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Interview with S.E. Anderson

She can’t even tell you where she’s from. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because it inevitably leads to a confusing conversation where she goes over where she was born (England) where she grew up (France), and where her family is from (USA), and it tends to make things very complicated.

She’s lived pretty much her entire life in the South of France, except for a brief stint where she moved to Washington DC, or the eighty years she spent as a Queen of Narnia before coming back home five minutes after she had left. Currently, she is working on her Ph.D. in Astrophysics and Planetary sciences in Besançon, France.

When she’s not writing or trying to science, she’s either reading, designing, crafting, or attempting to speak with various woodland creatures in an attempt to get them to do household chores for her. She could also be gaming or pretending she’s not watching anything on Netflix.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
Maybe that people already know everything about me? I have a hard time keeping my personal and social life separate and have a bad habit of spilling my guts to total strangers.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I’m currently querying my new YA SF novel, Over the Moon. It’s a space-based retelling of The Wizard of Oz but with a young woman who dreams of engineering droids.

Q.3 What inspired you to write the Starstruck Saga?
It was a strange combination of stress and astrolust. I’ve been dreaming of space since I was a kid, and was finding my physics degree frustrating to the point where it was ruining my dream. I just had to work on this hopefully, silly space series to remind myself why I was doing any of this. The best remedy for existential nihilism is to meet the world with unbridled enthusiasm and sincerity.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Honestly, that’s something I haven’t struggled with much, but then again, I don’t frequently write from a male POV.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I always start my first draft with nothing more than a premise and a destination. How I get there is anybody’s guess - I need to surprise even myself. It’s only when I come back at it for an edit that I work out the character ARCs and the pacing. I don’t use a set formula, per se, though I do find myself falling into the Hero’s Journey more often than not.

Q.6 How do you see the future of science fiction literature? Will sci-fi maintains its independence or intertwines with other literary genres?
I believe that the divisions of genres will fall in the years to come. Genres are, essential, born of the class divide: what books were deemed literary, and what books were for the masses? Now that self-publishing is here, a revolution has begun, abolishing the lines between genres. We’re seeing it more and more: paranormal romance time travel books side by side with eco-warfare fantasy thrillers. The world of publishing is changing so fast!

Q.7 How do you see the relationship between science fiction and culture? How about the boundaries between science fiction and reality?
Scifi is a tremendously powerful tool with which to examine our reality. All the best SciFi that I have read has been about our reality, twisted in a way to reflect either our best or worst selves.

Q.8 To what extent can science fiction effect or improve the developments in science and technology in human life? Is it right to say that science fiction can change what human life looks like in the future?
Scifi gives us something to strive for, in my opinion. How many inventions in the past half-century were based on what was shown on Star Trek? We have a history behind us to show us who we were, and science fiction ahead to show what we can be. As a scientist myself, I read sci-fi to remind myself why I do what I do, and find hope for our future.

Q.9 Is classic science fiction literature different from modern science fiction literature? Have the key aims of the genre changed considerably or not?
There’s definitely been an evolution, both of the book content and those who represent them. For so many years the genre only showcased the voices of a small percentage of writers (despite SF being invented by a woman, thank you very much). While many subversive books were being published, pushing us to question our core beliefs, they might not have had the reach they have now. Today, books exploring gender and sexuality through a sci-fi lens are taking off in a way that was more limited in the past. They can reach a wider audience through the internet, giving people access to whole new worlds and ideas and voices that might have once been silenced. I’m living for it.

Q.10 What do you think are the main reasons for the popularity of science fiction? To what extent has the film industry helped in popularizing the genre?
I think the reasons are twofold: as you mentioned, the popularity of the film has definitely helped. Big shiny and exciting stories will always grab our attention. But it’s also a genre through which we can experience the impossible, and allows our minds to explore the what-ifs that have bugged us since the dawn of time. It’s a genre that’s an extension of philosophy, without feeling academic.

Q.11 Ray Bradbury considers sci-fi as “the important literature in the history of the world because it’s the history of ideas and the history of our civilization birthing itself”. Do you agree with him, as many sci-fi stories do, indeed, depict disaster?
Disaster, or the consequences of our human limitations? Usually, we see the world fail because we’ve failed to live up as a united people. In that way, I truly believe what Ray Bradbury suggests. Sci-Fi is a reflection of us: our strengths and our fears, and what can happen if we give in to one or the other. We might feel like a superior civilization, but we can barely agree on anything between nations. We’re just toddlers on the civilization scale, and who we become, who we want to be, is already chronicled in our sci-fi novels, imagined for better or for worse. Whoever we become is up to us, but we have the tools we need to forge our path to the stars and beyond.

Q.12 Science fiction has a long history. Which era do you consider the most effective period in the whole history of the genre?
Effective in what way? Some books withstand the test of time and continue to inspire even now, but in a sense, it’s always the now that is most ‘effective’. The books we see today are rooted in our current fears and beliefs. They are actively shaping the way we move forward through time. So which era? I’ll say today.

Q.13 In many science fictions stories, the existence of God is denied. Could we call science fiction an atheist literary genre?
Definitely not. Science fiction is firmly rooted in beliefs. Whether that belief is in the Christian God or in the lack of divine beings, it is a belief that drives science fiction forward. We’re all trying to grasp the shape of our universe in some way, find meaning in the chaos. In that sense, science fiction is an entirely spiritual experience.

Q.14 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
My ninth novel comes out this fall, and so far, they’ve all been my favorites in some way. But My third Starstruck book, Traveler, is special to me in the sense that it still makes me laugh.

Q.15 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I get my best writing done when I’m sleep-deprived.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
By feeling, really. I used to overthink their meanings but I’ve found reality is much too subtle for that. Sometimes I run random generators to help spark some ideas, but usually, I trust my gut.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I used to pay much more attention to them than now. I want to know if readers are getting everything I’m putting in my books. When someone does, I just won’t stop smiling for days on end. Bad reviews can still be good reviews for me if I learn why the reader didn’t connect with my book. But my anxiety just can’t stick around reading them too long.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Probably Douglas Adams. The way he says and related to the world has really inspired my personal philosophy.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
For the same reason as in the last question, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will always be close to my heart. I frequently reread it to ground myself and get that wonderful reminder that the universe IS chaotic, so the best thing to do is grab a towel and roll with it.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
My writing journey has been incredibly rewarding. Just the people I’ve met along the way have made everything absolutely worth it.

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