Writer Interview: Veronica Scott (Romance & Adventure from the Ancient Nile to the Deeps of Space!)

Veronica Scott’s work ranges from paranormal romances set in ancient Egypt to action-adventure space operas (Mission to Mahjundar, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, Escape from Zulaire). I first met her on Six Sentence Sunday; we have continued our acquaintance on Weekend Writing Warriors.

Her romantic leads are capable and daring with complementary skill sets and attraction that slow-burns to sizzling conclusion, generally with things exploding in the background. Because nothing builds romantic tension like explosions!

She tweets about her nonfictional inspirations (including history, archaeology, astronomy) upcoming work, and feline Muses at @vscottheauthor.

This interview was conducted by e-mail with follow-up by Google chat. We had a far-ranging conversation and look forward to more!

EPB: What’s your favorite kind of romance plot? What do romantic leads need to have to ‘work’ as a couple?

VS: I really like the stories where the hero is an alpha male – a SEAL or the Alpha of a pack – and the woman is a strong, capable person in her own right. I’m not much on TSTL heroines. It seems to me that to work as a couple, the two people must respect each other’s capabilities, either right from the beginning, or develop that respect as the story goes on. Working as a team appeals to me.

EPB: I love reading about the military life, but I so don’t have a military personality. 🙂
One of the things I enjoy about your heroes and heroines is their sense for adapting in crisis.

VS: I can operate inside a hierarchy or I can be outside. I tend more to the outside view by nature but can do either. Not that I personally was in the military. My Dad was in WWII. Husband was a Marine. I’m counted to be pretty resilient so I like my characters to be that way as well

EPB: I have collateral relatives in the military, but the one who really influenced me was my mom, who’s a fourth generation American but Prussian of the old school.

VS: Probably not surprising!

EPB: The people who reminded me most of my mom were Napoleon and Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker.

VS: I have Puritan ancestors so I know what you mean. That influence was strong, thanks to MY mother.
Wow, your mother sounds like a force of nature. Which is a compliment in our family

EPB: Oh she is, and salty. We used to joke about ‘the sayings of Chariman Mom.’ But I think she’s the reason I write such formidable, bodacious older women. Something to aspire to. 🙂 And she has undisguised contempt for ‘too stupid to live’

VS: Well, you had a good foundation to go forth and tackle the world. Oh yes, TSTL drives me NUTS. NOT a trope I enjoy.

EPB: Oh no. Nor the overbearing asshole lead with no respect for boundaries.

VS: True, the flip side of TSTL is just as bad.

EPB: I like how you write attraction as strong feeling, but not something that erases agency or principles.

VS: Well if the romance is real, the person is attracted to who and what you are, so you ought not to change to try to become something you’re not, in hopes of being even more appealing. At least that’s how I feel. Compromises yes, but not changing the core of you.Or the core of him.

EPB: Finding the right person, formalizing that decision, that’s a real milestone. For men, women, other. I think that’s why romance is significant as a literary form. Stories give us a sense of possibility, warn us of pitfalls, … when done poorly, can lead us astray with mirage.

VS: I agree. Someone took issue in a review with the fact that my heroes and heroines end up married or about to be married in my SFRs (not a bad review just commenting) but for me that’s the way I NEED it to end.

EPB: I think about alternative kinship systems a lot, but in all systems there’s a point where you say: this is real, you’re my family, I want to be with you.

VS: Hopefully, yes. In my own worldview at least. And they want to be with you equally much

EPB: Exactly.

VS: Soooo I write that.  Partners.

EPB: Knowing that someone else is there, has your back, that’s what I love about foxhole romances.

***

EPB: What are your roots as a romance writer? Who in the genre do you really admire?

VS: I started with reading classic Harlequins, especially the ones set in the Australian Outback, which seemed so far away and exotic to me then. I also read a lot of Georgette Heyer Regency novels, Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels…nowadays I mostly read paranormal, urban fantasy and science fiction romances. I do really enjoy Lisa Kleypas and Stephanie Laurens, however.

