Throughout the month of April, I’m featuring fellow eXtasy Books/Devine Destinies authors. In the interview chair for today is author Fiona Lehn who writes for the imprint Devine Destinies. She’s here to talk about her latest release Lift-Off, a science fiction romance.
Fiona Lehn on Writing:
1. First, what’s your favourite scene in the book? Not in regards to writing, but reading, and why?
Fiona: As a reader, one of my favourite scenes in the book is the one in which the legendary rock star Saph Diamond rehearses a new song with his band. Saph Diamond is a 60-something-year-old gay man who has had enormous success for decades through his music. He has all the aches and pains of a person his age who has lived a hard rock and roll lifestyle, as well as the aches and pains of a person who grew up gay in a het-dominant culture to boot. Yet when he starts to play, he feels none of that pain, he loses himself in the music, in the wild rhythmic sensations of dramatic, emotional rock music, and the reader loses herself/himself in the music too.
2. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Fiona: I would change nothing. I love this story. It’s a bunch of fun, romance, and human spirit all rolled into a fast-moving episodic tale. It speaks to adults of all ages, reminds readers of their childhood dreams, and inspires adults to continue dreaming.
3. Share a “side story” about the characters.
Fiona: There are several side stories, actually, as this is a tale told through many characters’ points of view, in many episodes, leading up to the great spaceliner launch. Two of the characters get trapped in a methane factory and search for a free space cruise ticket there. One character has a free ticket but lands in jail. And a veteran astronaut who’s never been to space uncovers a spaceliner sabotage plot.
4. If you could spend time with one character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Fiona: I’d like to spend time with Roche, the captain of the spaceliner Quicksilver. She is a trained astronaut, and I would LOVE to meet her (or any seasoned astronaut, really), and hang out with her all day, try out her anti-gravity training modules, view some of her personal photos taken while on the International Space Station, and just talk about her experiences in space. That would be a wonderful day!
5. Did the characters hijack the story or did you feel like you had control of your book?
Fiona: When I’m writing, really writing a character, I don’t have control. It may sound kinda woo-woo, but writing well is kinda like what I imagine channeling a spirit to be. I start to think like the character and the words, actions, and thoughts of that character just flow onto the page. When I reread something and think it’s perfect yet I don’t remember writing it, then I know I’m writing well, without control.
6. How did you come up with the title for your book?
Fiona: Originally I wanted to call the novella “All Aboard!” because the story is about all these people trying to get what they want, and several of them want to get on the spaceliner before it launches. But then I realized that everything revolves around the spaceliner launch, the entire book counts down to that one moment when the spaceliner lifts off from Earth, so “Lift-Off” was the natural title all along.
7. If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the leads?
Fiona: Funny you should ask, because I originally wrote this story as a screenplay and wanted to get it made into a movie. But I had some trouble with my health and never figured out how to sell it as a screenplay, so I just picked away at it for a while, adding more detail and fleshing characters out, and it became a novella instead. Whoopi Goldberg or Oprah to play Gma. I’d want Bellamy from Muse to play Saph Diamond, but he’s too young for the part, so I’d say Sting. Tatiana Maslany as Captain Roche. Mindy Kaling as Kandy the newscaster. Storm Reid as Nell the genius.
8. If your book was a candle, what scent would it be and why?
Fiona: It would be Amber, because it’s heart-warming, a little sexy, musky, rich, and spiritual. Amber is also used for healing, and my book is a balm for anyone who is feeling down, under the weather, unloved, or isolated.
9. If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Fiona: It would be a song I wrote called “Be Mine”. (You can hear parts of the song on my book trailer, actually. It’s one of Saph Diamond’s songs, but I’m singing it on the book trailer demo.) Some of the lyrics to the song are featured in the story.
10. If your book was a colour, what would it be and why?
Fiona: It would be Amber! For all the reasons I stated above–it’s warm, rich, and healing.
11. What did you edit out of the book?
Fiona: I edited a full storyline out of the book. It was a storyline about someone who is extremely debilitated by ME/CFS and has very low quality of life, and she wants to go on the space cruise but doesn’t have the money. (I won’t give away any spoilers, just in case this storyline winds up in a sequel or something.) I ended up cutting it because the book was complete and felt I couldn’t do this last storyline justice while keeping the book at novella length.
12. What can we expect from you in the future?
Fiona: My first speculative, romantic novel has just come out. It’s called Transformation Junkies, and Wicked Publishing released it last month. The story follows the paths of two women who will stop at nothing in their quests for love and satisfaction.
All About Fiona Lehn:
1. What is something unique/quirky about you?
Fiona: I like puns. Anything punny, I’m all over that. I also like slapstick humor. If I see someone fall on their face, I laugh before I help them up. It’s a terrible trait, but that’s what amuses me, it seems. Also, I have ME/CFS, which is a disease that causes mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, and cognitive issues, so my energy is very limited and my brain doesn’t work that great. There is no cure, and lots of people have this disease, but few people talk about it. I talk about it, so that’s something unique about me.
