(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Nert was written by N. R. Tupper.)
One thing Kelly had to say about her interviews, sometimes they took her to the strangest of places, she mused as she wandered through the broken down hunk of metal spaceship that still floated through space. She had come in prepared with a spacesuit, but the readings indicated sufficient oxygen to breath, so she removed her suit helmet. Apparently whatever the reason was for this place to be abandoned, it wasn’t the oxygen. Still, a chill ran down her spine.
She walked passed the walls, which leaked with a damp but sticky liquid, but no, she wasn’t about to touch that. And overhead the lights flickered.
Then she heard footsteps behind her and spun around, setting her flashlight on the individual. And she tensed. “Nert Tupper? N. R. Tupper?” When Nert nodded, Kelly sighed in relief and drew near to her. “I’ve got to say, you’ve picked an…interesting place to meet.”
Dressed in jeans, a Doctor Who t-shirt and a thick brown sweater Nert didn’t fit in at all. She looked more suited to a farm than a spaceship. Kelly approached and Nert’s chubby features changed to a bright smile. The smile was like a switch that changed her face from neutral and almost sad to bright and welcoming. “Yup! It’s one of my favorite places, just be careful, okay? There are… things in the vent. They aren’t exactly friendly. We’ll be safer up at the bridge. It’s this way.” With a wave, Nert headed back down the hall to a set of doors not too far away. The doors opened with a ping as Nert approached, revealing a large elevator car.
Kelly followed after Nert. What had she gotten into? But she had to say, this was better than visiting Hell for an interview which she’d done. Still, it had creepy vibes to it. However, to keep her mind off that, Kelly proceeded with questions, “So, Nert…why this place of all places? I mean, why is it your favorite place? The quiet?”
“Oh no! Not at all!” Nert laughed as the elevator closed behind them. They must have been moving but it was impossible to tell as the numbers on the elevator panel changed, leading them up to the 47th level. “This is the HOPEBRINGER. She’s the center of pretty much everything that happens in my series. The main trilogy, and the prequels. Initially she was humanity’s hope but in a way she becomes humanity’s doom.”
Ping! The doors opened, revealing a large, open, almost sparse room that, judging by the Captain’s chair and huge viewscreen dominating the far wall, must have been the bridge.
“We’ll be safe here. Generally they don’t come up here.”
“That is so very comforting…” Kelly wasn’t convinced, but she trusted Nert, so she smiled and took a look around the bridge. She had to admit, it was amazing up here. Such sights never ceased to amaze her. She turned back to Nert. “Okay, so tell me a bit about yourself. Are you a full-time writer, or do you have a day-job?”
“I have a day-job, a night-job and I write full time in that I’m always thinking about it. It’s hard to turn that part off. Any quiet moments, when I’m scanning grocery items, or scanning documents, I’m plotting and imagining. It’s a real problem.” Nert moved to the Captain’s chair and plopped down with a happy sigh. She ran her hands lovingly over the arms of the chair. “I’ve always wanted to sit here. Please! Have a seat at one of the consoles, unless you want to explore?” There were six consoles, three on each side of the Captain’s Chair. “But, yeah, writing has always been my passion but I always lacked the courage to share my work. This will be the first time I’m offering my full manuscript to anyone but my closest, most dearest friends.”
Kelly gifted her with a warm smile as she meandered around the bridge. “Well, I’m quite honored you’d share anything with me. Thank you.” She bowed her head but then lifted it again to smile at Nert. “So, you’ve always been writing, but was there ever a moment that really urged you on to take writing seriously? Or did you always take it seriously?” She raised her brows as she traced her fingers along a console.
“Honestly? Probably an early mid-life crisis. The thing that always held me back was feeling like writing was a childish passion, a foolish dream… and then one day I woke up and I just thought: Nert, you’re turning 30 next year. It’s time you start living the life you WANT, as opposed to the life you got handed to you. And so I started writing this story and it has consumed my life ever since.”
Kelly had to grin. “Well, I’m glad you’ve had that realization and are writing seriously now.” Finally she turned to face Nert fully and leaned back against a console. “So, tell me about one of your stories. What’s it about?”
“One of them? Haha. Oh gawd. Well, the one that’s coming out in May follows Kai Brecken. Honeslty, Kai was an accident. I never planned her. I had the story and I had the back story and I had no idea who would tell the story because I knew the real main character couldn’t. Then when I sat down to right Kai just popped onto the page and there she was…Ultimately her story is one of forgiveness, family, love. But it’s surrounded by all this action and space dragons. I think people will appreciate that at it’s core this little action story is really a story about the love of family, both blood and chosen.”
