Author Interview, Giveaway, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Author Interview with Jaine Fenn

For today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I have an interview with the very talented science fiction author, Jaine Fenn! I first came across her work when I won a copy of her short story collection, Downside Girls, through LibraryThing. I really enjoyed the stories as an introduction to her Hidden Empire series, and she was one of the first authors I thought to contact when I came up with the idea for Sci-Fi Month. At the end of the post, there is also a giveaway for a copy of Downside Girls, open internationally.

Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Interview

Rinn: I first encountered your work when I read your short story collection, Downside Girls. Do you plan on writing any more short story collections?

Jaine: I love short stories, and have written plenty of them. I like the idea of themed collections, and at some point I’ll gather up all my alternate history and fortean stories – although they aren’t SF as such – and then, as with Downside Girls, add a new story or two to complete the set.

Rinn: Did you have any particular inspiration for the Angels and the Sidhe (from Jaine’s Hidden Empire series)?

Jaine: The Angels – female flying assassins with implanted blades – come in part from two books I read at an impressionable age: William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the Miller/Sienkeiwicz graphic novel Elektra: Assassin. The concept was too cool not to use, though I added the bit about flying.

The Sidhe are more complex because the ‘real’ Sidhe are the Celtic fey folk, treacherous, otherworldly and rarely seen. The Sidhe in my stories are aliens who gave themselves this name when they encountered humanity. They did this with knowing irony. There’s a lot more to be said about that, but it’s a story for a later date.

Rinn: Which of the Hidden Empire books did you most enjoy writing?

Jaine: Now there’s a tricky question. I’ll always love Principles of Angels, because it was not just the first in the series, it was the first novel I wrote. And rewrote, over a number of years. The easiest book to write was Guardians of Paradise, partly because it brought together the stories started in Principles of Angels and Consorts of Heaven, and partly because it is a (sort of) romance, and I find romance easier to write than straight SF. In some ways Queen of Nowhere was great fun once I’d got into the main character’s head. But each book brought moments of elation and surprise, and I enjoyed them all, in different ways.

Rinn: The most recent Hidden Empire novel, Queen of Nowhere, was published this year. Do you plan to write more in this series?

Jaine: Oh yes. I’ve got plans for four more books, one of which I’ve started. Having said that, I’m not sure when they’ll see print. Queen of Nowhere ended one plot thread – or rather, changed the game – and I wanted to take a break from the series after it. As it turns out I’ve got caught up in a number of other projects, including a return to short-story writing. Watch this space, as they say. Well, watch www.jainefenn.com.

Rinn: Your series does not necessarily need to be read in order, and the books work as standalones. Which character did you most enjoy writing, and were there any you wanted to bring in the story purely because you enjoyed writing them?

Jaine: Another tricky but interesting question. As with novels, the characters you’ve spent the longest with will be the most special to you, so I like writing Taro (irritating to everyone else though he can be); Nual’s more challenging, and because of her unique worldview I’m sparing in writing from her viewpoint, but then she hasn’t reached her full potential yet. As every writer knows, characters tend to take on a life of their own: Bez, who played a relatively minor role in Guardians of Paradise, ended up getting her own book!

Rinn: Who or what are your influences as a writer?

Jaine: So many… Here’s a few: Manga, Iain M Banks, Ursula Le Guin, cyberpunk, Larry Niven, C.J. Cherryh, Philip K. Dick and Mary Gentle.

Rinn: What five science fiction novels would you recommend to my readers?

Jaine: It depends on whether they are SF aficionados or new to the genre. If I had to pick five relatively recent SF books I think everyone should read I’d go for: The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson; The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.

Rinn: What do you like to spend your time doing, when you’re not writing?

Jaine: Reading, though my ‘to read’ pile only ever gets bigger, not smaller. I also enjoy walking in the countryside near my home in Hampshire, a hobby that fits in well with being a writer, as I use my walks to consider plot points or get to know my characters. I play the odd role-playing game, and in the summer I take part in historical re-enactment events. Like a lot of writers, I also have a part-time day-job; in my case I run a small charity.

Rinn: Do you get involved in the science fiction community online very much?

Jaine: Not as much as I’d like to, due to lack of time. I have a Facebook presence and I’m sporadically on Twitter as @JaineFenn, but there are loads of great blogs I’d like to check out.

Rinn: Where/when will your next appearances be – I know you appear at quite a few cons – like BristolCon this past October.

Jaine: I’ll be at Novacon, which will be the last of a number of cons in a very busy autumn. I’ll probably go to Picocon, a small one-day convention in London, and I’m still trying to work out whether I can get to Eastercon, as the logistics are a bit complicated for me this year. And then of course there’s the British Worldcon, LonCon, which I’m really looking forward to.

Thank you to Jaine for letting me interview her!

About Jaine

Jaine Fenn is a science fiction writer, hailing from the United Kingdom. She has written several short stories, and the Hidden Empire series of books, which can either be read as standalones or in order. A sci-fi fan since she was a young girl, she discovered the world of fiction through Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and began writing at a young age. She now also runs her own charity.

Jaine’s books include Principles of Angels, Consorts of Heaven, Guardians of Paradise, Bringer of Light, Queen of Nowhere and Downside Girls.

Jaine can be found on Goodreads and Twitter, and you can also visit her website.

Giveaway

Thank you to Clarion Publishing for providing this giveaway! Giveaway widget removed after migration to WordPress.

Review

Review: Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free via Librarything, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Clarion Publishing for sending it to me (along with some very friendly emails), and for putting me on their ‘nice people’ list! =)

 

This collection of four short stories by Jaine Fenn, set in the universe of her series Hidden Empire, assumes no previous knowledge of her work. Leaping straight in, without any introduction to the world, it is still completely accessible to readers who have never read any of the series. Facts were laid out when they need to be, rather than dumping lots of information on the reader. It is for this reason that I believe it is the sort of science fiction that is accessible to any reader. One of the downfalls of the science fiction genre is that it is often very specialist, and so much of it is very heavy – someone who does not usually read sci-fi could easily be put off. However, that is not the case with Downside Girls.

The city in these stories has a ‘topside’ and a ‘downside’ – topside being the upper class area, and downside for the poorer citizens. Patrolling the city are Angels – downsiders chosen to be assassins and given special powers, who target corrupt politicians. The descriptions and feel of the city definitely gave me a bit of a Mass Effect vibe – I was imagining the scenarios taking place in the Citadel, which was pretty cool.All four stories have very different situations, and weave together the lives of humans and Angels. The stories are also interlinked in small ways, but I think you have to read the main series to truly understand the link – I only picked it up from reading the synopses of Jaine Fenn’s other work. The narrative of the stories is just about different enough to show that each one is being told by another character, but I do feel that this aspect could be improved on.

The writing flowed very well – not overly showy, or too simple. Despite only spending a short amount of time with each character, I somehow felt for them all – particularly in the last story. Fenn manages to pack a lot into only 80-odd pages – trickery, assassinations, gangs, as well as a rather sweet tale at the end.

This novella has made me definitely want to check out the main books. Whilst appealing to science fiction fans, I believe it is also a perfect collection of short stories for those wanting to ease themselves into the genre.