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Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of the Central Corps series


Please welcome Elizabeth Bonesteel to The Qwillery. Remnants of Trust (A Central Corps Novel 2)
was published on November 8th by Harper Voyager.



Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of the Central Corps series




          Star Trek premiered in 1966 when I was two, less than three years after John Kennedy was assassinated, less than four years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a short 21 years after the end of World War II. Right in the thick of the Vietnam War. The space race was a big deal, and was largely motivated by the Cold War; but Star Trek suggested that it might not be war that we got out of it. That maybe, just maybe, instead of war and threats, we could have a positive future.
          For me, largely oblivious to world politics, Star Trek was space stories. It shared our television with Mercury news and Apollo launches, fiction and reality taking turns. I grew up with the assumption that the Apollo program would someday give us warp drive and the starship Enterprise. All of the civil unrest would give us women and men working together, nationality and skin color dividing no one. Star Trek was fiction, but to Small Liz, it showed a universe that seemed perfectly attainable.
          It’s much easier to be optimistic when you’re a kid, and you blithely believe your parents will fix any wrong that enters your life. Of course we will have a Star Trek future, because we will do the Right Things.
          Not that the show was an egalitarian utopia. Science fiction and its predictions of the future were largely the purview of 1960s men, and they could only get so far on that point. But the existence of someone like Uhura—not just a bridge officer, but a kickass bridge officer who actually once got to slug Sulu (although be fair it was Mirror Universe Sulu and so not quite the same thing, but damn, this is not a woman you want to cross)—was massive, mostly because she wasn’t treated, on the show, as anything unusual. Of course women would be officers. Of course we’d carry weapons and know how to fight and defend ourselves. Logic. For a show that frequently extolled the virtues of human sentiment, it was often logical in exactly the right ways.
          Some of my favorite episodes as a kid were the ones that don’t hold up so well when viewed through an adult lens. “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is about the most unsubtle diatribe against racism you could possibly compose, but as a child I found its anger and sense of futility genuinely affecting. It’s a frequent trick of the show that has continued through all of its iterations: use an alien species to represent present-day Us in order to both make the point and suggest that Future Us will have been able to fix our mistakes. Hopelessness for today, but maybe some hope for tomorrow.
          “The Alternative Factor” doesn’t make a lick of sense if you think about it, but that was another I loved as a kid. The existential horror of being trapped with an insane version of yourself for eternity—wow. Fear of death? Feh. Everlasting life with yourself? Nightmares. It’s an oddly-paced, substantially less horrific version of “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.” It evokes C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the island where dreams come true. It’s the original Grimm Fairy Tale, where the wicked stepmother dances in red-hot shoes until she drops dead.
          Okay, I was a weird kid.
          “The Galileo Seven” always scared me at the end, even when I knew they would be beamed out in time. (And wasn’t Spock’s characterization odd in that one? It always seemed like if they wanted to inject random conflict in an episode, they’d have Spock go extra-Vulcan and piss everybody off.) And to this day I leave the room when Decker dies in “The Doomsday Machine,” which is still, even by modern standards, one of the loveliest hours of television ever produced (and violates one of the show’s usual rules of making the threatening aliens at least partially sympathetic).
          And of course there were the humorous episodes, intentional and unintentional. “Spock’s Brain” is a brilliant piece of sexist camp, complete with what’s actually quite a nice performance from Marj Dusay (later an accomplished soap opera actress). And there were tribbles and hordes of beautiful twin androids, and oh, the cringing when I watch “I, Mudd” today, but it still makes me laugh.
          Even the grimmest of Star Trek episodes had shades of optimism. This is still true (although lately they’ve been pushing it, and seriously, people, stop blowing up my Enterprise), and it is, in some ways, cheating. It shows us the great distance we have yet to travel without giving us any clues about how we’re supposed to get there. But sometimes, when the world is unsettled, when you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow…sometimes, a little blind optimism is exactly what you need.





Remnants of Trust
A Central Corps Novel 2
Harper Voyager, November 8, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of the Central Corps series
In this follow-up to the acclaimed military science fiction thriller The Cold Between, a young soldier finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a deadly conspiracy in deep space.

Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Gov denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.

But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders. A PSI generation ship—the same one that recently broke off negotiations with Foster—is also in the sector and joins in the desperate battle that leaves ninety-seven of Exeter’s crew dead.

An investigation of the disaster points to sabotage. And Exeter is only the beginning. When the PSI ship and Galileo suffer their own "accidents," it becomes clear that someone is willing to set off a war in the Third Sector to keep their secrets, and the clues point to the highest echelons of power . . . and deep into Shaw’s past.





Previously

The Cold Between
A Central Corps Novel 1
Harper Voyager, March 8, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of the Central Corps series
Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.





