[Podcast] A conversation with Bookpod

I love to read, but I don’t have a ton of time, which is why I’m always looking for book recommendations. If I’m going to read something, I want it to be good!

That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about this new book recommendation podcast that’s hitting earbuds near you.

(Is that a thing I can say? Earbuds near you? Guess I’m going for it.)

Logo for BookPod: the Indie Filter Podcast, a book recommendation podcast. Image is headphones on a book.

Bookpod: the Indie Filter Podcast, is specifically aimed at helping readers find indie authors they love. Ben and Sarah Nadler read indie-pubbed books to find their favorites, then interview authors to talk about their books.

They alternate between author interview episodes and book recommendation episodes.

I know Sarah through a local weekly write-in we both attend, so I was thrilled when she asked me to come on the show. Our conversation is featured on episode four of Bookpod. (You can listen to it here.)

In the episode, we talk a bit about my personal story, how I got into writing, the importance of finding a good writing community, and my inspirations for the Bulari Saga. It was a super fun conversation.

One of the cool things about Bookpod is that each author reads a bit from their book. So if you listen to the end, you’ll get a little sample of Double Edged (the first book in the Bulari Saga), as read by yours truly. Apologies for not being a professional narrator, but I guess that’s part of the charm. 🙂

I know Ben and Sarah have a good collection of author interviews recorded, so I’m really excited to see where this podcast goes as they keep releasing new episodes.

If you’re looking for a new book recommendation podcast, give Bookpub a shot!

(And if you have reader podcast recommendations of your own, leave ’em in the comments. I’m always looking for new podcasts to put in my earbuds.)

(PS. You can find other interviews with me on my press page.)

[Interview] Eric Warren, author of the Infinity’s End Saga

Love space opera? Looking for your next favorite binge-worthy series? You’re in luck!

Today I have an interview with Eric Warren, author of the post-apocalyptic Quantum Gate Series and the Infinity’s End Saga, a 9-book space opera series.

In the interview, I pick his brain about writing space opera, where he gets his ideas, and how much we were both influenced by Star Trek growing up. (Nerd high fives!)

If you’re a space opera fan, I highly recommend picking up the Infinity’s End series. Eric just released book 5, and the rest of the books are hot on its heels.

Infinity's End book one – Caspian's Fortune

So kick back and get ready to binge a fantastic series!

He needs a payday. He’ll settle for payback.

Betrayed and left to rot on the edges of the galaxy, Caspian Robeaux is deep in debt and stuck flying courier missions in an old rustbucket he can barely keep afloat. His only friends are a dishonest robot and a bottle of booze.

It’s a far cry from his once-promising military career, but Cas is content to be left alone.

Things start to look up, though, when a stranger arrives and offers a lucrative job that Cas can’t refuse, with a payday big enough to change his fortunes permanently.

But nothing in his life is ever that simple, and for a man trying to buy his way out of debt, the price of redemption might be too steep.

Get Caspian’s Fortune (Infinity’s End Book 1) here.

Interview with Eric Warren

Start by telling me about Infinity’s End. What made you get into Space Opera?

I’ve always been a Space Opera fan. I got into Star Trek pretty young and I was always super interested in that world. I made my parents stay up at night so I could watch it.

When it came to writing, I knew I wanted to write a space opera in that vein. I wanted to create my own world, so that’s what I did with Infinity’s End. I basically created a Star Trek-like universe where it’s not as utopian — because I always thought of the utopias in Star Trek as aspirational, but I didn’t think they were realistic. I don’t really feel like we as the human race will ever get to that point. 

But I thought, what would it look like if that universe was more grounded in reality? That’s where the idea came from.

My family are big Star Trek nerds. It’s what we watched at dinner every night when I was a kid.

Your family watched it with you? I wish I’d had that. My dad always wanted to watch football, and I didn’t care about it. I’d rather watch Star Trek please!

Where did the nut of the story come from? Did you start with the plot? The characters? 

