Today I am interviewing Cindy Koepp, author of the new science fiction novel, The Loudest Actions, follow up to Remnant in the Stars.
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DJ: Hey Cindy! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Cindy Koepp: Wellllll… These days, I live near Des Moines, Iowa and work as an optician for my day job. In previous adventures, I’ve been a tech support nerd, elementary school teacher, and tropical bird specialist.
My only pet is my African Grey, Masika. She’s nuts and more than a little paranoid. There is cause, though. She’s a rescued bird who has had 4 owners that we know about. We (the previous owners and I) can account for about 30 years, but I suspect she’s a good deal older than that. Cataracts are forming in one eye.
When I’m not whistling with a crazy African Grey or mangling and wrangling glasses, I write science fiction and fantasy and do crafty stuff like quilting, beadwork, and other projects that look like fun.
DJ: What is The Loudest Actions about?
Cindy: It’s about 96,000 words or so. 😀
The crew of Gyrfalcon, along with Sora’s youngest daughter, are back for another adventure. This time, they’re escorting a negotiator to the formal First Contact meeting with an alien insect race called Montans in one of their three cities. Unfortunately, the negotiator has a chip on his shoulder the size of the average spiral galaxy. The locals don’t like him, but he refuses to allow anyone else to handle the negotiation.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Loudest Actions?
Cindy: Wow, is that a varied list. Let’s see…
The first novel, Remnant in the Stars, lends its characters and the world building to this one. It also had its start as a few role-playing game scenarios. GURPS Space, actually. Those became short stories, which mutated … a lot … until they turned into Remnant in the Stars. My webpage has the chronology of how that occurred. Many of those influences continue in The Loudest Actions.
The Montans have no verbal language. One group communicates through hand signs, another through pictures, and a third through something like Morse Code. This is not the first time I’ve featured alien races with no verbal language. Remnant in the Stars had the Numodyne, who communicated through mental impressions. The idea of communicating through alternate means came from the various parrots I’ve had over the years. Whether or not they were talkers, they all communicated to me through various noises and posturing.
Another influence was Janet Kagan’s Hellspark. That book featured a race of sentient critters who were perfectly attuned to their environment.
The idea of a kid who learns differently came from some of the lovely little coconuts I taught in elementary. There were a couple in particular who were smart kids, but they didn’t learn by the usual means. Once I figured out what made them tick, they took off like a rocket and were able to do things no one else could.
I know people with PTSD who do fine until something triggers persistent memories and nightmares for a while, so that influenced one of the characters.
I also know someone who lost a job due to a disability, and that affected another character in the tale. Sadly, this person recently experienced that again (or at least was offered a demotion because of her disability – even though she was doing the job fine – and chose to leave the company instead).
One of the characters has a heavy Texas drawl. I grew up in Texas, and lived there until just a couple months ago. Sometimes, I can affect that heavy drawl myself.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Cindy: That’s going to be tough to do without spoilers, but let’s see…
Peter Quinian: Gyrfalcon’s gunner and tactical wiz is very protective of his shipmates, even the one who drives him nuts. As a result, he has zero patience for people who are difficult, dumb, or careless on purpose.
Hadesha Calonti Sora: Sora is an Aolanian who crews on Gyrfalcon from time to time as an astrogator and backup pilot. Because of the tragic first contact between humans and Aolanians when he was a kid, he was not able to finish his telepathic training, so his control is a bit off, which gives him phenomenal range. He’s training his youngest kid now. Sora has a bizarre sense of humor, and like most of his people, he doesn’t speak in any tense other than present tense.
Hadesha Calonti Pashan: Sora’s youngest kid has been in training longer than any of her previous siblings, and she feels like a dope because of it. She’s still learning English, and some of her word choice errors are unintentionally funny.
Vincent Cerise: Gyrfalcon’s aged doctor is remarkably spry for his age. He’s an accomplished artist, which comes in handy for this mission.
Burke Zacharias: The negotiator has a major ego problem. If he’d just shut up and let someone else help him, the negotiations would go much better.
Derek Eaton: Gyrfalcon’s captain is a sort of jack-of-all-trades. He’s got a real chore ahead of him trying to keep the peace between Burke and the crew so the negotiation stays on track.
