The third review/interview in this series delves into the Sci-Fi world of Indie author S.C. Mae!
In Miltan Epsilon: Book 1, Jazz Healy sets out on a routine delivery mission only to discover two animal activists and the cultish Novus Replicates have other plans. Her cargo of pets, including a highly valuable splice kitten, is suddenly much higher stakes.
Against the backdrop of a vibrant Science Fiction world, this book is primarily about relationships. Animal activists Xandra and her father Tollett as well as Jazz and her own Mother navigate the complexities of family. All while dealing with rich backstories and that adorable splice kitten.
And here’s what S.C. had to say:
Jenn: How did your journey as a writer begin?
S.C.: As a young boy I loved reading. So much so that my parents had to put a reading limit in place (one book a day, no more!) to make sure I did other things as well!
When I was nine a teacher introduced me to creative writing. And immediately I was hooked. I could create stories rather than only read them? Wow! I started out trying to write mysteries (because that’s what I predominantly read at the time—Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, etc.) but soon after discovered science fiction and had another revelatory moment: Stories can be set in the future, not just in the past or present? Wow!
And thirty-odd years later I’m still writing science fiction (though often with a mystery bent).
J: Where did the inspiration for Miltan Epsilon come from?
S.C.: I always find answers to questions like this super interesting. Everybody’s creative process is so different, which is just awesome. My answer, though, is on the bland side, sorry: I’m not really sure there was a definite single point of inspiration for Miltan Epsilon, or for the Jazz Healy, Reunion series in general.
Yonks ago (2013, for accuracy’s sake), I wrote a short story based on a one-word prompt: ‘Cracked.’ The main character of that story was a woman called Jazz, full of vim but also plenty unlucky. For some reason Jazz resonated with me, and almost immediately I got to thinking about featuring her in a novel-length story. That quickly escalated into an idea for a series and the seeds of Reunion were born.
Fast-forward to 2018 (life, y’ know) and I started working on the first book. Jump to 2021 and I was ready to publish the series. The Jazz of Miltan Epsilon and the rest of the Reunion series evolved into someone quite different to the Jazz of that first short story, but I like her just as much.
As far as inspiration goes, probably a million little things. Observations of people and their relationships, overheard snippets of conversation, pieces of other ideas that never quite made it past the ‘what if’ stage.
J: Do you have a favorite character in the book?
S.C.: I should say Jazz, right, given that this is primarily her story? But actually, my favorite character is probably Xandra. Not only is she a lot of fun but I feel in many ways that she’s the bridge that connects the whole cast, if that makes sense.
J: If you were to wake up tomorrow in Jazz Healy’s universe, how would you fare?
S.C.: In Jazz’s universe in general? Probably okay, given that the vast majority of it is populated by ordinary people living ordinary lives. In Jazz’s corner of that universe specifically? Heh—maybe not so well. I like adventure (well, maybe ‘don’t mind’ is more appropriate than ‘like’) but adventure on my own terms, rather than the type of adventure Jazz seems to continually find herself engaged in. Though, if I dropped in with my own ship and some cash in the bank then I’d back myself to get along. I’d go exploring. Check out all those corners of her universe that I haven’t discovered yet.
J: The splice kitten sounds adorable. Care to tell us about your pets?
S.C.: Unsurprisingly, I have a cat. Just one. Any more would be chaos. I say that in jest quite often, but in my experience, despite the fact they sleep so much, cats enjoy treading that fine line between anarchy and comfort. Our little furball is 7 years-old and a real princess (especially when she’s running riot). She was rescued from under a house at only a few weeks old and I often think what her life would’ve been like if that hadn’t happened. She’d probably be the queen of her colony!
J: What are you working on next?
S.C.: I have a short story collection dropping. Dry Ice: A Short Story Collection (available as of April 5, 2022), contains 18 short stories, 13 of which have been previously published in various zines, etc. There are two Jazz Healy stories in there as well; that origin story I talked about earlier, as well as one set in the six months between the events of books 2 and 3 of Reunion.
If anyone wants to take a gander, follow this link to the bookstore of your choice.
Later in the year, Spider’s Hub, the first book in a new series featuring retired spy/sometime-PI Lincoln Reilly, will drop. The plan was to publish that one in August, but I may be bringing that forward as I’ve already finished initial edits on it and am fairly confident it won’t require overly extensive refining before it’s good to go. If I bring that release date forward I’ll also bring the release date for its sequel, The Votack Rebellion, forward, though I have yet to start edits on that draft.
