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Author Spotlight: Adam Gaffen

Adam Gaffen

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.

Today: Adam Gaffen is the author of the near-future, LGBTQ-inclusive science fiction series The Cassidy Chronicles. The heart of the universe is the indomitable Kendra Cassidy and her wife, Aiyana, as they struggle to drag humanity to the stars.

The series The Artemis War consists of four books, concluding with the award-winning “Triumph’s Ashes.” A prequel, a memoir (written by Kendra), and a collection of stories round out the Cassidyverse. A new series in the universe has been launched with “The Ghosts of Tantor,” which was recognized as one of the top 25 Indie Books of 2022.

He lives in Colorado with his wife, five dogs, five cats, and wonders where all the time goes.

Thanks so much, Adam, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it. 

Adam Gaffen: That’s going back a while. It depends on whether you want to talk about school writing, publication for free, or publication for payment. I was writing in high school and college, and got poems and stories into school magazines and articles into school newspapers. My first publication in a wider publication was in a Star Trek fanzine in the mid-90s. Perhaps fortunately, all of these are lost in the annals of history. The first published work which is still available are my two Sherlock Holmes stories, which I put up on Amazon way back in 2012. They were mostly done as a writing exercise, but they turned out so well that I decided to put them out for general consumption. There’s still there, with the shortest audiobook you’ll ever get. But Lucy Waterhouse did a wonderful job with her rendition.

JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block? 

AG: When I find myself hitting a wall on a certain story, I will pivot to a different one. Right now, for example, I have two Cassidyverse stories underway, plus two other projects I’m doing under a pen name. Between them, there’s always something to work on.

JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not? 

AG: I do, for some stories, as they don’t fall into my typical genre or style. I started them as a lark, but I’ve gotten such a positive response from the first story that I’ve found myself pulled into that world more and more. At this point, I don’t think I’ll be able to extricate myself for quite a while. But I’m having fun writing them, so it’s not a bad thing.

JSC: Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so? 

AG: No. And yes. When I was writing both The Cassidy Chronicles and The Road to the Stars, I asked some friends if they wanted to appear. Those that agreed had their names and likenesses inserted, but not their personalities or professions. Since then, I’ve kept a running list of people who have volunteered their names to appear – without any visual descriptions. These have turned into some of my most fervent fans, as they get a kick of seeing what their alter egos are doing.

JSC: How long do you write each day? 

AG: I don’t have a set amount for myself. I write what I write, and that’s more than I had the day before. 

JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

AG: Of course! I’m quite aware of the reviews and ratings that go up, mostly on Amazon, though I follow Goodreads as well. I enjoy the positives, and view the negative reviews as learning opportunities. After all, if they’ve taken time to write what they found awry in my writing, it’s worth my time to consider it. There are a couple things I remember when I’m looking at them, though. One is that the review says more about the reviewer than what they reviewed. After all, it’s their opinion. The other is not to sweat the ratings. Lots of people will do what I call “drive-bys”, dropping a 1- or 2-star rating on a book simply because they can. If they don’t want to tell me why? I don’t need to listen to them throw out a number.

JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them. 

AG: My Cassidy books are filled with LGBTQ characters and relationships. I have to say, it wasn’t intentional. I didn’t set out to write LGBTQ-inclusive science fiction. But Kendra and Aiyana have their own stories and their own lives. Those lives happen to be as a married couple, with everything that comes along with that. The fact that they’re two women is the least important part of their relationship. And I treat my other LGBTQ characters the same way, presenting them as people first, with lives and hopes and dreams. Who they’re in a relationship with is just part of who they are.

JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing? 

AG: I like to think of myself as a full-time writer, but that’s not entirely correct. I work occasionally as a home inspector, which takes time away. I’m also an editor, and when I’ve got clients that takes time away. Add in the anthologies that AC Adams and I are publishing, and my time to write is rather diminished.

JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

AG: Definitely yes. I am primarily a pantser – though I prefer the term gardener. It’s like planting seeds from packets without labels – you don’t know what’s going to come up, but it’s up to you to nurture it and help it to grow. You can hope for a certain plant, but you deal with what you receive. That’s what happened with The Ghosts of Tantor; I introduced a plot element as a way to ratchet up some tension. As it happened, that element turned into the key to the entire book and sent it in a different direction. Who knew?

JSC: What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing your books? 

AG: It’s not our story. It’s our characters’ story, and we get to tell it. When it goes in unexpected directions, you roll with it.

