Monday, June 9, 2014

Author Interview: Colette Black

Okay! We're back to doing a few writer interviews on E. Kaiser Writes-A-Blog, and to start us off this summer we're joined by Colette Black, author of the recently released Sci-Fi YA adventure/romance "Noble Ark".

(Can I just take a minute to say how much a love that title? I can't explain it, but I like it so much I'm now sad I didn't think of it first, and write a book to be named it... Wink)

 Anyway, I didn't... so here's the lady who did! Smile
E: Today we welcome Colette Black, author of sci-fi novel “Noble Ark” which I have started reading. This a interesting work, titled after the ship shuttling through space under threat of attack by a uniquely frightening breed of pirates; the rapacious Mwalgi, (or ‘Gi as they are sometimes referred to) view humans as nothing more than a physical source from which they extract a certain substance.

 Thanks for being here, Colette!

Colette: Thank you for the opportunity. I love talking about Lar, Aline, and the Mankind's Redemption universe.
E: So, Colette… first off, I’d have to ask: How is Mwalgi pronounced?

C: I'm not much for pronunciation guides, but it sounds pretty much as it's written Mu-wall-gee (with a hard g).
E: Okay, thanks! That should help our internal ear as we read! Is it totally weird that my brain wanted to read "Mowgli" nearly every, single, time? (As in, the boy from The Jungle Book?)

C: The similarity between Mwalgi and Mowgli from Jungle Book is an understandable connection to make as they carry many of the same letters and have some similar sounds, but the similarity is entirely coincidental. The stories have nothing in common. The origin of the word will be explained in the fourth book in the series.
E: How did you come up with these things… they seem quite a bit different than most alien species in general, so what all components went in to creating this fearsome type of pirate?
C: I've written a fair amount of horror for the short story market, as is evident by the number of horror stories versus sci-fi and fantasy in my anthology, The Black Side. When I came up with the Mwalgi, I wanted them to be aliens that could truly make a person's skin crawl. There had to be sufficient justification for Aline's feelings toward them and the animosity of the crew members. They look and act human enough that they're not completely foreign, but they immobilize their victims and put them through excruciating pain in the process of taking what they need. The species' history was the primary influence in their creation, but I can't go into that at this point in the series.
E:  The two MCs in this are the human girl Aline, and the Mwalgi misfit, Larkin. As a writer who is always on the lookout for plots and twists, I have to say on first blush this looks like a far out re-imagining of the Beauty & the Beast tale. How would you describe your basic story template that spring-boarded Noble Ark?

C: I find it amazing that I didn't see that parallel until well after I'd written the story, but it is accurate. Like many authors, the idea started with a dream...a very bizarre dream. I played around with the characters as I'd imagined them, what could have happened in their lives to make them the way they were, and thought about how they'd ended up on a ship together as adversaries then turned into co-defenders.  From there, the story grew.
E: Larkin comes across as a very complex character, and he definitely starts out with his own agenda. In the introductory scenes he’s almost predatory in his determination to achieve his mysterious plan… and the suspense that builds is very effective. What made you decide to take that angle with your MMC?

C: Good question. I don't know that I made any conscious decision to go in that direction. As I answered the who, what, when, where, why questions about Lar, he formed into a complex character as if on his own. It was almost like he already existed, but I just had to get to know him well enough to write his story. Same with Aline.
E: The atmosphere you’ve created in Noble Ark is very strife ridden… as a book aimed at the YA audience, how did you decide what level of “graphic” you were comfortable going with for this novel?
C: With a nineteen and twenty-year-old protagonists, the book is actually New Adult, a sub-genre that has been growing in momentum. I go with my gut instinct as far as the level of graphic detail. 

Sometimes, I feel like there are two camps in the writing industry. One says that you write the characters as they are, no matter how disgusting or evil, and represent them as truthfully as possible. Diametrically opposed is the side that says what we write must inspire and uplift. Like many, I have a line that's between the two. I think we do need to be true to our characters, but not at the expense of our own values. 

For example, I don't really swear. Never have. In some of my stories, I get a kick out of making a world where the environment or history has caused less offensive swear-words to become prominent. I think that's fun. However, there are some stories that have a swear word here and there because it just fits the character and the situation. There are also some words and expressions that I just find too uncomfortable to ever use. 

Every writer has to find that balance for themselves, in relation to language, sexuality, and violence. As a devout Christian and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,  my line is probably more conservative than some of my friends. I think that's okay, and I will defend their right to print whatever they feel comfortable with as part of the first amendment, even if I don't buy their books. I also defend my right to to characters who don't cross certain lines. Some think I'm too liberal, some too conservative, and like baby bear, some find it "just right."

E: Where did you go for ideas to create the language that the Mwalgi use? And how extensive is the invented vocabulary... those can get complicated quick! Do you have a dictionary of Mwalgi words to refer to when you need a reminder?

C: I do have a dictionary, divided up by phrases, words, objects, plants and animals, etc. I'm sure that a proficient linguist could rip the Mwalgi language to pieces, but I find myself fascinated by language origin and couldn't help but play around with it. I considered becoming a linguist at one point in my life. With the Mwalgi language, it generated from their history and I can't go into that without giving away spoilers. A few people have partially figured it out, but I'm not going to tell the full story until the fourth book. There are a lot of hints along the way if you'd like to try to piece together the mystery of their origins. ;)

Thanks for the interview. I appreciate your time and your interest in Noble Ark. If you enjoyed it and would like to stay informed about the "Mankind's Redemption" series and future projects, you can sign up for my newsletter through my website at

E: Thanks for joining us, Colette! It's always fascinating to hear how things come together for an author, and with imaginary worlds it makes it even more fun!


Kelsey Bryant said...

What an interesting interview! I don't read much sci-fi, so some of these ideas are quite new to me. :) But I love it when authors create a new language. It makes the story feel so realistic. Linguistics is fascinating!

Hannah Scheele said...

YAY! Interviews!
I gotta agree with Kelsey. It amazes me when authors create a new language--I can't even figure out all the ones that have already been invented! :)

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Thanks for stopping by, girls!
Yes, those invented languages can get hard to keep track of really fast for an author, so those who do a good job deserve to be applauded!
Glad you like the return to interviews... I will be putting more up as the month progresses here!
Have a good one!