Retired journalist and editor Sharon Vander Meer is a poet and author of five novels, a book of daily inspiration, and two poetry chapbooks. Her contemporary fiction and sci-fi novels feature strong female protagonists. Sharon’s latest release is Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light (2019), the sequel to her 2009 novel The Ballad of Bawdy McClure. You’ll find Sharon on Facebook and her website VanderMeerBooks.com. Visit her Amazon author page for a list of available books.
What is your elevator pitch for Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light?
In Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light, sci-fi action and futuristic politics combine in the story of a young transport captain in search of her mother who has been missing for more than 20 years. Pella Soames believes Trish is alive and will not stop until she brings her home, even when she realizes her own freedom, perhaps her life, is at risk.
What sparked the story idea for the book?
It is the sequel to an earlier book, The Ballad of Bawdy McClure. At the conclusion of the first book, Pella Soames is twelve, an orphan it would seem, the victim of circumstances beyond her control. She has no intention of remaining a victim. She is now an adult with a transport business of her own. Pella uses all resources available to find out if her mother is alive and a captive of the ruthless Chandorian slave trader Brutus Tauk.
How did the book come together?
It was 10 years between publication of The Ballad of Bawdy McClure and Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light. I wrote a couple of contemporary novels in between, but Pella kept coming back to me. I wanted to tell her story, which has taken shape in the years since Bawdy was published. I published a digital literary magazine for a time, and used it as a platform for telling Pella’s story through serialized episodes. Consequently, when it came to writing the book, it was a matter of deciding what to throw out.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Expectations. Character development. I expected the story would be about a young woman and her quest to find her mother, which it is, but I wanted the story to be linear—getting from point A to point B. It isn’t, because (as happens in life) the characters connected to the protagonist have their own agendas, which impact her decisions. Each of these influencers are unique and have their own stories to tell. The difficulty came in knowing how much to reveal without going off on tangents.
Tell us about your main character and why readers will connect with her.
We all want the stability of knowing the people we love are trustworthy and that they will always be there for us. Helplessly watching the rape of her mother and the destruction of her village when she was a child was heart wrenching enough, and then Pella learns of her father’s betrayal. Every decision she makes from that point forward drives her to find out if her mother is alive, and if so, to rescue her. Pella surrounds herself with a crew she can trust. Her goal is singular. She has no time for anything that will interfere with her quest, especially the attentions of a man she only wants to think of as a brother.
What was the most difficult aspect of world building for Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light?
The Ballad of Bawdy McClure was based on the idea that in 500 years, religion as we know it will not exist. So, what might the world—earth and beyond—look like? This set the stage for the human race going off-planet and seeding the galaxy with human DNA combined with the DNA of other species on planets far and wide. How religion as we know it is preserved, and how humankind perpetuates a different religiosity, is a thread that runs through both books. The Bawdy setting was Earthside because the main character, a transport pilot, had no desire to travel beyond Earth. Many of the characters or species were introduced in Bawdy. Thunder Prime reintroduces a character from the earlier book whose aim is to prove himself worthy of being named Chosen, the deity of deities. Keeping the storyline of Pella’s quest and the political machinations of the sect leader and other galactic leaders, which impact that quest, are the cogs that keep the wheels of the story turning. In terms of difficulty, my goal is to stimulate the reader’s imagination. I hope I’ve accomplished that.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Character development and keeping each one true to who she or he is, and telling Pella’s story.
Of all the books you’ve written, which one was the most challenging, and which was the easiest (or most enjoyable) to write?
Thunder Prime was the most challenging. At the beginning, I spent too much time trying to tie it to Bawdy. Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light is the continuation of a Bawdy character — Pella — but is its own tale. I had to let go of Bawdy and start fresh with Pella’s story. The easiest and most fun to write was Finding Family, the story of a widow whose quiet life is interrupted when an estranged niece arrives on her doorstep with three children and a dog of questionable breeding in tow. From the moment they blow into her life on a windy fall night and the dog pees on her carpet, Lilly Irish begins a life-changing journey.
What first inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved to read and am utterly flabbergasted that a gifted writer can use words to wrench every kind of emotional response by putting those words together in just the right way. I’m not there yet, but hope it happens from time-to-time.
Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
Never apologize for your art. Mistakes happen. Correct them when you can. Move on. Persist. Learn from criticism but don’t be hampered by it.
Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Nothing is easy; be ready for surprises.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I blog regularly at VanderMeerBooks.com and will begin posting episodes of Future Imperfect, a futuristic novel about nature gone wrong. It was previously published, but is no longer in print, nor is The Ballad of Bawdy McClure. I have copies of both if anyone is interested. Bawdy is available on Smashwords under the title Thunder Prime Fog Island. I’m also working on a third novel in the Thunder Prime series featuring members of Pella Soames’ crew. And more about Bart. Will Pella’s relationship with Bart blossom? Stay tuned.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.