zenn scarlett: author interview & giveaway

Saturday, April 27, 2013 |
Young adult sci-fi is hitting the big time, and I am one hundred percent behind the trend.  I’m trying to read more YA sci-fi in 2013, so when I heard about Christian Schoon’s Zenn Scarlett, a book featuring a girl living in a cloister on Mars and learning to be an alien veterinarian, I knew I had to learn more.  Zenn is one of the most fascinating and unique sci-fi books I’ve ever picked up.  Joining me today for an interview is Christian Schoon, the author who created Zenn Scarlett (and stay tuned until the end – there’ll be a giveaway!).

christian schoon author photo
Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge interacting with animals ranging from black bears and cougars to Burmese pythons, alligators and other exotic and local critters.

1) Your book features Zenn Scarlett (she of title fame), who is studying to be an exoveterinarian.  How did you decide to feature alien veterinary science?
 Two-part answer: 1. I’ve been a deeply ardent science fiction consumer since grade school (anyone remember “Rusty’s Space Ship”  illustrated and written by Evelyn Sibley Lampman? A masterpiece of genuine all-wooden spacecraft adventure, to my 4th grade mind.) And 2. I’ve also been an animal person from my earliest memories. More recently, after moving to a farmstead with lots of pastures, barns and outbuildings, I started volunteering with several different horse rescue and wildlife rehab groups. So, I found myself interacting with veterinarians and accumulating some amateur vet know-how. Zenn Scarlett is the love-child of these two passions.

2) I'm sure you had to do extensive research for this book, because even though it features alien biology, it's still biology.  What was a surprising/disgusting/extremely cool discovery you made while writing Zenn Scarlett's story?
Actually, writing the “biology” sections of the book took less research than some of the “Martian environment sections.” My long-term interest in animals also included a fascination with the astounding organic machinery that makes life work. I mean, if you stop and give serious thought to the details of what your own body doing right this second, it borders on the incomprehensible. How your eyes have adaptive lenses to deliver this picture of the world to the retina and zip it along to the parts of the brain that construct what you’re seeing on the screen in front of you, how your heart moves blood through miles of veins and arteries, how the arteries grew along their miles of pathways in the first place, the way evolution basically took sea water and, over a few millions of millions of years, morphed that water into blood… I could go on. And on. But, it was of course enjoyable to extrapolate known biologies into the alienesque, stealing from a prehistoric architecture of, say, a plesiosaur and incorporating it into something like a Tanduan swamp sloo. That sort of blending is always cool. As for disgusting, what happens when Zenn administers a vaccination to a big, lumbering yote comes from experience with animals that have a crop, like some birds of prey. They hold food in the crop for a while before swallowing it. Zenn should’ve stood a little further back after giving Ernie his shot….

3) I know you are a big fan of sci-fi - what are your favorite YA sci-fi titles?
 Just a few faves would be Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, the classic Edgar Rich Burrough’s Princess of Mars/John Carter Barsoom books (and, unlike some, I thought Disney’s John Carter was a grand movie in the swash-and-buckle genre), Jonathan Howard’s Katya’s World, A Wrinkle in Time, Revis’s Across the Universe, Kim Curran’s Shift, too many more to remember, let alone name!  

4) Do you have any hidden (or not so hidden) superpowers?
 My superpower, bestowed on me by the color of Earth’s moon since the moonlight on my homeworld is paisley, is the ability to understand the languages of most animals. It turns out that, much of the time, they’re saying “Treat-Monkey! You are SO not getting me any food right now. What’s up with THAT?”

5) If you could host a dinner party for any fictional literary characters, who would you invite and what would you serve?
Well, let’s keep this initial gathering small and intimate, so that everyone gets a chance to speak up…
I’d send out invitations to Merlin from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King (because, well, MERLIN!),  Ford Prefect from HHGTTG (this guy has been places and I wanna hear about ‘em), the gruff-but-irresistible polar bear Iorek Byrnison (I wanna hear whatever he’s got to say),  Jones, the war vet from Neuromancer (I hear he cleaned up his act and is now counseling other dolphins) and, of course, Death from The Book Thief, because I have some questions for him. I’d serve my world-famous, simmered-all-afternoon rigatoni Bolognese. Crème brûlée for dessert.  Champagne for everyone. Except Death. Sorry, but why chance it?

6) What books are on your nightstand (or wherever you keep your to-read pile) right now?

I’ve only got a few that are physically on the nightstand right now: Redshirts by Scalzi and Ashfall by Mike Mullin (who was kind enough to give Zenn Scarlett a really marvelous endorsement). In ebookery, I’m chomping at the bit to dig into my advance copy of T.L. Costa’s SF thriller Playing Tyler. And I also need to snap up E.C. Meyer’s Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, which have such a grand premise: what if your choices in life had a re-do button?

Thanks for answering those questions, Christian!  If you’d like to learn more about Christian, check out his website or follow him on twitter.  Zenn Scarlett will be released by Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot Books on May 7, 2013. 

Want a copy of Zenn Scarlett for yourself?  Enter the giveaway!  Simply fill out the FORM.  One winner will receive a copy of the book courtesy of the folks at Strange Chemistry.  Giveaway open internationally, will end at 11:59pm EST on May 6, 2013.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Prize provided and mailed by publisher.  Good luck!

Fine print: giveaway courtesy of Strange Chemistry.


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Sounds interesting and I LOVE her name. (not an entry)

Christian Schoon said...

Thanks, Juju - yeah, it has a kinda nice ring to it, huh?

Dana said...

This sounds like a great read! I entered and also added it to my Goodreads TBR shelf.

Ann @ Blogging Profits Unleashed said...

Great interview and review of the book, hopefully I might grab this book.

vvb32 reads said...

Sounds like a good one. I'm planning on dabbling in the scifi YA this year, too. Got motivated after watching Prometheus.

Wonder what got Zen interested in becoming an exoveterinarian. And does she have an alien pet?

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