EPB: Yes! True confessions: read romance in the 1970s when it was all rapey stuff, came back thirty years later and it’s MUCH better.

VS: Yes, sometimes now I can’t even read the old romances. The world has changed a LOT on what we expect as readers.

EPB: It creeped me out back then, but now a lot of other people share that reaction, so I don’t feel quite so isolated.

VS: I probably didn’t read too much of it then, was more into SF and Georgette Heyer and people like Mary Stewart. No rapey stuff there.

EPB: Georgette Heyer is on my TBR list. So many of my SF/F peeps love her stuff.
Anybody endorsed by Lois McMaster Bujold AND A. S. Byatt is worth checking out. 🙂

VS: Oh I LOVE her. Well, several of her tropes. She does have TSTL heroines in one of her Regencies. Frederica, Talisman Ring, Cotillion, These Old Shades are my favorites!

EPB: Ooh, I have all of those! (Must read!) I am such a book hoarder, even with e-books. 🙂

***

EPB: Who are your favorite science fiction writers? How did they influence your choice to write science fiction romance?

VS: Andre Norton was the first science fiction author of any kind I ever read and I LOVED her books. She’s definitely the major influence on my writing science fiction romance, because there was never enough (hardly any!) romance in her books for me. Due to the time period in which she wrote them, I’m sure.

I also loved Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I’ve read a lot of of “hard” science fiction – Heinlein and other classics – but I gravitate to the romance side of things. Currently I really love Rachel Bach (Paradox series), Ilona Andrews, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal….Nalini Singh is at the top of my auto buy list, with her PsyChangeling series and the GuildHunter series.

I’ve really shifted to my kindle but I’ve kept a lot of my original paperbacks. All my Dad’s Andre Nortons, the Heyers…

EPB: Wow. Vintage editions, now.

VS: True. But falling apart because reread so much.

EPB: I can tell which books influenced me most, by the condition of the binding and/or the number of editions I own. 😉

VS: I never thought about it that way but it’s a valid metric.
VS: It all began for me with Andre Norton. Catseye.

EPB: And my LeGuin and Russ novels are wearing out, in spite of the care taken with their ancient covers. 🙂

VS: Well, I hate to say it but you can always find “newish” copies of the old books on eBay. I had to replace a couple of my oldest ones, covers just gone.

EPB: Oh yes, to that replacement of beloved favorites. We all have writers we apprentice with, because their work seizes us with the desire to live in that world AND to figure out “how did they do that?”

VS: Yes, Norton & McCaffrey are that for me. People who created worlds I wanted to live in. Nalini Singh does that for me nowadays.

EPB: I definitely have to check her out.

VS: She’s my number one auto-buy.

EPB: It’s so dangerous talking to writers; they’re always recommending other writers.

VS: We can’t stop ourselves!

EPB: What writers (in any genre) inspired you to swashbuckling literary feats? Who are your role models for just writing the story and seeing how it turns out?

VS: Well, as far as swashbuckling feats, the movies probably inspire me the most. I used to love the old Errol Flynn movies, the original Flash Gordon serials (and the remake of course), Star Wars, Aliens, Firefly, Farscape

I don’t have any role models for how I write, to answer the second part of the question. My Muse writes the way she writes – I’m very superstitious about my writing process, in that I don’t dissect it. I sit down to write and the story comes. Usually when I start a new story, I’ll know the beginning, the ending, 2-3 key scenes in between, and who the hero and heroine are. And then I’m off to write.

***

EPB: This is possibly hair-splitting, but what’s the difference between science fiction romance and science fiction with a romance plot in it?

VS: As best I can define it, in an SFR, the romance is at the heart of the story, driving the plot and the action. If there wasn’t a love story, would there be any story? In my most recent novel, Mission to Mahjundar, if the hero hadn’t fallen in love with the heroine and vice versa, he would have taken her to her arranged marriage, waved goodbye and left. Story over.

