Interview with SPSFC Winner S.A. Tholin

s.a. tholin

BWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Different perspectives, unexpected turns and characters who have something they care strongly about, whether it’s good or bad. I always enjoy a story that makes me think, whether it’s about concepts and ideas, or the actions and opinions of the characters. 

BWG: How did you get into writing? Were there any catalysts in your life that set you on your path to loving the written word?

My parents named me after a character in Lord of the Rings. That sparked an early interest in reading fantasy, but long before I could read, I was making up stories and scribbling them down in notebooks. Even as a toddler I was playing at being a writer!

BWG: What comes first for you, the plot or the characters, and why?

Definitely the characters, but they don’t exist in a vacuum – it’s from their life situation and personality that I extrapolate the plot, allowing their choices and motivations to lead the story.

BWG: How was your first SPSFC? If you have other books, Do you think you will submit them to future contests?

It was amazing. I was very nervous entering, but it was such a welcoming experience. From the organizers to the judges to the other contestants, it’s a lovely community. I’ve always wanted to submit to the SPFBO, so that’s absolutely something I’d like to do – I just have to finish a fantasy novel first!

BWG: What was the best part of the SPSFC experience?

It’s easy to publish, but very difficult to reach readers. I’ve been following the SPFBO for years, and I love how it puts a spotlight on self-published fantasy. It’s not just the winners and finalists – every year hundreds of books get their moment to shine. That’s why I was thrilled when the SPSFC was announced, giving self-published science fiction the same opportunity!

BWG: For readers unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us about your SPSFC entry?

IRON TRUTH is the story of a desolate planet, a dying botanist, a tormented commander and the darkness that connects them all. As the mystery of a missing ship unfolds, the characters are plunged into personal horrors, their love and loyalties tested to the limit. 

BWG: Where did you get the idea for your book?

I wanted to write about a character having a pivotal moment where everything they are and everything they stand for is challenged, their entire world crumbling around them – and their refusal to give into this devastation, their strength as they forge on, their focus on the single light in the dark.

BWG: What was your most brutal scene to write, and why?

The most brutal scene I ever wrote is in LONELY CASTLES, the sequel to Iron Truth. It’s only a couple of sentences, nothing graphic, just a bluntly bleak statement that to this day I feel terrible about writing. I feel so sorry for doing that to the character it happens to!

In contrast, possibly the most brutal scene in Iron Truth is a very graphic war story from Commander Cassimer’s past. 

BWG: What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

Before I started writing, I had an outline, but the first draft departed from that pretty quickly. After that, the core of the successive drafts didn’t change much at all. The story knew what it wanted to be! 

BWG: There is usually research of some form when writing a Sci-fi novel. Were there any exciting bits of research or rabbit holes you went down writing the book?

Oh, there were so many. To pull just a few examples from my browser research tab, I dived deep into planetary geology, Hopfield networks, biological immortality and environmental philosophy! And botany, of course – one of the main characters, Joy Somerset, is a botanist, and that plays a big part throughout the series.

BWG: What do you have coming up in the future?

I recently released QUEEN OF THE CORPSEPICKERS, the first book in Primaterre Tales, a spin-off series of stand-alone novels set in the same universe as Iron Truth. It’s the twisted coming-of-age story of Vanessa ‘Mist’ Northrup, a ruthless space pirate.

My next book will be BRIGHTWORK, the second in that series, the story of a submarine search-and-rescue crew who make a shocking discovery in the hadal abyss of an alien sea.

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

S.A. Tholin

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