Easy as A, B, C . . . by BB
“In the past, when I considered important women writers of military science fiction, three names have stood out most prominently: C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Elizabeth Moon. Now I will add Diann Thornley Read to my list. With each novel, it becomes more and more evident just how important she has become to this field.” (Dave Wolverton, NYT best-selling author of The Courtship of Princess Leia and, as David Farland, The Runelords series.)
High praise, indeed, Diann—Thank you for taking time to answer some questions about your writing.
Q. When did you first become interested in writing?
A. I wrote my first story at the age of five and never stopped writing. I taught myself to type—with two fingers—on my father’s ancient manual typewriter at the age of six, because it was faster than pushing a pencil.
Q. Oh, yes . . . I remember my father’s old Underwood. So when did you get serious about writing fiction?
A. After winning a statewide writing contest (junior high division) at the age of fourteen, I began writing my first novel, based on the Arthurian legends. This endeavor filled most of my high school years and freshman year of college . . . until a handful of friends introduced me to science fiction by “kidnapping” me to go see an obscure little movie—Star Wars.
Q. With 23 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reserves, how much has your military background influenced your writing?
A. That experience has had a huge influence! I enjoyed reading military SF before I entered the Air Force–I actually started writing the Sergey books before–but there’s no way I could have written with any accuracy without having lived it. (I wasn’t a pilot, so I do have to pick the brains of pilots I know for those details.) But there’s just a certain perspective that comes with military service that’s hard to get other ways. I now jokingly refer to my military career as “my 23 years of live-in book research.” I just put my current protagonist through basic training and it was a hoot to remember all the head games they played on us, and how we dealt with it. I’m also beta reading a friend’s manuscript and coaching her on how things really are done. It’s a good story and I’m happy to help her.
Q. The Sergey Chronicles was your first series and a great success; we’re going to do a review on it in our next Saturday Softcover. What’s next?
A. My current project, The Seventh Shaman series, is similar to the Sergey books, but aimed at the YA audience. My protagonist, Akuleh (the name means “Looks Up,” which he has to learn to do on a few levels, but he goes by Ku), would be American Indian if the books were set on Earth. Having a non-Anglo protagonist was a very deliberate choice; I see far too few non-Anglo, especially American Indian, kids in YA fiction.
Ku is an orphan being brought up by an abusive stepmother. He knows a prophecy was made about him at his birth but he doesn’t know what it said, so when his stepmother starts calling him Death Bringer he believes the worst. Time to leave before anyone else he cares about is killed! So he runs away from home, lies about his age, and joins the military. Ku also has a snarky streak, which is a lot of fun to write.
Like Lujan of the Sergey books, Ku is a natural combat pilot, but that’s as much curse as blessing during pilot training. He also has to deal with cultural issues–his latent shaman capabilities, which adds a fantasy element, his clan’s traditions, and that prophecy–on top of facing prejudice and the usual teen challenges of boy-girl relationships and heartbreak. In the end Ku will hear the contents of the prophecy and learn that his life does have worth and purpose–a great purpose. The message I hope to get across to kids, especially at-risk kids, is that their lives have great worth and meaning, too.
Q. Who is your target audience?
With my books I hope to reach out to kids from difficult backgrounds, kids who struggle with their self-worth—especially boys, for whom there’s very little fiction available in the young adult market, but also girls. I want to provide kids with heroes who maintain their integrity and moral values in the face of tremendous odds, even at great risk to themselves. I want kids to see that no matter where they’ve come from, no matter how terribly they have been abused or disadvantaged, their lives have worth and purpose, and they, like Ku and Derry (who has her own tragic past) can overcome and discover their divine worth and potential.
While I especially hope to encourage, inspire, and motivate at-risk kids, I hope adult readers will find new meaning for their lives as well.
You can contact Diann or get more information at:
Blog: “Hero Journeys” www.diannread.wordpress.com
Diann is also on Goodreads
See you day-after-tomorrow for Sunday Snippets