Continuing with my interview series of editors and authors, today I am thrilled to have S.J. Higbee here to present her new novel. I know Sarah since a while and she’s a fellow blogger. Her Brainfluff is an amazing blog, and if you want to keep abreast of new novels in speculative fictions, go and bookmark it. Sarah is now on a blog tour to present her own novel, Running Out of Space, and she was so kind to answer a few questions for us.
Thank you so much, Steph, for taking part in the blog tour for Running Out of Space and giving me a chance to talk about the book and my writing.
Who is Sarah J Higbee? Talk a little bit about you and your work.
I have been writing forever. As a child, I used to write long, rambling stories that filled up exercise books and when I was ten I won a Brooke Bond short story competition. When I started writing seriously, there was no choice – all these stories would roam around in my head, causing vivid dreams and a constant low-level discomfort until they were released. After a divorce left me with two young children to bring up, I trained as a primary school teacher and taught at a local school for a number of years. It was hard going, writing then. But my second husband has always been enormously supportive – I wouldn’t be where I am now without his constant belief and encouragement.
I have also written a number of short stories and poems that have been published in various ezines and anthologies. I had a publishing contract for Running Out of Space in 2008 with a small publisher. It didn’t work out, so we agreed to go our separate ways. I continued to submit, though rather haphazardly and in 2009, I started teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook College when Jan Henley, aka Rosanna Ley, our tutor, decided to step down as her writing career was taking off. I shudder to think that I nearly turned down the opportunity. It’s been a marvellous experience and I’ve learnt so much about the process of writing and how different folks approach it.
In the meantime, I continued to write and finally after an inspirational workshop by Jacey Bedford a couple of years ago, I finally became systematic and professional in submitting my novels. I have had several close calls with a couple and at the start of this year, I sold Netted, a post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure set in Maine, to Grimbold Publishing, who have recently won the Best Independent Publisher Award for 2017 from the British Fantasy Society. Meanwhile, I realised that as well as getting a traditional publishing contract, I also wanted to self publish, so have been working towards getting the trilogy ready to go.
Which particular brand of speculative fiction do you write?
I’m definitely on the softer end of science fiction. I am principally interested in the people within a futuristic setting, rather than the setting itself. That said, I do spend time researching and building a detailed world. My teaching degree specialism was History, which has been invaluable when approaching the task of constructing a world that shapes my characters. As well as this space opera series, I have also written a trilogy featuring a telepathic alien on a colony planet, which I also plan to self publish. The project I’m working on now, however is a fantasy novel – effectively the sequel to Shakespeare’s play The Tempest where we learn what happens to Miranda and Prospero after they leave their enchanted island.
Why / how did you decide to start it?
After my divorce, I dived back into books – but most of the contemporary and literary novels of the time felt banal and pretentious. I didn’t want to read about some wretched girl seducing an older man just because she could – I wanted to escape and adventure. When I met John and he introduced me to his collection of science fiction and fantasy novels, I realised I had found my spiritual home. Once I’d immersed myself in the likes of C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, there was no going back. Although I did once try to write a book for Mills and Boon – however in Chapter 3, the lantern-jawed hero suddenly became emasculated in a terrible accident and I realised that writing straight romantic fiction was not going to work for me.
“Running out of Space.” Let’s talk about your last novel.
I had already written two novels in this world that will never see the light of day – they are too flawed. But they did include some good ideas and storylines. I wanted to find out about the community of Deepers – the merchanters or ‘space camels’ who had left Earth after their homes were flooded to rebuild their lives during the great push to establish colonies and space stations. So Elizabeth and her family came into being. Part of a dysfunctional family, she wants to escape her inevitable fate as a fertile young woman to be married off at the earliest opportunity to produce and raise a large family. Instead, she yearns for excitement and adventure, setting her heart on becoming an officer on her father’s ship. However, he has other ideas. I liked the idea of the intergenerational conflict as the one social structure that has remained more or less unchanged throughout millennia is that of the family – what happens to it if you take it into space?
Tell us something more about its target audience and any plan you have for it (sequels, etc).
It officially is aimed at the New Adult market, given that Elizabeth is only nineteen at the beginning of Running Out of Space. However, it’s target audience is anyone who enjoys reading character-led space opera, so while there is some romance and personal conflict, there is also plenty of action and adventure. I am hoping to bring out the second book in the series, Dying For Space, in December and the third book in the trilogy, Breathing Space in February 2018, all being well. This will tie up all the major plotpoints within Elizabeth’s story arc, though there are a few unanswered questions because I also plan to write a murder mystery series featuring her as my private investigator. I have always wanted to write a sci-fi crime series and she is my perfect protagonist, given her rather angst-ridden past and skill set. I also know this world very well and there are plenty of unexplored, unexplained corners that lend themselves to dark deeds which need sorting out. At present I have outlined (very roughly) four books, starting with Bloodless, which I’m hoping to write next year.
Which ones among the other novels you have published so far you would recommend to people (maybe to better understand the last one)?
This is my very first published novel, so tuck in and see if you like it.
Anything else you would like to say?
Thank you for giving me the chance to talk about my writing. It’s been a pleasure and if anyone has any further questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below.