When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.
Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.
Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....
1. Hi! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview for my blog. The cover of your book is absolutely beautiful and it sounds like such a good read! First things first however, how on earth did you come up with such a unique idea for your novel?
Well, thanks for the cover-luv. My publisher can take credit for that. It’s a thing of beauty and, yes, it’s part of my screen-saver slideshow and yet I never get tired of seeing it…. The inspiration for writing about a novice exoveterinarian studying big, dangerous, fascinating alien animals is a result of my life-long interest in and deep affection for pretty much all life forms – mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, birds, paramecia, the odd human being, etc. OK, I’m not exactly deeply affectionate re: a paramecium or a barnacle, but I revel in the stunning fact that they’re these amazing, functioning biological specimens that have earned their place in the current universe by surviving to be here after x-million years of evolving and adapting and triumphing over ALL THE OTHER THINGS that wanted to eat their lunch and be here instead of them. You’ve gotta respect that. Not to mention be totally gob-smacked by it. Anyway, once I started volunteering with various animal welfare groups and fostering horses and other equines here on our farm in the lovely Midwest, I also started interacting with veterinarians and seeing their amazing skill and dedication and what an effect it had, on both animals and the people who owned the animals. Combine that with my long-running geekitude re: science fiction, and Zenn Scarlett just seems to materialize of her own volition (well, not quite, but you can see it’s a kinda natural progression).
2. Who were your inspirations when writing this book?
I'd have a hard time coming up with all of the possible influences on my writing (does Dr. Seuss count?) But, here are a few: James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small and the on-going series of books and the wonderful British TV series are certainly early influences. Philip Pullman was inspiring. Also, all the very early, like grade-school-level animal books I read as a kid, the books that, unlike Disney, really attempted to present the world as an animal might see and experience it, from the daily brutality of wild animal life, to the bursts of sheer, unadulterated joy at being alive and in the moment that, really, only animals must possess (sorry, but once you know you’re mortal and will eventually meet up with the narrator from The Book Thief, things are not quite the same…). And, of course, additional inspiration arose from reading the entire library of classic off-world sci fi adventure, from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Clarke and Heinlein and Asimov and Dick and others.
3. You are now officially published! So very cool, congratulations! How is life as an officially published author?Well, so far it’s been as fab as one might wish attended by the occasional sensation of unreality (oh, right, they bought my books. cool!) I really find it totally fascinating to have people now reading and responding to Zenn’s world and her friends and enemies and her animals and their personalities (and/or their biologies, depending). Not everyone agrees with everything Zenn says or thinks, of course, and that’s totally cool, too – it great no matter what to have intelligent responses to one’s writing. It’s a nice feeling to be able to go to Goodreads or where ever and see that people are not only reading the book but taking time to absorb it and talk about their reaction to it.
4. What is your favourite bit about being an author?
My fave thing is the feeling of having accomplished what I set out to do a few years back: create a whole new world and populate it with characters, human and non-, that readers will care about. Sounds kinda simple, huh? Well, it took me those years to finally do it, so, yeah, I like that bit.
5. It has to be counterbalanced, what’s the worst bit about being an author?
I guess the downside is that I spend an inordinate amount of my life in a room crouched over a keyboard, typing. Because, ya know, I really like the outdoors! Now, it’s a perfectly nice room in a fine old farmhouse that’s full of cats, dogs and ferrets (and one fortunately tolerant wife). But I wouldn’t have minded too much if I’d turned out to be a gardener somewhere who spent his days crouched over a seed-bed instead. Still, I get to grow things and plant them in people’s heads, so it’s sorta the same.
6. And finally, do you have any tips for future authors?
The most important thing you can do if you’re working on a book is finish your book. Yeah, no secret handshakes or anything if you’re at that stage of the process. Until you finish the piece, it’s not really a piece, it’s just a piece of piece and so it’s not a complete thing. There a lots of reasons this is vitally important , but, at least in the case of fiction, there’s this: if your book isn’t finished, no agent will want to look at it. At least, no agent who’s legit. Non-fiction is a different animal; outlines are accepted. Beyond reaching the point where you can type “The End” (which you actually don’t need to type, but if it feels good, do it), I’d say read lots of stuff in and/or out of your genre, maybe keep a journal (I don’t, but I hear it helps lots of writers), re-write what you write and polish till you can see your cherubic little face in it, then get an objective set of eyes to read it (not mom, not boy/girlfriend, etc.). And, if you really wanna be a writer, there is also this to do: put butt in chair, write, re-write, rinse, repeat.
My Review of Zenn ScarlettAbout the author
Christian Schoon Bio
Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, interacting with animals ranging from black bears and cougars to Burmese pythons, alligators, caimans, emus and other critters.
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