Alyse N. Steves
Born to a medium in a small town named after a planet, normalcy was never an option for Alyse. Once a feral homeschooled child living with eight dogs, six cats, a house-trained chicken, plus a handful of birds, rabbits, fish, and horses, Alyse grew up with a deep love of nature and animals that has led her on adventures across four countries, twenty-nine states, and a failed attempt at becoming a veterinarian (turns out, you aren’t supposed to faint when administering a vaccine).
Now a somewhat domesticated adult, Alyse’s sense of adventure and creativity has resulted in a science fiction novel, Child of Humanity, and a fantasy children’s book, Savannah the Kind. Her books have been read in eleven countries and have been described as “an outstanding masterpiece,” “thought-provoking,” and “complex” by readers. For fun, she earned a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology.
A Southern transplant living in California, when Alyse isn’t working at as a toxicologist or writing, she enjoys hiking, dragging more plants into the backyard when her partner isn’t looking, and looking up her niece’s nose during FaceTime calls (“Can you give the phone back to Mommy, honey?”). She lives with her wonderfully supportive partner, part security system/part unhinged attack dinosaur packaged in a bird’s body, and a toddler inhabiting the form of the fuzziest cat in existence
1.- What made you choose self-publishing for The Darkest Memories?
I knew from the start that The Darkest Memories is not conventional enough for mass market. For starters, it blends genres, making it difficult to market, and I took some creative risks in the narration, particularly where scenes are intentionally confusing or Hadley’s first-person commentary interrupts scenes to allow the reader a moment of experiencing life like Hadley. Hadley is also gay, and while the market is changing, lesbian main characters are still largely pigeonholed to romance novels. That combined with Hadley’s mental health struggles and slower-than-average character arc makes her a less-than-traditional main character. She’s a witty, loyal, loving main character, flaws and all, and I was concerned a publisher would want to see her rewritten. I could go on. Ultimately, I knew publishing The Darkest Memories independently was the only way to tell the story the way it was meant to be told.
2.- How would you define your own book?
The Darkest Memories is a story of overcoming hate. It’s written from Hadley’s first-person perspective so readers can experience the consequences of bigotry and what Hadley experiences on a day-to-day basis as someone who is considered “different” from society. Readers will recognize outright hate in the form of the serial killer and the two hate groups in the book, the APA and the Sons of Gaia. Some readers will miss the more subtle prejudices and microaggressions Hadley experiences, even from friends and family. These experiences deeply impact Hadley’s mental health and self-worth. At the climax of the book, Hadley has endured so much that no one would blame her for giving up, but despite feeling hopeless, she chooses to fight an enemy who appears much stronger than her. Hopefully, readers will feel that Hadley’s story is one of hope, even when all seems lost.
3.- This is not your first published book. How would you say the process has changed since you started?
When I published Child of Humanity, I didn’t have a community. I was blessed to have several amazing beta readers and a fantastic editor, but my writing and I existed in a bubble outside of them. Since then, I found the writing community on Twitter and started meeting people at conventions and book festivals. I found my writing group, which has been a life-changing experience. I wouldn’t say my writing has changed much, but I’ve found more people to share it with, and I now have a group of amazing people cheering on every new idea.
4.- Let’s talk more about the novel. The Darkest Memories is located in San Diego mostly, why?
The Darkest Memories was originally set in Atlanta, but it never felt right. When my partner and I moved to San Diego, I knew I had to rewrite the book and set it here. San Diego is a military town, which fits the vibe of the Agency and the people who work there perfectly. It is also extremely diverse, and my characters with their various backgrounds fit in perfectly. I even included San Diego’s gayborhood, Hillcrest, because it was the perfect place for Hadley to live. That combined with San Diego’s unique landmarks (some of which I mention by name) and culture make San Diego a very exciting city to set a story in.
5.- Let’s talk about the parahumans. While they are powerful, I feel you achieved a good balance with the scope of their abilities. Did it change much from the first draft to the final novel?
I had a very solid grasp of parahumans and their abilities from the beginning. I’m a scientist, and while I wanted The Darkest Memories to feel like a superhero story with flashy, powerful characters, I also wanted their abilities to feel plausible. I wanted them to have physical limitations and consequences. I wanted them to feel human and relatable. Hopefully, readers will be able to see themselves in them.
6.- APA and Sons of Gaia attitude towards parahuman remember how certain groups behave in real life towards marginalized groups. Could you tell us more about the inspiration/idea behind those antagonists?
The Anti-Parahuman Association (APA) and the Sons of Gaia are inspired by real groups and people, unfortunately. Some of the APA and Sons of Gaia’s actions are a direct reflection of some of my real-life experiences with real groups, and some aspects are the result of simply turning on the news. The APA and the Sons of Gaia will continue to be important in the sequel as well. It was very important to me that I include them since they do have real-life counterparts, and I wanted to depict all the different ways they can cause harm.
7.- Hadley is a good narrator for the purpose of the story, as her amnesia helps build the intrigue. What inspired you to write Hadley?
I wanted to write a character who was differently abled and who does not get “better” as part of her character arc. Hadley’s amnesia also ties in perfectly with The Darkest Memories’s theme of embracing differences. Hadley struggles with self-loathing, comparing herself to her past self. In the end, Hadley does not have to change who she is to resolve the main conflict of the book. In fact, the conflict could not be resolved if she wasn’t different.
8.- Which part of the whole self-publishing process would you say you enjoyed more?
Working with others to make this story the best it could be was a very rewarding experience. My writing group spent twenty-five months critiquing this story (pandemic and all!). I worked with two sensitivity readers, a developmental editor, and a copyeditor. I spent hours meeting with my beta readers and brainstorming ideas with them. Hearing their ideas, their excitement, and how the story impacted them was almost more fun than writing it!
9.- What can we expect from Alyse N. Steves in the future?
The Darkest Memories will have a sequel, The Brightest Nightmares, and I’m working on my next illustrated children’s book, Olivia, Protector of the Small. I’m also working on two fantasy romances, Raven and Doe, a high fantasy novel featuring a sorceress, a peasant girl, a cranky feline familiar, and a whole bunch of monsters, and Cinders and Soul, an urban fantasy novel with a succubus and a fire witch living in a town full of vampires, werewolves, sirens, and a menagerie of other creatures.