Author Interview: Cidney Swanson of Rippler and Saving Mars

Some of my lovely readers may remember Cidney Swanson, a favorite author and friend of mine.  I first discovered her amazing books when I won and reviewed a copy of her first ebook, Rippler.  It was the first in what turned out to be the amazing Ripple trilogy.  For last year's party, Cidney guest posted, came back for an interviewand sponsered a giveaway.  Then, this August, the first book in her new trilogy, Saving Mars - this time both ebook and paperback! - came out and I snatched it up for review.  Today she is again returning to my blog for a new interview and some information about her latest releases.

Welcome back, Cidney!  It's great to have you here again.  As you know, I'm one of your *biggest* fans.   Now, I read and reviewed the first Saving Mars book - it was amazing!  Family is a very central theme to this story and to Jess.  Tell me, what was your family like when you were a teenager?  How has your family - growing up and now, as an adult - had an affect on your writing style and story content?

In spite of the prevalence of really awful family situations in YA, I tend to agree with John Green’s assessment that supportive families are more the norm than not. Not that parents get everything right (we /they don’t), but it isn't for lack of caring and trying in most cases. My family was about average in that way. In terms of the effect of my particular family circumstances in my growing up, I should mention my parents’ huge contribution to my love of reading. (Dad taught English at a nearby high school, and Mom made sure we had library books.)

Within my books, family has been hugely important, as you point out. With Rippler, I was interested in turning the myth of the cruel step-mother on its head. I have known some amazing step-mothers and thought they deserved more credit! With Saving Mars, I created a culture where every single person recognizes how deeply dependent they are upon others in their community for basic survival. And of course, that dependency begins with the most basic social unit, the family.

The Rippler and Saving Mars series both have very prevalent scientific aspects.  The Rippler books are based around a genetic disorder Sam and Will have.  The Saving Mars books are set in a future where colonists lived on Mars.  Were you always interested in science?  How does having so many scientific details to get right affect your research and writing process?

Was I always interested in science? Hmm… I don’t think I've ever been asked that question! I guess I must have been, in a funny kind of way. I was three or four when I first saw Star Trek and Lost in Space, and I completely fell in love with those shows. But that didn't translate into a love of studying science in school. However, I did marry a physicist and I remember thinking that his physics major made him a whole lot more interesting of a person. One of our first conversations involved me picking his brain for answers to typical questions like, “What is a black hole?” and “What is a red giant? A white dwarf?” and so on. I’m sure I asked him why the sky is blue at some point, too. ;0)

If I get stuck on a science question, I will noodle around on the Internet for awhile, but generally speaking, I will eventually hit up my husband for a few answers. He helped me figure out some things about Mars’s orbit relative to Earth’s orbit and how to calculate the length of the trips made in my Mars books. Okay, who am I kidding? He calculated the whole thing for me! In the Ripple books, the answers only had to be plausible. In the Mars books, I had to find very precise answers to scientific questions.

Now for a few more generic questions: Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what kind?

I used to whine, “But I can study better with music playing.” It was a lie. A vile lie!
Now, I know many people for whom it is true. And I know many people who write with music playing. But I don’t listen to music while I write. I get too distracted by it. I love music. If it is playing, I will focus on it to the exclusion of writing. But I often find inspiration in a song. Here’s an example: I heard “Drops of Jupiter” by Train playing in a store one day. As the song played, although I couldn't hear all the words, I had this angsty sense of how Pavel felt missing Jessamyn. (Trying not to be spoilery!) Later, when I was writing Pavel scenes, I would often play that song just before I wrote so that I could get myself in that same head-space.

What's your writing desk/space like?  Anything you can't write without?

Um, yeah. My desk. It is generally not fit for public consumption. Right now, I have a laptop up on a stack of seven books to keep the monitor high. (I use a separate keyboard.) There are a handful of receipts on my left. There is a bottle signed by John Lasseter (of Pixar/Disney fame.) There are pics of my kids and DH. And me and DH dressed as pirates. There’s a picture I took of the colored granite rocks in Illilouette Creek when I was a teen. (Inspired the scene in Rippler.) There is a Tinkerbell music box and about seven reference books on Mars and two (count them, two) bars of dark chocolate. And, um, about a zillion pieces of paper and envelopes and sticky notes. Everywhere, sticky notes.
As far as the second question goes: apparently I can’t write without a hot cup of tea. I've tried. And epic-failed.

There's one question I'm particularly interested in.  In the Rippler series, which fits today's young adult market well, there was some swearing.  I mentioned that in my review. (link here)  You read and commented on my review personally.  In Saving Mars, all swear words are ancient-mythology-based expressions made up by the Mars colonists - there's even a bit that explains how some people were worried about swearing being offensive to others.  So my question is twofold: do you personally read and consider your reviews, and do they affect your writing?  (To put it a bit more selfishly, did my review play a part in the language factor of Saving Mars? ;] )

Okay, so first question first: do I read and consider all my reviews? I sure try to. Readers teach me a lot! And as far as the language factor in my writing…our conversation influenced me in that it made me more aware that for some readers, having any swearing in print is offensive with a capital “O.”

For me, swearing is a part of language which can be used with the intent to offend OR used unwittingly OR used with the intent to express deep emotional anguish. Personally, I try to avoid the first use whenever possible. I sometimes swear for the second reason—unwittingly. And I am sympathetic to the human need to use words to express deep emotion. And that is when (as a person and as a writer) I use the sort of language you pointed out as offensive. So, I guess I would say that due to our conversation, I am now more aware of the potential for offending others, which I was not very aware of previously. But I feel a responsibility as an artist to create characters that reflect truth and reality. Hence, sometimes they will swear.

Saving Mars is set a few centuries in the future. Words change over time. I knew that, realistically, there would be a culture of swearing that would have grown up around a military/frontier environment like Mars Colonial. For me, it is a far more interesting choice to have that swearing be unique and to owe its origin to the nature of the world I was building: Marsians cannot afford to offend one another! Also, I like interesting words. So that is why I invented the Marsian way of swearing. As for the swearing done on the Terran world, I just asked myself what etymological transitions might occur over the course of 300 to 400 years and came up with Pavel’s go-to expression of distress using a word with a long history in Old and Middle English and Germanic tongues. (Hint: it did not start life as an offensive word, and it is on its way to being non-offensive again, given another hundred years or maybe less.)

I hope that gives you some sort of answer!

Thanks so much for having me visit, Emily!

Thanks for coming! I enjoy all your visits :)


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