A lot of people smarter than I am will tell you every great science fiction story starts with an idea. An equal number of deep thinkers will say that every great romance story starts with a character, typically the heroine. The challenge in writing SFR is that you have to start with both.
Lucky for me, when I began writing my science fiction suspense novel Unchained Memory, I had both a great idea and a compelling heroine. The problem was that for a long time, I didn’t know how to put them together.
First, the heroine, because she was in my head for years before I started writing. The book blurb describes her this way:
From the night she wakes up in her pickup on the side of the road, three hours gone and everything of value lost to her, Asia Burdette is caught in a clash of invisible forces.
This vision of a woman waking up alone on a country road came to me as I was driving back to my rural home after dropping off a babysitter. It was late on a clear, cold night, with the stars arching overhead. And though my kids were safe at home with my husband, my mind spun off into crazyland: What if I didn’t get home? What if I had an accident? Or worse, what if I was just . . . Taken?
The stories of people abducted by aliens are legion. Some describe beneficent creatures who only want the best for humankind. Most describe horrible torture at the hands of the Grays before they are somehow returned to Earth. But what if the little gray aliens are not the ones responsible for returning their abductees? What if there are others out there, defending the humans Taken by the Grays?
This was my Big Idea: If there is an interstellar slave trade, then there must be an abolitionist movement to oppose it. The members of this intergalactic organization—the Interstellar Council for Abolition and Rescue—intercept and rescue the beings taken by the Grays wherever they can. Then they return them to their planets of origin.
I built the universe of my Interstellar Rescue series around this concept. Which means, of course, that I had to figure out how interstellar slavery could make sense in the first place—the economics of it, the means of space travel that would support it, the kinds of planets where it could happen and the activities that would require it. Then I looked at the species involved in both the slave-trading empire and the Rescue organization.
All that worldbuilding was fun, but what about my poor, lost heroine? I had to bring all that intergalactic scope down to Earth, both literally and figuratively. That’s where the last, most miraculous piece fell into place. This story had been simmering in my brain for a long time—years, really—and it wasn’t working as a standard SF novel. Something was missing.
Then I came across The Highlander’s Touch, by Karen Marie Moning in my local grocery store. What was this? Time travel romance? Who read this stuff? Boy, was I in for an education. Having come from the science fiction tradition, I didn’t read romance. I thought such things were relegated to fan fiction, where I’d hung out for years writing STAR TREK-based SFR. Come to find out there was this thing called paranormal romance taking over the romance world! People actually paid to read it! And science fiction romance was a known quantity, too, with a host of traditionally published writers leading the way for a new digital revolution in the genre.
All of a sudden, my ugly-duckling science fiction story made perfect sense as science fiction romance. My heroine found a hero, my writing found a whole new direction, and, soon after, I found the writing community where I belong.
So, why did I write Unchained Memory? To find myself. Isn’t that why most of us write?
Unchained Memory is Book One in Donna S. Frelick’s Interstellar Rescue series. It’s available NOW in digital and paperback from Amazon.com.
Donna S. Frelick was an RWA® Golden Heart® Double Finalist in 2012 in the Paranormal category for the first two novels in her SFR Interstellar Rescue series. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband and two talkative cats.
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I’m so thrilled to be hosting a new author again this week! I hope you’ll give a hearty welcome to Donna and ask her about her new book and/or what comes next!
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