“Is it a science fiction story or what genre?” Kelly asked as she gestured to their surroundings, which she assumed belonged to one of Nert’s stories.
“I honestly call it science fiction but I’ve been told by betas that it’s more space fantasy. I’ve spent my whole life reading science fiction but I’ve never been one of those people who worries about labels and specifics. I just like what I like. So, anyway, space fantasy. Let’s say, space fantasy.”
Kelly shrugged. “I’d call it science fiction too, for what it’s worth, but okay, space fantasy works too.” She smiled as she pushed away from the console to pace some more. It helped her think. “So, you said it’s a story about forgiveness, family, and love, but…but that’s all pretty general—though important.” Kelly looked back at Nert. “What’s the plot? The characters? Their conflicts? What is forgiveness necessary for the story?”
Nert pushed her toe into the floor to make the chair spin. “I mean, that’s so hard to answer. It’s a trilogy you know! I don’t want to give too much away!” She called as she spun faster and faster. Finally she forced the chair to a stop and with a laugh sunk low in her seat, “Dizzy. Um… I guess… so, Kai is the character telling the story and she’s a badass, but she did something that separated her from her family and ultimately hurt her family and she’s doing her best to reconnect with them. She initially worked with pirates but wants to do her own thing so she’s gathered this crew and they take a job transporting goods to Egeria — a newly terraformed Alliance owned planet. When they arrive at Egeria they find an Alliance secret that could change the course of humanity’s relationship with the Sarlek. At this point Kai has to choose between saving her crew, and saving humanity. Anyway. The real key character of the story is someone she meets along the way. I don’t want to name names, but this other character is a mother who, a long time ago, was separated from her children. The family part comes in that these two women are both desperately trying to find their family. All while not realizing they’re surrounded by a new family. I’m probably explaining this bad! I have no idea how to talk about it without spoiling things.”
Kelly had to laugh. “Totally understand the spoiler idea. Don’t want the readers to be spoiled too much, and explaining a trilogy is never easy. You’ve done well.” She reassured her with a smile as she lowered into a chair and leaned forward. “So tell me about Kai. What’s she like?”
“She’s… amazing,” Nert smiles as she speaks, her expression softening, “I wanted her to be a hero people could appreciate, but I also wanted her to be human. I find, too often, female heroes these days tend to be either too weak, or too over powered. Kai isn’t either of those. She’s human. She doubts herself, she second-guesses herself, she worries a LOT, she obsesses about the past and her mistakes but ultimately she’s strong because when she has to make a decision, she does it. She’s impulsive, but she’s not afraid. She’s intelligent, but her own self-doubts stop her from being cocky. She’s loyal, to a fault. She’s cranky, snarky, hilarious without knowing it. She’s just… human. And like humans, she’s a study in contradictions. I know some people don’t like her, because she is constantly second guessing but I think there are very few people in this world who don’t second guess themselves and ultimately I wanted a human character, not an unrealistic heroine.”
Kelly paused for a second, tilting her head as if listening and focusing on something else before looking back at Nert and shaking her head. “Sorry. Tornado warning at my place in real life. I know time moves differently here than in real life, but I just tried to get my cats. Anyway, thankfully the storm has passed, so…what were you saying? Oh yes, your character being human and realistic. So in that case, what has been your greatest struggle to make her realistic?”
“Making her realistic was easy. It was balancing her insecurities and her abilities that was hard. At one point I had her doubting herself WAY too much and it didn’t make sense that she had done the things she did and could do the things she can do. Figuring out the balance between insecurity and strength was hard. I think we all have hidden strength, sometimes without knowing it, and I wanted to pay homage to that with this character. I think we are, all of us, a little bit like Kai.” Nert tilts her head, “Tornado, eh? We don’t get those here. Sounds scary.”
Kelly shrugged. “Tornados are the norm for Texas at times, but it’s okay.” She smiled at Nert. “So, you kinda mentioned what inspired this idea, but what exactly triggered it?”
“It started with a little dragon boy named Kip. He started popping into my head ages ago but I kind of dismissed him because I wasn’t into fantasy. As the years went by he kept popping into my head and… in searching for his story, I found the story of his parents and the story of his parents led me to this. As to what triggered him? A little game called Breath of Fire. I was completely enamored with the shape shifting dragon concept and it just got this little human-dragon Kip in my head. He’s adorable, by the way. Real quiet, real gentle… and ironically, I still haven’t figured out what /his/ story is but he’s spawned all these other stories.”
Kelly furrowed her brows as she heard this, and she leaned forward, clasping her hands together. “But how did you get from there with a dragon to here with space fantasy?”
