Friday, August 30, 2013

Feature Friday: Starla Huchton

Starla Huchton released her first novel, The Dreamer's Thread, as a full cast podcast production beginning in August 2009. Her first foray went on to become a double-nominee and finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards. Since her debut, Starla's voice has appeared in other podcasts including The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Drabblecast, and Erotica a la Carte. She is also a voice talent for Darkfire Productions, and narrates several of their projects, including The Emperor's Edge series, This Path We Share, and others. Her writing has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte podcast, an episode of the Tales from the Archives podcast (the companion to Tee Morris and Philippa Balantine's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series), which garnered her a second finalist badge from the 2012 Parsec Awards, and a short story for The Gearheart (earning her a third Parsec finalist badge). Her second novel, a Steampunk adventure entitled Master of Myth, was the first place winner in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of The Sandy Writing Contest held annually by the Crested Butte Writers Conference. Maven was her third completed novel and the first in a planned series of four, being released under the name S. A. Huchton. Nemesis is the second in the Endure series.

After completing her degree in Graphic Arts, Starla opened up shop as a freelance graphic designer focusing on creating beautiful book covers for independent authors and publishers. She currently lives in Virginia where she trains her three Minions and military husband.

Interview:

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Starla:
I would give the same advice to new writers as I would to veteran ones.
1) Always keep writing. The more you write, the better you will become.
2) Read! Read in your genre and outside of it. Read up on your craft as well.
3) Share your writing. Other eyeballs on your words will help strengthen your work. Find critique groups or writing partners where you share with one another and look for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Do this for others as well as you will notice things in their work that you can apply to your own; things you may not notice when you’re so close to it.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Starla:
My all-time favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s an amazingly intricate tale that comes together so perfectly, it’s become my baseline for judging all other books. Alexandre Dumas’ ability to craft such unique and rich characters that change in very dynamic ways always leaves me breathless. It’s the kind of writing I strive for, although I can’t, as yet, claim that I’m anywhere near that level of expertise. Very few people, living or dead, are. That’s not to say I hope to write like Dumas someday. Last I checked, Dumas didn’t write genre fiction. ;)

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Maven?

Starla:
The Endure series was actually spawned from an idea I had in high school. I’d written a bit of fluff when I was a freshman or so, and while the majority of that will never, ever be seen, my main character, Dr. Lydia Ashley, carried over from all those years ago. That original work was also subaquatic, and involved something about bacteria, but at 14 I didn’t really have the knowledge base to draw from to make sense of it. Fast forward to 16 years later, and with military experience and a college degree under my belt (albeit one in graphic design, NOT science), plus the additional bonus of a husband who has his undergrad in microbiology and Masters degree in Computer Science… well, it felt like it was finally time to write the story for real.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Maven?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Starla:
Snags… oh my. It’s a constant stop and start process with these books. Because I don’t have a large background in science I had to do a lot of research for this story. It was a matter of deciding what I wanted it to do, and then figuring out how that would happen. I was all over the web trolling academic sites, as well as firing questions at some of the *actual* scientists I’ve had the (completely coincidental) good fortune to befriend over the years. I think the hardest part was understanding the science myself so that I could explain it within the books in very plain, accessible, not-confusing ways. I am very, very careful not to overload readers with terminology, because I know that was one of my big issues with the Science Fiction I read growing up. So much time in Hard Sci-Fi is spent on technical jargon that I was absolutely set on doing the opposite. That’s not to say the science suffers for it, I just made sure to give readers only the basic information that was pertinent to the story. Bacteria infect phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are used to help grow produce in subaquatic facilities. Infected phytoplankton pass these bacteria to the produce, which then infects humans with deadly results. Not so complex when you break it down that way. That’s all a reader needs. If they took science in high school or have used the internet ever, they’ll have no problem reading and enjoying the Endure series. Once I figured out how to put those pieces together, the other stuff was as easy as any other book ever is to write.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Maven is your favorite and why?