2. What are some of your pet peeves?
Fiona: My pet peeves are similar to Nell’s pet peeves in Lift-Off. Paparazzi. Housing costs. Not being able to afford a phone. Hospital visiting hours being limited. Stuff like that.
3. Where were you born/grew up at?
Fiona: I was born and raised in Stockton, California.
4. Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Fiona: Creative punny artist serves felines.
5. Who is your hero and why?
Fiona: One of my writer heroes is Octavia Butler. She was an African American woman who wrote science fiction at a time when women, much less African American women, were not very accepted or respected in that field. And she won Hugo and Nebula Awards for her writing. And she wrote amazing stories that fed me and shaped me as a writer. I never got to meet her, but I am forever grateful to her, her amazing talent, and her voice.
Fiona Lehn on Reading:
1. What book do you think everyone should read?
Fiona: Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower.
2. What do you think about the current publishing market?
Fiona: I think it’s great that there are so many kind of medium-tier publishers now putting out quality writing. It used to be just the big, top tier corporate publishers, and no one else could get published unless they self-published. But these smaller, niche market publishers are doing great work, and I’m pleased to have the chance to publish with them, and to get to read stuff that otherwise would’ve been lost in the noise made by just the top tier publishers.
3. If you could have been the author of any of your fave books that you’ve read, which book would you choose and why?
Fiona: Suzy McKee Charnas’ novella Listening to Brahms. What a masterpiece.
4. Share your favourite character from a book that you’ve read, and why they are your fave.
Fiona: Hrm–so many to choose from. I really like the protagonist from Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Genly Ai. Genly Ai is confronted with a culture that has a very different take on gender from our culture in 1969, when the book was published, and even now. I really enjoy Genly Ai’s mishaps and journey as he figures out life in a “genderless” world.
5. On average, how much do you read every week?
Fiona: Alas, I read very little since getting ME/CFS, which makes it very hard for me to focus on the page. Pre-ME/CFS, I used to read at least 10 hours per week.
Author(s): Fiona Lehn
Genre(s): Science Fiction romance
Heat Rating: 1 Flame
Publication Date: December 2019
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Book Length: 178 Pages
The lives of several couples and singles intertwine as they struggle to keep their relationships and careers on track. Set during the hectic three days leading up to the world’s first tourist space cruise launch on New Year’s Eve in White Rock, British Columbia.
Blurb: The world’s first tourist space cruise launches from the International Spaceport in White Rock, British Columbia, on New Year’s Eve. One hundred free cruise tickets are hidden all over North America. You have three days left to find one. Would you…
Break and enter? Risk a billion-dollar inheritance? Betray the love of your life?
It’s a random universe. While millions around the globe celebrate the Quicksilver spaceliner’s impending launch, a handful of our heroes struggle to achieve their stellar dreams.
One of them is a methane heiress desperate for a free ticket. Another is a newscaster digging for a killer scoop. And another is a veteran astronaut who’s never been in space.
There are more. Tween twins attempt a secret mission, a star is almost born, and everyone is trying to get to the launch before the Quicksilver—you know—launches.
A lot can happen in a random universe. Do-gooders become saboteurs, cowards muster courage, and loners find love. Who will crash and who will soar? The clock is counting down to one moment that will change everything: Lift-Off!
“Some people believe that space is humanity’s destiny,” Mercury said, leaning ever closer to Kembly’s handheld microphone, “the next in a line of horizons that never ends.”
“Dammit!” Zoom leafed through the tech modules hanging from his belt and cranked up the compression ratio on Kembly’s handheld. “Kembly.” Zoom spoke into the microphone that connected to her earcomm, “Kembly, if Mercury eats any more of that mic, the audio will distort and Station Manager will reassign us to Cartoon Hour. Back him off!”
Up on the News10 location stage, several yards from where Zoom stood with camera rolling, Kembly inched her handheld away from Mercury. “Subtle,” Zoom said. “Nice work.”
Unfortunately, Mercury’s mouth followed. “Others maintain that space is a pipe dream, future music, abandonment of the home world, or a financial black hole.”
Zoom cursed and re-adjusted the compressor settings. Though lacking in mic technique, the guy sure knew how to work a crowd. Kandy Kembly, a veteran newscaster who could command the undivided attention of a two-year-old for hours, had dwindled to mere eye candy in this interview, while Mercury posed, poised like a superhero on the News10 stage—hands on hips, chin raised, gaze sweeping the sky above Semiahmoo Bay. His shoulder muscles rippled under the thin fabric of his t-shirt—who wore a t-shirt in December in Canada? And it was at least two sizes too small, probably on purpose. “All this guy needs is a cape,” Zoom muttered. “I’ll be wiping blobs of charisma off Kembly’s handheld for days after this.”
