Today I am fortunate enough to be on Patrick Stutzman’s blog tour for his new release ALONE IN PARADISE, the second novel in the Anna Foster chronicles. We have my review, his wonderful interview and a chance to win ALONE IN PARADISE to any commenter, or person who shares the news via Twitter!
After the destruction of the mining station that was her home for 6 years, Anna Foster crashes on the newly-discovered moon she calls Paradise. With no way of calling for help, she must learn to survive in the untamed wilderness while trying to find a way back to human-controlled space.
While she adapts to the new environment, Anna stumbles across some of the moon’s hidden secrets and quickly discovers that she is not as alone as she originally believed.
1. How did ALONE IN PARADISE come about? What were the things that helped to shape the book? Did you know starting out that Anna would be for the most part alone throughout the novel?
ALONE IN PARADISE came about because I could not stop writing about Anna when I finished the first book. I was on a roll!
I had planted seeds for a sequel while writing the first book, such as the flash of light while Anna surveyed the moon in the first book. Those seeds, coupled with Anna suddenly being thrust into an environment with which she wasn’t the slightest bit familiar, helped forge Paradise to be the book it is.
I planned for Anna to be alone for most of the story. That’s why I went with the whole “alone” theme for the titles of the books in the series. Future books in the series are expected to continue following that thread.
2. I’ve always heard that writing from the POV of the opposite sex is an interesting experience. How did you decide to write from Anna’s POV? Or did it just come to you? Did you encounter any difficulties?
As an avid roleplayer (e.g.: Dungeons & Dragons, etc.), I’ve always sought to expand my boundaries in the characters I play. Part of that experience was playing realistic female characters, something most players don’t even attempt lest they fall into the trap of playing a woman that is either heavily masculine or a slut. From that experience (which I found most enjoyable), the decision to write about a female character came quite easily. The largest difficulty I had was to make sure that all parts of her character were realistic. Selecting a female editor was a conscious decision that has helped me every step of the way.
3. It seemed to me that maintaining a narrative with a character all alone besides a frustrating AI would be difficult to write. What was the most challenging part to write? The easiest? Why?
The most challenging part for me was coping with Anna’s psychological need to have a physical presence with which to interact in addition to having someone with whom to converse. Adding the utility drone to the station helped her somewhat, but not enough to completely satisfy that need. Other elements exist to show that she is trying to find solutions to fulfill that desire for companionship on a tangible level. The easiest part was deciding to make the computer a full AI with a personality. That way, I could treat it like another character.
4. What was your personal favorite thing about writing ALONE IN PARADISE?
My favorite part was creating a brand new language. Since the language I wanted to create had to be realistic in scope, it had to be more than just a bunch of letters thrown together. Not only did I create whole new words, I had to create the number system, a new time measurement system, the language’s conjugation and sentence structure, and more! By doing this, the process also helped me flesh out the society that used the language, determining things like why they measure time the way they do.
5. As your continue to write novels (I saw that you’ve written three now), has it gotten easier or harder?
It is a mixture of both. My writing style is always evolving, but the novel writing process has become a bit easier with fewer edits required after it’s all put down. It’s harder, because I am always thinking about how I’m writing it instead of just throwing it down and letting it go. I have become more conscious about the continuity and making sure no conflicts arise that I have to go back and correct later.
6. Now, having written three novels, what advice can give budding authors? Have you learned anything through self-publication that others looking to go that route need to know?
The one piece of advice I give to all starting writers is the same bit I got several years ago from a panel discussion with Michael Stackpole. Write first, and edit later. If you write the first chapter of your novel and then stop to edit, you’ll never get past the first chapter. Write the whole thing first, and then go back and edit it. As for self-publishing, my advice follows the cliché “Don’t put all your eggs in one basked.” Do not put all of your trust in one avenue for publishing your book. Make your book available to as many people as possible in as many formats as you can manage. Don’t just stick with Kindle or Nook! Expand beyond that, and your potential for exposure and revenue increases.
7. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I like to spend time with my family, play World of Warcraft or Skyrim, and play tabletop roleplaying games. I’m currently running a Pathfinder RPG campaign using a world of my own creation. Who knows? I might get more books out of that.
8. If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
Thank you for your support! I cannot thank you enough, and I hope I never disappoint you.
Upon first glance, I honestly thought that ALONE IN PARADISE would be a fairly limited narrative. After all, the entire cast consists of Anna, stranded on a presumably barren moon, and an AI whose attitude could get her killed. I was familiar with Stutzman’s worth through Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday, however, and I knew he had a certain je ne sais quoi to his writing. That certain something carried throughout the novel to not only make it limited, but make it a full, imaginative read with a bite of realism that seriously resonates with that terror we all have about being alone, truly and utterly alone.
But as mentioned before, Stutzman carries it quite convincingly. The complication comes not when Anna realizes she’s not alone (as there is a peaceful, alien life-form that inhabits the moon), but when Anna is attacked and abducted by a pirate captain and his crew. This sounds like a recipe for an interesting subplot. I suppose we can call it that, though the treatment that Anna then receives is nothing short of horrific. I understand that they are space pirates, that men when left alone become an even baser version of themselves, but the lack of humanity and revelry in sadistic misogyny is quite literally stomach-turning. I feel like, though this fit into the narrative, it froze it in several places due to the harsh severity of it. Of course, that’s just my reading.
Anna does escape and the crew members (including the most evil evil captain) do perish, though they don’t nearly get what’s due them (i.e., torture in the veins of skin flaying). I had no sympathy for them and only rage that Anna had to deal with it for so long.
I enjoyed Stutzman’s details, his settings and his imaginative creatures, but the brutality of his space pirates will leave a bad taste in my mouth for quite some time. I would still recommend the read, though caution those with weak constitutions. There weren’t any terribly detailed scenes of rape, but the implication (and the number of implications) is seriously daunting.
But please don’t misunderstand my intolerance for rapist-pirates as a message about the quality of the writing. It is an excellently written novel and I enjoyed Stutzman’s portrayal of Anna quite a bit. I rooted for her all throughout.
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To learn more about Patrick and his work, please visit his site here.