Author Joyce Hertzoff writes mystery, science fiction, and fantasy in every length from flash fiction to novels, and for different audiences including middle grade, young adult, and adult. Her newest YA fantasy release is Homeward Bound (2020), the fourth and final book in her Crystal Odyssey series. You’ll find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as on her website at FantasyByJoyceHertzoff.com and blog at HertzoffJo.blogspot.com. Read more about Joyce in her 2015, 2017, and 2019 SWW interviews, and visit Amazon for all of her books.
What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Homeward Bound?
In Homeward Bound, I’ve wrapped up Narissa Day’s story. Nissa, her siblings and friends are sailing back to Solwintor from Fartek with devices and information that the scientists at the Stronghold need. But first, she and her group have to get past an island that wasn’t there before. When they reach home, they’ll have to fight the Legion that threatens to take over the continents of Solwintor and Leara. There are also two weddings that take place.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I had to wrap up a few loose ends. I always have a problem coming up with an ending. And, as usual, I had a hard time with the fight scenes, making them as realistic as possible. I also didn’t want to be saccharine in the romantic and wedding scenes.
How did the book come together?
There had to be at least one more story after the third book in the series. The gang finished their mission in Fartek and had to go home. It took about seven or eight months to write what happened along the way, and then another year or so to get feedback and revise the story. I rely on critique groups, both online and local, and a few of those critique partners helped me.
Tell us a little about your main character and what she has to overcome in this story.
The main character, as in the previous three stories, is Narissa Day, called Nissa. She’s learned quite a bit about her world since her eighteenth birthday when she left home for the first time with brother Blane to find Madoc, her missing magic teacher. She’s definitely grown up. In this particular story, she mainly has to overcome the threat of the Legion on Solwintor, the East Islands and her home continent of Leara. Her sword-fighting skills come in handy in the story, along with the ability to harness the energy all around with her mind.
What did you do to make your story world, with its fantastical elements, believable and logical?
As a former scientific abstracter, I believe in building my story worlds on sound scientific bases. I have a need to explain everything and make fantastical elements scientifically possible. For example, the world of my series relies on crystals to power devices and engines. In the past, crystal radios used similar crystals to change which sound frequencies they were tuned to. In my stories, the crystals are used to focus the energy around us as a power source.
Did what-if questions help shape your series?
All speculative fiction starts with what-if questions. The consequences of those suppositions should be logical, yet interesting for the reader. Those consequences lead to more what-if questions, and so on. For example, if you ask, “What if you find two books written in a strange language that show star patterns different from those where you are?” Then the next question is: “What would you do?” In the second book of the series, Nissa, Madoc and their siblings travel north looking for the source of the books and a place where the stars look like the patterns in the book.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I surprised myself with some of the places the story went, and that I needed four novels to finish the whole story. But my favorite part was brainstorming all the obstacles the characters had to overcome to achieve their goals, and then brainstorming ways to get past each obstacle. Characters, not just mine, have a habit of taking a story places it wasn’t supposed to go. I enjoyed dreaming up ways to bring them back to where I wanted the story to end up. I love solving puzzles, even ones I create for myself.
Looking back to when you wrote book one, The Crimson Orb, when did you know the story was strong enough for a series?
As I wrote the first story, ideas occurred to me that I couldn’t include in the first adventures. But it was those two books that Nissa and Blane found in Madoc’s rooms that made sequels imperative.
If the stars aligned, what past or present television or movie series would you love to write for (or be involved with in any capacity)?
I just finished re-watching the first four seasons of Eureka, and I’m currently watching season five. It appeals to my sense of mixing science and fantasy. Sure, a lot of the science is made up, but so is the crystal-based science in my series. I would have loved to have written for Eureka.
I’ve written fan fiction for other TV shows and movies, including The Princess Bride, Twister, Winnie the Pooh, Northern Exposure, and even the British mystery series Rosemary and Thyme. Always a fun activity. But those were for fanfic exchanges, not as real continuations of the movies and TV shows. Still, I would want to write for them for real.
What are the key issues when writing a series to keep readers coming back for more?
At least two things are needed: a premise large enough that it can take you through a series and characters that readers can relate to. Recurring details can also be good. And, of course, the world building has to be solid and consistent.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to my award-winning novella A Bite of the Apple. I have two near-future/post-apocalyptic series in the works, one for middle-grade students and one for adults. I even have a crime/mystery series that’s partly finished. Finally, I’m writing a few short stories.
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.