RK: Why did you become a writer?
ATHENA: Thanks for hosting me here at SGLSF! I’m so glad to be here and share my nerdy love! I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’ve always made up stories in my head, and I have loved words–their meanings, their shapes, their sounds, the cadence of them–since I could first make them myself.
RK: What attracts you to the romance genre, particularly SF and the paranormal?
ATHENA: Romance, for me, has always been a comfort place–nowhere else could I find stories that gave the proper importance to the parts of the story that I felt were important. I started reading historical romances when I was probably too young to really understand them, but I was a tween girl with all these *feelings* and none of my adventure books seemed to treat those feelings as important, but romance did.
I was equally attached to SF and Fantasy (at the time, “paranormal” meant “horror” and if you wanted a supernatural creature that didn’t want to rip your face off, you had to find it in Fantasy) because those genres taught me how to dream. Especially science fiction. SF modeled for me ideas of humanity going beyond “how things have always been done.” It showed–and still shows, in my mind–the best side of ourselves as a species of dreamers and achievers.
RK: What do you feel makes an engaging hero/heroine? How do you develop your characters?
ATHENA: I definitely need a hero or heroine to feel well-rounded. The characters that have stuck the longest with me from books and movies are the characters who feel real–that means they have vulnerabilities, quirks, and agency–even the most helpless-seeming character can have agency, even if it’s just in their thoughts.
My characters always seem to come to me as people. Some of them wait patiently for a story, but others will “audition” themselves for every story I think about (sometimes trying to invade a work in progress, even!). I have to take time to get to know my characters, though. They live with me, and I learn to experience through their senses.
RK: What themes and ideas do you often explore in your writing?
ATHENA: The stories that I am most compelled to tell are most often stories about finding your tribe and making your place in your world. I think a big part of the human condition–the human journey, if you will–is for us to *find* things–sometimes that’s new continents or other planets (or the car keys!), but most often, it’s finding our true selves and our true purpose as individuals, and the other souls who help us become better at being “us.”
I’m a great believer of the hidden depths in people, too. People are *always* “more than meets the eye” to me, and I find that endlessly fascinating. No matter what time period I’m writing, or what kind of story, I embrace characters who are a little quirky, a lot complex, and definitely more than what they seem, on their journey to find the places where they belong.
Having said all that, I “came up” as a writer in genre fiction, rather than literary fiction–I always knew that I loved the tropes of popular fiction as much as the wordsmithing, even before I knew what a “trope” was. What I love most about tropes now, though, is turning them sideways and on their heads!
RK: Please tell us a bit about your most recent project.
ATHENA: My most recent project (and my most fun!) is Huntress of the Star Empire– Treska hunts down enemies of the Union that emerged from devastating alien attacks on her star system ten years ago, and Micah, whose psionic talents can pluck the secrets right out of her mind, is her most dangerous target. But instead of a depraved monster, she discovers a kind man with a sense of humor and an outrageous sex appeal who challenges her ascetic lifestyle and defies the assumptions she’s been conditioned to believe. Capturing him leads Treska on a journey right to the mystery surrounding her own shrouded past, and he just might be her best chance to discover her missing memories.
Huntress started public life as a weekly serial I published in novella-length episodes every Thursday from February until May of 2015. I’m just wrapping up the series’ first season into 4 bundles. The first standalone episode is perma-free.
The truly wonderful thing about this project is that there is an entire universe that just sort-of happened around it. I have a LOT of stories to tell about this universe, and I’m so excited to tell them!
And some fun questions
RK: If you discovered a close family member was an alien, what would you do?
ATHENA: Be completely unsurprised. 😉 As a child, I was convinced that *I* was the alien, and patiently waited for my “real” parents to show up from the alien planet and take me home. Sadly, it’s been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am one hundred percent the product of my family. I know this because sometimes when I’m talking to my kids, I open my mouth and my mother comes out.
RK: If you meet a person who looks exactly like you do you assume he/she is: a long lost twin, a clone, a doppelgänger, or you from an alternate universe?
ATHENA: I kind of have encountered a doppelganger. I was 12 or 13 when I saw a picture of a woman in the newspaper who was about ten years older than me, who looked very much like me–and get this–she had the same name! As this was pre-internet days, I couldn’t look her up, but I never forgot her. The experience made me think that we as humans tend to seek out patterns and commonalities in people we encounter–probably a trait left over from harsher times when tribal and family identities were critical to survival. But the older I get, the more I have learned to look at what people look like on the inside–so I tend to look for “spiritual” doppelgangers–people who are twins of the soul.