As for what I’m working on right now, I’m nearly 10K into a draft of the first book of another series. I’m yet to come up with a decent title for it but it’s set in a multiverse/alternate universe-type environment (I swear that this is another idea I’ve been kicking around for ages and not one inspired by the current comic-book movie/TV multiverse trend. Honest!) and features two primary characters, both very different from each other but with intersecting storylines.
I haven’t come up with a tagline for it yet but it deals with the fallout for these two characters as they realize that their home earth’s goals might not be what they thought they were…
Hmm, I don’t want to self-promo too much here, but if anybody reading would like to join my ARC team (essentially, I’ll give you a free electronic copy of a book prior to release in return for an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads or whatever other platforms the books is available on), then sign up to my newsletter and be on the lookout for deets.
J: How did you decide to become an independently published author?
S.C.: This is another very interesting question and one I always find hard to answer.
I guess the core of it is that I think independent/self-publishing is the best route for me personally. Which is the why rather than the how but hopefully one will lead to the other. I have no personal grievances against trade publishing—in fact, I’d love to be trade-published one day—nor do I buy into the many get-rich-quick-by-self-publishing schemes that are thrown writers’ way each and every day.
Basically, I primarily write for myself. As in, I write stories I think I’ll enjoy. If others enjoy them, too, that’s awesome, but if they don’t, that’s okay as well. That’s not to say I’m just flinging stories out left, right, and center, though. I still want to provide the best product I can. And I would love to make a living primarily off writing one day, though I’m also under no illusions as to how difficult that is, both for trade-published writers and for indies.
Some time ago on a writing forum, I read the experience of one self-published writer who had successfully made a living from writing for several years. But they’d burned themselves out in the process and also lamented that to make that living they’d had to write to trends rather than writing what they loved. The end of it was they’d basically decided to quit for a while. I certainly don’t want to end up like that.
On the trade-publishing side, maybe twenty years ago I read an interview with a big-name trade-published author whose work was regularly being adapted for the big screen. I can’t remember the exact wording but I do remember him saying that he wouldn’t recommend anybody become a professional writer. I’m pretty sure he even said that at times it was soul-destroying, that for him writing was now nothing more than a chore, a necessity to pay the bills, rather than something he loved.
So anyway, where was I going with this? Right, how did I decide to go the independent publishing route? To reduce it to a few words: I did a lot of research. The net result is that I currently feel self-publishing affords me the freedom to write what I enjoy, and if I approach the process with the right expectations, won’t burn me out, or turn writing into something I have to do because I’m contractually obligated to.
Also, I can’t get my head around query letters…
Oh, I don’t only write novel-length stuff. I also write short fiction, which I actively sub to magazines and contests. So maybe I’m kinda on a mini-hybrid publishing slope?
J: Any advice for other independent authors?
S.C.: Heh, I probably gave all my advice in the last question, didn’t I? To preface this answer, please know that I’m no expert, so take everything I have to say about publishing, trade or otherwise, with a grain of salt. I’m also most definitely, at this point in time, not making a living from my writing.
My advice: Make sure you keep your objectivity.
There are a lot of people out there who say they have surefire ways for a self-published author to quickly earn a living. But the reality is, percentage-wise, very few writers, indies, trade, or hybrid, make a living solely off their writing.
On the trade side, most midlist authors work day jobs. On the indie side, most also work day jobs. Yes, it is possible to earn a living as a self-published writer but it takes a lot of hard work to get there and to stay there.
Actually, one more piece of advice: Don’t lose yourself.
J: What Sci-Fi authors do you follow/read most often?
S.C.: Love C.J. Cherryh’s work. And Jack McDevitt, particularly his Alex Benedict series. Peter F. Hamilton writes epic, sprawling sci-fi, too.
Recently I read Star Binder, by Robert Appleton, another indie author. An enjoyable adventure set (primarily) on Mars.
J: What are you reading now?
S.C. Funnily enough, nothing science fiction. For the last few months I’ve been slowly working my way through A Story of China, by Michael Wood, which is an awesome historical narrative of China. From a writing perspective, I find that reading history always gives me a lot of story ideas.
I’m also rereading volume 1 of The Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour. Louis L’Amour is one of my favorite authors. His sense of story was just amazing, and the richness of his prose (without it getting bogged down, a problem I feel a lot of western writers of his era had) makes his work incredibly immersive.
Okay, that’s all for now. Check out some fun new reads and have a wonderful day, everyone!
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