We’re very excited to have Lyssa Chiavari on the Introvert Problems blog today. Lyssa is an author of speculative fiction for young adults, including Fourth World, the first book in a YA sci-fi trilogy set on Mars. Her short fiction has appeared in Ama-Gi magazine, the Wings of Renewal anthology, and Perchance to Dream, a young adult collection of Shakespeare retellings which she also edited. Read on to find out more about this amazing author!
1. Being a science fiction writer, what was your introduction to the genre?
It’s kind of hard to pinpoint my introduction to sci-fi, because my mom is a huge science fiction fan and she watched and read so much of it that I feel like I was watching Star Trek with her while I was still in the crib! But there are two books that really stand out in my mind as influencing me from a really young age, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. The first was Bruce Coville’s My Teacher Is An Alien, which I got from the Scholastic book club in third or fourth grade. At this point, I don’t even remember much about the series—what I do remember is that it explained really complicated concepts like wormholes in a way that I was able to understand at age eight and still remember it more than twenty years later.
The other book, the one that I really consider the book that hooked me on sci-fi, was A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle. A few chapters from the book were in my sixth grade English reader, accompanied with some beautiful illustrations of the fantastic worlds that the Murry children visit. They really caught my mind, because I’d never read or seen anything like it before. I had to get the full book, and after that, I sat down with my mom and actually watched Star Trek, and started borrowing all her Science Fiction Book Club books, and started writing my own science fiction.
2. Your Iamos Trilogy novella, Different Worlds, was just released in September. Being set on Mars, it is on an entirely estranged planet. What does your world-creating process look like?
The world-building was actually the longest part of the process for me with the Iamos Trilogy—I spent the better part of two years mulling it over in my mind, trying to think of a way to make it all make sense and become real before I felt comfortable sitting down and actually writing the story. It was kind of a unique process in that I had to develop two worlds in one. First of all, there’s “modern” Mars, which is where Different Worlds is entirely set. It was colonized by people from Earth in the mid-twenty-first century. That version of Mars sprang out of conversations with my students back when I was teaching elementary school science, about what it might be like to live on Mars in the future. There are small differences in things like technology, slang, and other things, but the society of that world is mostly just like ours, with things like difference in climate, gravity, the length of the year and so on factored in.
But the series (especially the first book, Fourth World) also focuses on ancient Mars, Iamos, a world constructed entirely from my imagination. That world didn’t have the constraints that “modern” Mars had, such as trying to fit with modern advances in technology or world events; but since it was built from scratch, that made it difficult in a different way. Iamos’ society is really dystopian, because in this timeline, Mars is dying—the atmosphere is draining away, people are doing anything they can to try to survive, and that desperation has stripped away a lot of the individuality and joy that the world might have had before a disaster of that caliber. I tried to ground Iamos in reality as much as I could, basing a lot of aspects of their culture on ancient societies I was familiar with as a history major, such as Greece, Rome, Egypt, and South American cultures like the Olmec and the Maya. But I also let myself have a little bit of fun imagining the sorts of animals that might have lived on Mars along with those people. (For example, the gurzas, mini T-rexes you can ride like horses!)
3. Why did you go the indie pub route?
I thought really carefully about which publishing route to take before I released Fourth World, and there were a lot of different reasons why I opted to go indie, but most of them ultimately boil down to creative control. There were elements of the series that were non-negotiable to me, such as the diverse cast or the fact that my protagonists are on the asexual spectrum, and I was concerned about publishers wanting to white-wash or straight-wash it.
Having a say in the cover was also a huge part of it for me—by indie publishing, I was able to arrange a custom photo shoot rather than using stock photos, which enabled me to “cast” my characters to fit the vision I saw in my mind (and support another indie business in the process, which was a huge plus!). I also love the flexibility that indie publishing provides, which is so important for surviving in the industry these days. I wouldn’t rule out hybrid publishing with a traditional publisher at some point in the future, but for this series, I really felt like indie was the right path.
4. What is an indie book subscription box? And what was the inspiration behind it?
Like so many other authors, I’m also a huge reader, and a fun thing I’ve really enjoyed has been the book-themed subscription boxes that have popped up all over the place recently. Each month, they send you a surprise book along with a handful of fun goodies based around the theme of the book. I love subscribing to these, but I’ve noticed that all the ones currently on the market focus only on Big Five-published books, to the extent that a few of the bigger ones have had the same books as each other multiple times over the past year. I would love to see a business like this that focuses on highlighting some of the amazing indie voices out there, particularly in YA.
The young adult book world is still so centered around traditionally published books, and that’s really a shame because there are so many great indie books out there just waiting for readers to discover them. Earlier this year, I started laying the ground work to launch a book box service that would do just that—but starting a new business is expensive and time-consuming, especially when you’re juggling other businesses at the same time. So my book box dreams are on hold for the moment, but I’m hopeful that the stars will align sometime soon and readers will be able to experience some of the awesome indie voices out there in this fun way!
5. Can you tell us about what you are working on now?
For the time being, I’m working on a non-Iamos-related project—still sci-fi, but New Adult this time instead of YA. This one is set on Earth, and incorporates the fun and zaniness of a lot of the pulpier sci-fi movies and TV series that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. I’m hoping to have that one completed by the end of December, and then it’s back to work on the Iamos Trilogy. I hope to have the next book in that series, New World, out in the first half of 2017!
6. How can we keep up with you?
Check out my website www.lyssachiavari.com.