So that’s an SFR, through and through. In my first published science fiction novel with romantic elements, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, even if the hero and heroine hadn’t fallen in love during the events, the events would have occurred anyway. The hero would have done all the things he did to get his party safely off the ship. My luxury spaceliner version of Titanic was going to explode whether Nick and Mara fell in love or not, you know? But the fact that the two of them found each other and fell in love is just extra added layers of goodness on top of the science fiction aspects in that novel. I say that with a laugh!

EPB: I just started reading your Egyptian series and I realized that they’re paranormal romance! I was fooled because you did such a thorough discussion of research on your blog. Could you talk about what drew you to paranormal romance? 

VS: Sorry, wasn’t trying to fool anyone! I do all that research for the Egyptian stories so that I can create a feel for the readers that they’re actually “in the time period”, even if paranormal events are happening. I do employ some conscious anachronisms as well, to make things easier on myself.

But I didn’t want to be writing “wallpaper historicals,” even if the books are paranormal. I want lots of authentic details!

My mother was the ancient history buff, just as my dad was the science fiction buff. So I grew up in a house with many books on ancient civilizations and novels set there, like The Robe, Ben Hur and Last Days of Pompeii. Being a voracious reader, I read all of it. Then I found the wonderful YA novel Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw in my school library and was totally enthralled with the idea of writing my own novels set in ancient Egypt. (I was about 12 then.)

Flash forward a lot of years, and I was able to spend an hour almost by myself in the traveling King Tut exhibit (well, with the watchful security guards – my then employer was a tour sponsor). That was an amazing experience. Years later, when I began writing in a serious attempt to become published, Carina Press put out a call for Ancient World romances. I had a flash of inspiration that Sobek the Crocodile God was actually a shifter – he could be a man or a crocodile – and I was off and running to tell the story of him falling in love with a priestess.

Cynthia Eden was the first paranormal author I ever read and I just fell in love with the idea of shifters. I enjoy Lora Leigh, Patricia Briggs, Christine Feehan, Marjorie Liu…any number of paranormal authors, although as I said before, Nalini Singh is my absolute favorite.

EPB: I adore tradecraft of all kinds. One of the things I like about your world-building is the sense of people’s work, beefs and all. People forget that workplace beefs ARE world-building, even for ‘glamorous’ trades.

VS: Probably why I tend to write intergalactic businesswomen. I can relate LOL
Altho my last heroine was a princess. The one in the Egyptian PNR I’m writing now is trying to run a huge estate all by herself.

EPB: Oh yes, the horrors of business travel. I recognized that one right off the bat. 🙂 My dad traveled a lot on business, and so once I was working I found ways to avoid it, much to the astonishment of workmates.

VS: I LOVE researching the Egyptian topics.

EPB: People forget that titles of nobility, back in the day, implied a hell of a lot of administrative work.

VS: I’m not a fan of business ravel although I’ve done it.

EPB: Yeah, sounds glamorous; pales after the second pass or so. All airports look alike.

VS: True, way WAY back in the day, the nobles were responsible for life and death and everything in between. Although they had a lot of help

EPB: Have you read Joyce Tyledesley’s book about Cleopatra? Very interesting, brings Egyptology and classical studies together. Arab sources on Cleopatra emphasize her role as virtuous scholar/physician.

VS: That George Clooney movie Up In The Air captured business travel pretty well too.
I haven’t read the book (another for the list). Cleopatra’ s centuries after the time I write about so she’s “too modern” for me.Ironically

EPB: I’m fascinated by syncretic cultures, of which Alexandrian Egypt is an example…

VS: We went to the Cleopatra exhibit when it was in LA. It was fascinating to see all the influences coinciding in that one time frame. I always wonder what was in the Library

EPB: As I think about it, she’s likely the Principal Investigator (executive producer) of the Julian calendar. She provided Julius Caesar with the team who carried out the Roman calendar reform.