About Elizabeth

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of the Central Corps series
Elizabeth Bonesteel began making up stories at the age of five, in an attempt to battle insomnia. Thanks to a family connection to the space program, she has been reading science fiction since she was a child. She currently works as a software engineer and lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and various cats.





Website  ~  Twitter @liz_monster  ~  Facebook

Interview with Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of The Cold Between


Please welcome Elizabeth Bonesteel to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Cold Between was published on March 8th by Harper Voyager.



Interview with Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of The Cold Between




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Elizabeth:  Thank you! I actually started making up stories when I was 5, before I could read or write. I was never a good sleeper, and it was always rough on my parents getting me to go to bed. At one point they suggested I start telling myself stories, I’m sure as a way of trying to get a decent amount of rest themselves. It worked pretty well for me. I still write in my head as I’m falling asleep.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Elizabeth:  Probably a hybrid, although plotters are uniformly horrified by me, so maybe I’m a pantser in disguise. I usually have an ending, and a handful of milestones. Most of the time I know where the story starts. I work out most of the details - including, sometimes, some really big plot points - as I’m composing. A lot of the twists in The Cold Between were throw-away thoughts and dialogue in the early stages.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Elizabeth:  Deadlines, in part because they’re still a bit new to me. Before you sell something, you’re not writing for anyone else. You can afford to laze around and wait for The Muse to show. But once you have people actually waiting for words, you’ve got to write, whether or not The Muse is in the mood. You learn, after a while, that The Muse isn’t actually necessary - some of my favorite bits were written when I was blearily typing madly toward a deadline. But it does change the nature of the creative process, and it requires the reprogramming of a lot of old habits.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Elizabeth:  I was born at the height of the original space program, so the whole idea of space travel was very much a part of popular culture when I was little. In addition to that, my maternal grandfather worked with NASA on the Saturn V, so my parents had a particular interest in following the program in the news. Even when public interest began waning, it was always discussed in our household, and our media consumption was naturally steered in that direction. I remember watching some truly awful stuff on TV - but I also remember being loaded into the car to drive into the city for the first Boston showing of Star Wars. My parents definitely aided and abetted my love of science fiction and fantasy.

These days, I consume more television and movies than books. The high-quality television and film productions coming out these days are really exciting. There was a period in the 70s and 80s, with Star Wars and Alien doing so well, when Hollywood seemed to think adding spaceships to any horrid script would get them some box office. Now there’s so much that’s not only beautiful but really well-written, from complex superhero stuff to hard SF like Edge of Tomorrow and The Expanse. I’ll watch movies and TV episodes over and over again just because they’re so well-written, well-performed, and gorgeous to look at.

And Star Trek, of course, in all of its incarnations, has been a huge inspiration. It’s probably not realistic to imagine a future that optimistic, but there’s a real appeal to the idea that there exists a future in which we’ve not only survived, but done all right.



TQDescribe The Cold Between in 140 characters or less.

Elizabeth:  In deep space, murder, romance, betrayal, and government intrigue meet a big, radioactive wormhole. Also, explosions!

I’m not great at Twitter.



TQTell us something about The Cold Between that is not found in the book description.

Elizabeth:  One thing that’s not apparent in the blurbs is that Galileo is flying outside of her comfort zone. Central starships have assigned areas, and Galileo, for various reasons, is in unfamiliar territory. For the crew - in particular Elena, who’s often naive about these things even at the best of times - this means that allies, reinforcements, and even the basic mission parameters are not going to be what they’re used to. Everyone is slightly off balance without thinking deeply about why, and when things begin to go wrong, they go wrong in ways our heroes don’t anticipate. Even Greg, who’s about as cynical as it gets, is caught flat-footed by a lot of what happens.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Cold Between? What appeals to you about writing Military Science Fiction?

ElizabethThe Cold Between began as a vignette - the first chapter, actually, much of which survives unchanged from early drafts. I had this idea of a woman who does something entirely out of character, which turns out to be serendipitous. From there, she does what most of us would do - at each step, she tries to do the right thing, only to find the situation around her becoming progressively messier.

There’s a strong military history in my family - both of my grandfathers were Army - so from that standpoint a military structure feels comfortable. But what I appreciate most about writing military science fiction is the restrictions it presents. If Elena was working for some random corporation, she could easily take a day or two off to do some independent investigation of a murder, because who would care? In a military setting, there are potentially some pretty serious consequences for her heading off on her own. There’s more at stake for her from the start.

In addition to that, in any military unit, close bonds can develop quickly, even between people who don’t always like each other. There’s a familial aspect to it. You’ve got a set of strong, capable people who rely on each other in ways they rely on no one else. Examining the psychology around that - especially if someone in the unit changes, or becomes unreliable - provides a lot of character material.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Cold Between?