“Cut to aerial,” the station crew chief’s voice crackled in Zoom’s earcomm, “in three, two, one.” The station crew cut from Zoom’s live feed to the News10 drone-cam hovering above him, bird’s-eyeing the audience and the stage at the north end of the pier, or what used to be a pier. Widened, reinforced, and extended, the hundred-year-old promenade now served as the primary thoroughfare from the mainland to the International Spaceport nearly three miles offshore.
The drone skittered fifteen-hundred feet south along the old structure to the point where the pier extension jutted southwest and the no-fly zone began. It then veered to the western rim of the bay and lingered there, buffeted by the wind coming off the Georgia Straight, vying for a clear distance shot of the spaceport’s bulbous domes and flat launch pads, which never failed to remind Zoom of a giant water hyacinth.
“Some see romance in the stars,” Mercury said, as voice-over. “Some see a welcome release.”
When the station crew cut back to Zoom’s live feed, he was capturing Mercury’s chiseled cheekbones and sun-burnished visage in a tight close-up. Slowly, Zoom widened the frame until it again included Kembly and a background of cerulean sky.
“I say venturing into space is the greatest manifestation of the human spirit yet, and I can prove it.” Mercury stamped his foot dramatically, and the portable stage shuddered. “I will prove it—in three days, at midnight UTC, on New Year’s Eve!”
“We’re about out of time,” said Kembly, regaining control of the handheld. “Could you briefly tell us why you decided to launch that day?”
“Love to.” Mercury smiled. “The New Year has long symbolized rebirth, a chance to start again, to live a better life. My space cruise leads us into a new, enriched era of unification, here on Earth and in our entire universe.”
Fans cheered and pressed against the temporary fencing at the foot of the stage.
“Thank you for your time today, Mr. Mercury,” Kembly said. “You must be incredibly busy, preparing for the imminent launch of the Quicksilver.”
“Yes, I’m universally occupied, you could say, ha ha!”
“Aces. Wrap it up.” Zoom directed via her earcomm. “I’m panning away in ten.”
When Kembly reached out to shake, Mercury tugged her glove off, bowed, and brushed a kiss across the back of her hand, all in one fluid movement. He was some smooth operator.
“My, you’re gracious,” Kembly said. “It’s been a pleasure. Let’s hear it for Mr. Herm Mercury, everyone—CEO and founder of Mercury Spaceliner corp, and the genius behind what is going to be the first tourist space cruise in history! Mercury Spaceliner corp—stellar tours of the future, today.”
“…three, two, one—adverts are rolling, and I am puking,” Zoom said into Kembly’s earcomm. “He kissed your hand?” And Mercury was still holding it. The guy had confidence in spades.
Mercury drew close to Kembly and whispered, “If you need anything more, please don’t hesitate to ask. I will move mountains to make myself available to you.”
Although Kembly had switched off her handheld mic, Zoom caught it all, loud and clear, via her earcomm.
She nodded. Mercury released both hand and glove and descended the back stage steps with the grace of a jungle cat.
“What was that?” Zoom asked. “You suppose he’s your ticket onto the Quicksilver?”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Jealous of what? Not everyone is after your body, Kembly.” Sure, he’d asked her out when they first started working together last year, but he had been a starstruck neophyte then. Her radiant copper-colored skin and her long wavy black hair had spellbound him at first. Not anymore. “Mercury’s ex-military,” said Zoom, “did five tours on bomb squad, he’s divorced, probably abuses alcohol or, I don’t know, chimps—”
“He’s from a poor village in Mexico,” Kembly countered, “a single father of two who has, before the age of forty, made his dreams—and millions of others’ dreams—come true. What a bad guy.”
“Not my dreams,” said Zoom, feeling angry about that and not knowing why. He leaned against the pier railing and tried to relax. An icy wind assailed his faux-hawk as if trying to burrow through it. “K-pop hair,” his father called it. His father didn’t approve of the dramatic or the modern. He liked tradition and was always touting things like predictable roles, predictable people or minimize risk, minimize loss. Zoom had always agreed with his father on that. It seemed like a smart way to live, but today, with the pushy wind, the dire scent of the ocean, and the barely restrained energy of fanatics around him, Zoom wasn’t so certain.
The station’s signal blared from his headset. Zoom gave notice. “I need you with the crowd in ninety seconds, Kembly, and this time, no flirting with the interview subjects.”
Little is known about reclusive writer Fiona Lehn, but legends abound. Some claim she emerged from her mother’s womb singing “We Are the Champions,” a half-written story clenched in her angry fists. Many believe she is serving life without parole for leading an Ottawa sit-in demanding that cloudberries be made one of the four food groups. Others tell that Lehn daily frolics with Sasquatch in glacier-fed slipstreams. Still more assert that Lehn will only answer to “Hermit FiFi” and wields a bedazzled staff like a weapon, fending off house-size mosquitoes and meteorites with a single blow.
All we really know is this: Lehn lives in Canada, has ME/CFS, and lovingly serves a Feline in perpetuity. Her songs have earned the praise of Billboard magazine, and she is a Writers of the Future winner. Visit fb.me/FiFiHermitage.