In a series I'm calling 'A Notepad and a Dream', I'll be interviewing up-and-coming authors about their books, their writing process and their future plans. If you have a book shortly due for release and would like to take part, or know someone else who would, please let me know via the 'Contact Me' page above.
In the latest 'A Notepad and a Dream' episode, Zoë Sumra talks gangs, heists and space opera.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novel?
I'm a born Londoner but spent some years living in northern England and in Scotland: I'm now back in London and enjoying it. In addition to writing, I fence - I was thirty-fifth in the UK at sabre in mid-2013, and late last year, thanks to a freak combination of results, was just inside the top fifty at sabre and the top hundred at foil at the same time.
'Sailor to a Siren' is a gangland thriller disguised as a space opera novel, or possibly the other way round. It's about a drugs heist that goes perfectly to plan up to the point at which an even-more-suspicious-than-expected item turns up among the haul.
Can you introduce us to your main characters, and give us a quick insight into their motivations?
Connor Cardwain is a gangland queenpin's lieutenant, and is very good at his job. Connor would be good at most jobs that involved rationalisation and quick thinking, as he grew up on the streets of the galaxy's poorest sector, organised crime was the best career open to him, and to date he has taken every available opportunity to advance himself in his boss's eyes. While he wants to improve his own position, his priority is making sure his younger brother, Logan, stays alive. He hopes to achieve both at once by making enough money to set up his own business.
Logan has, putting it mildly, some anger management issues. These date from his teenage years but worsened when he fell in love with a woman whom he now never expects to see again. He works as a gun for hire to the same gangland queenpin as Connor, but his tendency to outbursts of verbal or physical violence puts him at risk of imminent expulsion or death.
Éloise Falavière is Logan's ex-girlfriend: she hails from a more stable area of the galaxy than Connor and Logan. She follows her civilisation's basic morality with a dedication that comes from most members of that civilisation being able to read minds, despite almost no one in that civilisation being able to read hers. Two years ago before the start of 'Sailor to a Siren' she saw no handicap to falling in love with a ganglander, but now she has been hired as a police officer's temporary enforcer and bodyguard, and finds her loyalties severely tested.
Is there a message or theme in your novel that you want to convey to readers?
The main message that the characters learn from the story's events is about trust - when an already dangerous situation becomes exponentially more so, the number of people that one can trust reduces to practically zero. Family ties become incredibly important to all my characters.
Do you write solely in the sci-fi genre, or do you explore other genres as well?
I have written epic fantasy, though not for about fifteen years, and my only completed short story is urban fantasy. It's not impossible that at some point in the next ten or twenty years I will write an urban fantasy novel set in London. For now I'm devoting all my time to space opera.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have many favourite authors in different milieus! My favourite active author is NK Jemisin. All her settings are very vivid and her work circumnavigates genre conventions in a refreshing way.
What will you do next now that 'Sailor to a Siren' is published?
I'm currently working on two first drafts: a sequel to 'Sailor to a Siren' set roughly two years later, and a much later volume - which has been eating my brain for about twenty years - set sixteen years after 'Sailor'. There will hopefully be much more to come in this universe.
'Sailor to a Siren' is now available to buy in ebook format.
Amazon UK: (bit.ly/SailorSiren-KindleUK)
Amazon US: (bit.ly/SailorSiren-KindleUS)
Amazon France: (bit.ly/SailorSiren-KindleFR)
Ten other Amazon sites and iTunes: (bit.ly/SailorSiren-iTunes).