Karina has a new book out, Discovery, which I just had to have, because, well, it’s nuns…in space. What is more awesome than that? (Sorry Vern…you’re awesome too.) If you don’t have it, go buy it. Then come back and tell me how you liked it. I’ll even put up your review on my website.
I connected with Karina and asked her a bunch of questions about her book and her writing. I’m still hoping that her super fast writing skills will rub off onto me, but I won’t hold my breath.
So…here we go.
Why Catholic Science Fiction? Don’t religion and science contradict each other?
I think that’s an idea that started during the Enlightenment, when people started to reject religion. Nonetheless, throughout history, many great scientists were faithful followers of a religion – and not just Christianity. In fact, I just saw an amazing movie, The Man Who Knew Infinity, about a Hindu mathematician who was in Trinity College in WWII. His formulas were so beyond his time that people scoffs, but now they are being used to understand the behavior of black holes. He believed in his work despite all opposition because he felt each equation was glimpse of God.
Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has supported and advanced the scientists. People always bring up Galileo, but they forget Copernicus, who first suggested heliocentric theory, was a Catholic monk. Today, there are Catholic religious sisters and brothers who are active in the science fields. The first woman computer scientist was a nun, for example.
Who influenced you as a writer?
As far as authors: Madeleine L’Engle, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Isaac Asimov.
As far as editors and critiquers: Michelle Buckman, James Hrkach, Chris Speakman, Ann Lewis, and Robert Fabian.
As far as support and friendship: The Catholic Writers Guild, but especially Ann Lewis, Michelle Buckman, Walt Staples (May he rest in peace), and Sarah Reinhard. And of course, my husband Rob. Most recently, Jill Bowers, who as a new writer has rekindled my enthusiasm.
If I needed to pick the biggest influence, it would be Rob. He’s my first go-to for ideas, working through plots and determining if something makes sense, is too over-the-top, or is just plain wrong for the scene. He’s supported me from the beginning, played with me in the writing of the Rescue Sisters stories (and it is play), and kept me going when I feel low and think I should maybe take up basket weaving instead. I’ve been blessed to marry a man who is a good friends, a good writer and a fan.
What one popular writer does Discovery’s storyline, style, etc. most resemble?
I’m awful at questions like this. Tom Doran said in his endorsement that he found the weaving of fact and fiction reminiscent of Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven. Rob (like I said, my go-to man) says it reminds him somewhat of Allen Steele in the strong inter-character development and the realistic near-future concerns.
I see the strengths of the book as the characterization and interaction, worldbuilding and dialogue. I’m good at complex plots and I prefer dialogue and action over long descriptions.
Why “nuns in space”?
It started on a date. Rob and I are very good at communicating, so instead of going out to eat to talk, we decided to write stories on our date. At that time, he was involved in Artemis Society, which was trying to start a commercial presence on the moon, and I was writing a series on different religious orders for Wyoming Catholic. The two combined and the Rescue Sisters were born. We’ve written a few short stories in the universe, adventures of the different nuns as well as some of the lay people. Fred Warren, a fellow SF writer, has also written a story or two in it.
Which character in Discovery do you relate to and why?
If I think too hard, I can relate to something in each of them, even Ann. There are times I think I must be speaking Annese, though I don’t quote saints. However, I think Chris David reminds me the most of myself. He’s smart and talented and does great work, but doesn’t believe it. He takes criticism to heart, and doesn’t feel like any success is really his. It’s always because someone else made his “faltering efforts” something useful. It’s one thing to share the glory but another to feel your work has not worth of its own. I’ve struggled with these feelings my whole life – still do, sometimes. Fortunately, like Chris, I have a wonderful lifemate who helps me see my worth. (And like Andi, Rob has his hands full with that!)
How do you balance your daily life and writing?
Precariously. Life balance is a challenge because my life is always changing. When we were in the military, we moved every few years, which also meant changes in schooling – even homeschool vs. public school. In retirement, I took a full-time job. I helped found the Catholic Writers Guild, and the intensity of my participation varies by its needs as well as my abilities. Then there’s marketing and writing classes and the quest to pay the bills we just keep running up…
So how do I do it, in practice? I remember my priorities and adapt to the situation. That means some days, I may only get a few minutes of writing in; other times, I will be able to devote hours. I have written books both ways, incidentally. Lately, I get up around 4:30 so I have an hour or two before work, but I don’t hold myself to it when I’m too tired.
Discovery has a huge cast of characters, yet each is very much his or her own person. What is the best way to make a character seem like real individuals?
You treat them like real people. Real people have a unique combination of background, quirks and preferences that makes them unique. Also, give them real problems. If they are not challenged by multiple things, big and small, they are not real.
You’ll notice I don’t have a lot of physical description. I don’t think visually – even in my own life, I get people mixed up when I only know their physical attributes rather than their personalities. I think that’s why I’m so awful at keeping track of movie starts and singers, too. I know the character, but not the actor. So I start with the personality: what do they believe, how do they react, what do they like and hate? Sometimes, a physical attribute comes in, like I knew Sister Ann was blonde with blue eyes. I didn’t plan it, she just popped in my head like that. Later, I put in just enough physical detail to distinguish them, but even then, it has to have a purpose. For example, it wasn’t until I explored Ann’s family history that I realized her eyes are slightly larger than normal and her fingers long. (That’s important, BTW, but it’s be spoilers to say why.)
What method do you use to organize your story before you begin developing content and characters?
I don’t have one. In fact, oftentimes, I don’t know the plot or the story before I start writing. Characters will show up without my expecting it, and sometimes take center stage. Cay Littlefield is a good example. He was not supposed to be on this mission, but I was writing along and there he was, bad attitude and all. None of the other characters were happy about it, either, which told me he needed to be there.
Once the story is done, however, I have to go back and track them all, especially in a book like Discovery where the cast is huge! In fact, my patient content editor, James Hrkach, made me combine some and cut others out. He gave me some great suggestions, too; things he saw as an outsider that I did not see because I was in the story. A good editor is worth his weight in colite!