Janice Nili: Gyrfalcon’s wise-cracking engineer has a joke for most occasions and a jacket collection that’s even louder than her breakfast cereal.
Kirsten Abbott: She’s along on the Gyrfalcon to help Peter keep the negotiator safe. Now that her disability has been taken care of (as much as it can be), her linguistic skills come in just as handy as her martial arts and piloting abilities.
Richard Dakota and Melissa “Missy” Parker: They’re members of the squadron Kirsten used to be in. Missy has a major Texas drawl. They’re part of the escort for the Aolanian ambassador.
Sacaran Asiki Raman: She’s the extremely aged Aolanian ambassador sent to contact a second population of the Montans. She’s doesn’t hear very well, so the Montans’ gesture-based language works well for her.
Charley Foster: Charley is a martial arts specialist sent to protect Raman. He also has a bit of an ego problem.
Juan Arlo: He’s in charge of the forces sent by the League of Socialist Republics to make contact with the third group of Montans, if he can find them, and secure the planet’s resources. He’s got a plan.
DJ: What is the world of The Loudest Actions like?
Cindy: Aside from the Montans, there are 3 different civilizations going on in The Loudest Actions.
Aolanians: Aolanians are a sentient reptilian race, sort of like a Geico lizard without a tail. They stand about a meter tall. Males have a spined frill that runs across the top of their heads from ear to ear. That frill usually lies flat, but in response to different emotions, the frill can flip up or flutter. Females do not have a frill.
As a rule, Aolanians have a perfect, photographic memory and an ability to do complex calculations quickly in their heads. This makes them incredibly good at plotting paths through the stars.
Aolanians fled their homeworld after an energy technology they used caused their star to supernova. While traveling around to find a new world to live on, a scout ship found Earth. Sora and his parents were on it.
Socially, there are multiple households, and each one has a different scale color. These households usually stick together on their own ships, but they’ll come together for trade or special purposes. Each household has its own government organized around an elected council.
Violence of all sorts if forbidden to Aolanians. They’re pretty good at defensive technology, but they have strict beliefs against violent actions, even if it’s accidental. They do not, however, hold other races to their beliefs. Alliances between Aolanians and humans are usually based around defensive pacts with the Aolanians relying on the humans for protection while providing humans with astrogation assistance.
Aolanians still live, for the most part, on their ships, but they have formed some colonies on different moons in Earth’s solar system. Using Earth as a launch point, they go further afield in scoutships to find a world they can populate.
In exchange for space and resources, Aolanians have shared their interstellar maps, astrogation knowledge, defensive technology, and FTL travel tech.
League of Socialist Republics: The League located on Earth’s southern hemisphere and extends north through much of Asia. It‘s a dictatorship with several provinces.
The government’s major goal is to take over the rest of the planet and all outlying colonies so all resources are under their control to advance humanity the most efficiently.
Publicly, religion is forbidden, but privately, there are a variety of religions, including most of our current world’s major faiths.
They gained Aolanian technology not through trade agreements but by capturing and enslaving Aolanians.
Their military technology is based on mechanized armor and piloted robots. They have two major mech types: the larger Samurai and the smaller Dervish. Both are controlled by brain-computer interfaces. Overall, the military tech of League is slightly better than the Coalition.
Coalition: The Coalition is a collection of independent countries mostly on the northern hemisphere of Earth. They see themselves as responsible for protecting colonies and other sentients from the League’s efforts to overrun everything. The Aolanians joined the Coalition by treaty after the first contact mission.
Religions are varied within the Coalition, depending on the country.
The military technology is based fighters and carriers. There are two major fighters: Pulsars and Broadswords. The Pulsars are much smaller and faster than Broadswords. Kirsten, Richard, and Missy were all in the same Pulsar squadron. (Kirsten has also flown Broadswords and knows how to work Dervishes and Samurai).
DJ: Can you tell us more about this insect race called the “Montans”?
