“Everyone has a plan to use Kare. His cruel mother, the Empress, demands he accepts his position as her only heir. His father’s rebellion want a figurehead to stand against her. Kare just wants to avoid the horrific future foretold for him.” We have talked to Jo Zebedee about Abendau’s Heir, the first book in her new Inheritance Trilogy.
First of all can you tell us a bit about your new novel, Abendau’s Heir?
Abendau’s Heir is a character-focused space opera. It follows Kare, the only heir to a galactic empire he doesn’t want. His mother, the Empress, at first tries to convince him, but when he refuses to take the Empire she turns on him and takes a vengeance that will resonate through the trilogy.
What I wanted to do was to take the sff trope of the ‘chosen one’ and ask what it would mean to be that chosen person. What would it do to their relationships, their friendships? Their sanity? I wanted to explore that against a classic sf setting, so there’s plenty of action, ftl tech, some military scenes, and the backdrop of a big space opera world.
Can you give us some insight into your main character, Kare?
He’s been left in a position where he struggles to trust anyone, so he starts as a fairly isolated character. As he grows – the book covers his life up to the age of 25 – he opens out and becomes someone who very much knows their own mind. He’s caught between a horrific future foretold by his Seer father, his mother’s desires, and the demands of the rebel group he joins, but has his own ideas of what he wants to be, if his destiny will allow it.
What goals might you have set for yourself when writing Abendau’s Heir and how do you feel about the end result?
Abendau’s Heir is, genuinely, my first book. I’d tried to write it about three times when I was in my twenties but it had never been close to the standard I wanted. This time, my goal was to finish it and get it published – naively, I thought that would be easy! Then I found out the truth…
Since then I’ve written six books, including the two sequels, and ended up totally hooked. Now, I just want to be a writer but, like most writers, have a day job to put food on the table.
I’m very proud of the final result. My editor, Teresa Edgerton, was amazing at shaping the book and pushing me to make it better. The result is so much more than I ever dreamed of.
Abendau’s Heir is the first book in The Inheritance Trilogy, can you reveal a bit what we can expect next?
Book two and three deal with the aftermath of the events of book one, and expand on the world a lot. In book one the protagonists are in the rebel movement and have limited impact on the wider world – in two and three they are more central and I could play more with the politics.
We also learn more about the origin of the psi powers, and discover there is more to Kare’s heritage than known in book one.
What is it with Space Opera you find fascinating?
I love space opera. From the fun perspective, I like that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like the freedom of the suspension of disbelief encouraged within the genre, and that I can lose myself in the worlds completely. I’m also fairly fond of sexy space pilots. Isn’t everyone?
I must say you have a great cover. Can you tell us a bit about it and why you chose this particular cover?
I can’t take any credit for it! My publisher had a different cover originally but my editor felt a space cover would suit the story better, and we chose some ships that suited the story. When it was first sent to me I was just delighted – it captures the feel of the story so well.
Can you tell us a bit about the process that led to the book being published?
Abendau didn’t get subbed very much – it got caught in a big, slow submission window which it stayed in right to the end (out of 5000 books it got into the last couple of hundred), despite being an early version. While it was in limbo I wrote a different book and got an agent for it (we’ve since parted amicably) and it looked like Abendau was going to be lost.
I knew Gary Compton from Tickety Boo Press from an internet forum and when he set up the publishing house I asked my agent to sub to him. I knew by then Teresa was his editor and had once received an amazing edit from her (for Abendau, as it happens) and I really wanted to work with her again.
Gary offered on the trilogy, and we’ve been working towards publishing it ever since.
How do you market your book?
I’m on a few forums (mostly as springs) which I find a great vehicle as I’m chatty and enjoy being part of a community. I have my own sub forum on one of them – http://www.sffchronicles.com/forum/jo-zebedee/ – with a number of threads dedicated to Abendau.
I also blog regularly at jozebwrites.blogspot.co.uk, and am on twitter under @joz1812. Lastly, I have a facebook page for the trilogy https://www.facebook.com/theinheritancetrilogy
How did you start writing? Was there a particular book or moment in your life that spurned you on?
My kids were finally old enough to entertain themselves one summer and I decided it was then or never. That I was about to turn 40 might have been another incentive! That was five years ago, and I haven’t stopped since.
How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
Not really – I find planning hard (impossible, actually). I usually start with the germ of an idea, the what if, and a vague notion of the destination, and then I start writing. I enter monthly flash fiction competitions and find inspiration from that – all my books, except Abendau, have been sparked by something in them.
Characters usually make themselves known as I go on, and by the second or third draft the plot is reasonably set. From there it’s honing and editing and working on feedback.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
For me, first drafts. I don’t like not knowing what I’m working towards. Once things are more set I’m happier. Unusually, I quite like editing.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Trad for me, every time. I do have a kindle app but I do a fair bit of beta reading and am glad to get a break from the screen.
What kind of books do you read, any favourite authors?
I’m a fairly wide reader but I do tend to return to genre. I love Lois McMaster Bujold, Neil Gaiman and Carlos Ruiz Zafon, so that’s fairly wide, I think. I read some YA, but more adult, to be fair.
I tend to go for character led stories – I’m a sucker for someone to root for.
What do you do when you’re not writing, any hobbies?
Loads! My life is chaos! I run my own business – a small consultancy – have kids and pets and still find time to garden, walk, read a lot and enjoy days out with the family. Living near a beach is a bonus! I also have a passion for canal boating and would love to do that more often than I do ( there aren’t many narrowboats in Ireland, sadly…)
What’s next, what are you working on now? Do you have other projects besides the The Inheritance Trilogy?
Yes, lots. I write prolifically. I have two genre novels based in Northern Ireland I’d like to find a home for, and am subbing at the moment. They’re both standalones. And I’ve just started a new novel, a sort of gaslight fantasy (although the sub genre might change) which I’m slowly working at and having critiqued by my long suffering writing group as I do. Fitting writing in around the flurry of release is challenging, though, and I really either need to bend time and get a few extra hours or clone myself.
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Interview by Dag Rambraut – SFFWorld.com © 2015