect they helped to form my underlying approach to fiction. 

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Having many readers who like or love your book(s) - and who were willing to pay at least the price of a latte to read it. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a tidbit with us?

I can't describe the sequel to Twin-Bred, which I'm editing now, without using spoilers as to Twin-Bred itself - so I'll answer about Reflections.

In Reflections, the members of a family reunite in the afterlife, confront unfinished business, and resolve the mystery that tore the family apart. I have constructed an afterlife with features particularly suited to this purpose. 

(Please note that the title may change! If and when it does, that information will be available on my website,

Here's the first scene (book excerpt):

Cassidy stood tall and watched the wave approaching. Fifteen was a good age for confronting the ocean. That morning she had been five years old, playing happily in her sandbox: from sand to beach, from beach to ocean waves, seemed a natural progression.

The wave loomed above her, glowing turquoise and green. She dived under the crest, through the surging water, and popped up behind the swell, bobbing in the follower waves. The water held her and rocked her. She could hear the distant squawk of seagulls over the hiss and roar of the waves. All around was the smell of seaweed and salt and sunshine.

Once, her mother had held her, carried her, rocked her, surrounded her with love and safety. She had no idea how long it had been, but she remembered. Remembering, she let herself slip younger as she floated on the swells. But larger waves were approaching, so she grew again, caught a wave at age sixteen and rode it into shore.

Her grandparents and her grandfather's mother were waiting. Great-Grandma was young today, slim and blond and straight, standing like a dancer just before the music starts. Grandma Sarah and Grandpa Jack had chosen to be older, gray-haired, with the comfortable look of a couple who for years had weathered each other's moods and followed each other's thoughts.

Cassidy ran up the beach toward them. When she reached them, she was eight, and Grandpa Jack knelt on the sand with his arms wide open to pick her up and toss her in the air. The sun flashed in her eyes as she flew up, and again as she fell back toward his hands. He set her down again and flopped down on the sand, patting the space next to him. She sat, folding her legs tailor fashion. Great-Grandma flowed gracefully down to sit on her other side. Only Grandma Sarah remained standing. She was younger now, her hair in a long red braid.

Grandpa Jack and Great-Grandma both put their arms around her. Cassidy looked at Grandpa Jack. He was smiling, but there were tears in his eyes. She swiveled over toward Great-Grandma; her expression was more serious as she pointed to Grandma Sarah.

Cassidy threw her head back, looking up at Grandma Sarah and squinting in the sun. Grandma Sarah squatted down in front of her. "Cassie, love, we have some news for you. Good, important news."

The seabirds were calling as if they wanted to be first with the message, whatever it was. Grandma Sarah leaned forward to kneel in the sand, reached out and took Cassidy's hands.

"It's your mama, sweetheart. She's coming. She'll be here soon. We'll all be seeing her again."

Cassidy felt herself getting smaller, small. She was two years old. She scrambled to her feet. "Mommy!" Her own shrill voice frightened her, and she called even louder, twisting from side to side, searching the beach and the water. "Mommy! MOMMY!"

Great-Grandma was old again, white hair shining in the sunlight, her cheeks pink, soft wrinkles in her face, smelling of flour. She pulled Cassidy into a hug, crooning, "Hush, hush. It's all right, baby. Shhh." Cassidy burrowed against her and breathed the comforting scent. She thought she might feel better if she was older, but nothing happened.

She heard Grandpa Jack speak. "Mama, Sarah, let's go somewhere cozier." Then the sun, the waves, the seabirds were all gone, and they were in Great-Grandma's living room. She and Great-Grandma snuggled together on the big shabby couch. There were shortbread cookies on the coffee table. Grandma Sarah sat on Grandpa Jack's lap in the big armchair, Grandpa Jack playing with Grandma Sarah's hair.

"Cassidy, Honey. It's time to be a big girl. We have more to talk about." Great-Grandma stroked her cheek, then kissed it.

Cassidy squeezed her eyes tight. "I'm trying. It's hard. Why is it hard?"

Grandpa Jack spoke. "Well, baby, you were just this age when your mama left. You're remembering it so hard, just now, that you're maybe a little stuck. Just relax, honey, and know that everything's all right. It'll come."

Cassidy took a deep breath, and another, and another. Great-Grandma skootched away to give her room. Cassidy opened her eyes. She was thirteen. She reached for a cookie.

"There, that's better, isn't it?" Great-Grandma patted her hand.

"When will she be here? When can I see her?"

Grandma Sarah brought her a glass of milk, then sat back down on Grandpa Jack's lap. "Honey, those are two different questions. She'll be here very soon, and you can see her just a little while after that. It's going to be -"

"Why can't I see her right away?" She didn't want to yell at Grandma Sarah, but she felt like yelling. It was always harder to be patient at thirteen. She slipped to twenty, but it felt wrong, too big, too grown up for a little girl missing her mother. She slid back to ten.

"Cassie, you were so young when you got here, only six years old. You weren't so used to the way things were, back in the living world. You expected to learn new things, have adventures, every day. Coming here was just another and bigger adventure. But it's different for older people. It's more of a shock. We think it'd be best if Great-Grandma welcomes her first, and explains things."

"How long will it take?" Cassidy swallowed tears and washed them away with a gulp of milk.

Great-Grandma moved back over and hugged her. "Not as long as it will feel to you, Bean Sprout. I'll bring her to see you as soon as I can."

Thank you Karen for stopping by and sharing some information about yourself and your books with us!

About The Author:

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle's childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9.

Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.



Book Description:Twin-Bred

In Twin-Bred, the human colony on Tofarn and the indigenous Tofa have great difficulty communicating with and basically comprehending each other. Scientist Mara Cadell, who lost a fraternal twin in utero, proposes that host mothers of either or both species carry twins, one human and one Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between the species. Mara has secretly kept her own twin, Levi, alive in her mind as a companion and collaborator.

Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project - but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely? ...

No comments:

Post a Comment