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, Stephen B. Pearl – Stephen is an ex-lifeguard, mystic, science enthusiast, home handyman, backyard mechanic, and writer. The face he wears changes with the company he keeps.
His cats know him as pride alpha. Servant might be more accurate. The many cats he has lived with over the years have factored heavily in creating the Felinezoid species in his Switchboard universe where the Freedom Saga, Cloning Freedom December 2020 Freedom’s Law December 2021, More to come, takes place.
Stephen’s books range from Paranormal, Nukekubi, Worlds Apart and The Hollow Curse to Science fiction, Tinker’s Plague, Tinkers Sea, War of the Worlds 2030, Cats, Slaves of Love, and Cloning Freedom as well as historical fantasy the Bastard Prince Saga, Horn of the Kraken and coming soon, The Mistletoe Spear.
Stephen likes to weave real science, history, mythology and romantic sub-plots into his work. Stories of people being empowered by love where the power and security of love allows them to triumph in other areas always appeal to him. Mushy heat felt sighs and teenaged romanticism are a sure turn-off.
Stephen currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with four cats and his wife of over thirty years.
Thanks so much, Stephen, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
Stephen B. Pearl: I don’t use one. I figure I’m putting in the effort so I will take the credit. I understand why some people prefer to draw a line between themselves and their writing. A lot of my work reflects a Pagan sensibility. I’ve been out of the broom closet for most of my life. So I can understand why some people choose to shield themselves from the idiots in the world, but I’m not wired that way. I’m more the chew them up and spit them out, Never again the burning, mentality.
Of course, since some of what I write is romance, I have debated on going under the name of Pearl Stevens on occasion. Frankly, it’s too complicated, and in the modern market, it doesn’t make much difference. This is especially true since the romantic elements of my work are blended with other solid points of conflict. Such as in Cloning Freedom, my latest, where romance is one of the protagonists’ motivations, but only one of a mix of pushes and pulls that spur them to action.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
S.B.P.: Yes. I’ll go over the good ones when I’m feeling low. Generally, I skim the bad ones if they have constructive criticism, a rarity, I try to fix the flaws in my later books. If it is just a matter of taste, heck, not all books are for all people, I move on no hard feelings. The only reviews that have stuck in my craw were ones that left me asking, ‘did this person even read my book.’ Those bug me, for a moment, then I move on, shaking my head, with a much-lowered opinion of the person who did the review. The truth of the writing industry is, if you don’t have a thick skin, you better develop one because between rejections and other people’s opinions it will grind you down if you let it.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
S.B.P.: Six months to a year, depending on complexity and distractions. Of course, this has become much harder to answer because I’m currently juggling several projects. So I’ll lay in bed world-building one book, get up and have a coffee as I edit another, have lunch and work on the rough draft of a third, then do the shopping and write something like an Author spotlight. 😉 It’s not my preferred mode of working, but at least it’s interesting.
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
S.B.P.: I run the gambit for speculative fiction. This isn’t that hard because I have a few pillars that bring the genera together.
One, writing is about the human condition. It doesn’t matter if you are a clone in a distant future or a child of the Norse Gods in Aethelstan’s kingdom in the 900s. If you are being oppressed, you are being oppressed. The human condition evolves in circles as such you find the common threads and use them.
Everyone has to eat, sleep, drink, breath, and go to the bathroom. These needs will underlay all human societies forcing similarities on them.
Tech is tech and must fulfil the needs of its creators. Most change is a matter of scale and technique. For example, the village is on one side of the river, the quarry the people work at on the other. A ferry service is devised to cross the river morning and evening. You live on one side of the city but work on the other. You take the subway to and from work five days a week. You live on the western content, but the set region, where you work, is on the eastern content. You take the intercontinental mag lev three times a week to your job and back, and so on.
When dealing with ‘Magic’ one just has to understand it well enough to see it as a branch of natural science and treat it as such, with rules, limitations and yet to be discovered principles.
In the end, storytelling is storytelling. A good writer touches the heart of their audience and plays it like a banjo no matter the genera.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in Cloning Freedom, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
S.B.P.: My first goal is always to entertain. The first job of a work of fiction is to entertain, if it can educate and or inspire after that, it may transit from good to great, but without that foundation of entertainment, a work of fiction is a failure.
That said, in Cloning Freedom, I wanted to explore slavery and bigotry and the cyclic nature of human society on this issue.
It seems we are always looking for someone to point a finger at and say you are less than me, or equally as bad, you are the source of all my problems. The state capitalizes on this to throw up a smokescreen that blinds the population to the affronts their leaders perform. It also uses that belief to divide the people, because together we are strong but divided, they dissipate our energies against one another, and we are easily exploited. This goes for everybody regardless of race, creed, background, sexual orientation, culture, nationality extra. When the common people see all as people, then we are collectively too strong to dominate. So one of my intentions was to explore this issue.