Cindy: These are insect-like sentients. Overall, they are organized like an insect hive. There are 3 levels of society. Workers are camo colors like browns or dull greens. They handle most of the work in the society ranging from food prep and cleaning through to medical specialists. The next level up are the warriors. They are brighter colors like blue, red, and green. They stand taller than the others and have sharp ridges, spikes, or flat shield-like projections on their exoskeletons. They’re the only ones that fight. The leadership is black, white, or gray. They have a fixed exoskeletal frill on their heads. To keep track of what each Montan can do, each civilization has a color-coded system to identify skillsets.
Montans have no religion. They’re focused on the practicalities of living from one day to the next and making sure The People thrive and continue.
They do have technology, but the tech is hidden under natural designs. They have self-lighting spheres based on renewable chemical reactions and weaponry on large and small scales that shoot chemical goo that can burn through metals. The woodland and grassland Montans have energy shields to protect their cities.
They have 2 major environments. One city is in a wooded area at the edge of a grassland. In addition to the tech all of the groups, they use plants for some functions. Massive pitcher plants are good for waste disposal and they stitch ferns into spheres for sleeping quarters. Their identification system is done with colored feathers on necklaces.
The other two cities are underground in cave systems. One is under a grassland, and they use color coded light spheres to direct people. They do have a written language, but the writing is only visible in ultraviolet light. They identify themselves with colored stones around their neck.
The other underground city is in a desert. They developed a sort of lichen to renew their air supply. Like the grassland Montans, they also use colored stones to identify themselves.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Loudest Actions?
Cindy: The best thing about writing is building the worlds and the characters. I spend a terrific amount of time plotting and planning. I have sketches and notes. Researching different parts of the story elements is fun.
For The Loudest Actions, I researched PTSD (I’ve seen it from one perspective, but there’s more to it than that), aerial combat, insects (ants and grasshoppers in particular), and stellar cartography (stable binaries, a reasonable orbital distance for a habitable world).
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Cindy: That, I’m not sure of. I don’t know what draws people to my writing. Reviewers each mentioned different things for my previous works.
I would hope that readers would remember the characters. I try to make each one unique and give them each a personal goal.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing The Loudest Actions? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it?
Cindy: I had a few different messages I tried to communicate with The Loudest Actions. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers.
First, not everyone learns at the same rate or in the same way. Pashan started her training at the end of Remnant in the Stars, and she’s still working on it five years later in The Loudest Actions.
Second, no matter how strong you are, you’ll need help with some things. Many of the main characters encounter that problem in some way.
Third, communication is complicated. Just having the right words won’t get the job done.
Fourth, there are underlying reasons for the way people behave.
DJ: One reviewer described the first book, Remnant in the Stars, as a “combination of Han Solo (and Chewie and the Falcon) and Cowboy Bebop.” What aspect of your story do you think that reviewer is referring to?
Cindy: In a preparation for the search and rescue mission, Gyrfalcon got an equipment upgrade, but the engineer responsible failed to account for some limitations of the ship, so some of the systems didn’t work right in some situations. Janice didn’t rely on “percussive maintenance” to fix things too often, but she did have a job of figuring out how to keep everything running.
Cowboy Bebop had an assortment of different characters with a variety of personalities.
DJ: While we’re on the topic: if any readers haven’t had a chance to read Remnant in the Stars yet, can you tell what is that is about?
Cindy: In Remnant in the Stars, an Aolanian explorer called Kesha encounters a hostile, sentient energy-based race. They’re only able to get a garbled distress call out to the Coalition before the ship is disabled. In response, the Coalition organizes a search-and-rescue mission with several freelance ships.
Sora’s oldest daughter was on the Kesha, but as he starts looking for an astrogation position on a scout ship, his wife informs him that his youngest daughter has started developing her telepathic skills. Before too long, she’ll need him very close at hand. His wife can handle the initial training, so he secures an astrogator position with Gyrfalcon.
General Juan Arlo of the League starts mobilizing to try to find Kesha before the Coalition does. To protect the other scouts, the Coalition picks some of the best ships and crews in the search mission and arms them to serve as decoys to draw the League away from the weaker ships. Gyrfalcon is one of the decoys, so they need a combat-capable pilot.
An admiral points Derek in the direction of Major Kirsten Abbott, a Pulsar pilot still recovering from a near-fatal accident. Her recently acquired prosthetic arm is not cooperating, but her doctors want to see if putting her back in the field overcomes what they are starting to think is just a psychological block.
