Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today? I’m doing amazing, taking a bit of time to spend with my family. Just a wee bit of cabin fever, after being snowed in my the wintery wastelands, but I’ve managed to survive thus far!
While I’m locked indoors, I’m working on a couple of short stories and waiting for the edits on my super-duper secret project. If you haven’t read my previous posts, my fourth book, Insurgency: Spartika, has been released into the untamed Amazonian jungles. For those who haven’t already read my series, feel free to buy the entire Sleeping Legion series! I will be working on my next super-secret collaborative project, and reviewing my editors report on the previous classified novel. I can’t wait to tell you about it, really! I hate being such a tease, but, you know, lawyers. Now on to today’s blog – our SciFy Shenanigans Interview with Bonnie Milani.
Let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting! Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug! I’ve started the Warrior Weekend Series, and the ‘SciFy Shenanigans’ series. The Shenanigans series serves to talk with other authors of science fiction, it’s the only requirement!
I like talking to authors about their latest books and their process. They’ll be able to pitch their other stuff too, of course, but when authors have deep back catalogs, it’s hard not to get into the weeds with them. Those weeds have grown too high, so I took a weed whacker to the mess. Here are the final results! Now grab your popcorn and enjoy the ride!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages,…
Meet Bonnie Milani
First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I’ve been writing in some form nearly all my life. All my early work was non-fiction: in college I wrote an environmental fairy tale that was picked up by the NJ Dept of Education for use in the state’s grammar schools. After earning my MA I Journalism from Stanford I freelanced articles for papers up and down the east coast and for magazine ranging from Science Digest through Mankind, Peninsula, to the ezine Speculations. But I always knew something was missing. My heart was in fiction, specifically science fiction. So I started writing sci fi. I had to go back to basics all over again. But it was worth it. Over the years since I’ve taught every aspect of writing, run my own writer’s group, and ghost-written TV pilots for Industry insiders. I’m also a developmental editor specializing in SF & F. Oh, & published a novel or two of my own…
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’d say it’s the fact I totally lucked out in my high school summer jobs. I was fortunate enough to qualify for summer jobs at an aerospace base near my hometown. So while other kids flipped burgers or shelped groceries, I played step’n fetch it for a group of NASA engineers. We tested helicopter blade slap, checked blast shields at JFK Int’l, and tested a pair of engines that put out so much power they caused cows to stop giving milk across the southern part of the state. I found out only later that those engines were going to take the space shuttle into orbit.
I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books, then you also enjoy reading them. What other genres do you enjoy, and how have they affected your writing?
Oooh, yeah. I love classics: Austen, Dickens, Bronte, Omar Khayam (TOTAL Rubiyat fan!). In a more current vein I love anything Sir Terry Pratchett’s Disc World series, LoTR, of course, C.J. Cherryh, and probably a dozen more I can’t remember right now. I also love ancient Roman murder mysteries, with special fondness for Lindsay Davis & John Maddux Roberts. ‘Course I like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, too.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
C.J. Cherryh, hands down. It was Cherryh’s Chanur series that finally pushed me over the edge and into writing sci fi myself. Her work is amazingly tightly plotted, and she writes the best aliens anywhere.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
Authors, I think I pretty much covered. Books: Pride & Prejudice (think I’ve read it 18 times), Jane Eyre (same), Nicholas Nickleby (maybe 6 times – that one TAKES time!), and the only book I pretty much know by heart: The Rubiyat of Omar Khayam (I prefer the first & third editions)
How did that love of reading lead you deep into the trenches of the writer’s life?
I think I was 7 the first time I put a book down and said ‘I can write better than that!’ From that point on it was just a matter of time.
What is your preferred writing style? Do you have a favorite point of view; first person, third person, etc.? Feel free to answer as both a reader and as an author!
No, I can’t say as I do. The style depends on the story. A space opera like ‘Home World’ spoke to me in fluid, elegant phrasing; a noir action-adventure like ‘Liquid Gambit’ demanded a hard-bitten, Chandler-esque voice. But then ‘Cherry Pickers’ came to me in Nikki’s exuberant 17-year-old voice…
When did you get serious about your writing as a career, instead of writing as a hobby?
I started writing professionally when I was 17; writing has never been a hobby to me.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Have to. I also own & operate an insurance agency that specializes in benefits for micro-to small businesses, so I have to compartmentalize my time. I write from 6 to 7:30 in the morning, except on those rare days when I manage to get up by 5… Then it’s off to the day job. I’m still trying to figure out how to manage the marketing time.
Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?
Just 1 page a day. Some days I do better, but I aim for that one solid page.
What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer the sound of silence?
‘Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to speak with you again…’
Okay, time for another random question. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think landed you on the government watch list for?
You mean aside from various ways to commit murder? Or common terrorist tactics? Or Hitler’s odder habits?
What is your current novel? Can you tell us a little bit about the premise?
It’s a novella, actually: ‘Monkey’s Luck’. It’s military sci fi with heart, the story of Kat, a woman Marine who isn’t even legally human in her society. So she modifies her genetic make-up, only to find that she’s taken on the identity of a hated interrogator. Worse, her regiment gets shipped out on a top secret mission in a battered civilian freighter… that’s what ‘naturals’ like Kat call Monkey’s Luck.
Where did you find the inspiration for Monkey’s Luck?
The story grew out of a throw-away scene in another story. It got me to thinking about how the world I was writing in – the Home World universe – affected the people caught up in the human-Lupan war.
The characters from Monkey’s Luc are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins?
Wow, tough question – they’re all warriors. My first response is Romeo, no questions asked. He’s a Lupan, a human genetically engineered for combat. He has wolf’s ears, a wolf’s fangs, and razor-sharp talons he knows how to use. He’s also massively strong. On t’other hand, lady boy Roy hides some deadly secrets behind those baby brown eyes.
What was your favorite part of writing Monkey’s Luck?
Getting to know Roy. He’s a tough nut to crack. Intensely private individual hiding behind a veneer of swish and flutter. He turned out to be vastly more complex than I’d ever dreamed.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Monkey’s Luck?
Having been around Hollywood most of my adult life, that’s something I don’t even think about. That’s the casting director’s call. Still… I could definitely see Sigourney Weaver as Kat. The question is whether she could see herself in the role.
When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are, or do you let them develop as you go? The age-old plotter versus pantser, character edition.
Oh, my people very much grow as we go. That’s one of the reasons for my love-hate affair with first drafts: a story never works until each character’s actions grow out of his/her own goals. So until I figure out what their goals are, & understand those goals from the characters’ perspective we basically just sit there and stare at each other.
How did writing Monkey’s Luck differ from your previous novels?
It was harder. It approaches love from a perspective I’ve never tackled before, in a context I’ve never tackled before. I just hope my readers find the results worth it.
Monkey’s Luck is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?
I’d have to say it was Roy. He was the most surprising and by far the most complex. Also the one least willing to let me in. But when he did, it was like watching a chrysanthemum blossom.
And to bring us home, what advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
I think as a new writer you have to decide what you want. Do you want to be a professional? If you do, then you MUST put in the time and effort to learn the craft of storytelling. That means realizing you need to learn story structure, as well as character development. When you ask readers to spend money to read your work, you’re making a promise that you’ve written a story that’s worth their money. That means you have to commit to enduring the heartache of real critiques, of re-writing, and re-rewriting,…
Finally, where can readers and future stalkers find you?
I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Bonnie Milani then follow the rabbit trail to their den of insanity! If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen shots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission. If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions! You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.