Thursday, October 04, 2012

Interview with Sharon Lynn Fisher, author of Ghost Planet - October 4, 2012

Please welcome Sharon Lynn Fisher to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. This is also the first stop on the Great Fall 2012 GHOST PLANET Book Launch Blog Tour ExtravapaloozaGhost Planet, Sharon's debut, will be published on October 30, 2012.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Sharon:  Thanks very much for having me. This is stop #1 on my blog tour and I’m really excited to be here!

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Sharon:  I think writers can be a mess of contradictions. (Or maybe that’s just me.) I rarely outline before starting a new project -- I’m really inspired by discovering my story and characters as I go. Yet if you were the gargoyle that sits on my desk, you would frequently hear me muttering about how much easier this would be if I knew where the bleep I was going.

Perhaps the truth is that writers just like to mutter. A couple of years ago I had this idea for a spinoff of Twitter called Mutter. I think that would be awesome.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Sharon:  My most beloved books from childhood and adolescence were A WRINKLE IN TIME (Madeleine L’Engle), WATERSHIP DOWN (Richard Adams), and the Tolkien books. As an adult I’ve particularly loved English classics, my favorites being JANE EYRE and everything by Anthony Trollope. Another of my all-time favorites is OUTLANDER (Diana Gabaldon).

With regard to GHOST PLANET -- SOLARIS, by Stanislaw Lem, and the grim tales of Margaret Atwood, both of whom I paid tribute to in the novel. I also draw a lot of inspiration from science books.

My newest favorite is the WOOL series, by Hugh Howey -- one of those self-publishing success stories. For good reason. Dude can WRITE.

I suppose if you mash all these genres together you can see how I ended up writing science fiction romance!

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sharon:  I’m a plontser. Or maybe a planter? Anyways you see where I’m going. I used to be 100 percent pantser. After gutting and finally rewriting my first manuscript, I now use a blended approach -- I usually start with a one-paragraph synopsis that’s written as if I'm pitching the story. That helps get me excited about the concept, and plugs in the creative crockpot. The paragraph usually grows to a page or two as I work out the story arc and plot. By that point I’ve usually written at least the opening chapter, and I take off from there. I WILL outline if I’m struggling with some aspect. But I WON’T enjoy it.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sharon:  Tuning out what a fellow SFR writer has referred to as the “I suck” fairies. I have never known a writer who did not have whole swarms of these locked in closets and sealed up in boxes under the bed. They’re tricksy and they get out. If anyone has found a pest spray that works, for the love of Pete, please share it with me. I’ll send chocolate.

TQ:  Describe Ghost Planet in 140 characters or less. /like a tweet/

Sharon:  Wow, that required some gymnastics. This is a bit of a spoiler with regard to the opening hook, but it’s all in the cover copy as well…

Psychologist takes a job on an alien world. On day 1, she learns she's: Dead. Reincarnated as an alien. Tethered to a man who must shun her.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Ghost Planet?

Sharon:  First came the title. It made me ask, “What would be the story behind a world called “ghost planet”?” For me it almost always begins that way.

Second came the idea of a symbiotic bond between two people -- a man and woman who had not chosen each other, yet could not get away from each other. As a writer drawn to speculative worlds, romance, and science, that idea was fascinating to me. One blogger pointed out that it’s sort of a new twist on the whole soul mate thing. I like that a lot.

Third came the film Sunshine. I loved the slow-building tension in that film, and the focus on the psychology of the characters’ motivations. Also the physicist hero, played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy, inspired GHOST PLANET’s hero, Dr. Grayson Murphy.

TQ:  What sorts of research did you do for Ghost Planet?

Sharon:  As with most sci-fi projects, I spent some time researching the geek aspects – what would their personal technology be like? How would they get to the planet? How would the colonies be constructed? I tried to keep all that to a minimum in the book. It has to be there, but it’s just part of the supporting structure.