JSC: How do you approach covers for your indie stories? 

AG: I hire a professional. Emily’s World of Design has done all but one of my Cassidyverse covers, and we’ve won awards for two of them. By working with her, I have a partner who shares my vision and understands where I’m coming from. She knows the characters and the tone of the books, so she’s able to create a unified theme for the entire universe. 

JSC: How did you choose the topic for The Ghosts of Tantor

AG: I’d finished writing the Artemis War series and introducing the world to Kendra and Aiyana Cassidy and their Terran Federation, and I wanted to get to the reason Kendra had done so much to achieve her dream. See, her Federation wasn’t intended to be a nation. She envisioned it as a sort of Interstellar Geographic Society, committed to peacefully exploring the stars. But a war got in her way. I wanted to tell a story with some of the secondary characters from the war about them actually going out and doing what Kendra imagined them doing.

So the TFS Pike was born. She’s four kilometers long and has a crew of four thousand. Her mission is to go out and do a Magellan – three years, no resupply, no friendly ports, just go and find out. Of course, what they find is not at all what they expect.

This book has a huge cast of characters, many of whom come from the Artemis books. Colonel Chloe Resler is in command, getting a promotion from Captain of the TFS Nike. Captain Ken Porter commands the ship, but he’s not comfortable being officially under Chloe. Captain Tori Monaco is given the overstrength platoon of Marines to weld together, and Captain Lexie “Locksmith” Marsh is the wing commander for the combined small craft: Wolves, Direwolves, and Coyotes. Acting as Chloe’s right hand is Commander Caedyn Martinez, recruited from the United Earth government to apply their diplomatic skills to this uneasy group.

JSC: Tell us one thing about them that we don’t learn from the book, the secret in their past. 

AG: Lt. Jessa Ellis has a secret which gets explored more in the next book, but I really can’t get into it here. Come on, man! Spoilers!

JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write, and why? 

AG: So far, Nicole Crozier. She’s got a great backstory, which starts in the first book of the Artemis War (and which I won’t go into here because spoilers). Now she’s enlisted and gone to the academy and is an officer, but she’s the lowest of the low: an ensign. It’s quite a difference from the positions she’s had in the past, and as a result she’s much more self-assured than your typical ensign. This causes issues with some of her superiors, but it also lets her push boundaries. 

JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer? 

Nicole Crozier: If I’d know what I was getting into, I would have thought long and hard about signing up! So far he’s gotten me into trouble with my direct supervisor, had me stranded on an ice planet, lost in time, and then tasked with deciphering an alien artifact. Admittedly, there have been some pluses, but. Damn.

JSC: What’s your core motivation in this book? 

NC: Because of my experience, I was slated to be a tactical officer. All well and good, but that’s not where my passion lies. I want to do science, so heading into the book my main motivation was to jump tracks and departments. Of course, my tactical skills get tested, as well as my science chops, as we tried to stay alive when we were cut off from the ship.

JSC: Are you happy with where your writer left you at the end? (don’t give us any spoilers). 

NC: Yes. I’m alive, after all, and I’ve fallen into a relationship which I never saw coming, so it’s all good!

JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be? 

AG: Neilsday – I think that July 20 ought to be a global holiday, in recognition of the first human to set foot on another world.

JSC: What fictional speculative fiction character would you like to spend an evening with, and why?

AG: Lazarus Long, from Robert Heinlein’s books. Not only has he lived over two thousand years, he’s also in possession of technology which allows him to time- and dimension-hop into alternative universes. His stories would be epic!

JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why? 

AG: Star Trek. I grew up on TOS and the Animated series, and didn’t even see Star Wars until it was back in theaters to support Empire’s release. I also appreciate the greater plausibility of Star Trek, in terms of the technology. At least some explanation is given, where Star Wars is science fantasy at best.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

AG: Right now, Kendra and I are working on her next installment in how an actress is turned into an assassin, but that’s just underway. I’m also halfway finished with the sequel to Ghosts, which will be called Tracking Tantor. I hope to have that out on July 20 of this year. The mission of exploration picks up in this one, as Nicole’s figured out how to make the alien device work. Next comes testing, and boy is that fraught. And not everyone aboard the TFS Pike is as enthusiastic. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.

The Ghosts of Tantor

And now for Adam’s new book: The Ghosts of Tantor:

The Terran Federation is finally at peace and ready to begin serious exploration. The TFS Pike is the newest ship in the Fleet, purpose-built for deep space missions. Four kilometers long, with a crew of four thousand, she’s well-equipped for the years ahead. If only her crew was as prepared.

