Hey guys, I'm super excited to host the sci-fi debut that is Zenn Scarlett and the great author Christian Schoon today! I have an interview with the author for you guys but first I'll let you know more about the book.
Release Date: 7th May 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Synopsis: Zenn Scarlett is a bright and occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. She specializes in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars was going well - until there are a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school that Zenn finds herself blamed for. As if this isn't enough to be dealing with, her father vanishes under strange circumstances, and Zenn is worried that she has started hearing the thoughts of the creatures around her...
With the help of Liam, a towner boy, and Hamish, an alien bug also training at the clinic, Zenn must try to find her father, rescue the animals and unravel the mystery of who is behind the attacks on the school. And all without failing her first year.
1. First of all can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Let’s see…I was born in glamorous downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My first cat was a Siamese named Phurtadateedah. During junior high, I was shot at by the police (mistaken identity. Honest.). I spent my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Djursholm, Sweden. My four college minors were English, astronomy, anthropology and the Lakota Sioux language. (I cannot, however, speak this language now). I’m a major sci fi geek, a fanatical animal person and a Capricorn but seriously, Saturn or any other planet or star has absolutely no influence over my life. Other lives? That's anybody’s guess. Planetary influence over my fiction is another matter entirely.
2. Before Zenn Scarlett you were a scriptwriter, what made you change
to writing novels and ultimately becoming an author?
Yes, I wrote TV scripts for live and animated shows during my years in Los Angeles. But after we moved back to my Midwestern stomping grounds and bought a farm, my interests shifted, for several reasons. One: it’s tough to keep your oar in the water, scriptwriting-wise, when you don’t live in LA or New York. TV and film are collaborative enterprises, and the people running these things want your body and mind there to collaborate with. There are exceptions to this rule, but they’re rare and didn’t apply to me. Novels, on the other hand, are the ultimate one-person-show. I’m the writer, director, cinematographer, set designer, lighting director, best boy, gaffer and craft services person all in one. Plus, no commute. I kinda like that.
3. Zenn Scarlett is your debut novel, where did the idea come from?
After our move to the back of beyond in gorgeous rural America, my wife and I began accumulating animals on our farm and volunteering with animal welfare groups. Before long, I was hanging out with veterinarians who specialized in exotic animal medicine and found myself interacting with bears, cougars, big snakes, horses, etc. Along with my fondness for sci fi, this new arena of interest lead to the idea for a novice exovet working with alien animals.
4. Can you tell us a bit about how it started from an idea in your
mind to becoming a published novel? What was the whole process like?
The real lightbulb-popping-on-over-my-head moment was the simple concept of an alien animal vet. I couldn’t recall ever reading, or even hearing about, a similar character/situation in either books or films. From there, the rest of the story rapidly fell into place. Then, I worked and re-worked the story in my spare time over several years while I continued to work my day gig full time. I submitted to my list of chosen genre-specific agents. Got politely rejected. Main comment: “Awesome concept. Not ready for prime time.” And I quickly caught on to the fact this was all too true. So, I polished. Then, as I was about to submit to my next round of agents, an agent contacted me. He’d come across the manuscript at his former company and had pushed it, but his bosses passed. Now, he was at a new agency and wondered if I’d been signed. No, I had not. He signed me, we worked to streamline the story, split my one long book into two and a few months later he sold the books as a series to Strange Chemistry, who by the by are awesome as they come. The whole process was both educational for me as a noob novelist – I knew scriptwriting, but novels are a whole ‘nother animal… and it was angst-making during the submission process, but euphoric when the books sold.
5. In the novel Zenn is training to become an exoveterinarian. How
much research did you have to do into the world of animal medicine and
animal welfare? As an animal management student myself, I’m very
My research for the vet science part of Zenn Scarlett really grew out of my “on the job” experiences as a volunteer with several animal welfare groups. One is the Iowa Equine Rescue and Awareness League. This group works exclusively through law enforcement agencies and steps in after horses, donkeys or burros are confiscated due to neglect or abuse. The equines come to our farm, and other foster sites, where we tend to any outstanding medical issues, then get them back to a healthy, stable weight, work with them on handling issues, and adopt them out to qualified owners. Another group is called Witty Kitties, Inc., but the name is a little misguiding. In addition to providing housing and life-long care for felines with special medical needs (FIV, Feline leukemia, etc.) Witty Kitties is also licensed to rescue and rehab exotic animals like bears, cougars, coyotes, emus, Burmese pythons, American alligators, iguanas, tortoises and other critters.
6. You have wide variety of pet’s yourself, did they inspire you in any way?
I’d say my affection and admiration for my horses, cats, dogs and ferrets is a direct inspiration for Zenn’s similar attachment to the unearthly animals residing at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic where she's undergoing her novice year of training.
7. I’ve just got to throw this one in there, you have 30 cats? I love
the kitties but how do you have enough space for them all? Are they
generally outside cats?
Good question! Most of them are outside barn cats. But we provide heat lamps and hay bales in the “cat barn” for these outdoor guests here on the farm, and they’re almost as pampered as the felines living indoors. More than a few of our barn cat contingent are now in their second decade, which as you probably know, is well beyond old age for a cat living outdoors. And, as outdoor cats show signs of being true “seniors,” we move them indoors to live. Iowa winters can be pretty gnarly.
8. The main setting for Zenn Scarlett is Mars, what made you set the
novel in outer space? Did this entitle much research on your part?
The desire to incorporate a Martian setting probably arose from my early reading of the Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom books. Plus, I’ve watched the various NASA Mars rovers with great interest; the reports on Mars’ environment seem to get more life-friendly all the time (even if that life turns out to be "simple" microbes and lived there long ago). And yes, I did need to brush up on my Mars facts as I wrote, so I now have a fairly full shelf of books on the subject.
9. What was your favourite part about writing Zenn Scarlett?
Some of the most fun scenes to write were Zenn’s interactions with her alien patients. She’s very good at what she does, and it’s always enjoyable to be around someone who’s competent at their job!
10. What are your current writing projects and what can we expect from
you next? One of the most important questions, Will there be a sequel?
Next up from me is, in fact, the sequel to Zenn Scarlett, where we’ll follow Zenn off Mars and into thrilling encounters with outlandish new creatures, fascinating alien races and mind-boggling interplanetary intrigue! It’s due out about a year from now so… I’ll be in touch!
11. Which authors and novels have influenced you and your writing?
The above-noted Burroughs, as well as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, T.H.White’s The Once and Future King, and too many more to even get into here!
12. Describe Zenn Scarlett in 5 or less words?
Compassionate, empathetic, fearless, determined, way-cool!
13: What’s your favourite Animal?
Rikkasets are pretty fabulous. But, here on earth, I really love the grace and inscrutability of cats.
Bonus Question: I’m guessing you’ve been bitten by an animal with all
the ones you have, what’s been the worst one though? I was bitten by a
ferret last week and damn it hurt!
Yeah, I’ve still got tiny teeth marks sprinkled across one arm from one of my own ferrets. Have been nipped by several kinds of snake (nothing serious), chomped pretty good by horses (leaves nasty teeth-mark-bruises) but I have to say the worst bites of all are from those graceful, inscrutable felines. Especially if they get you in a finger joint; almost certain to get infected. But, still not bad enough to dull my fondness for the little varmints.
About the Author:
Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about - and received an education from - these remarkable animals.
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Huge thanks to Christian for answering my questions and thank you to Amanda at Strange Chemistry for allowing me to participate in the Zenn Scarlett Tour! Thank you for stopping by and Happy Reading!