VS: Always fun to play with the what if and base it in reality.

EPB: I have been fascinated with Cleopatra and her siblings since I was about 11. I think it’s the task of our 50s-60s to come back to our teenaged obsessions and make sense of them.

VS: Did she really? Or in your novel? Or both? Cool…

EPB: In historical fact. She is the godmother of the month of February.

***

EPB: We definitely share an interest in disaster scenarios as a backdrop for relationship building. What’s the appeal to you? 

VS: I love the high stakes in a disaster scenario and the fact that decisions must be made rapidly, sometimes when there’s really no good choice so the characters are picking the best option but not necessarily guaranteed a good outcome. You have to rely on the other people in the situation with you. And never give up! As long as there’s breath, there’s hope. At least in my world.

The disaster situation cuts through the ordinary social niceties and the “getting to know you” phase because you’re seeing the core of the person and how they function in dire circumstances. I was always fascinated by the sinking of the Titanic when I was a kid, and how some people survived and others didn’t. I always wondered what I would have done.

EPB: On the science-fiction side, what inspired you to recast the Titanic as a space adventure? 

VS: As I mentioned above, I’ve always been fascinated by everything to do with Titanic. When I grew up the family lore was that a distant relative of ours was in Second Class and survived. As an adult in the internet age, I have my serious doubts, so I don’t lay claim to the lady, but my fascination with the disaster remains.

However, in my head, Titanic is complete – the story has been told. So it was a natural jump for my science fiction mind to say ah, but what if this had been a luxury liner in space? Then I had to figure out why my special forces soldier would be aboard such a ship. Once I knew that, then I had to think about who he’d meet…and I was off and running. The novel isn’t a retelling of Titanic, so much as “inspired by” and I put little details and Easter eggs in as nods to Titanic.

EPB: One of the things I really enjoyed about Wreck of the Nebula Dream was the way it was cast in Nick’s point of view.

VS: I’m glad! I got a lot of feedback tho that people wanted Mara’s POV. But it was Nick’s story all the way.

EPB: I think it sends a very important message, that finding your life partner is a life-changing experience regardless of gender.

VS: The audiobook edition was amazing because the actor I work with just perfectly embodied Nick.

EPB: Oh wow.There’s no thrill like hearing your work performed.

VS: Yes, I agree. I could really “see” the entire book as he was enacting it.

EPB: Voice acting is another art form that is really coming into its own now, with audiobooks, games, etc.

VS: He did Escape From Zulaire for me, with an actress, and we’re planning to do Mission to Mahjundar later this year. I think it’s important to have audiobook versions.

***

EPB: Some of your work is traditionally published, and some is independently published. How did you make the choice?

VS: I’m completely into independent publishing for now. Never say never – if I was to be offered a contract by a traditional publisher, I’d have to think about it, but I do love the freedom and rapid pace of the indie publishing world.

I’d never give up being independent but I have thought about writing a standalone series just for a traditional publisher, as a way to have more irons in the fire and reach more readers. Multiple channels to put out Veronica Scott books.

The way it came about was that Carina Press published my first story, Priestess of the Nile, in January 2012. I’d been so caught up in the edits and etc. for that book that I belatedly realized 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I’d already written Wreck of the Nebula Dream but had never finished polishing it to be submitted.

Well, at that point there was no time for submitting Wreck to anyone, not even Carina, and have the book published by April, 2012. So I hired my own freelance editor, copy editor and formatter, commissioned a cover and managed to put the book out at the end of March 2012. I found I loved being in charge of the entire process. So when Carina decided not to continue with Ancient World romances after Warrior of the Nile was released, I  was happy to independently publish all of my books, science fiction and paranormal.

EPB: You’ve done a great job diversifying outlets, getting the different versions out there.

VS: Oh TYVM re the self publishing. I LOVE the control.

