Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Karen A. Wyle - Twin-Bred

 Our special guest today is Karen A. Wyle, and her book Twin-Bred.

Where do you currently live?
In an undefined bit of Monroe County east of Bloomington, Indiana.

Tell us a little bit about your life.
I’m a self-employed (usually self-underemployed) appellate attorney; married to a brilliant fellow for 22 years and counting; mother of two also-brilliant and immensely creative daughters; an on-and-off photographer; a politics junkie; and an author of science fiction, general fiction (still in the revision stage), and picture book manuscripts (on submission with an agent).

When did you first start writing?
I don’t remember – but the first poem of which I have evidence was written in 3rd grade. (A teacher turned it in to the local paper, which published it in the “Youth Speaks” column. It likened the days of school to peas in a pod, somehow.) I wrote my first novel – 200 pages, 100 chapters, in pencil – in 5th grade, as a gift for the teacher I adored. (Are you still out there, Mrs. Beaumont?...) I fumbled around trying to find out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it until sometime in college, when I gave up for many years. I started writing picture books when I was pregnant with my first child, and wrote my second novel when that child was 18.

What was your very first story about?
I don’t remember what, if any, fiction I wrote before that childhood attempt at a novel. It was a bizarre picaresque tale about a boy and his dragon.

Have you written anything that you were too afraid to let anyone read?
No one gets to read that first novel! (I may break down and let my daughters look at it some day.)

I also wrote two erotic (and somewhat humorous) short stories some years back. I haven’t decided whether to let them out of their cage at some point.

Did you experience anything you’ve written yourself?
I’ve certainly experienced some of the emotions that my characters feel, but none of the specific events.

Who are several of your greatest literary inspirations?
George Eliot (pen name for 19th century British novelist Mary Ann Evans), whose novels confront the terrifying fact that sins and other mistakes can be irreversible.

Mary Doria Russell, contemporary novelist in science fiction and historical fiction, for consistently giving her readers articulate and lovable characters, while exploring timeless themes.

William Shakespeare, for demonstrating beyond question that plot isn’t everything (since most of his were borrowed).

What kind of education have you received, and how has that affected your writing?
I have a B.A. in English and American Literature, and a J.D. (law degree). It’s hard to trace how my reading of English and American classics shaped my style and my interests, but I’m sure it’s happened – although a lifetime of reading science fiction has probably had a more direct impact.

My legal education, and my subsequent years practicing law, gave me a priceless gift. In college, it took hours of whining and pounding my head on the wall to produce a three-page paper. As a lawyer, I learned to write persuasive prose in quantity without making such a to-do about it. That ability has translated somewhat (not entirely) to writing fiction.

How much research time customarily goes into your projects?
I research here and there as questions come up. It doesn’t consume a very great percentage of my time. If I ever tackle historical fiction, that would have to change. I love the genre, but the prospect of immersing myself for months or years in the minutiae of a time period is daunting.

Who is your favorite literary character?
That’s a tough one. Emilio Sandoz in Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is certainly a contender. Also in the running: Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings); Elizabeth Bennett (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice); Bean in the Ender’s Shadow series by Orson Scott Card; Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series; and others I’m sure I’ve forgotten about at the moment.

Who is your favorite character of your own creation?
I’m very fond of Levi Thomas, deceased twin of Twin-Bred’s main character Mara Cadell, and of La-ren, one of the Twin-Bred.

If you were ever to write an autobiography, what would its title be?
Possibly Detour Without Signs, or The Scenic Route.

Tell us about your featured book.
Humans have lived on Tofarn, planet of creeks and rivers, for seventy years, but they still don’t understand the Tofa. The Tofa are an enigma, from their featureless faces to the four arms that sometimes seem to be five. They take arbitrary umbrage at the simplest human activities, while annoying their human neighbors in seemingly pointless ways. The next infuriating, inexplicable incident may explode into war.

Scientist Mara Cadell has a radical proposal: that host mothers carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, who might understand each other better. Mara knows about the bond between twins: her own twin Levi died in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.

The human Council approves the project. The Tofa agree to cooperate, although no one is sure they understand the project’s purpose. In fact, the Tofa have their own agenda. And so does one member of the Council, who believes the human colonists should have wiped out the Tofa before setting foot on Tofarn. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred project through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee.

The Twin-Bred were born to bring peace to their two peoples. But will their unique upbringing leave them too different, too alien, to achieve this goal? Will Councilman Kimball turn the Tofa Twin-Bred into a weapon against their own species? And what is it the Tofa really want?

Why did you write that?
When I decided – at the end of October 2010 -- to take part in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) that November, I needed a story to tell. As I sat down to come up with some book ideas, science fiction kept happening. At about the same time, I read an article about amazing interactions between twins in utero, captured on video. The researchers had found synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either the article or a comment on the article mentioned the traumatic, often devastating, impact on those whose twin -- identical or fraternal -- had died in utero or shortly after birth.

Straining this information through the science fiction filter in my mind, I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin. It would add emotional depth to the story if she were a twin survivor. And for added strangeness and interest, what if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story?...

I have always been fascinated by communication issues and the struggle to understand what is different. I also find myself returning constantly to the themes of family relationships, unintended consequences, and unfinished business. All these threads wove together to form the story of Twin-Bred.

Is there anything special you would like your potential readers to know?
I would like them to know how thrilled I am that people are reading, enjoying, and being moved by Twin-Bred and my other work.

Also: they can find out more about me and my other projects on my website, There’s a link there that will let them sign up to get email alerts about future releases.

What is your favorite season of the year, and what makes it so?
It would probably be autumn, now that I once again live where the leaves change.

What is one thing about yourself that you absolutely wouldn’t want passed on to your child?
My impatience. It gets me into more trouble. . . .

If you had to live in another time period, which one would you choose?
I’ll be optimistic and say: around 1,000 years in the future. If we don’t turn away from science and technology for some ideological reason, it could be a marvelous time to be alive (and to stay alive for a very long time).

When were you most scared in your life, and why?
It would have been one of the times that I couldn’t find one of my children.

First thing you’d do if you were handed a million dollars?
Buy a private plane and hire a pilot, so that I could visit my parents more easily. (They live in L.A.; I live in Indiana, around 2,000 miles away.)

What was/is your favorite thing about your childhood home?
What I remember most clearly is the smell of summer sunshine on cut grass. Fortunately, it’s not something I had to leave behind with my childhood.

Our thanks to Karen for being with us. Her book is available in both paperback and ebook format. Check it out below and don't be shy, click away.

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