The real meat of my research was on symbiosis – specifically, the work biologist Lynn Margulis did on symbiogenesis and Gaia theory. This research was critical to my world-building and character development. When I say “character,” I include the planet itself, because I feel it has a character-like presence in the story.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Sharon:  Elizabeth (my heroine) was the most difficult. The first version of her was…well, ME. I think a lot of writers probably start this way. But she didn’t work very well as me. It wasn’t the person she wanted or needed to be. Helping Elizabeth find her true self was a long process that unfolded over multiple versions of the manuscript. It was also very challenging writing from the point of view of a person experiencing something that no real person has ever experienced.

As for the easiest, I’d have to say the physicist-turned-transport-pilot, Garvey. I “got” him from the beginning, and I had a blast writing him. He and a character called Jake (from another of my manuscripts) are probably the only two characters that have ever sprung fully formed from my brain. They are both extreme smart-asses. I’m not sure what that says about me.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Ghost Planet?

Sharon:  I think my favorite scenes occur in chapter 2. The chapter opens with Elizabeth engaged in the fight of her life – a fight to hold onto her identity as others try to strip it away. The chapter closes with her discovery of devastating (and irrefutable) evidence that she’s lost that fight. She’s tethered to a stranger, and yet more alone than she’s ever been.

TQ:  What's next?

Sharon:  First there’s my second book for Tor, working title THE OPHELIA PROPHECY, post-apocalyptic bio-punk romance. A twisty tale with lots of color and texture, science, politics, and adventure.

Hopefully a short or two in the interim -- a story set in the earliest days of colonization on Ardagh 1 (the “ghost planet”), and this unrelated zombie romance thing I’ve had simmering.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Sharon:  Thank you for the fun interview!

About Ghost Planet

Ghost Planet
Tor Books, October 30, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

When psychologist Elizabeth Cole arrives on a recently colonized planet to start a new job, she doesn’t expect to find her supervisor, Murphy, so incredibly attractive. She doesn’t expect to see alien beings, native to the planet, materializing as ghosts and following the “colonist” humans around. Most of all, she doesn’t expect to learn that Elizabeth Cole in fact died in a crash en route to this planet, and that she herself a reincarnated ghost-alien, connected symbiotically to Murphy—who, bound by the “Ghost Protocol” that he himself created, is not allowed to interact with or acknowledge Elizabeth in any way.

Confused, alone, and discounted as less than human, Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence and fight the blatant discrimination of the Ghost Protocol. But as she draws closer to the truth, she begins to realize that she is only a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet. Oppressed by her ghost status and tantalized by forbidden love, Elizabeth may just be the one to upset the planetary balance….

About Sharon Lynn Fisher

SHARON LYNN FISHER is the author of GHOST PLANET, coming from Tor Books on Oct. 30. The book -- a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist -- is a sci-fi/romance blend that offers a "fresh and fascinating take on the human-alien problem" (says author Linnea Sinclair). She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is hard at work on her next novel and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne. You can visit her online at

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  1. Such a fun interview! I can't wait to read this book. I've already got my pre-order in. :-)

  2. Thanks for the great interview! I first hear about this book during the "spotlight on Tor" at RWA Nationals this summer, and was captivated by the concept. Can't wait to read it!

    And I love the concept of Mutter. I think it would be universally intuitive to writers. :)

    1. Hi Hillary - I missed most of Nationals this year - was only there for the awards ceremony (couple of my critique partners were finalists, yay!). So glad the Tor spotlight piqued your interest.

      Agreed, Mutter needs to happen. If only I knew anything - at all - about developing such things!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Very fun interview! LOVE the "creative crockpot." Such a great description for how ideas, characters and story lines simmer inside a writer's mind.

    And I second the Mutter idea.

    1. It's true. We simmer, and we mutter. :) Thanks for stopping by, Laurie!

  4. You started with a title? Wow, don't hear of that happening very often. Great sounding book, good luck with it!

    1. Thanks, Lexi! Yep, my current WIP started that way too. :)