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, Kate Rauner – Kate Rauner writes science fiction novels and science-inspired poetry, and serves as a volunteer firefighter in rural New Mexico, USA. She’s a retired engineer and now lives on the edge of the Southwest’s Gila National Forest with her husband, cats, and dog. Kate says she’s well on her way to achieving her life-goal: to become an eccentric old woman.
“Here’s a gift from me to you. I joined with three award-winning authors to bring you a collection of short stories of fantasy and science fiction. Claim these stories and perhaps you’ll find your new favorite author.” Choose your preferred store by clicking here now.
Thanks so much, Kate, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
Kate Rauner: I was lured into writing my first book. A friend of mine wrote a novel with his grandkids and wanted to release it as a kindle on Amazon. What fun – his grandkids’ friends could buy it just like a real book. He asked me to help him edit, and as we worked, he kept saying I should write a novel of my own.
By luck, National Novel Writing Month was about to begin. I like reading science fiction, so a story about a guy who discovers an anomaly orbiting the sun seemed like a good place to start.
I signed up at nanowrimo.org, kept up the pace of words-per-day, and drafted a novel in a month.
Oh, what a terrible mess that effort produced, full of repetition and inconsistencies, and based more on fun science facts than a plot and characters. It took a year, with my friend’s help, to turn it into some sort of coherent story. After much encouragement, I fearfully released it on Amazon. Wow! A few people read it. I got some bad reviews. But, I also got some good reviews, and not from my family. From readers I’d never met. Random people liked my book. I was hooked and sure I could do better. I hope each book I write is better than the one before.
Are you curious about my first effort? You’ll have to go to my author page on Amazon or Smashwords to find the book: Glitch. I used a common one-word title and no on-line store will believe you’re searching for it, so it’ll never turn up except on my pages.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
KR: Like most American women, I adopted my spouse’s name when I married. It’s easy to spell and pronounce, so it served me well. But my own family name is unusual. I faced a conundrum: easy and common, or hard and rare? I went with my family name, so it’s my real name: Kate Rauner. My friends call me Kathy, but I thought Katesounded more like a scifi author. If you remember how to spell it, you’re sure to find me in a search.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
KR: An idea, with the setting close behind. I’ve focused on colonizing other worlds in our solar system, starting with the actual worlds as science knows them. I write reality-based scifi, with characters like people you may know, and technologies you can almost touch today.
There’s so much scientists don’t know that I have plenty of room for imagination. How would a colony evolve over time? What sort of person would leave our beautiful blue planet forever? What dangers will they face? Will they survive?
JSC: Name the book you like most among all you’ve written, and tell us why.
KR: My latest book is always my favorite. The work that went into it is fresh in my mind along with challenges the story presented. Every story comes with challenges, and that’s a good thing. It makes a story unique.
So my current favorite is a trilogy set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. The story revolves around a sibling rivalry like no other, set on a deadly and thrilling world. Click here to find the complete series on Amazon.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for your Titan trilogy?
KR: I pull ideas from the headlines of science, and NASA’s Cassini mission recently studied Saturn and its moons. Titan, the largest moon, is unique in the solar system.
I read that Titan was a good place for humans to colonize because it has a nitrogen atmosphere. But it’s so cold, so hostile, with such a lack of resources essential to life. It’s a terrible place. Who’d want to spend the rest of their life there? I knew I had to answer that question with a story.
JSC: What were the challenges in bringing your story to life?
KR: A story needs a world to inhabit, so my first job was research. I’d especially like to thank Christopher P. McKay, of NASA Ames Research Center, for answering questions about Titan and whether life may exist there.
Next comes the matter of getting into trouble, and trouble is easy to find on Titan. It’s brutally cold, with an unbreathable atmosphere. What technologies will your colony depend on? There’s no second chance to pack for the trip.
Most important is the colonists. People will have to be crazy to colonize the moon, so I sent a cult. Unfortunately, cultists are inexplicable to outsiders. The societies they create seem so obviously doomed. For a story to work, however, it’s got to be believable. That’s a challenge.
The story centers on a brother and sister. One helped create the colony, the other was kidnapped. I hope you’ll identify with both of them. I’d love to know what you think.
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
KR: I’m an engineer, both by education and temperament. I solve problems, so I’m basically optimistic about the future, and so are my stories. Yes, we have problems today. Really big problems like global warming. Really human problems like inequality. But, as Max Ehrmann wrote, “let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.”
As an author, I create worlds that could be real. That means things go wrong with the machinery, and people can be allies or enemies. A hero alone isn’t likely to build a life worth living, or even to survive.
JSC: Would you visit the future or the past, and why?
KR: Definitely the future, and, if I’m going into the future, might as well go big and travel several hundred years.
I want to know how we solve problems that plague us today. Humanity’s story will never be over, not in any time frame I can inhabit, but I want to know more of the tale. I sure hope someone in the future will be willing to sponsor an out-of-date engineer.
JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?
KR: The two franchises are very different, but my first love has to win out: Star Trek. Even today, a rerun of a bad Star Trek episode beats out most of the shows on cable.
JSC: What are you working on now
KR: I’ve started a trilogy set on the Moon and in Earth orbit. In real-life, humans are trashing nearby space, did you know that? What once seemed so vast is cluttered with debris from defunct satellites and old launches.
Winnie Bravo is a newly minted pilot based on the Moon. Tourists visit the lunar resort for fun, and Winnie flies around the planet with her robots to collect space junk. A rogue satellite upends her plans. When she tries to capture the strange probe, someone wants to stop her, and they’re willing to kill. Will she become the best pilot ever? Will she survive?
While you’re waiting for Winnie Bravo, here’s a gift from me to you. I joined with three other award-winning writers to bring you a collection of short stories of fantasy and science fiction. Read them all and perhaps find your new favorite author. Claim the book from your preferred store by clicking here now.
Click here to subscribe to my email list and I’ll let you know when Winnie’s story is released.
Thanks for the chat, Scott. See you in space.
JSC: Deal! I’ll bring the FTL cruiser. 🙂
A hijacked spaceship…
their destiny changed forever
Award-winning first book of the Titan trilogy follows a family whose torn loyalties threaten doom on a strange world that real-life science has only begun to explore.
What if you awoke on a shadowy moon where water freezes as hard as granite and lakes fill with liquid methane? On Titan, a bizarre cult seeks utopia, but what will be different on this distant world?
Real readers say: Dynamic story – Engaging characters – Feel like you were there – Devoured this book
Discover a riveting mix of science and society on Saturn’s deadly frozen moon. If you love gripping science fiction with twists and turns, you won’t want to put it down.
Fynn pushed back from the space plane’s window, ignoring the cold against his fingertips. He’d never been in orbit before and was lucky this tour came before the fall semester began. Public news about the Herschel was as close as he’d gotten to his father’s project, or to his dad, in months, so to visit the ship before it left Earth orbit was doubly thrilling.
In the seat beside him, his sister leaned forward.
“Want to swap seats?” he asked, continuing to stare at the ship. “Are you getting a good view?”
The Herschel looked like a fleet of gleaming white submarines bundled together. The ship lay alongside the Collins Spaceport, a tee-shaped collection of living and working modules providing final assembly for interplanetary spacecraft. From the space plane’s approach vector, the spaceport and ship were silhouetted against the huge, nearly full Moon, and connected by a passageway fragile as a straw.
“You keep the window,” his sister said. “I’ve been here before.”
“You never told me that.”
His sister, Maliah, was pushing thirty but as enthusiastic as a kid. “There’s lots I haven’t told you. I’ll race you to the ship when we dock. There’s a surprise waiting for you.”
“We’re supposed to wait in the dock for an orientation lecture. The flight attendants said they have an important announcement.”
“I’ll explain everything you need to know.”
Since setting foot in the space plane, Fynn felt as bouncy as his sister. Excitement agitated his queasy, zero-g stomach, but he never could resist one of Maliah’s adventures. “Okay. You’re on.” They strapped in for docking.
The other passengers, including their mother, floated obediently through the ample airlock to a well-marked waiting area for their orientation lecture. Maliah pushed Fynn the other way.
They entered a wide white tube, bare except for lines of lights and rings of handholds enameled in safety-yellow. He kicked off to follow her.
He’d studied diagrams of the ship. They’d be entering the Herschel’s central core, an open recreational space with nothing to run into, so he slapped both hands on each railing ring, gaining speed.
Maliah snagged his arm as he emerged and spun them close to the hull. “Surprise.”
Fynn’s chest tightened. This wasn’t a recreation bay. Streamlined coffins ringed the central module like spokes of a wheel, each with a panel of steady green lights and a bright yellow gear bag clipped alongside. Another level of shiny steel pods hung above them, and another, as far as he could see up the Herschel’s dark core.
Fynn stared through layers of pods, trying to understand what he saw. “Where are we?”
Maliah was triumphant. “The Herschel’s a colony ship. We’re going to Titan.”
She hugged him tight, losing her handhold, and they floated along a sleek pod. The center of the module was empty and wide enough for several people, a shaft running through the shadowy core. Clammy, stagnant air left Fynn shivering in his sweatshirt and jeans.
He gripped Maliah with one shaky hand, twisting for a better view of the endless pods. “But, the Herschel’s a research vessel, built to study the Saturn system.”
“So the mongrels think.”
“Don’t call them that.”
“Why not? They call us a cult.”
“My friends at university don’t.”
“You’ve spent too much time away. You called outsiders mongrels when you lived at home. You’re back with us now, back with your Kin, and headed to our new home.”
“But…” Fynn gulped. “My PhD classes start in two weeks.”
“That doesn’t matter anymore.”
“I promised Dad. He picked my thesis topic.”