Another intention was to take a hard look at what it would be like for humans to join an interstellar republic. Let’s face it, if your best warship is a rowboat armed with a crossbow and the other guy has a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with nuclear first strike capacity, you aren’t exactly dealing on an even playing field.
I think I pulled these off while living up to the first rule of being entertaining.
My goals in any book are twofold. First to entertain, second, if I can make someone think. If my reader goes to bed at night and mulls over what they have read, maybe seeing the world a hair differently than they did before, then for me, my goal has been achieved.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing Cloning Freedom?
S.B.P.: Keeping details of culture and law straight in my head.
First, there is the Galactic Republic, a very narrow mandate with draconian laws administered by a council of the member species. And, as you’ll see in Freedom’s Law, coming December 2021, a rather unique court system. What area’s do they govern? What issues would, let’s say, an oxygen breather from a small, rocky world have in common with a hydrogen breather from a gas giant? By necessity, the laws would be more set up for dealing with interspecies issues, so how would they deal with an individual? How would they enforce the laws at this level?
Then there is the species level of government. What would matter to a methane breathing species that resembles a clam? What things would the differing environments and biologies make important to the various intelligent species in the republic? Could there be common ground between humans and coelenteratezoids, that are hydrogen breathers superficially resembling jellyfish?
Then the planetary level of government. How would the needs of a human colony world differ from Earth? Repeat this with each of the republic member species.
Then, of course, you have local government for things like noise complaints and the like.
JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?
S.B.P.: “So how about it, guys. This one is in your ballpark.” The author grins sheepishly as he mentally creates a room with a love seat and two lounging chairs. Taking a seat in one of the lounging chairs he watches his guests.
“Oh, you’re really going to let us talk, are you?” Rowan rolls her eyes in exasperation her pretty features pulled into an annoyed expression from her place on the love seat..
“Row, he’s giving us a chance. He could have skipped the question.” Ryan reaches beside him and takes Rowan’s pale hand in his more copper toned one.
Rowan jerks her had away, tosses her short, dark hair in an angry gesture and practically catapults her slender muscular form in its light sun dress out of her seat and points an accusatory finger at Ryan. “Stardust, how dare you make excuses for him. I will not quietly accept being treated as a slave! No way no how!”
Rowen glowers down at the author her blue eyes like two pieces of ice. “You really want an answer, mister smart author. Okay, here’s your answer. You’re a nova blasted jerk. I spent my life up to about a sixth of the way through your book as an e-entertainment surrogate. My ‘adventures’ sure weren’t anything you’d really want to go through. Worst of all, I never knew any of it until Ryan liberated me. I thought I was in 2015 CE fighting alien pirates who were trying to take over the Earth, but no, its hundreds of years after man made contact with aliens and joined the Interstellar republic.”
“Stephen did give us life, Row.” Ryan shrugs with an apologetic smile spreading across his handsome face as he turns to the author. “She gets a bit agitated about subjugation.”
“Call it what it is. Slavery! Plane and simple. Well, maybe not so much in the book overall since we’re splitters of Stephen’s thought processes, but E-entertainment surrogates are slaves, and the way he set up the human society to treat medical clones like dirt. You’ve got to ask, what kind of man makes a human society rife with bigotry and oppression?”
Ryan rubs one lean muscular arm with the other sighing resignedly. “Maybe someone who knows a little bit about real history that’s trying to entertain an audience and get them to think about issues in his real world in a new light. You have to look at is from his perspective, Love.”
Rowan bites her lip and blushes. “Oh, alright. I guess I can see that, but he’s still a jerk.”
“Sweetness, you’re him, at least a piece of him. It’s like segmented ram. You set one segment to a task like gently tickling my sexy crewmates with a feather while another licks gently over–.”
“Henry, enough!” Ryan and Rowan shout in unison at the head torso and one arm of a scorched android that once had skin the colour of black coffee occupying the remaining lounger.
“Gods I wish you’d let me adjust the run time on your sex drive,” grumbled Ryan.
“No way no how. Bad enough you won’t play with me, sexy captain mine.” A leer filled the unburnt side of Henry’s face.
“I did give you each other,” Stephen half whispers.
“He did do that much.” Rowan takes Ryan’s hands in her own and stares into his face smiling. Ryan stares back as if she means the universe to him.
“I guess we can live with that,” said Ryan.
“You betcha there, mister.” Rowan pulls Ryan in for a kiss.
The author fades to black granting them their privacy.
JSC: What’s your core motivation in this book?
S.B.P.: “Ryan and Rowan are busy. Boy, are they busy. Hubba Hubba, so I’ll go first. You know author man you are kinda cute, maybe we–.” The come hither look on Henry’s ruined face was more macabre than anything else.