Elizabeth:  I did some research on pulsars, as well as radiation poisoning and isotopes. I also read a lot about concussions, which was sort of interesting. Now every time I see one of those old TV shows where the hero benignly clubs someone unconscious, I can’t suspend my disbelief, because I know how dangerous that is in real life.

Despite the fact that faster-than-light travel is (based on what we know today, at least) impossible, I did do some research into what it would look like. Having been raised on Star Trek, it was something of a surprise to learn that you wouldn’t get anything like a moving starfield out your window. When you think about it, it makes sense; but it was a speed bump.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Elizabeth:  Greg is the easiest. I know him the best of all of them, and he’s temperamentally the most like me. I understand his psychology. Elena’s always difficult, because she’s impulsive. I know what she’s going to do, but sometimes it takes me a lot of thinking to understand why. Greg’s the opposite, really: I always know why he reacts to something, but it takes time to unravel how he’s actually going to handle it. He thinks too much, and she doesn’t think at all.

And they both get stubborn. There were things that couldn’t happen in the story because they wouldn’t cooperate. I’d like to say the book is better because of it, but we’ll never know, will we?



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Cold Between?

Elizabeth:  I could say “I didn’t include any social issues,” but I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s impossible for any writer to create something that doesn’t somehow reveal their feelings about the society they live in. And often it’s unconscious.

I didn’t think about it when I was writing, but I do seem to have a lot of opinions about politics, established authority, trust, and corruption. There are a lot of moments in the story when a character needs to decide between what’s expected - or mandated - by the system they’re a part of, and what they believe is the right thing to do. The more rigid the authority, the more difficult a choice this can be. It’s Greg, really, who’s the most trapped, because he’s the most invested in the chain of command.

Beyond that…writing is an escape for me, and as such, something of a cheat. I’ve gone with the Star Trek future in which we’ve dealt with all of the sexual, racial, and gender bias issues we’re dealing with today. People still self-sort into groups, but for different reasons (PSI, for example, is a self-selecting group who believe a centralized authority is a foolishly inefficient method of helping people). I’m not the first person to note that it’s blatantly unrealistic to assume in a thousand years it’ll be nothing but white guys in space, but no, I don’t cover how we got there. I have some ideas about that, but they’ll have to wait for another book.



TQWhich question about The Cold Between do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Elizabeth:

Q: Why this story now, at this point in your life?

A: There’s an adage that’s repeated about fiction: write what you know. And of course on the face of it, it makes no sense. Fiction, by its nature, is speculative. Science fiction and fantasy are by definition based on situations nobody can actually “know.”

But I don’t think that’s what the adage means, at least for me. For me, that advice has to do with character, choice, and consequence. And there are things about these characters that I couldn’t have written when I was younger. The nature of love, both spontaneous and unrequited. The critical importance of friendship and trust. How much easier it is for friends to hurt us than lovers. How easily we hurt other people, despite our best intentions - and how easily pain can make our best intentions fall by the wayside.

And there’s a lot in this story I couldn’t have written before I became a parent. I don’t think for one second it’s a necessary exercise for everyone, but for me, it helped me focus. I learned a lot about my own limits and my own failings, and I found myself strong in areas I would not have expected. It also taught me how to accomplish tasks while sleep-deprived, which is necessary for any writer!



TQGive us one or two favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Cold Between.

Elizabeth:

Justice, he had found, was a flimsy illusion used to stave off anger, and anger always won in the end.

“Everything is cursed. The sensors are cursed, the engines are cursed. My grandmother is cursed, apparently. Also some types of sandwiches.”

“If you’re going to ask me to violate my oath, Lieutenant, you could at least flirt with me first.”

Elena may have forgotten about revenge, Trey thought, but you have not, have you, Captain Foster?



TQWhat's next?

Elizabeth:  The second book in the series is coming out this fall. It’s an insane amount of work, having two come out so close together — not just for me, but for everyone working on the books — but it’s also an incredible privilege, and very exciting. Book 3 is currently in the composition stages. I’ve got my ending and some milestones, but the gory details are just beginning to reveal themselves.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Elizabeth:  Thank you! It’s been great fun.





The Cold Between
Central Corps 1
Harper Voyager, March 8, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of The Cold Between
Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.





About Elizabeth

Interview with Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of The Cold Between
Elizabeth Bonesteel began making up stories at the age of five, in an attempt to battle insomnia. Thanks to a family connection to the space program, she has been reading science fiction since she was a child. She currently works as a software engineer, and lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter, and various cats. Massachusetts has been her home her whole life, and while she’s sure there are other lovely places to live, she’s quite happy there.


Website  ~  Twitter @liz_monster  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of the Central Corps seriesInterview with Elizabeth Bonesteel, author of The Cold Between

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