Some Thoughts with ... S.E. Anderson
S.E. Anderson can’t ever tell you where she’s from. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because it inevitably leads to a confusing conversation where she goes over where she was born (England) where she grew up (France) and where her family is from (USA) and it tends to make things very complicated.
She’s lived pretty much her entire life in the South of France, except for a brief stint where she moved to Washington DC, or the eighty years she spent as a queen of Narnia before coming back home five minutes after she had left. She recently completed her masters of astrophysics and has started her PhD in planetary science.
When she’s not writing, or trying to science, she’s either reading, designing, crafting, or attempting to speak with various woodland creatures in an attempt to get them to do household chores for her. She could also be gaming, or pretending she’s not watching anything on Netflix.
Welcome to a new post on my favourite section. Today we are accompanied by S.E. Anderson, sci-fi author, whose new book Over The Moon will be published in January 2023.
Let's dive in!
1.- When did you start writing? What made you choose self-publishing instead of pursuing a more traditional path?
I’d like to say I’ve always been writing, since even before I could hold a pen! My poor mom had to put up with a lot, writing down the stories I told her when I was a toddler. But that kind of encouragement goes a long way, and I’ve been writing ever since.
My first book, Starstruck, and its subsequent series were actually traditionally published with Bolide publishing, a micropub I love for its personal touch. I decided to self-publish Aix Marks the Spot because it was the wrong genre for them, and found the experience so fun I knew I wanted to do it again. That’s how I ended up self-publishing Over the Moon: because it sounded like a fun challenge.
2.- Over The Moon is a sci-fi retelling of The Wizard of Oz. Why did you choose this concrete book to make a retelling of?
The idea took a long time to form. Years ago, my grandparents took my sister and me on a road-trip accross the USA. When we reached those “I-states”, it was just… and infinity of corn. Days of it. The image of it stuck with me: what if corn took over the country? The whole planet? Then, when Interstellar came out, it was like this weird image I had come to life in front of my eyes: nothing but corn, and a looming dust bowl. It made me think of Dorothy on her farm, and the idea just slowly clicked into place. A young girl, isolated on her farming moon, dreaming of life Over the Moon.
3.- If I’m not wrong, this is your first standalone book. How would you say it is different from writing a standalone than a book intended to be part of a series?
I’m actually intending on making this a duology! The first versions of this book wrapped up… too nicely. The more I fleshed out the world, the more I realized the story couldn’t end here. The sequel, Down to Earth, is simmering in my mind as we speak!
4.- How would you say your studies in planetary science have influenced your crafting?
It definitely inspired a lot of worldbuilding. For example, I wanted to explore what daily life would be like for those on a moon of a Gas Giant - you would actually have an eclipse every single day, when you pass in the shadow of your giant! Or, what would it be like to live in a solar system formed in a Bok nebula?
Ok, colleagues, please don’t read too deeply into my details. I had a thesis to write and not enough time to simulate the formation of these planets. If I had, this would be a paper, not a sci-fi novel!
5.- What made you decide to give such a prominent spot to clonation in the whole Over the Moon world?
It came about when the news about CRISPR was taking over the web. The idea of fixing genes and creating perfect humans, along with the ethics surrounding, it creeped me out. There were fantastic podcasts and articles on cloning, epigenetics, on nature vs. nurture, and the science of what determines what makes you, you. It was then the idea of ‘clone-batching’ (the act of creating multiple identical children in order to pick the one that came out ‘just right') came to me. There will always be a financial divide prohibiting access to these technologies, further binding health to class: when you have access to everything, how far will you go to have the perfect child?
6.- What aspect of writing a retelling of a classic would you say was the most challenging for you?
Staying true to the original without being beat for beat the same story. The Wizard of Oz is a children’s story, and Over the Moon is for a completely different audience. While telling the same tale, we’re not saying the same thing. I thought that would be interesting in and of itself: like a clone, we may have the same ‘DNA’, but we don’t express it in the same way, and we’re not the same story in the end.
7.- I love the cover. Who is the artist behind it?
While I was the designer, I hired the incredibly talented Petr Donat to paint the artwork. I absolutely love working with him.
8.- What can we expect from S.E. Anderson in the future?
So much. I have the sequel of Over the Moon in the works, as well as the next two (and final!) Starstruck books). I also have plans for an entirely standalone sci-fi humor novel I won’t reveal anything about yet, as well as a Rom-Com just for fun. Now that I’ve finished my thesis, I’m so ready to write fiction again!