“No. Henry no! Keep in mind, I have the power to adjust your programing. One paragraph and you could be simulating a worker unit in a clamzoid collective. Now answer the question.”
“Spoilsport! I’d have to say my core motivation is to not end up dead, deactivated, again. Oh, and to get my hips back. Getting blown up really put a crimp in my sex life.”
Ryan rushes in doing up the zipper on his service coveralls. “Sorry about that. Got a little preoccupied.
“Don’t blame you a bit,” said the Author.
Ryan smiles and blushes crimson as he sits in the love seat.
“Lucky snot. Why the biologic gets the hotty when plastic never goes soft,” observed Henry.
“Ignore him. So what’s your motivation, Ryan?” The author notes the dishevelled condition of Ryan’s hair and gives him a moment to comb it.
Ryan nods. “I want a real life where being a clone doesn’t matter. Where I’m judged for what I do not because I had a medical procedure after my first body died as I was doing my duty to my species. And I want Rowan at my side. Living and loving, being whole and free.
Rowan steps into the room and moves to Ryan’s side taking her seat. “Ditto for me. At a personal level, I want to live. I want to have a full life where my free will matters. At another level, I want an end to oppression. I want my family and friends from the set region freed and an end to e-entertainments.”
“With you there,” added Ryan.
JSC: Are you happy with where your writer left you at the end? (don’t give us any spoilers).
S.B.P.: “I want my hips back, among other things.” Henry directed a sultry look towards all in the room then focused on Ryan.
“I’ll get it done when I can afford the parts and get a dedicated computer system for the Star Hawk. Divine, I wish you’d stop whining about it.” Ryan than focused on the room in general. “I can’t complain, but it’s a tricky question. At the end of the first book I’m in a really good place, at the end of the second, I’ve got some pretty major personal issues to deal with.”
“You aren’t alone, my captain. I’ll be there for you one way or another.” Rowan smiles, and it lights up the room. “Me, I’m in a good place for both pauses. Miles to go but looking up. Maybe the author isn’t a complete jerk.” Rowan walks over and kisses the author’s cheek leaving him wordless with a bemused smile.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
S.B.P.: Kill – John, from Cloning Freedom, he is the quintessential middle manager risen well above his level of incompetence. He thinks he is great and bullies’ people while having no moral worth. His over-inflated view of himself causes him to treat all those below him in the corporate hierarchy like dirt. To say I hate the character would be to give him too much power. I simply think the world would be better off without him and his ilk.
Fuck – Cathy from the Chronicles of Ray McAndrues- book one Nukekubi – Gorgeous redhead exotic dancer with magnificent green eyes doing a doctorate in psychology. Deeply caring, sexy without trying to be, warm, a little emotionally screwed up which is why she got edged out for the next spot. Overall, a truly desirable woman inside and out. Plus, given her moral outlook, you have to figure she knows what she is doing in bed.
Marry – Rowan from Cloning Freedom – Heart as big as a planet, intelligent, gentle, kind, sweet, a little stubborn with a tendency to jump to conclusions but later thinks about it and will admit she is wrong and apologize. Understands loss and pain because she’s experienced both. Slender, athletic, swimmers’ body, brunet with large blue eyes. Here is a woman to spend a life of loving, laughing and learning with. As Ryan has concluded.
Thanks for having me on this spotlight Scott and thanks to the readers for reading. May happiness mark your days one and all.
And now for Stephen’s new book: Cloning Freedom:
In the early 21st century, Rowan is fighting a secret war against alien pirates bent on subjugating all of mankind.
At least, that’s what she thinks. In reality, it’s a thousand years later, Earth has long been part of an interstellar and interspecies republic, and she’s a character on Angel Black, an e-entertainment that allows viewers a complete sensory experience through her perspective. Who needs actors when you can clone famous performers and splice in some alien DNA? Since studio clones have no rights, their lives and experiences can be tailor-made for the program.
It’s just too bad the clones don’t know that.
Ryan Chandler was a decorated war hero until he was cloned to save his life. His career options died with his original body, and the best job he can get is a technician on Angel Black. He’s planning to escape to a newly colonized system when Rowan is scheduled to be killed off.
With help from unexpected allies, Ryan stages Rowan’s rescue, but getting her off the set is only the beginning. To succeed, they must evade a manhunt supported by the state that fears Rowan’s liberation might be the triggering event of a clone rights movement that could cost the establishment billions and shake the foundations of human society.
Can two clones find their freedom in a society that treats them as second-class citizens?
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Mildred sighed before speaking. “Clones are a political hot potato. Humans Ascendant are dead against them. The polls show that at least thirty per cent of the human population is in favour of passing anti-discrimination legislation regarding the medical treatment variety. All it would take to galvanise the pro-clone faction into forming lobby groups would be a rallying point.”
