Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stephanie Osborn -- It Takes a Rocket Scientist to Write This Stuff

Sometimes it does take a rocket scientist to write good fiction -- especially when that scientist is the amazing Stephanie Osborn, a former payload controller for the Space Shuttle program. And really, what else needs to be said by way of introduction?

So let's just jump right in, shall we?

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My newest book to be released is the third Displaced Detective book, The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident. It carries on the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Skye Chadwick, and takes them to Great Britain, where a resumption of the historic UFO sightings in Rendlesham Forest near RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge has resulted in a death. Between them, the pair have the deductive and scientific avenues covered, so it's their job to find out what really happened. Its official release date is July 15. It will debut at LibertyCon in Chattanooga.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I think relationships are the main things. I'm drawn to writing strong relationships. Loyalty, and love, and faith, and trust. Those are the important things to me, and so they are the important things in my writing. Which is interesting, because I write hard SF, so you'd think it would be all about the science. I do go to considerable lengths to make the science believable even if it is an extrapolation, but I think my stories are just as much character-driven as they are science-driven. I'd like to think so anyway. I try to make it that way.

What would be your dream project?

I have two. One would be a passion play, a story of the life of Jesus told from the Jewish perspective. He WAS Jewish, after all, and there is symbology there that has largely been lost to the vast majority of the Christian church, which is mostly Gentile. I've studied it a lot, and I'd love to write it like that. It's a daunting task, though. I'd probably want to get help and advice from one or two of the rabbis I know. And even they are only part of the information, because modern rabbinic Judaism descends from the Pharisaic sect of Jesus' day, and the Zealot, Sadducee, and Qumran sects are mostly lost, or somewhat piecemeal at best.

The other one is an idea I have for an Atlantean antediluvian epic. And since it's a worldwide civilization, I realized as I started gathering information and ideas that it wouldn't begin to fit into a single book. So it would be a truly huge project.

Okay, I guess I really have three, because I love the Displaced Detective universe so much that I really want to keep writing on it as long as I have ideas.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

I'd rewrite Burnout to make the writing style better. I was very much a green writer when I wrote that, and to my mind now, it shows. Then again, I hope I'm always learning and growing as a writer, so ten years from now, what I'm writing now will look cruder than what I'm writing then.

Chances are, when the movie finally comes out, I'll try to talk my publisher into releasing a new edition, because there are going to have to be updates to the movie script due to the passage of time and real events between when I wrote it and when it comes out. And I might as well incorporate those changes and improve the style a bit while I'm at it.

What inspires you to write?

I am honestly not sure. I get these ideas, these characters...these people and events that just demand to be recorded. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth, it's so painful – like writing Burnout, when I was writing about exactly what my day job was trying to prevent...and which ended up happening anyway, though thank the good Lord, not on my watch. Then there's the Displaced Detective books which can spew out of me like a wide open fire hose. Maybe there really is something to the idea of recording alternate realities, as I touch on in the Displaced Detective books. Or maybe that's all hooey. At this point, though, I can't NOT write.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

THAT is a really tough question. I was an omnivorous reader as a youngling and I read a lot of classic literature in addition to more modern SF of the time. It would probably be more apropos to ask what writers have NOT influenced my style and technique.

Then again, probably the biggest influence of late is my writing mentor, Travis S. Taylor. He's taught me a lot about good writing techniques and such. It so happens that we have similar styles of writing naturally so when we are writing closely together it flows very smoothly.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

As a scientist AND writer, I'd tend to rank it a little on the art side, but the kind of writing I do has a tremendous amount of science in it too. I have to be more “up” on cutting-edge research now than I ever did in the space program, actually. I'd put it about a third of the way from the art side of the art – science spectrum.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Book 4 of the Displaced Detective series, The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings will be coming out this fall, as will A New American Space Plan that Travis and I co-authored. That latter is a non-fiction book about what he and I think America should be doing in space exploration, and why our space program is in the sad shape it's in now. It's likely to be very controversial and hopefully open up some very intense dialogues.

I also just finished a steampunk novel, the first in what I hope will be a series called The Adventures of Aemelia Gearheart (pun fully intended). This first book is called The Bellerophon Club, but it isn't under contract yet. I'm rather excited about it.

And there's the short story in the Burnout universe, called The Fetish, now available as an ebook; the Holmes monograph on his use of drugs, Sherlock, Sheilas, and the Seven-Percent Solution, also an ebook; the as-yet incomplete sequelae to Burnout, The Cresperian Alliance, Extraction Point! et al...

...I think I'm going to be busy for awhile.

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For more info about Stephanie and her work, visit her online at http://www.stephanie-osborn.com.