Please welcome Jessie Mihalik to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Polaris Rising was published on February 5, 2019 by Harper Voyager.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece that you remember writing?
Jessie: Thank you so much for having me! My brain is so bad at keeping track of firsts. I remember writing (and illustrating!) those little books in elementary school where the teacher would help the students bind them into hardback books. I have no idea what I wrote about, but I bet my mom still has it in a box somewhere!
I’ve always written stories, but the first thing I really remember being of any great length was the fanfiction I wrote in college. It’s still out there, but I’m not giving anyone any clues as to where or what because it was me as a baby writer, learning how plot and story and character all worked together while playing in someone else’s world.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Jessie: I’m a pantser who desperately wishes I was a plotter. I’m becoming more of a hybrid because deadlines mean I have to know where I’m going rather than wandering lost through the plot woods for months, but outlining is still my nemesis.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Jessie: Speed. I write very, very slowly. One thousand to fifteen hundred words is a good writing day for me. And I know you’re supposed to stay in your own lane, but when I see other authors cranking out three to five times that in a single day, it’s difficult not to feel like I’m doing it wrong. Still, I’ve made peace with my speed, mostly, and plodding along does eventually get me to the end. So, for all of you slow writers out there—I see you. Keep at it!
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Jessie: Like many (most? all?) writers, I’m influenced by the books I’ve read before. Some of my favorite authors like Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, and Ann Aguirre write kick-ass women. They inspired me to try my hand at writing my own heroine. And I’ve definitely been inspired by the huge number of romances I’ve read. I wanted that strong, building relationship for my main characters.
TQ: Describe Polaris Rising using only 5 words.
Jessie: Badass space princess adventure romance.
TQ: Tell us something about Polaris Rising that is not found in the book description.
Jessie: Ada doesn’t care much for her father, but she has an incredibly strong bond to her siblings. Her sisters helped her escape and stay ahead of her father’s security team and she would move mountains for them.
TQ: What inspired you to write Polaris Rising? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?
Jessie: I had the opening scene of what would become Polaris Rising knocking around in my head for weeks while I was working on another project. Without knowing that, a friend suggested I try my hand at science fiction because she knew I am a huge geek and that my current project was going nowhere. It was serendipity, but it took me a few additional weeks of banging my head against the other project to recognize it.
I love writing science fiction and while the genre covers a huge spectrum, for me SF has always been about space and the distant future. I get to write about spaceships and different planets and all the fancy technology I wish we had today. And because I also write romance, I get to ground all of that cool stuff in a slowly building relationship.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Polaris Rising?
Jessie: I did so much research and so little of it really appears in the book. I researched theoretical FTL drives, star naming schemes, distances between galaxies, and all of the reasons FTL drives break physics, relativity, and causality. Then I decided that I was going to write a space opera, not a hard science fiction book, and I would be intentionally a little hand-wavy about the technology because the details were bogging down the story. There is a nod to one of the theoretical FTL solutions in the book, though, but no spoilers.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Polaris Rising.
Jessie: I love the cover! It was designed by Lex Maudlin and illustrated by Tony Mauro. It doesn’t depict a specific scene, but more of the feel of the novel. Ada knows her way around planets, spaceships, and blasters, and I think the cover perfectly conveys that.
TQ: In Polaris Rising who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Jessie: Ada was the easiest character for me to write because she drove the story. She’s smart and competent, but asks for help when she needs it. She was such a fun character to write. Richard Rockhurst was the hardest to write because he is the villain in Polaris Rising, but he’s the hero in his own mind. He thinks he’s totally in the right, but we only see him from Ada’s perspective, so it was a delicate balance.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Polaris Rising.
Jessie: Here are two of my favorite little snippets:
There are moments in your life when you absolutely know what you should do and then you absolutely choose to do something else entirely.
This was one of those moments.
Loch’s nose ghosted along my chin and down my neck. I stood stock-still as his breath heated my collarbone.
“You’re afraid, but you don’t let the fear rule you,” Loch rumbled against my skin. My belly did a little flip that had nothing to do with fear.
“You manipulate those around you to suit your will, but you risked being left behind to save a bunch of mercs and soldiers intent on capturing you. You’re a puzzle, Ada von Hasenberg.”
“If you’re done with the intimidation routine,” I said calmly while I trembled internally, “I’d like to get some sleep.”
TQ: What's next?
Jessie: The next book in the series, Aurora Blazing, arrives this October, with the third book following next year. I’ll be at the Tucson Book Festival in the beginning of March, so come see me if you’re nearby!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Jessie: Thank you again for having me!
The Consortium Rebellion 1
Harper Voyager, February 5, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
“Polaris Rising is space opera at its best, intense and addictive, a story of honor, courage, betrayal, and love. Jessie Mihalik is an author to watch.”--Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author
A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.
In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.
Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.
When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.
But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .
Jessie Mihalik has a degree in computer science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves. Polaris Rising is her debut novel.