I typically start with characters. In this instance, I felt like the plot and the characters needed to complement each other heavily. I wanted a character who found himself in a difficult position based on the universe around him.

In this story, the catalyst is that this character is basically an idealist. He’s part of this organization, the Coalition, which he feels is a positive force for change in the universe. Then he gets an order that is contrary to all that. The order is not morally right, and what he thinks of as Coalition doctrine is being refuted by these orders. He either has to obey and compromise his moral integrity, or disobey and maintain his integrity.

He disobeys the orders, then discovers that there’s this dark and seedy underbelly to the Coalition. He feels betrayed.

That’s the jumping-off point of the series, and the first book starts about seven years after that event. He’s actually on the run from the Coalition by the point where we meet him.

The series is nine books long, so I figured I needed a pretty big story to sustain itself through that many books.

What’s been one of your favorite parts of writing this series?

One of my favorite things is drawing star maps for every book. I have a giant master star map that covers an entire section of the galaxy, and each book comes with a smaller section of that map. By the time you get to the end of the series, you have the entire picture.

That’s super cool!

It’s also really stressful, because I had to plan all that out ahead of time, and make sure I knew what I was doing. I can’t change anything, so I might have shot myself in the foot there.

My other favorite thing is coming up with alien races. I’ve come up with probably six or seven that are really interesting and unique that I hadn’t seen before. 

How do you go about coming up with the new alien race?

I don’t really have a special process, but I look at different species here on Earth and try to imagine what they would look like if they were the dominant species of another planet.

One species I’ve got is like a crustacean-type creature. They’re hyper-intelligent, but in order to work with humans, they have to wear an apparatus that allows them to interact with all the controls and the buttons and everything. But they’re also highly religious, so they wear all this religious garb. They’re basically metal android things inside robes just walking around — and they all have holographic faces they project to look like they could be human. But really they’re just a crustacean inside. 

I don’t know where they came from, but I thought it would be interesting.

What’s been one of the most challenging parts of writing this series?

I try not to be one of those writers who writes every book on a cliffhanger. I want each book to stand on its own and to have its own individual story. It’s been very difficult taking the main character through a journey nine different times.

Within each book I have to have the character grow and change in some way. Instead of having all the change happen at once, I have to pull back and say, no — this change happens here, this other change happens later. And this change will happen way down the road. 

At the same time as I’m holding back on character change, I need to continue to make those characters believable. Believable enough that you keep reading, so they’re not just so tortured that you’re like, this is just the author being extra mean to his character. 

I started out with one main character, but at this point in the series I’m up to at least two, possibly three. Now I have to take each of those characters through their own personal journey. They all have to mesh, there has to be external and internal conflict in each book, and it has to contribute to the overall arching story. It’s a lot to keep up with.

How do you do that? Do you have lots of spreadsheets? I’m terrible at keeping track of stuff, so I’m always curious what other people do.

I have a master Word document which has character profiles for all the main characters and all the alien lists. Then for each book I have a story breakdown which goes through the self revelations and the needs and desires of the two main characters, their weaknesses in this particular story, the primary opponent, the opponent’s desires, etc. It also tracks the series of revelations that will happen throughout the story, and ultimately the hero’s self-revelation when they realize their mistake and make the change.

I write one of those for each book in the series and I keep them all together, so I can check back and see what happened in earlier books. 

It’s funny, because I keep track of a lot of it my mind, which is probably really dangerous. But I can’t remember anything else about my life. My wife will tell me something, and five minutes later it’s gone from my mind. But as long as I remember the story, I’m okay. She can always tell me thing again.

It’s not so funny to her, but to me….

You have a couple of pugs*. Have you written them into your books at all?

I haven’t. Because of the nature of what I’m working on right now, I can’t really use any animals from Earth, because none of it takes place on or near Earth. 

And in my first series, it was post-apocalyptic earth. I thought, well, pugs probably wouldn’t survive that. At least mine wouldn’t, because all they can do is eat and sleep all day. 

