Veronica Scott for AMAZING STORIES: Welcome to my periodic series of author profiles. Today I’ve chosen Carol Van Natta, one of my autobuy authors, with terrific worldbuilding and exciting stories. She’s also the editor of the fun Pets in Space® science fiction romance anthology.
VS for ASM.: What was the first scifi romance book you wrote, when, give us the 2-3 sentence logline.
CVN: The first scifi romance book I wrote was Overload Flux, the first novel in my Central Galactic Concordance series. I call it a space opera romance series because, in addition to romance, it has adventure, mystery, and a big damn story arc about evolution and rebellion. My sneaky muse pounced on me one day with a scene that I just had to write, and teased me with more ideas. I ended up spending a summer semi-plotting the story, and then semi-plotting the whole series. My muse really likes series. It also likes long series, which is why it will probably be ten books in the aforementioned big damn story arc before I’m done.
In Overload Flux, a deadly disease rages through the stars. When the cure is stolen, two misfits are all that stand between greed and intergalactic tragedy. They both have secrets they must keep. If they solve the mystery and expose a conspiracy, they may end up dead. With killers on their trail, can Luka and Mairwin survive an interplanetary conspiracy long enough to save lives and find love?
Although I published this one first, it’s actually the second in the series as far as reading order (Last Ship Off Polaris-G is first). It’s also not the story that sparked that scene and plot I just had to write that summer; that story is Jumper’s Hope. And before I could write that, I needed to write Minder Rising, which delves deeply into the psychic talents some people have and the ubiquitous government agency that tries to regulate and manage them. Also, as a side note, Overload Flux was conceived 6 years before life imitated art and brought us a pandemic.
ASM.: None of us can ever pick a favorite book or character but if you had to go live in one of your own books, which would you choose and why?
CVN: Despite the fact that I live in Colorado about 60 miles north of Denver, I’m a big fan of warm, tropical climates. All of Pico’s Crush takes place in a lush equatorial area of a planet. The heroine, Andra, is a materials science professor at a university that attracts students from across the galaxy by pointing out they’ll be going to school in paradise. She’s unexpectedly reunited with her old military buddy Jerzi when he comes to visit his daughter, who is one of Andra’s students. I would be very happy living there, except for the part where a war between a local theft crew and a band of mercenaries breaks out on campus, and it’s up to Jerzi and Andra to save students and teachers caught in the crossfire. No town is perfect, I guess. 😉
ASM.: How do you go about world building? Do you do elaborate planning, keep a big file, use post its, wing it – what method works for you?
CVN: I would be totally lost without lists. I am a long-time fan and user of Evernote, so that’s where I keep all my world-building notes on things like galactic history, government, science & technology, military, social conventions, names for things, etc. I try to remember to record character and place names for each book, but I’m not as consistent about that as I should be. If I were truly organized, I’d set up a private wiki knowledge base with references and hyperlinks, but that’s too big a project for me to tackle. On the writing side of things, I’m a “plantser,” somewhere in the middle of the continuum between pantsers (who are magicians, to my mind) and plotters (who are more organized than I could ever hope to be). I start with characters and a rough outline that tells me where I’m going, but I make discoveries along the way as I’m writing.
ASM.: Which character in your books is either most like you or who you’d like to be and why?
CVN: I like all my main characters, as they are smarter, braver, and more adventurous than me. Plus, they get the chance to meet the love of their life. However, I don’t think I want to be any of them, since they also experience life-or-death situations far more often than I’d be comfortable with. Not to mention, there’s the whole brewing rebellion thing that guarantees they’ll be living in very interesting times.
CVN: My most recent story is Stellar Drift, a new original novella that appears exclusively in the limited edition Pets in Space 8 science fiction romance anthology (Oct. 2023). The story was partly inspired by my recent great adventure trip to visit Australia, where I got to visit a rainforest up close and personal. And because all Pets in Space stories involve pets, I took my inspiration for the heroine’s pet from my friend’s pair of pit bulls that are, despite their looks and the breed’s horrible reputation, the sweetest dogs you’d ever want to meet. Like my other Pets in Space stories, this one is set in the same universe and timeline as my main series, but they’re little side adventures instead of being part of the story arc that’s going on. A pilot and her rescued pet gargoyle (genetically engineered pet for the wealthy) agree to help a forest ranger track the source of an insect infestation that might be bringing a disease. Trouble is, the local crime lord thinks they’re after a legendary secret treasure and wants to get there first.
Pets in Space 8 is a limited-edition anthology that includes novellas by some of the biggest names in science fiction romance including USA TODAY bestselling authors R.J. Blain, Susan Hayes, Honey Phillips, Skye MacKinnon, Arizona Tape, Carol Van Natta, Tana Stone, S.J. Pajonas, Carysa Locke, JC Hay, plus award-winning authors Gail Koger and Elva Birch. The Pets in Space 8 authors continue their vital support of Hero-Dogs.org, the non-profit charity that provides trained service dogs for disabled U.S. veterans and first-responders.
ASM.: Do you also write other genres? Which ones? How does writing a book in that genre compare to writing an SFR?
CVN: I also write paranormal romances in my Ice Age Shifters series. I write the books that I want to read, and since my lazy cats refuse to write them for me, it falls to me. These are more loosely plotted and a little shorter than my space opera romance series, so they make a nice change of pace after I’ve been immersed in the worlds of intergalactic intrigue. The series features shifters whose animal form is the prehistoric ancestor of modern fauna, such as a prehistoric lion, an aquatic sloth, and dire wolves. That focus was inspired by an article I read about how a construction project in South America uncovered the best example of an extinct Arctotherium bear found to date, a creature that would have towered above the tallest grizzly bear alive today.
My writing buddies are two furry black felines that were put up for adoption at NoCo Cat Café, which works with a local cat rescue organization. They’re brothers and a bonded pair, so they usually get up to mischief together rather than apart. Here they are, “helping” me reorganize my office by identifying bags that make suitable cat toys.
ASM.: What’s next for you?
CVN: I’m currently working on the next book in my Ice Age Shifters® paranormal romance series. I will soon be dipping my toes into the Kickstarter waters to release an expanded version of the story that appeared in last year’s Pets in Space anthology. I’ll let you know how it goes. 😉
ASM.: What’s on your To Be Read List?
CVN: I just finished Pauline Baird Jones’s excellent Cyborg Chronicles spinoff series, which was the perfect companion for long flights and waits at airports. I am now catching up on Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, and decided to first re-read my all-time favorite book of hers, Heart of Obsidian (all the feels!). After that, I’m hoping my favorite authors will be releasing new books for Christmas to keep me warm and cozy as the days draw in and the cats pin me in my chair.
ASM.: Give us your short author bio and where you can be found on social media.
Carol Van Natta is a USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. Series include the Central Galactic Concordance space opera romance series the Ice Age Shifters® paranormal romance series. She is also the current editor and publisher of the Pets in Space science fiction romance anthologies. She shares her Fort Collins, CO home with just the right number of mad-scientist cats. Find her on the web at https://Author.CarolVanNatta.com (and https://PetsInSpaceBooks.com), or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolVanNattaAuthor or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carol.vannatta/
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