Space might be the final frontier, but the imagination knows no limits. When it comes to science fiction and speculative writing this is especially true. Come meet my friend Leigh Saunders who continually pushes the boundaries of her own imagination with both heart and enviable skill.
Leigh and I are partners in crime in the Utah author scene, often seen tucking ourselves into corners at conferences and planning our next move. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, with authors as friends there is never a dull moment.
On to the interview!
Hi Leigh, welcome to my blog! To kick off this interview I’d like to get to know you better. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve never been the stereotypical, introverted writer – though I have been known to “lurk” quietly in new situations while I figure out the lay of the land. Growing up in a military family was probably a big part of that. It allowed me to see a fair bit of the world — and also taught me to adapt to different cultures and customs every time we moved. Then I read the phrase “…the things are also people” in a SF story (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I think), and I never looked at the world quite the same way ever again. I’ve been fortunate to have worked as a full-time writer (of various things, not all fiction) for most of my adult life, and love to travel, learn new things, see new places, meet new people – and then weave some version of what I remember into my stories – yeah, I do that – but by the time I’ve dumped so many bits and pieces into the blender, then poured them out and stretched them like taffy, it’s only the essence of the real people or events that make it to the page. The rest is some kind of alchemy that I don’t even pretend to understand. I just accept it for the magic that it is.
What skill have you always wished you were amazing at, but haven’t had the time to learn?
I’ve always been curious about so many things – In college, I studied accounting, architecture, modern dance, and technical theatre (all the backstage/behind-the-scenes stuff), but I never made it into the horse training program at Findlay College, which would have been a lot of work, but also great fun. I’m a competent rider, but some of my characters are truly one with their horses in a way I’ll never be.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever researched for a writing project?
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to bid on a project with the National Center for Human Genome Research (now the National Human Genome Research Institute). Our small project was cancelled due to funding limitations before it got off the ground, but my interaction with the project team led me to further research in the Human Genome Project. Since I came to it with a science fiction author’s world view, my primary focus was “what if…?” Fact and fiction tumbled around in my head for some time as a result, and Brianna Rei, the genetically-engineered heroine of my 2011 novel “Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record” was the result. I’ve written a handful of short stories featuring Brianna Rei since then, and this year am launching a new series of short, interstellar heists and capers, called “The Misha Kif Chronicles” where Brianna, always on the run from the bounty hunters, has returned to her career as a master thief under the alias, Misha Kif.
“Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record” is available through all the major ebook retailers
“The Misha Kif Chronicles, Vol 1: Partners in Crime” is available exclusively as part of the Storybundle “Space Traveler” bundle through July 4, 2019 (www.storybundle.com/space), and will hit the major ebook retailers later this summer.
In all the books you’ve read/written/edited, what character has captured your imagination the most?
If I have to pick just one, it would be the Comte de Saint-Germain, the delicious vampire immortalized (pun intended!) by the amazing Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I’ve always loved well-researched historical novels, and Yarbro wound her meticulous research skills around a character based in part around the very secretive, real-life Count de St. Germain, creating an intelligent, charming, heroic vampire who I have always loved. Yarbro has written nearly thirty stand-alone novels about Saint- Germain the series over the past many years (I believe the first one came out in 1978), together with two spin-off series, and while the style is somewhat old-fashioned and reminiscent of historical and Regency novels, I am a true fan of Saint-Germain. Other vampires may come and go (or sparkle… why?) but I have always thought of Saint-Germain as the vampire whose acquaintance I have been most happy to have made.
I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?
So many interesting things… so many stories!
I have this oddly-shaped, fist-sized blob of blown glass. Sometimes it’s on a bookshelf, right now it’s sitting on the corner of my desk. For the most part, it’s clear, but veins of red, the color of blood, wind through it and if you turn it this way or that in the light, it almost seems alive. I picked it up from a glassblower in Oregon, because it almost perfectly symbolizes a magical talisman I created in my very first (as-yet-unfinished) novel. One of these days, I’ll get back to that book; in the meantime, the heart of the talisman beats on…
What’s next? What are you working on?