Although I will say, I think I did write some pugs into the second or third book I ever wrote — which I will never publish.

What’s next after the Infinity’s End series?

It’s a nine-book series, and I was originally hoping to be done it by the end of the year. I think I can still do that, since it’s only August now. 

What I had originally thought was afterwards I was going to write a short trilogy set in the same universe that tells a different story with different characters, but as part of the same universe and dovetailed into the main story.

Or, I may go a completely other direction. I think I want to stay within space opera, but I may go somewhere outside this universe. I really haven’t decided yet.


Thanks, Eric!

Get Caspian’s Fortune (Infinity’s End Book 1) here.

( * And follow Eric on Instagram if you want some adorable pug action.)

[Interview] Great Expectations takes to the stars with Kate Sheeran Swed

I’m thrilled to present something a little different today: an interview with fantastic new indie sci-fi author Kate Sheeran Swed. Her first book, Parting Shadows comes out today, and it’s marvelous.

Parting-Shadows-cover

Parting Shadows is the first book in the Toccata System series, a trio of novellas which are all inspired by classic literature — but with Kate’s own unique spin.

I truly loved Parting Shadows. The characters were complex and fascinating, and the setting was rich and deep. Even though we only get a glimpse of the overall universe in this book, I got the sense that we’re barely scratching the surface. I can’t wait to explore more of the Toccata System as the series goes on.

If you’re a fan of science fiction that combines fast-paced plots with beautifully-imagined characters and lovely prose, definitely pick up Parting Shadows.

And at $0.99 for the novella right now, it’s a total steal.

Read on to learn how Kate takes inspiration from classic literature for her sci-fi books, how she incorporates travel into her writing, and more.

Parting Shadows (Toccata System Book 1) 

Raised by a heartsick AI, she’s programmed to kill. And desperate to flee. 

After growing up on an isolated space station, Astra dreams of solid ground. But with an AI guardian plugged into her head–and her nervous system–it’s not like she’s flush with choices.  In fact, she’s got just one: use her training to carry out the rogue AI’s revenge. Her first mission? Assassination. 

When her target flashes a jamming device that would guarantee her escape from the AI’s grasp, Astra sets out to steal it. But the AI’s plans are more dangerous than she suspected. Corrupted by heartbreak, the wayward computer is determined to infect the star system with a new order of digital tyranny. 

Astra’s been raised to care for no one but herself. Now she’ll have to decide if she’s willing to trade the star system’s freedom for her own. 

Parting Shadows is a far-future take on Estella Havisham’s journey in Great Expectations, and the first installment in Kate Sheeran Swed’s Toccata System novella trilogy.

Universal Book Link (ebook) | Your Local Bookstore (print) | Goodreads

Interview with Kate Sheeran Swed

What draws you to writing science fiction?

I actually started writing fantasy, but about the time I wrote my superhero novel (which I’m going to be putting out next year), I started reading more about space. There’s something so mystical about it!

It’s beautiful, but it’s also so dangerous. From here, I’m always looking up at the moon and staring at the stars. I read that Andrew Chaikin book, A Man on the Moon, and I was amazed that we got to the moon when we barely had computers. And when you think about how dangerous it is — I don’t know. It just mystifies me.

And I’m terrified of it! I would never want to go up to space, so I guess that ambiguity between my feelings of being so fascinated and so scared at the same time is what interests me.

The second book in the Toccata System Series starts with Claire standing on the spaceship and just being like, “I’m in a tin can — there’s a really thin wall between me and space, and I hate space.”

You also take a lot of inspiration from the classics, which I love. The inspiration for Parting Shadows was Great Expectations. Can you talk a bit about how that came about? I’m especially curious about how you made the leap from Great Expectations to a heartsick AI, which was brilliant.

