Interview: Cindy Koepp


At Readers’ Realm we believe that writers must first be readers. Do you enjoy reading?

I do indeed. I read all kinds of stuff. My favorites are Christian science fiction and fantasy, although I’m a bit picky about my fantasy. I also get a real kick out of mysteries, adventures, westerns, historical, nonfiction when I’m doing research … just about any genre except romance. I’m not a romance fan because the otherwise interesting story gets interrupted by the reproductive biology lessons typically involving adults who aren’t married to each other.

Who are your favorite authors, and what makes them special to you?

Oh, let’s see…
Gordon Dickson. I enjoyed the way the various books of the Childe Cycle intertwined.
Bruce Hale. The Chet Gecko series is hilarious.
Jude Watson. I liked the characterization in the Jedi Apprentice series.
Ellis Peters. The Medieval era has always interested me, so the Cadfael mysteries are fabulous.

When did you decide you wanted to write?

There’s a strangely tough question. My mom has stories packed away that I wrote in second grade. I don’t remember that far back. The earliest I remember is in junior high. A couple friends and I were big into X-Men comics, and we made up our own adventures. I translated those adventures onto paper and later came up with additional ones on my own. Eventually, I detoured away from the X-Men and started coming up with my own brilliant ideas.

If you go all the way back to the stories my mom has in a box somewhere, that’d be 33 years. If you count just the time I’ve been trying to publish something, that’d be 25 years. My first efforts were in high school with a story called “The Vortex.” It was never published, although one magazine did show some interest in it.

Can you tell us what you believe has had the greatest influence on your writing?

People, and many of them have been non-writers like my junior high chums who encouraged me to write our X-Men adventures. Later on, friends read earlier drafts and made suggestions of things they didn’t get in the story. Later yet, my critique partners not only told me what did or didn’t work, but also helped me figure out ways to fix what didn’t. Most recently, my editor pointed out specific issues with Remnant in the Stars and suggested ways to improve.

Did you do any special research?

Oh, yes, lots of research goes into each one. Sometimes the research is something I’ve done well beforehand because the subject interested me. Then that information came in handy while I was writing the tale. Sometimes, I got into the story and discovered I needed to understand something and had to stop and go look it up.

For Remnant in the Stars, I had to know star types, aircraft flight physics, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and aerial dogfighting maneuvers.

For Lines of Succession, I needed to understand two types of Renaissance rapier combat, herbal medicine of the Renaissance, how to load and fire a flintlock, peerage ranks particularly in England and Russia, bird flight physics, and Renaissance cultures.

The weirdest thing I’ve had to research for a book so far has been the construction of copper mines in Michigan. The idea of a shaft running down quite a distance turned out to be pivotal in one part of a novel.

Cool. So you mostly write SciFi/Fantasy. What made you choose that genre?

I usually stick with those genres because I’m both a science nerd and a history nut, although I’m more interested in cultures and what daily life was like than dates and specific persons.

I also tend to get some pretty wild ideas in my head, so science fiction and fantasy allow me to incorporate both my fascination with science or history and the wild ideas.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Remnant in the Stars started as a role-playing game. I wrote the story out and filled in the holes to have a complete short story. Then I came up with three more tales to go along with it. Through a long, convoluted process, those short stories started mutating bit by bit. Then about a seven or eight years ago, I become stupidly sick for a year. When all the troubleshooting was finished, we figured out that I had food allergies. A friend suggested I turn that adventure into a novel, so I resurrected Remnant and added that bit in there. The mutation process continued until the current version came about, which actually has very little in common with the original role-playing game.

In Remnant in the Stars, an intelligent, reptilian race fled their own dead world and arrived at Earth a couple centuries before the story takes place. One of those fellows, Sora, is put in a precarious position. His oldest daughter is crewing on a ship that disappears. He wants to go join the search party, but at the same time, his youngest daughter is developing her mental abilities and he ought to be staying home to help her. Sora and his wife decide that she can take care of the youngest for a while, so Sora can go search for the oldest. He meets up with his old friend, Major Kirsten Abbott, a fighter pilot who was recently injured in combat. Her new prosthetic isn’t working right and is giving her headaches, literally. He supports her through the discovery process of finding out what’s causing the problem. In return, she helps him overcome the grief and guilt resulting from a catastrophic mistake he made years ago.

How did you get your first book published? How long did it take? Was this the first book you had written?

That has been an adventure. Once I had a workable final draft of Remnant in the Stars, I sent it to Oaktara. They declined. Next, I sent it to Virtual Tales. Unfortunately, Yahoo changed their spam filter and suddenly I wasn’t getting much for email. Sheri, Virtual Tale’s acquisition editor, was persistent and ended up contacting me through her personal account. A couple months after I’d signed the contract, Virtual Tales folded, but the folks who ran the business used their contacts to refer all the orphaned authors to other publishers who took the sort of stuff we wrote. One recommendation I received was for Under the Moon, the book publishing side of gaming company Final Sword Productions. Terri, the editor, said she liked the tale but it needed some work. I was fine with that, and so I signed on there. We’ve spent most of the last year hammering out the details and fixing the glitches.

Was Remnant first? Well, yes and no. That depends on how you count. It’s the first in terms of where the idea came from, that role-playing game in high school. It was not, however, the first full manuscript. Drug War was first, followed sharply by Lines of Succession, although that one had a major plot overhaul not long after it was “completed.”

Why do you write?

For me, writing is a way to decompress from all the weird junk in my world. I work in a demanding, time-intensive, emotionally draining, physically exhausting job. Writing gives me a chance to leave all the hubbub behind and have some fun in the strange places my brain comes up with.

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Find out more about Cindy Koepp’s adventures in writing at her website and blog: http://ckoepp.com and http://ckoepp.xanga.com. Her book Remnant of the Stars is slated to be available at Amazon July 5th.

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