This week on our continuing interview series with speculative fiction authors, we talk to Kristen Miller. Kristen writes a science fiction crime serial called Hope’s End for Fiction Vortex. She talks about her inspirations for the series, the challenges of writing serial fiction, and how she stays motivated for each writing session.
You have combined sci-fi, mystery, and crime genres in your fiction series Hope’s End, which is the name of a prison and labor camp where the most dangerous criminals in the system are sent. What interests you about using these genres to explore such extreme prison life?
In addition to being a life-long scifi fan, I’m also a huge true crime buff. Actually, fictional crime is a love of mine, too. I’ve probably seen just about every episode of Law & Order at least twice! The Hope’s End series is a combination of these interests in science fiction and criminal justice. I think it’s interesting to consider how punishment might exist in the future, and how permanent that punishment could be. Could criminals be exiled from the rest of humanity not just in terms of location, but on a fundamental, genetic level? When I started writing Hope’s End, I’d also been binge-watching Orange is the New Black, which no doubt inspired me a bit!
There’s certainly a “survival” element to the story, and a resilience despite the lack of hope. Although the environment is harsh, the prisoners are genetically engineered to endure in it. They are made for this extreme world, and in that way it becomes their true home.
Hope’s End is part of the Hiberverse, a universe where the discovery of a powerful element shapes humanity’s future. What parts of the Hiberverse sparked your imagination, and how did you shape your story to be part of this rich, complex world?
The Hiberverse storyverse appealed to me because it dealt with the evolution of humanity’s relationship to the powerful Biomimetic Dark Matter, not just with what BDM could do (although that is also very cool). The Fiction Vortex serialized stories set in the Hiberverse take place at different points in time, so each one is unique in its exploration of how humankind might react to and use something so powerful. Hope’s End takes place soon after the initial discovery of BDM, so its full uses and dangers are still a bit unknown. What’s also unknown is how people in power might utilize BDM for their own ends, and that’s one of the mysteries at the center of Hope’s End.
Hope’s End was published as episodes in a fiction series, instead of all at once as a complete novel. What did you enjoy about writing in a serialized format and what did you find challenging?
I’ll start with the fun stuff: I love a good cliffhanger, and serialized fiction is a great format for leaving the reader wanting more. The episodic nature of the story makes it digestible, both to write and to read. It’s also satisfying (and motivating!) to have a finished piece of writing after around 10,000 words rather than say, 100,000. Plus, each episode offers opportunities for mini-arcs and smaller stories within the larger overall plot.
Now, onto the challenges! Continuity was a big one for me. Keeping track of all of the little details from one episode to the next involved a lot of note-taking and concentration. Also, most of the stories I’d written prior to Hope’s End had been short, typically under 8,000 words, so thinking of each episode as part of longer, more complex story was an adjustment for me.
What makes up a good writing session for you and what are your indispensable tools?
Staying on task is one of my main struggles, so I’m always both pleased and shocked when I get through a writing session without getting distracted 15 minutes in! I try to write in 45-minute to one-hour bursts, and the more words I can fit into a session, the better. I also consider a session particularly successful if I end in a place that can serve as an easy jumping-off point for the next one. Having an obvious place to start makes it easier to get more words in during the following writing sprint.
As far as tools go, I’m a big fan of Scrivener. I tend to write in short scenes that I string together later, and Scrivener makes it easy to move chunks of text around. I’m also nothing without my to-do lists, so my notebook and pen are also indispensable to me.
What do you love to geek out about?
Hmmm, that’s a great question! I love to read sci-fi and fantasy novels and short stories. Some of my favorite series include The Expanse, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Dark Tower, and especially Harry Potter. Knitting is another one of my pastimes, in addition to watching waaayyyy too much TV. I’m also a bit of a marketing and business geek. I have my MBA and my day job is as a marketing specialist at a tech company, so I enjoy learning about industry trends and market research. Finally, I geek out about finding a great pair of shoes!
For more information about Kristen Miller and her work, visit her website kristenmillerauthor.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Be sure to check out the upcoming episodes of the Hope’s End series at Fiction Vortex!
// Images courtesy of Kristen Miller.