The heartsick AI was what made me decide to write the story. Great Expectations is one of my favorite books ever, so I was thinking of writing a novella from Estella’s point of view. I was writing stream of consciousness and picturing this old lady in the Satis House and the creepy wedding feast, and I thought what if Estella’s being raised by a heartsick AI instead of this broken-hearted woman?

What was one of the toughest parts of transcribing the story of Great Expectations into space?

Each of the three books of the Tocatta System Series are inspired by the classics, and for me it’s always how much do I want to stick with the original idea of the story, and how much do I want to leave it? With Parting Shadows, I leave it pretty fast. 

I also was trying to decide if Henry, who is the Pip character, was even going to have a benefactor? In Great Expectations his benefactor is not Miss Havisham, but in this book I decided that had to be SATIS.

I’m sorry if from spoiling that, but it’s a 19th-century novel.

That’s okay. Bad English major confession time, I’ve not actually read Great Expectations. But you can definitely spoil the 19th century novel for me.

[Laughs] I feel like you know pretty early on that Pip’s benefactor is not Miss Havisham. So I played with the idea of it in Parting Shadows

Generally, I decide to leave the classic story as soon as my story become its own. The story decides where it’s going to go. With Parting Shadows I kept the themes, while also trying to let it be it’s own thing — because I wanted it to ultimately be my story.

I do that more and more as the series goes on. Parting Shadows has a little more connection to Great Expectations, and Phantom Song is inspired by Phantom of the Opera. But by the time I get to Darkening Heaven, it just kind of waves at Treasure Island as it sails by. 

In your bio you talk about all the places you’ve traveled around the world. Do you bring any of that to your stories? If so, how?

I feel like Iceland comes in a lot. If I’m ever trying to describe a rugged landscape, or the most beautiful landscape, Iceland comes in. 

But a lot of the time it’s more a feeling of travel, the experience of travel. rather than knowing which specific building might affect a scene. But when I was writing Phantom Song, the second book in the series, I definitely included a bit of Paris. The original Phantom of the Opera is set in Paris, so I drew on things like the Versailles.

Do you often sneak in little references like that in things you write?

Oh, definitely. I sneak in a lot of things, like references to pop culture — you’ll see some references to Marvel movies especially. There’s a Princess Bride reference in one of the books. I try to nod to some of my favorites because it makes me happy to do that. I don’t know if anyone else would ever notice it.

With all your traveling, have you traveled someplace specifically for your writing, or as a literary pilgrimage?

I have been to Charles Dickens house in London, twice. And I have a little silver Charles Dickens from the house. He sits and watches me write — next to Princess Leia.

Those are some good patron saints.

Yes! I also have my little Marvel characters up there, but Princess Leia and Charles Dickens are my favorite.

I like to visit literary people’s homes. In Paris we went by Picasso’s house, and I studied abroad in Lancaster, England, which is up in Lakes District, where Beatrix Potter lived. I also went out to Yorkshire to James Herriot’s veterinary office. It’s a really cool museum, and I stayed in this bed-and-breakfast that actually had little hotel rooms attached to a tavern. I felt like I was in a fantasy novel!

What do you get out of the experience of visiting literary people’s homes?

For James Herriot, that was really neat because he writes about the exact place you’re standing. With Dickens, he’s one of my heroes. So the idea that he was here, that this person was there. . . . The history of it really resonates with me.

Is there anything you’d tell “last year Kate” about how your experience publishing Parting Shadows has been?

I would say, “It can happen.” 

I was looking at my Amazon Author Central page today, and I was like, I have book covers for two out of three of the books that I was just thinking about last year. I had a draft of Parting Shadows at this time last year, but the other two were just ideas.

Now Phantom Song is almost finished. And I have an outline of Darkening Heaven. And I have two short stories that go along with it.

So I guess I would say to Past Kate, “Those books will be out there. You just have to do the work.” 

I’m thrilled that I decided to do this, and it feels like the right thing for me. I’m really happy.


Grab your copy of Parting Shadows here:

Universal Book Link (ebook) | Your Local Bookstore (print) | Goodreads