I’m usually working on multiple projects simultaneously, almost always in distinctly different genres. Right now, I’m deep into the first few volumes of “The Misha Kif Chronicles,” which I like to call “the t.v. series ‘Leverage’ in space.” On the other side of the desk are the books and outlines for a fantasy series-in-progress, which is loosely based on the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe… but with magic. I’m in early stages with that one. And, of course, tucked in around the edges of my schedule are short stories – I’m a fan of the form, and love to explore new worlds and new ideas in short fiction whenever I can.
About Today’s Guest:
Leigh Saunders grew up as a “military brat.” And while she’s long-since settled in her Rocky Mountain home with her husband and a large fluffy cat, her life-long wanderlust regularly inspires her to write about the people and places that spark her imagination. When not writing speculative fiction for a living (her day job is writing computer software manuals), Leigh enjoys writing “practical magic” and “social science fiction” – stories that focus on people (or “things” that are also people) in distant places, and how everyday magic, futuristic events, or advances in technology impact their lives. A 1993 Writers of the Future finalist, her recent short fiction can be found in multiple Fiction River anthologies, BundleRabbit short story collections, and more. She has won awards from the League of Utah Writers for both long and short fiction, and her short story, “Tendrils,” was listed on the 2018 Tangent Recommended Reading List. To learn more about Leigh and sign up for her occasional newsletter, visit her online at www.leighsaunders.com
Connect with Leigh
- Website: www.leighsaunders.com
- Facebook: @leigh.saunders.942
- Twitter: @NoteFromLeigh
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Leigh-Saunders/e/B004JKQ1EG
More about Leigh’s book – Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record
Tour guide, emissary, diplomat, thief — and a long-lived, genetically engineered Synth — Brianna Rei travels the Hundred Worlds, hiding in plain sight. She knows her survival depends on staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters who have nearly exterminated her kind.
All that changes when she teams up with fellow-thief, Jerrold McKell, and he discovers her true identity. Now Brianna must choose between trust and survival, and what it means to be truly human.
Excerpt from Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record, Chapter 1 (first page)
I have never analyzed the thought processes that caused me to spend my three hundred seventeenth birthday on Earth, in the relative obscurity of a noisy, dimly lit, backstreet bar in Old Milan, and I don’t intend to do so now.
For whatever reason, that’s where I was – dancing on the table with a couple of newly-met, long-lost loves, in a skimpy black silk jumpsuit that showed off a lot of leg and left little else to the imagination – when I first saw Jerrold.
Actually it was the Antarean I saw first.
There weren’t many aliens in the bar, and her short, bluish fur stood out in the crowd. It was Sisal. I knew her by reputation as a top fence, though I’d personally never had occasion to utilize her services.
She was sitting with two men, both human: one a roguish-looking sort with a rough-trimmed beard and long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck; and the second, a big, brawny Thug, who, from my vantage point, I could tell hadn’t quite checked all his weapons at the door.
Sisal’s fur was on end, her claws tapping a staccato rhythm on the small table around which the three of them sat.
That she was here, obviously negotiating a deal, I considered nothing short of serendipitous – the deal she was negotiating would be worth a lot of money, and I was between lifestyles at the time.
I was curious. I was more than a little drunk.
I wanted in on the action.
I jumped down off the table, much to the dismay of the long-losts, who called after me, begging me not to desert them. I laughed and waved them away, scooping up a couple of bottles off the bar as I made my way over to the table.
I dropped the bottles on the table between the Thug and Sisal, narrowly missing her paw, and leaned across the table to speak to the rogue, whom I would later come to know as Jerrold McKell.
“I feel very left out,” I said petulantly. “You didn’t even save me a chair.”
“You’re drunk,” he said.
I laughed. “You always have had a gift for understatement, my dear,” I said, flipping my hair back over my shoulder as I stood. It was long and black and rough-cut, as was the style on Riga at that time, with its thousands of tiny ends tipped in silver. “Of course I’m drunk. That’s the point of coming to a bar. Or at least, half the point.”
Find Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record on Amazon and other online book retailers.
Thank you Leigh for coming and joining me here on the blog, this was a wonderful interview! I’m excited to see the fruits of all the amazing projects you’re working on!