“You always were daddy’s good little boy. Well, Dad’s waiting for us.” Maliah kicked against a pod and towed Fynn upward, toward the Herschel’s bow, rising past level after level of pods.
He swallowed hard, his mind scrambling for words. “But, the research consortium. They expect a crew of scientists to board next week. What about the mission’s corporate sponsors? Subscribers worldwide?”
“Not to mention the latest crypto-currency bubble,” Maliah said. “Won’t they be surprised?”
Fynn grabbed a pod and jerked her to a stop. “I’ve seen media coverage of this mission. I’ve seen the inside of this ship, and this isn’t it.” He waved into the shadows in confusion.
Maliah beamed. “That’s been my job. Creating fake feeds to convince everyone it’s a science mission while we really packed the Hershel for a colony.”
She kicked off hard, pulling him loose. “Our suppliers were all kept in the dark. We only allowed specially approved workers onboard, and they’re all Kin. Then, to bring up the rest of us, Doctor Tanaka had to overrule the mission’s Board of Directors. It was quite a battle arranging tours.” She giggled. “So I’m told. But even a mongrel can’t be fooled forever. We’ve got to hurry and break orbit.”
Light-headed and queasy-stomached again, Fynn allowed her to tow him along. He wasn’t convinced, even as they cruised past the steel pods reflecting glints of LEDs. What about school? What about his father’s instructions? It was too much to believe on his sister’s word.
“Look, there’s Dad.” She slapped a pod to hurry into several crossing beams of light.
The tightness in Fynn’s chest became painful. Why hadn’t Dad told him any of this?
Their father waved a thin arm, his khaki sleeve flapping. Other figures in white coveralls floated below him next to rings of pods slotted open from end to end under narrow spotlights. They were medics from the Kin’s own clinic, and one of them snagged Maliah.
“Maliah Rupar? Fynn Rupar? If you’d take your shirts off, please.” She was only a few years older than Fynn, had been in the Kin’s school barracks with them, and certainly knew who they were, so he ignored her question. After a lifetime of training, however, he followed instructions automatically and pulled his sweatshirt over his head. His brand-new, cardinal red sweatshirt with engineering stenciled down one arm.
When he pulled himself around to face his father, he was looking in a mirror. They’d both inherited sharp black eyes and dark skin from the Indus Valley. A smile spread over his father’s broad face, however, while Fynn bit his lip. “Maliah says we’re going to Titan.”
Dad gripped the closest pod and clapped him on the shoulder. “That’s right. We’ll have a world all our own to conquer. It’s the greatest challenge in human history.”
The medic frowned. “Chief Engineer Rupar, I must insist we proceed.”
Fynn hugged himself with one arm, secured by the medic’s grip on his other side. “What about our plans? You want me to get a doctorate, and I’ve worked hard.” Angry words flashed through his mind, tangling his tongue. But he adored his father and, since childhood, wanted to please him. “Why didn’t you tell me? Ow!”
The medic had pressed an injector against his arm.
His father’s smile flattened. “I’m sorry for the deception. You have a right to be angry. But we had no choice. Our secret was hard enough to keep, and you were leaving for university. Now, what you learned there qualifies you to be on my team, to get this colony up and running.”
Fynn’s throat closed around his protests. To work with his father, who’d spent so much time away from home, was something he’d always wanted.
“I’ll be on the surface when you wake up. We can talk then. Right now, I must apologize to your mother.”
Passengers from the space plane approached, floating or clutching handholds, some with faces full of confusion, others glistening as tears crawled across their cheeks in zero-g. Graceful and athletic, their mother was at the front of the crowd. Maliah got there first to greet her.
There was a lot of Mom in Maliah. His sister’s face had more color and her hair was golden rather than pale blond, but she resembled their mother while Fynn did not. A few dark Indian faces stared out from the crowd behind them, and even fewer with the Asian heritage Kin termed Samurai. Most showed the pale coloring of his mother’s Viking ancestors.
Mom waved to him from inside Maliah’s arms. Her face was ashen. She hadn’t known. He wasn’t the only one who didn’t share his father’s secret.
The medic slid a half-mask over Fynn’s head and he jerked his attention back to her. “If you don’t want to drown in stasis fluid,” she said, “this mask must fit tightly.”
“Stasis?” Fynn understood the open pod for the first time. The inside was smooth with a half-dozen slender tubes floating along the walls. It would be a tight fit. “I can’t get in that thing. Is stasis even approved for human use?”
“There’s no way to accommodate over four hundred people on an eighteen-month flight without it. Now, don’t worry. Stasis development is well advanced, and we won’t seal you inside until you’re asleep.”
The medic continued talking about aerosols in the breathing air and modified metabolism rates. Fynn knew he should be terrified, but his pounding heart slowed as a sense of contentment spread through his chest and warmed his face. He wanted to ask what was in the injection, but his tongue refused to respond, and he drifted into a dreamless sleep.