“It all comes back to here, the HOPEBRINGER.” Nert answered with a laugh, “Because I don’t write fantasy, I tried to think of ways to make a fantasy that wasn’t a fantasy and I thought what if I have science fiction characters meet a fantasy world? Then I can have my cake and eat it too. And so the HOPEBRINGER was born and she brought my science fiction characters to a fantasy world but that wasn’t the end of it, because I still wasn’t telling the right story. And eventually the HOPEBRINGER led me to Kai and her crew and the story she wanted to tell. I don’t know, it’s so hard to pinpoint any exact moment when anything came together because it was such a long, gradual process. It was my first time trying to write a full length novel and my first time trying to write fantasy so it was a very long learning process.”
“Well, it is possible to write a fantasy/science fiction story. That’s what I do with my novel.” Kelly offered Nert some hope then glimpsed around at the ship again. “What’s the backstory of the HOPEBRINGER?”
Nert grins at that question, her eyes twinkled with amusement. Overhead something banged loudly in the vent. Nert’s eyes raised upwards. She shrugged and focused her gaze back on Kelly. “It’s the Titanic of space. A giant terraforming beast that humanity sent to strange new worlds. It ends up on an alien planet far from human reach. Nobody knows how, it’s this huge mystery. But, some of its crew survived and forged a new life on the alien planet. Hundreds of years later Kai and her crew find the ship, only it’s no longer occupied by humans. Instead, it has some nasty new inhabitants that aren’t too interested in sharing.”
“Ah nice…” Kelly tried not to shiver at the thought, but she could only imagine what Nert created to occupy this ship. “I have so many questions I’d like to ask about the story and the backstory, but, I know, spoilers.” She sighed and sat back in her chair, frowning as she tried to think of another question. When she thought of it, her eyes lit, and she smiled as she looked back at Nert. “Okay, so what’s your favorite thing to write about the story?”
“Oh the characters! I love them! Maybe that’s a bit narcissistic but I love doubting Kai and sneaky Hawthorne and silly Tucker and badass Mallik. I just love them all so much. And it’s hard, because I have so much more I want to share about them and their lives but this first novel is a fast-paced action and it’s hard to slip in all the stuff I wish I could slip in! I can’t tell you how many scenes I deleted because they slowed the story down. It’s painful, really. And still I have people telling me I should take MORE out because backstory isn’t important but man! I love the backstory! I love these kids so much! And yes, they are my kids.”
“Hey, do what you feel is right. You know the story better than anyone else.” Kelly made sure she had Nert’s attention when she said this, but then she went on, “And what’s the most difficult thing you’ve found to write with this story?”
“It’s not in the first novel, but in the third novel there’s this thing that… it was really hard to write, really hard to do even. I tried to think of other ways to end the story but it had to end this way and… well, I’m jumping way ahead because that’s the third book. In the first novel, I think the hardest thing was finding the perfect balance of world building and pacing. I wanted this to be fast-paced and sometimes world building can slow things down. So I had to learn how to show just wanted needed to be shown just when it needed to be shown. Just enough so the reader wasn’t lost but not so much that the reader was bogged down.”
“That’s quite a delicate balance indeed.” Kelly nodded but then offered Nert a smile. “But I’m sure you’ve mastered it well.” Then she sighed because she knew what time it was. “Our time is almost up, so I’m going to have to be going soon, but before I leave, what’s something you would like your readers to walk away with after they read your story? Something they’ll remember?”
“Dragons in space are amazing?” Nert laughed, “No, I’m kidding. I think the thing I want them to walk away with is; love the people you love with all your heart and take care of them. Ultimately, that’s the only thing in life that matters. The people you make family are so, so important and the time you have with them is short, so make every second count… but also, dragons in space are amazing.” Nert stood from the chair and held out her hand, “Thanks for meeting with me. I really appreciate it.”
Kelly grinned, shaking Nert’s hand as she stood too. “Dragons in space are pretty awesome indeed. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. This was fun. I’m looking forward to whichever character you’ll have me meet!”
“Oh, me too!” Nert laughed, “and, uh, don’t take anything personally, okay? My characters can be a bit… distrusting of strangers.”
Kelly smirked at this. “That’s totally fine! I’m used to that. It will be fun! However though, I’ve got to go. You take care, okay?”
“Have a great day! And, just… uh… be careful on your way out. See you!” Nert waved with a grin
Kelly smiled, taking note of the warning, but then headed out
N. R. Tupper’s novel, TYR, is now available. Be sure to follow her on social media as well for more updates!