Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PR Special Edition: Christian Schoon Interview!

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition
Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Our guest today is Christian Schoon, author of the soon to be published Zenn Scarlett, the first book in a series about teenage exovet and the craziness only space can bring about.

Summary: When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....


Welcome Christian to Poisoned Rationality!  Where I'm willing to bet that I'm even allergic to Space Zoo Animals just like every other animal :)
First off, hi to Lexie and to the Poisoned Rationality contingent. Thanks for letting me and Zenn drop by.  
Veterinarians, even exovets, aren't a common 'hero', especially in the YA crowd.  How did you come about making Zenn one?  Did you have the idea of the novel first and built her around it or did she come first and you built a story around her particular talents? 
You’re right: exoveterinarians aren’t a common career choice for most YA heroines. The quick story: I’ve been involved with various animal causes for a number of years; which brought me into the company of some dedicated, uber-skilled veterinarians who work with a number of really interesting exotic species. I’m also a marrow-deep sci fi geek. Mix these elements and you get a novel featuring a teen girl trying to pass – and survive – her first year of exoveterinarian training. So, basically, Zenn-as-exovet just showed up in my SF/animal-inclined frontal lobes one day, more or less pre-formed as a character. Then, it was my job to give her a world to inhabit, creatures to take care of and challenges to overcome.

Of all the animals mentioned through ZENN SCARLETT, and all the ones I'm sure we'll meet in the next book, do you have a favorite one?  
Good question, and very tough for a pan-species guy like me. On the smaller, personal critter level, I really do enjoy Katie’s company. She’s a rikkaset, about the size of a house cat, kind of like a cross between a raccoon, a Kit fox and a lemur, with the mental abilities of a two-or-three year-old human child and dexterous fingers that allow her to express her spunky self with sign language. On larger end of the spectrum, the Lithohippus indra, or Stonehorse, with an adult size reaching 700 feet, is also a fave. They’ve evolved the ability to “tunnel” through the fabric of space-time, and so they’re used to take massive starships with them when they burrow through the universe. These are amazing creatures, and pretty handy to have around for someone interested in star travel.
When creating the animals that Zenn and her Uncle Otha care for, did you have rules as to what could be similar to what on Earth?
The only rule in this respect was to try and provide the reader some “handle” with which to latch onto a creature’s description/traits. Humans as a species are pattern-makers. We automatically try to relate new phenomena to something that’s familiar to us, fit it into known patterns somehow. That’s one of the ways our brain works in order to help us make sense of novel experiences. So, no matter how “alien” a creature may appear on first view, humans will generally attempt to link its physical appearance to something they’re already familiar with. In this case, even tho Zenn lives on Mars, much of her background for understanding and relating to alien animals is necessarily based on her heritage as a human from distant-yet-still-Earthly origins, and that includes relying on Earther animals for comparisons when thinking about her alien patients.
Zenn, the character, seems to focus more on the everyday problems then the larger problems that as a reader we can see.  The book in general seems to focus on the daily life (and struggles) for an exovet in fact.  Without spoiling the end of the book, do you think that Zenn will get up to more madcap adventures in the next book?
You’re right. In the sequel (due out early next year) some of the issues hinted at in the first book will expand to involved Zenn in larger, “meta-plot” points including, dare I say it, saving civilization as we know it! No, really, she’ll do that and it’s gonna be one heck of a ride, if I say so myself.   :D
The answer to this is pretty obvious I'm sure, but what is the one thing you hope that readers take away from the character of Zenn?
Yes, no real surprise here… in general, when they’ve finished the book, I hope readers will feel like they’ve spent some time with a character worth knowing. I’d hope they found Zenn’s world sufficiently intriguing to engage their interest, and in the process, discover things about our own world, and its people, cultures, preconceptions and biases, in a new and revealing light. That’s one of the things that science fiction as a genre is particularly good at. And, in the end, I hope the whole experience of the first book will draw readers back for return visits as the series, and Zenn herself, continues to grow and progress.  
Thank you Christian for helping us dig a bit deeper into the psyche of an exovet.  I still contend I'd be allergic to all forms of animals, despite how spacey they are.

Wanna know more?

About the Author

Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about - and received an education from - these remarkable animals.

Author Links: Blog // Twitter // Goodreads // Publisher Page // Blog Tour