Starla Huchton is one of the hardest working people I know. She wrote, and coordinated the full cast podcast production of her first novel, The Dreamer’s Thread, in 2009. It went on to be a double-nominee and finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards and, since then, she’s continued to build on the twin foundations of writing and podcasting. She’s recorded voice work for podcasts including The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Drabblecast, and Erotica a la Carte. Her writing has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte podcast, a short story for The Gearheart (which marks her third Parsec nomination), and an episode of the Tales from the Archives podcast (the companion to Tee Morris and Philippa Balantine’s Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series), which garnered her a second finalist badge from the 2012 Parsec Awards. Her second novel, a Steampunk adventure entitled Master of Myth, was the first place winner in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of The Sandy Writing Contest held annually by the Crested Butte Writers Conference.
I talked to her about her work, her routine, her third novel, Maven, and why she thinks science fiction romance is struggling for acceptance.
How did you get started as a writer?
Well, I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been reading, but I never made a concentrated, concerted effort to finish anything until around 2007. My first full-length novel, The Dreamer’s Thread, turned into a full-cast podcast audiobook production, which introduced me to a great community of writers. Because of them, my writing grew and changed in ways I never imagined it could, and several opportunities arose as a result of this. Not only am I a contributor to Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine’s Tales from the Archives short story collection, but I also penned a short story for Alex White’s universe of The Gearheart. All three of these projects resulted in nominations and finalist badges for Parsec Awards. I’ve also been tapped to write a novella for Scott Sigler’s Galactic Football League series, which will hopefully be completed this year.
What’s your working day like?
At the moment, there’s very little structure to my “work day”. With a deployed husband and three kids running around, it’s more a question of what I can squeeze in when. Generally, I start off the day answering emails and working on my freelance book cover design projects as time permits. Most of my writing happens after 9 pm when the kids are in bed, but I grab every opportunity, be it five minutes in a doctor’s office or while waiting for my youngest to fall asleep, to get the words out.
Do you have any tips for writers with children?
I think my best advice is to be forgiving of yourself. This applies to whether you’re locking yourself in the bathroom for 15 minutes because you need even that small bit of quiet to create, or if you’re skipping a day of writing to take the kids to the park. Both are okay. Writing can be a somewhat selfish pursuit when you have a family to take care of, but no one can be 100% giving of themselves and expect to maintain sanity. It’s just as important to pursue your own goals as it is to care for/about others. It isn’t always easy (it mostly isn’t), but balance is vital in any creative pursuit. It’s easy to shelve the things we may see as “frivolous”, but to a creative spirit they are essential. Denying myself time to create has disastrous consequences to my mood and general outlook, and I think the same is probably true for many artists, be they writers, painters, musicians, etc.
Tell us about Maven, what led to the idea?
Maven is a near-future Science Fiction Romance set in an underwater UN research and military outpost. It follows the relationship between two young prodigies, one a marine biochemist and one a technology specialist, as they uncover a plot to weaponize deadly bacteria which could wipe out a major chunk of the population. My original inspiration came from a mid-90s television show, but the idea morphed and changed into something so much more beyond that. My goal was to present the science in a way that made it understandable to anyone that had taken so much as a high school science class or had ever used the internet. Accessibility was absolutely critical for me, as I wanted this story to be something a reader of any genre could enjoy.
Why science fiction romance?
I think a better question is “why not science fiction romance?”. After all, love and relationships are the very heart of the human experience. Any story, be it fantasy or literary fiction, addresses these experiences, so why not SciFi as well? I don’t believe Science Fiction should be strictly about tech and aliens, so much as how the characters in the story are impacted by these things. It is the reactions of these characters that move the plot forward. Without love or compassion to move them, what reason would they have to make changes in their worlds? If you take out the human element here, the things that all of us can relate to, what is left of the story? For years I was hesitant to read much “hard” science fiction, because it always fell flat for me. I missed that human element. I longed to connect to the characters in distant worlds and times, but they would focus so much on scientific theory and waxing philosophical that it left me cold. I didn’t care what happened to these characters. They didn’t feel things that I could identify with. In discovering SFR, it’s opened the genre to a whole new group of readers that felt similarly to the way I did. Some of the “old school” SF creators and fans aren’t open to these kinds of changes, but I believe much of the broader population is, or would be, given the chance. To them, I say “welcome aboard” and hope they enjoy their stay.
Why do you think SF romance is struggling for acceptance?
This is the million dollar question. I’m not sure that it’s struggling so much as it’s only now getting noticed. Really, I didn’t know such a genre existed until after I’d finished writing Maven. When looking around to judge market viability, I discovered a whole world of readers and writers interested in SFR, and one that’s growing. I’ve spoken with other authors in the genre who are facing the same issues I am, that being how do you get noticed and how do you convince people that SFR isn’t your grandpa’s SciFi from the1950s with some smutty bits thrown in? I get a lot of “SciFi? Like aliens and stuff?”, at which point it becomes an educational endeavor. Science Fiction encompasses a wide scope of settings and species, but not every SciFi story means space and tentacled aliens, much in the same way that not every biography will be about a famous military general from World War II. There’s also a difference between Romance and Erotica, the latter of which is what people automatically jump to when I say SFR. Those genres are cousins, certainly, but are coming from very different places. Er, pun unintentional there.
Essentially, there will be some Science Fiction readers that will never care for SFR, and there are some Romance readers that won’t like it either. That’s perfectly fine. I believe the key to success here lies in questioning the preconceived notions of what SF and Romance are and opening up readers to explore even a little outside of their comfort zones. In my experience, people are up to the challenge when you open a dialogue. It’s those folks that I want to reach.
What’s next for Maven? And what’s next on deck for you?
The Endure Series will continue in three additional books. Book 2, Nemesis, is slated for release on August 26th, with books 3 and 4 dropping at three-month intervals after that. There’s a possibility for a spin-off series and maybe a novella or two, but I’m concentrating on finishing this story arc first.
Next on deck for me… well, that’s hard to say. I have another completed manuscript, a Steampunk adventure called Master of Myth, that I’m looking at putting out in the very near future. I’ve planned three books for the Antigone’s Wrath series and am halfway through the second, Master of Machines, while things solidify with the first. I’m also nearly finished with a YA Dystopian novel that may be the start to a brand new series as well. For me, it’s never a lack of ideas that’s the problem; it’s having far too many of them and not enough time to see them through!
Regardless of what happens with any of this, people will definitely be seeing a large amount of work coming from me in the next few years. It’s an exciting time and I hope others find interest in what I’m creating.
Maven is available now from the following places;
It has a Goodreads group located here
And finally, here’s Starla’s website