Tansy smiled. “Something like a story about two star-crossed lovers, one an ex war-hero cloned after taking a dose of radiation in the line of duty, the other a pretty, popular studio clone? He liberates her just before the show’s producer was going to kill her off. I admit, it appeals to the romantic in me.”
Chow gazed at Tansy. A faint blush had come to her cheeks, and her voice was soft and sultry. A shudder ran up his spine, and he fiddled with his scrambled eggs to try and distract himself.
Mildred scanned the table. Most heads were nodding in agreement with Tansy’s words. Mildred tried to sound reasonable. “Romance is all very nice, but we could be sitting on a new political schism here. This situation is a disaster waiting to happen. Humans Ascendant won’t go down without a fight. Their fringe elements have already assassinated prominent clones. If they think they’re going to lose ground, there’s no telling what they’ll do. They could bomb the studio, attack hospitals, assassinate doctors who offer cloning services. The fanatical Right to Death element would do anything to keep the upper hand.
“Then there’s the pro-clone fraction. How much would they demand, would they try and shut down the studio? Restrict cloning to medical and fertility uses? It’s the thin edge of the wedge.”
“Pshaw.” Tansy’s voice was like satin. “Medical clones are people; you can’t seriously debate otherwise. It’s a medical treatment, like any other. They should have full rights under the law. I’d go so far as to say they shouldn’t have to declare their status to anyone they choose not to. As to studio clones, maybe we’d be better off without e-entertainments. People have become so lazy they can’t even be bothered to feel for themselves.”
“The upheaval this schism could cause would be very damaging.” Mildred glared at Tansy.
“You obviously aren’t a student of history. Upheaval is inevitable and cyclic in human affairs. Power structures rise, peak and fall. Upheavals are the death throes and birth pains of empires. The only true constant is change, a steady evolution towards new forms. Laws that seek to treat clones with respect and dignity are inevitable. The change can either happen slowly, in a controlled fashion, granting greater protections and liberties to the clones over time until they are on par with the rest of the population. Or it can happen violently, explosively, destroying institutions and forms that need not be destroyed, increasing the suffering of the members of society as a whole. If the existent power structure tries to hold it back, the latter will be the case. This is the lesson of human history, Major.”
“It’s not our place to make policy.” Mildred looked around the table. People’s expressions told her that Tansy had taken the day. She focused on Chow. The lieutenant wore an expression of dog-like devotion. ‘She could read Mary had a little lamb, and he’d call it great literature… Men!’ thought Mildred.
“I never said it was. I’m an officer; I obey orders. That does not preclude me holding my own opinions.” Tansy tapped her coffee cup and said, “Please.” A purser standing by the kitchen door rushed to refill the cup. Tansy smiled at the purser. “Thank you.” She took a sip of her coffee.
“You are setting policy by not pursuing Chandler to the best of your abilities,” complained Mildred.
“What do you think I should do that I haven’t?”
“We’re accelerating at a snail’s pace. Chandler will reach the stargate ahead of us, then we’ll have lost him.”
Tansy dabbed the corners of her mouth with a napkin. Mildred heard a sharp intake of breath and realized that Chow wasn’t the only male at the table Tansy had an effect on.
Tansy smiled. “I’m not going to race ahead while our scanners are damaged. We could easily miss signs that would point us toward the Star Hawk.”
“He could run while you fix them.”
“Major, Captain Chandler has no way of knowing how extensive the damage to our systems is. By accelerating slowly, I give the impression that we are scanning the space around us. That forces him to accelerate slowly to avoid detection.
“You see, most people in his situation would make a run for the stargate. It would be a panic move. We can easily outrun a Hawk. He knows this and knows that I know it. He’s better than that. He’ll expect me to look for him, hoping he invalidates his stealth. This expectation forces him to be too cautious and prevents him gaining a lead while our scanners are still damaged.”
“Boxes within boxes, Captain. I see your point and apologise,” said Mildred, a note of respect in her voice.
Tansy smiled. “You see, Major, I don’t have to agree with an order to carry it out. I look at it as a challenge against a worthy opponent, and I hate to lose.”
Author and Buy Links
Stephen B. Pearl: www.stephenpearl.com
Brain Lag Stephen B. Pearl: http://www.brain-lag.com/stephenbpearl.php
Brain Lag Cloning Freedom: http://www.brain-lag.com/books/cloning-freedom.php
Stephen B. Pearl on Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/stephenpearl
Cloning Freedom Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08GQGJD5H/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0
Cloning Freedom Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Cloning-Freedom-Stephen-B-Pearl/dp/1928011438
Cloning Freedom Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/cloning-freedom/9781928011439-item.html
Cloning Freedom Kobo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/cloning-freedom/9781928011446-item.html
Cloning Freedom Booksmith: https://www.brooklinebooksmith.com/book/9781928011453
Cloning Freedom Barns and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cloning-freedom-stephen-b-pearl/1137546300
Booktopia (epub): Cloning Freedom