Starla:
Well, if I had to choose someone other than Lydia or Daniel (since the book is dual point of view and I’ve gotten to know them both very well), I would have to go with Tony. Tony is the kind of guy that’s fun to be around. He’s got a great sense of humor and is a straight shooter. He gives little regard to the opinions of others when it comes to his friends, although he does stay abreast of any gossip so he can put out fires or warn his friends about what’s going on. It’s a small station though, so gossip pretty unavoidable. Still, he’s one of the most loyal friends you could ever hope for, and he really shows this, both in MAVEN and in the other books in the series.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Starla:
Really, I’ve been writing as far back as second grade (poetry, plays, short stories, etc), but didn’t attempt a long piece of fiction until I was a senior in high school. It had a good premise, but it took a left turn at Albuquerque and I got completely fed up with my main character. I didn’t attempt anything of that sort again until a friend of mine finally convinced me to give National Novel Writing Month a shot in 2007. What I began that year, I completed the following year, which was The Dreamer’s Thread. Definitely a starter book, but those who loved it, loved it very much and still sing its praises. It was strictly fantasy, but shortly after finishing it, I discovered the world of Steampunk. The Antigone’s Wrath series (which is not out anywhere yet, but hopefully I can get to it soon), was my first taste of researching facts for fiction. It has traces of magic, as I was coming from a Fantasy mindset, but I quickly discovered I actually enjoyed researching the scientific elements of the Steampunk technology. You have to know the basic parts of weapons and engines and ships in order to describe them properly in fiction, and that was where it began for me. That series was a stepping stone to the strictly Sci-Fi world of the Endure series. It’s strange. I never thought of myself as much of a science person, but I find the concepts (not necessarily the math behind them) fascinating. Once these things became applicable to what I do, it’s amazing what I’ve learned. I hope there’s some takeaway from these books, in that it maybe sparks curiosity. Science isn’t really all that scary once you get to know it a little. Heh.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Starla:
I have one book in the Endure series left to write, but I stepped away from it for a bit to work on something entirely knew that I completely in love with. New Adult is a category that’s absolutely bursting with possibilities for stories, and I’ve taken to a place far beyond the Contemporary with it. I’m nearly finished with the second book in a New Adult Superhero Romance series. It’s everything that’s great about comics and superhero flicks, but adding in so much more insight to the characters and setting. I’m not saying too much about it for now, as I’m seeing where it goes with traditional publishing and small press routes first (it’s only a two month old project, so it’s still in beta!), but I cannot tell you how antsy I am to share it with everyone! What happens when you leave ALL THE FEELS inside a superhero origin story? Well, it’s awesome. Just wait and see!

A.L.:
How did you go about writing a genius scientist?

Starla:
As I said before, Lydia has been with me a very long time, so we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well over the years. Really, she’s not too much different than a normal person. She has hopes, and dreams, and emotions that anyone at that age has, but she’s been alone for a long time. Being so advanced so young, she never related well to her age group, so the social stuff is a bit awkward for her. She’s a fast learner though, and Daniel and the new friends she meets on the Endure help her through the rough patches. The pressure definitely gets to her sometimes, and she’s prone to panic attacks. As the series goes, it gets worse as she goes along, but if you were tasked with saving the entire population of the planet, you might stress out occasionally, too.

A.L.:
This book is obviously in the NA age group category.  We have a lot of YA readers on the blog, what about this novel to you think would appeal to them?

Starla:
While there is adult material in this series and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone below the age of 17, I think the characters themselves would be very appealing to YA readers. Lydia and Daniel are both brilliant, and I think Lydia especially is an excellent role model for what girls in general should strive to be. She’s confident in her abilities and knowledge, is dedicated and hard-working, and isn’t one to back down from a challenge. In fact, she encourages everyone around her to work harder and to the best of their ability. She believes you should never ask something of someone else that you would not ask of yourself. Daniel is a perfect example of what one person can do when they decide to really dedicate themselves to being a better person. He finds new purpose in himself when he’s confronted with the amazing example Lydia provides.

A.L.:
As a voice artist, what has been your favorite character to portray thus far?

Starla:
My favorite character that I’ve voiced is probably Maldynado from Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge series (these were single narrator titles, so all characters were voiced by me). He’s over-the-top and has some really funny lines, so it was always a challenge to get through them without cracking up. It’s so much fun to really let loose with a character. And Maldynado is nothing if not loose.


The Giveaway:
Starla is giving away signed print copies of MAVEN and NEMESIS (national only) as well ebook copies (international).

Maven:  How far would you go for love?

Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.

Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.

Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve?


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How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to national entrants for the print copies and international entrants for the ebook copies.  Please use the appropriate rafflecopter for your desired entry.

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