Carol Van Natta is an independent author of science fiction romance, including Overload Flux, Minder Rising, and Zero Flux, the first in a new series, and Hooray for Holopticon, a retro science fiction comedy. Overload Flux won a 2015 SFR Galaxy Award. She shares her Fort Collins, Colorado, home with a sometime mad scientist and various cats. Any violations of the laws of physics in her books are the fault of the cats, not the mad scientist.
How would you describe your series in one sentence?
In my science fiction romance Central Galactic Concordance series, peace has reined for 200 years, but an all-powerful government agency, above-the-law corporations, and evolutionary change are about to bring about the old curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Come along for the ride!
What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?
A Big Damn Story Arc took over my brain one summer and wouldn’t let me go. The resident Mad Scientist, my significant other, was convinced my computer had enslaved me, but he was kind enough to feed me regularly anyway. I wrote the story arc and the universe to go with it. If I’m calculating correctly, it’ll need nine(!) books to complete, which should keep me off the streets and out of the karaoke bars for the next few years.
Which authors have influenced you?
I’m undoubtedly the product of a dozen influences, but I’ll name two. Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge fantasy series showed me how to handle a recurring cast of characters and make them fun and interesting, while tracking a bigger plot. Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series showed me the power of romance in giving added emotional weight to an overarching plot. Both series deal with major societal change, which is what my aforementioned Big Damn Story Arc is all about.
Which are your favorite literary genres?
Science fiction is my home base, but I also love fantasy, paranormal, mystery, action-adventure, and suspense. My muse is similarly inclined.
What makes a book/story special for you?
I’m mostly likely to cherish and re-read the stories where everything works together — the characters, the plot, the logic, the pacing, and the emotional arc. It’s a simple and as difficult as that. The books I remember are usually later in a series, where long-running story lines pay off, or where justice is finally delivered, or the main characters finally find love and happiness.
Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?
I share my Fort Collins, Colorado home with the resident mad scientist and various helpful cats, and have mostly lived in the western half of the U.S. It’s inevitable that my culture has influenced my stories, but half the fun of science fiction is imagining how things will change. In my series, humans haven’t run across any intelligent life, so they’ve been free to expand across the galaxy and terraform any compatible planets they like. Cultures have blended, but my characters speak a multiple languages and have a variety of cultural experiences.
How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?
The first novel, Overload Flux, took about 13 mos. from first draft to having a manuscript ready to publish. The second novel, Minder Rising, took about 7 mos., in part because it’s a little shorter, and in part because I learned a lot writing the first book. The novella I published in September,Zero Flux (a sequel to Overload Flux) took about 3 mos., mostly because I had to keep wrestling with it so it would stay short—my muse loves big plots.
Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?
Yes, I hired both editors and cover artists. I also have a cadre of brave beta readers who find the obvious typos and plot holes, so when I send the manuscript to the editor (the estimable Shelley Holloway), she can work her magic. As to covers, I absolutely love fully illustrated covers (as opposed to photo manipulation), so I hired the very talented Stephen Bryant at SRB Productions. I wanted my covers to communication the genre, and to have flavors of space opera movie posters, and he delivered. Hiring professionals is a good business decision, since I’m competing with other books that have been through the same process, but it’s also a matter of pride—I want my books to look and read their best.
What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happened?
I’ve learned there is no one, right way to do things, and that anyone who tells you they know how the publishing business will change in the next few years is selling something. Traditional publishers aren’t interested in my books, because they don’t think science fiction romance is profitable. If I wrote another, more “marketable” series, I’d listen to a traditional publisher’s offer, but I’d want a very close look at what they’d be doing in exchange for the huge percentage of royalties and tying up the rights for years on end. I like being in charge of my own destiny, wherein I pay for the mistakes but I profit from doing what’s right for my readers.
What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles along the writing of your book?
The aforementioned Big Damn Story Arc was so wonderful, it made me want to read the books. Since the cats categorically refused to write them, the task fell to me.
What would you do differently on a next project?
With each book I write, I learn new things, from what tools to use or how to motivate myself to write, to release timing, to crafting the best possible blurb. I take those lessons learned an apply them forward, so I get better with each project.
Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?
Write. You can’t edit what you don’t write, and you can’t sell what you don’t write. It doesn’t have to be good, or usable , or even saleable, but it all starts with getting it out of your head and into words on the screen or page. Free bonus advice: Treat your writing as a business from day one, not an art or a hobby. It’ll make future decisions more obvious, and make it easier to weather the slings and arrows of snarky reviews.
Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?
What are you planning to write/publish next?
My work in progress is Pico’s Crush, book 3 in the CGC series. It closes off a mini-arc of character and plot, and leads to the next book in the series.Pico’s Crush involves combat robots, sabotage, mercenaries and jack crews, and killer academic politics, and should be out in January 2016. After that, I might try a serial format for book 4.