EPB: I love it myself. I have total creative control. If I weren’t self publishing, I’d be working on something less socially responsible, like world domination. 🙂

VS: And I publish on MY schedule. There was wayyyy too big a gap between my 1st & my 2nd Egyptians from Carina IMHO World domination LOL, love it!

EPB: Oh yes. There’s the whole pipeline, and in a big company there’s all sorts of other stuff in there along with yours.

VS: Yes. And my editor – loved her – but she had a huge workload besides me.

EPB: I’ve worked for big companies and small companies, and there’s a huge difference in maneuverability.

VS: Well we’re very maneuverable, you and I, doing our own publishing thing.

EPB: The editors, no question, are the unsung heroes of the whole business. Well, and the copy editors, and cover artists, etc.

VS: Yes, its amazing what a good editor brings to the book. and the copy editor. The covers are a present to myself. I have two wonderful cover artists. Covers, I think they’re very important for the readers, and I’m no artist. So I’m lucky to have the artists.

I have my pro editor and my pro copy editor. And formatter. I can’t format either. I’d rather write. I think everyone has their own set of strengths and non-strengths.

EPB: Key to the whole thing is knowing what you’re willing to do and/or to learn, and what you prefer to delegate. Stuff you hate – delegate. 🙂

VS: Exactly. I’ve had people just aghast that I won’t do my own website or formatting.
I do everything on my blog myself now of course but had someone set it up for me.

EPB: It’s much better to have foundation work set up right.

VS: I just don’t need the ‘merit badges’, you know? For things I don’t want to do or that don’t come naturally to me.

EPB: I’m pretty much neutral in all of the religious wars around ‘the one true & right way to self-publish,’ because there isn’t. I mean, short of avoiding scams and not getting ripped off, there are multiple ways to do it right.

I’m a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month, and I asked my colleague (since I was new this year) what the hot button topic on the forums was. She said, hands down, “the one true NaNoWriMo.” 🙂

VS: I don’t do NaNoWriMo. Not my thing but I know it works well for many.

***

EPB: What’s the most fun about writing?

VS: Writing for me is like breathing. I write and I’m in the flow, just happy. The best part is being able to share the stories with other people! I love hearing from readers, I love being part of the author loops and I absolutely live on twitter!

VS: I’m retiring early, at the end of Cleopatra’s month in fact. Going to write full time.

EPB: Oh wow! Congratulations!

VS: Thank you. I’m excited and happy. Last year was pretty good as far as the self publishing and I feel NOW is my time to have a go at being a full-time writer.

EPB: Exactly. I’m feeling the same.

VS: So much to write, so little time!

EPB: As a greedy reader, I greet this with great enthusiasm, of course.

VS: I did pretty well at writing and having the day job these past few years but want to be much more prolific.

EPB: And I would say, pace Kris Rusch – just keep getting that work out there! Really, it’s the work that sells the work.

VS: I envy you your backlog! I have one or two completed novels I could rework but for now going to write new ones. Get a new book out every 3-4 months seems ideal.

EPB: Writing and editing are really the same thing.

VS: I don’t edit on my first draft, not much

EPB: Exactly! My buddy Devin Harnois, who describes himself as a “slow writer” and “slacker” gets out 3-4 novels a year.

VS: I don’t do novellas, just don’t write that length usually, so I’m pretty much at the 3-4 month time frame

EPB: Yes, that’s about right for the 50-100K range.

VS: Everyone is different as we said at the start of the conversation.

EPB: What’s your most recent science-fiction romance?

VS: Mission to Mahjundar is my latest science fiction romance. It just won an SFR Galaxy Award.

I’ll be working to get more books out in 2016.

***

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2 Responses to Writer Interview: Veronica Scott (Romance & Adventure from the Ancient Nile to the Deeps of Space!)

  1. I really enjoyed our wide ranging conversation! Thanks for having me as your guest 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Veronica Scott and commented:
    Such fun to be interviewed by E. P.! Part of it was a google chat in real time so some of my answers may seem a bit terse – sorry~

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