Lena Alison Knight
Lena Alison Knight grew up reading space opera and high fantasy and started writing her own as soon as she could hold a crayon steady. She lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area, and when not writing she can be found taking brisk walks, haunting local coffee shops, or sprawled on the couch playing video games.
Welcome everybody to my favourite section of the blog, interviewing authors. Today we are accompanied by Lena Alison Knight, author of The Stars Within and SPSFC2 participant.
Let’s dive in!
1.- What made you decide for going self-publishing?
Speed and control. With traditional publishing, it’s a slow process to get to market – assuming you get there at all. When I finished the Gift of the Stars trilogy I had already spent several years writing it, and the idea of spending several more pursuing a trad pub deal wasn’t appealing. With self-publishing, I can get a book into readers’ hands as soon as it’s ready.
That ties in with the control part, also. More than once, traditionally-published authors I follow have had books or even series canceled by the publisher for business reasons, which as a reader is pretty terrible. Since I own my copyrights, I have full control over when and where my books are available.
2.- Which ones have been your biggest challenges while writing?
Time and focus. Pre-Covid I used to commute by train into San Francisco every day, and that was actually a bit easier. I had two hours a day where I was guaranteed to be on the train, and I could dedicate that time to writing. Now I work from home, and while that’s a lot easier for work/life balance in other ways, I don’t have that built-in writing time anymore. I had to figure out a new routine.
3.- The universe of The Stars Within is certainly interesting, how would you describe it?
It’s not a particularly easy universe to live in. Corporate interests have been allowed to more or less make their own rules, and we see in The Stars Within how well that’s working out for everyone else. In the later books, we also see more of society outside the PsiCorp, and it’s very stratified by income and class. Who you know and who you’re related to counts for a lot, and everything from education to health care is expensive. Money is power, and a small group of people and businesses have collected quite a bit of it.
It’s a secondary world, with no connection to Earth, but it definitely shares some of Earth’s problems and anxieties!
4.- During the story, we see big companies such as Systech and ConEn, what could you tell us about this particular aspect?
So in this universe, these very large corporations have been able to accumulate a huge amount of power, to the point where they’re sometimes indistinguishable from the government. This world does have governments, separate from the mega-corporations, but they’re not always eager to rein in rich and influential companies like SysTech. And so, SysTech and ConEn and others like them have been able to get a lot of laws passed to legalize some rather predatory practices.
An immediate example is the opening of The Stars Within: because SysTech covered the start-up funds of establishing the Elekar colony, they were able to force a contract that basically says SysTech owns the planet and everything on it. When Kerelle lands on Elekar, SysTech is literally waging a war on the people who live there…and legally, it’s their “right” to do so.
And of course, there’s the fact that the PsiCorp exists at all. SysTech was able to take Kerelle and Galhen away from their families as children because of interplanetary treaties that give them the legal right to do so. And that’s absurd – but that’s how much the multigalactics have been able to bend laws and society to serve their interests. (I actually have a blog where I talk more about this!)
5.- Telekinesis and telepathy are two characteristics of our main character, how does it work? Are they searched by companies? How uncommon they are?
For psionics, their powers start to emerge between ages 4 and 9, usually on accident. Telepathic kids start responding to the thoughts of people around them, telekinetic kids start moving things around without realizing it. There are differing levels of power between different psionics, too – a class-3 telekinetic like Kerelle is capable of an enormous scale of destruction. A class-1 telekinetic, on the other hand, might only be able to lift relatively light objects, and might struggle to break anything stronger than glass.
Corporations like SysTech do actively look for people with psionic powers to recruit into the PsiCorp. They actually take a pretty efficient approach to this, and they go through the schools. Most schoolkids will be tested once a year for signs that they may be developing psionics. This is actually how Kerelle’s partner Galhen ended up in the PsiCorp; his emerging abilities were picked up by corporate testers at school, and a few days later SysTech came to his parents’ house to collect him.
As for how common it is, psionics are rare but not that rare. Even if just one in ten million people were psionic, in a galaxy with hundreds of billions of people in it, that’s still a lot of psionics.
6.- This book has entered as part of Spsfc2, which are your expectations?
So I’m actually in the “returner” group for SPSFC – The Stars Within made it to the quarterfinals for SPSFC1, and some of the judging team liked it quite a bit. That’s what I’m hoping for again this year – that the book will find its way to more people who enjoy it. Obviously, if I made it to a Phase 2 judging round that would be wonderful, but really I’m just looking forward to participating – and finding lots of great new books to add to my TBR!
I think SPSFC is also a great way to get to know other indie authors, and SFF book reviewers (I get way more cool SciFi in my Bookstagram feed than I did pre-SPSFC!). Even if I don’t have a book ready to submit for next year, I’m hoping to stick around as a volunteer of some sort. It’s a fun group, and bringing more attention to indie books is something I’m pretty passionate about.
7.- How technologically advanced is humankind in the book?
In areas like space travel, they’re quite advanced – they’ve got hyperdrives and jump gates and all kinds of ways to make navigating deep space fast and convenient. In other areas, not as much. They have some medtech like the dermal regen gel for fast healing, but otherwise, their medicine isn’t hugely advanced compared to ours. In some areas, I left them intentionally somewhat underdeveloped. They don’t really have the kind of tech-enabled, always-on mass surveillance that’s started to emerge for us in the past few years – partially because once you start down that road, you very quickly slide into cyberpunk, and that wasn’t the setting I wanted for this particular story.
8.- What can we expect from Lena Alison Knight in the future?
I’m working on a couple of other projects right now. One I’ve been really enjoying is a science fantasy, also set in space but more lighthearted than Gift of the Stars (which does get rather dark in places). I’m also working on something that’s closer to epic fantasy, at least for now (who knows, it might end up being in space too!).