Ensign Nicole Crozier, the former Premier of the Luna Free State, has left politics behind to pursue a career in the Fleet. But her stint as the Artemis Minister of War has landed her in Tactical instead of Science, her passion, and she’s not happy about it. Still, she’s been promised a chance to switch tracks, so for now she’ll deal.

Everything changes when Nicole discovers a rogue planet, and she’s given command of the landing party. She’s irritated her superior but that’s the least of her problems when an ancient alien artifact emerges from the ice.

As Nicole and her team explore the interior, the planet and her team vanish. The crew of the Pike must use all the tricks and tools available to get their missing people back. When they finally do, Nicole brings aboard a discovery which could change the course of history. Or end it.

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“Tony, are you sure we’re broadcasting?” she finally commed. She remembered to do so privately, at least.

“Every EM frequency we can hit, plus we’re in the quantum spectrum as well. If I could hit it with gravitic pulses, I would.”

“What about a modulated tractor beam? It wouldn’t be much more than dots and dashes, your Morse code, but I’ll bet a Wolf could manage it.”

The silence was eloquent.

“Damn,” Lizzi finally said. “Guess I know why you’re in charge, Nicole. If we don’t get a response in a few more minutes, I’ll try it.”

To nearly everyone’s disappointment, the transmissions didn’t rouse any bug-eyed aliens or mechanical monstrosities. After a hasty consultation with Crunch and Scribbler, Tony observed as the Finney moved into position ten meters above the ground and a hundred meters away from the truncated pyramid.

“Did you shut down the other broadcasts?”

Nicole heard Tony’s nod in his reply. “Didn’t want any interference, even though it’s a totally different spectrum. Isolate the variables, you know?”

She thought she did. “When you’re ready, then.”

The Wolf shuttles – nobody except brass called them Multipurpose Orbital Vehicles – mounted a powerful tractor beam under the cockpit. There was no visible “beam,” despite the depictions in Admiral Cassidy’s beloved “television shows” and “movies.” There was an observable effect to the pulsing. Atmospheric particles, caught in the path of the beam, would jerk forward and back, side to side, in time with the signal Scribbler was generating. 

For about thirty seconds, though, that was the only evidence anything was happening. Then…

Nicole couldn’t tell you what occurred, not from her own observations. The other eyewitnesses said, combined with the recorded sensor readings from the shuttles and the Pike, that a brilliant blue bolt flashed from the structure to the Finney. The shuttle was engulfed by the bolt, nearly blinding everyone looking, before dropping to the surface with a resounding crash.

“Fuck!” exclaimed Nicole. She wasn’t the only one cursing, and she winced as her hand bounced off her helmet. 

“Report!” she commed, hoping to bring some order from the chaos. “One at a time, dammit!”

The cacophony died down. “Crunch, Scribbler, come in,” she commed.

I’m here, Crunch replied over his implant. Scribbler’s out cold, but he’s breathing according to his suit. The shuttle’s trashed, though.

We’ll get you out, she replied.

Out’s not the issue. Back to the Pike, that’s the issue. We’re down a shuttle.

We’ll figure it out.

Pike, Crozier. We need medevac for Crunch and Scribbler.”

“Understood, Nicole,” answered Lexie. “We’ve been monitoring. Recovery mission already launched with a Direwolf escort. ETA eight minutes.”

“Buck, I need your Marines to get Crunch and Scribbler out, then we’re pulling out!”

“Aye, Ma’am!”

“Science team, fall back.” One by one, she got acknowledgments from every member, save one.

“Greyson, where are you?”


“Greyson, report.”

Still silence.

“Does anyone have eyeballs on Greyson?”

A chorus of negatives rolled over her.

Greyson, answer me!

She knew the implants, and thus their quantum-connected communications network, was functional, so this ought to elicit a response.


“Hermes, I need a personnel check. Greyson Stuart.”

The AI’s response was instantaneous.

“Greyson Stuart’s suit reports all vital signs in normal, if elevated, range.”

“Can you contact her?”

“Greyson Stuart is not responding to hails. Ensign, a correction. Greyson Stuart prefers they/them pronouns, though they also use she/her.”

Nicole filed the information away.


“Greyson Stuart is located ten meters from the structure at bearing three two five from your position.”

Nicole broke into a run.

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