Sora and Kirsten know each other from previous missions, and he provides moral support for her in her struggle to deal with the malfunctioning prosthetic.
Meanwhile, the survivors of Kesha have crashed on a planet near a coast. They met up with the friendlier Numodyne, the race that destroyed Kesha, as they headed inland to find shelter. The friendly Numodyne protect the survivors from their more belligerent counterparts.
Remnant in the Stars is about a father’s search for his missing child among the stars and a friend’s efforts to support a sick colleague in her search for answers.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Loudest Actions that you can share with us?
Cindy: Bunches!! Unfortunately, most of my favorites are interchanges between characters or rely too much on the context. Here are some of my favorite one liners, though.
“If he’s any more cautious, we’ll all be in a nursing home by the time he shows up.”
“Me? Not like being in the land of sun, slavery, and martial law? Now where’d you get that idea?”
“We’ve got the OK Corral going on in there and security is notable in its absence.”
Shooting past your wingman, really? Because you’re both psychic, and he knows what you have in mind, right?
Yeah, ol’ Sharp Fist, I’m impressed, but you still have to get close to use that thing, and I’ve got a whole lot of “back off” in my gun.
Is your wisdom sufficient for this task, or do you consider the opinion of a lower life form?
“Good stuff.” Janice polished off her last bite. “Just the right combination of cooked crushed wheat paste, maple tree blood, embryonic chicken food, cow juice, and tree bark.”
DJ: Now that The Loudest Actions is released, what is next for you?
Cindy: I’ve already started a new draft of A Suitable Arrangement, the sequel to another novel: Lines of Succession.
There are plans for a third novel in the same series as Remnant in the Stars and The Loudest Actions. I have the basic idea and some of the details hashed out already.
I still have 2 novels in queue at a publisher, and a completed draft of another story that needs major polishing before I try to find it a home.
In the short story realm, I have tales in a couple anthologies expected out before Christmas.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Koepp/e/B008QXR2QI
Twitter: @CCKoepp [but I’m rarely there because I’ve found that Twitter is mostly “Buy my stuff!” or “Check out my 5 bestest friends … and buy their stuff!”]
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Loudest Actions that we haven’t talked about yet?
Cindy: It addresses some various serious issues (such as PTSD), but it has a good dose of my weird sense of humor.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Cindy: Toward the end of the blog tour (I haven’t set a date yet, but it’ll be right around Turkey Day), I’ll be hosting a Facebook event to celebrate Remnant in the Stars and The Loudest Actions. Y’all come!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Cindy: Thanks for letting me come play!
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*** The Loudest Actions is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
First contact missions are hard enough, but they get even tougher when the negotiator has an ego the size of a gas giant.
Burke Zacharias, a first contact researcher, is chosen to spearhead humanity’s first official contact with Montans, an insect race that has already had a run-in with less friendly humans. Although his words and overtures toward the Montans are cordial enough, the Montans are put off by how he treats the crew of the scout ship that brought him to the world.
With other, less friendly forces trying to establish a foothold on the world, the negotiation must succeed in spite of Burke, or the Montans could be facing extinction.
About the Book:
Two hundred years ago, the Aolanian home world exploded and a remnant of survivors escaped. As their convoy combed the galaxy looking for a new world to colonize, they discovered Earth and were given permission to establish a temporary base while they continued their search for a new home world. When an Aolanian exploration vessel goes missing after transmitting a garbled distress call, the uneasy alliance between the humans and the Aolanians is put to the test as two anti-Aolanian groups jockey to use this opportunity to press their own agendas by foiling the rescue mission.
Because his daughter was onboard the Kesha when it vanished, Calonti Sora reluctantly signs on as an astrogator with the Gyrfalcon, one of the ships in the search party. There he meets up with an old human friend, Kirsten Abbott. Together, they work to overcome prejudice and political plots as they race toward an enemy no one could expect.
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*** Remnant in the Stars is available TODAY !!! ***
Buy the Book:
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Originally from Michigan, Cindy Koepp has a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. After teaching for fourteen years, she pursued a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has five published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently working as an optician in Iowa and as an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press.
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