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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, LJ Cohen. LJ is a Boston area novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, geek, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist specializing in chronic pain management, she now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. When not bringing home strays (canine and human), LJ can be found writing, which looks a lot like daydreaming.

LJ is active in SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and Broad Universe, and blogs about publishing, general geekery, and other ephemera. A Star in the Void (book 5 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space) is her most recent novel. Derelict, the first novel in the series, was chosen as a Library Journal Self-e Select title and book of the year in 2016.

A Star In The Void ebook Cover revised LJ’s latest book, A Star in the Void, is an out-of-this-world read for those who love science fiction. A quick summary for my readers:

Control the wormholes, control the galaxy! For over fifty years, the Commonwealth’s lock on wormhole transit has enabled the military government to keep its grip on commerce, travel, and the community in diaspora off Earth. But everything changed once Ro Maldonado resurrected the damaged AI on a derelict spaceship. When she and her accidental passengers aboard Halcyone stumbled upon a hidden planet and Ada May, its brilliant but reclusive leader, they became entangled with her covert resistance.

But behind the scenes of the Commonwealth lurks an even bigger enemy: the Reaction Chamber, a powerful shadow organization of politicians, business moguls, and crime cartels that has co-opted and infiltrated all levels of the government. The Chamber knows Halcyone is the key to finding and eliminating the resistance. And as people close to Ro and her companions disappear or die, it’s clear their enemies are closing in fast.

When May vanishes through an impossible wormhole, taking the leader of the Reaction Chamber with her, she abruptly shatters a decades-old stalemate. Now, Halcyone and her crew must decode May’s revolutionary wormhole technology and locate the missing scientist before the Reaction Chamber obliterates the resistance and exploits its resources to seize complete control of the cosmos.

This is the culmination of the series that began with Derelict, a kindle best seller and award winning science fiction novel.

A Star in the Void - Cover Art Where did the idea come from for your latest book, A Star in the Void?
It’s pretty much impossible to separate out this 5th and final book of the Halcyone Space Series from the prior books. The initial idea for the series actually started out as a very different book than what ended up being written. My first idea was for a YA book where the main conflict was between the children of privileged diplomats and the children of the space station personnel. What I developed and wrote ended up being far richer and far more nuanced, as well as being more of a genre science fiction space opera and not specifically YA.

Typically, my stories are a weird blend of a lot of disparate ideas. These books had many influences, including:
— a colonial world scattered across space where the colonists lost their war for independence
— a group of young people who stumble upon a political conspiracy that changes the trajectory of all their lives
— an AI controlled space ship where the AI is damaged and has PTSD
— a post-sea level rise world where we’ve abandoned the coastal cities and where the gap between the wealthy and the poor has widened dramatically, creating permanent shanty towns of emergency settlements
— a story where one generation of revolutionaries passes the fight to the next

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Wow. That is a very hard question in a story with a large ensemble cast!

I will highlight Barre Durbin. He is the eldest son of the station’s physicians. A musician in a family of hard scientists, he has always felt less-than both in his family and in the wider world. What I love about Barre is how much he grows and changes across all five books and the relationship he has with Halcyone’s damaged AI: he is the one who figures out how to make contact with the computer, creating a musical language to bypass its broken code and eventually help it heal. He also has a deep connection to his young brother Jem.

I wanted to highlight the importance of relationships in these books and how it is our emotional bonds that sustain us, especially in times of crisis. Nearly all of the characters travel this arc at one point or another through the five books.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My novels are self-published. After traveling the traditional route and being represented by an agent for 5 years, but not successfully selling a novel, I created my own publishing imprint.

I’m very much someone who likes to have creative control of each step in the process and have found a team of freelance folks—editors and cover artists—who help make my books shine. I also like being able to set my own publication schedule and to be able to price my books.

The disadvantages are: It’s far harder to get your books in bookstores. Discovery is entirely up to you. Promotion is entirely up to you. Plus, I have to outlay the production expenses

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m a little bit of both! I typically start out with a big picture view of the story, the main characters and their problems/desires/goals. Then, I start writing. After a few scenes or chapters, I go back to my big picture view and see if anything has changed. Then I outline what I’ve written and a few scenes beyond.
Then, it’s write, reflect, and repeat.

What was your favorite book as a child?
Hands down, A Wrinkle in Time. It was the first time I’d read a speculative fiction story where a girl I could identify with so closely was the hero. Even when a boy (Calvin) was in the story, the book belonged to Meg. Even after they rescued her father, she was still the hero and main driver of the story. It was a revelation. It was the book that spurred me to write my own stories.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’ve just created that big picture view of my next book. It’s a totally different universe from the Halcyone Space Series. I’m in the process of putting together the big picture view of a whole new story. New characters, new universe. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s broad themes are inspired from this verse by Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Multiple worlds are connected in the quantum realm. Most are safely sealed off. Most have no knowledge that they are but one in an infinite multitude. A few people on a few scattered worlds can see though the multiverse. Most of those go mad. Fewer still are able to bear the burden of so many possibilities. Those are seers and are either considered cursed or blessed. Though the reality is some of both.

Perhaps one in a billion has the ability to slip from world to world and becomes a Traveler. But always, there is balance. A Traveler comes, a Traveler goes, never more than any world can bear, treading lightly to encourage balance. Until now.
Three individuals from three different worlds are drawn to one another through the thinning walls between the worlds. None of these three are Travelers in truth. But they are all that is left. For they discover something is hunting Travelers and obliterating them and the balance they bring from the multiverse. Together, they must rescue each other and fight a foe they cannot name to heal the worlds before the walls dissolve for good.

I have the characters, their goals, their problems and I’ve written a few trial scenes. Nothing left to do but the writing!

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Find your own process and don’t be afraid to change it.

Want to learn more about L.J. Cohen and A Star in the Void? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of A Star in the Void.

Thanks to author L.J. Cohen for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author A.L. Kaplan on December 20. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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