To celebrate the release of her new YA sci-fi thriller, Nova (available 6/2/15), author Margaret Fortune was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Daily Quirk! Be sure to check out our review of Nova and keep on reading to learn more about Margaret and her writing.
The Daily Quirk: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer?
Margaret Fortune: My first story was written in first grade. According to my mom, my older sister came home from school with the assignment to write a story, to which I said, “I could write a story if I wanted to!” So I did.
While I did write some as a child, I didn’t seriously start writing until I graduated from college. I needed something to do while looking for a job. After a few short stories, I decided to take a go at a novel, and found to my surprise that I liked writing novels more than short stories. So even after I found a job, I continued to write. Eventually, I realized I wanted to try and get my books published. It took about a decade of hard work, as well as many, many failures along the way, but in the end I’m proud to call myself an author.
TDQ: Nova has such a unique and engaging concept. How did you come up with the idea for the plot? Did your original vision change at all once you started writing?
MF: Oftentimes, my stories start with a setting, and this is true of Nova. This story started with a random thought along the lines of, “I want to write a story that takes place on a space station!” As I was brainstorming ideas for the novel, the line “My name is Lia, and I’m a genetically engineered human bomb,” popped into my head. I knew at once I’d struck gold.
The story began evolving the moment I started setting it to paper. When I write a novel, I’ll generally start with a very basic plot and character. I’ll have the beginning, the ending, and a general idea of how to get from here to there, but not much else. As a result, there’s a lot of room for the story to grow and change during the writing process. Most of the main plot elements and twists in Nova developed during the writing process, rather than being pre-planned.
TDQ: What was the most challenging part about writing Nova?
MF: Because I know the general plot of the story but not all the events, when I write I’m basically trying to get from one catalyst or inciting event to the next. There were days when I went to start the next chapter and found myself staring at the blank page going, “I have no idea what’s supposed to be in this chapter.” Those were probably the most challenging days.
TDQ: Science fiction hasn’t always been particularly popular in Young Adult, but that seems to be changing over the past few years. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose YA sci-fi for your first novel and your love of sci-fi in general?
MF: My love of sci-fi started as a child, growing up on episodes of Star Trek TNG, Seaquest DSV and Earth 2. While there wasn’t a lot of children’s sci-fi to be found in my local library, what there was I devoured. It was children’s sci-fi from the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, by authors such as H.M. Hoover, Louise Lawrence, and Monica Hughes, that sparked my love of sci-fi literature.
Nova was born of love for the genre, as well as strategy. At the time I wrote Nova, YA sci-fi was just starting to emerge in the market. Between Nova’s high concept and the direction of the market, I felt the book would have a really good shot at catching the eye of an agent and/or publisher. While Nova is my first book that readers will see, it certainly wasn’t my first completed novel or my first attempt to sell a novel. As much as we writers want to believe that good writing will always win the day, the truth is: Genre matters. Concept matters. It’s not just about writing a great book you love, but also writing a great book you love that will be salable. Lucky for me, I love sci-fi! Nova allowed me to successfully combine both my love of the genre and the current market trend to a successful end.
TDQ: What’s the last fantastic need-to-tell-all-your-friends-about-it book you read?
MF: I really enjoyed Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It was just so much fun to read, I had to share it with others!
TDQ: Nova the first book in a series (which is a very good thing considering the craziness at the end!) – can you tell us anything about the next book in the series, or any other upcoming projects?
MF: Nova is the first of a five-book series, so expect four more books to be coming in the not-too-distant future. Each book features a different setting and MC, so readers can look forward to seeing much more of their favorite secondary characters like Michael, Teal, and Shar. While each book has its own standalone plot, each is a piece in a much larger story that will finally be put together in the fifth book. I hope readers that enjoy Nova will come back and join me for book two, which stars Michael as he takes on a very unique—and dangerous—role in the ongoing war!