Today I am interviewing S.K. Dunstall, author of the new science-fiction novel Confluence, third book in the Linesman series.
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DJ: Hey S.K.! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
Let’s start with you; for readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
S.K. Dunstall: Hi DJ. Great to meet you. Thank you for having us.
S.K. Dunstall is the pseudonym for two sisters, Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall. (If you could actually call it a pseudonym.) We’re from Australia, and we both live and work in Melbourne, which is the capital of Victoria, a state in the south-eastern part of the country. Melbourne is famous for being the city of four seasons in one day. And sometimes yes, we really do have four seasons in one day. We have saying, if you don’t like our weather, wait five minutes.
We both work full time, and nowadays, outside of work, most of our life is consumed by writing. We write on the train, in food courts and cafés, on park benches, and anywhere else we have five minutes to spare. (That’s when we’re not reading.) If we are not writing, we are often talking about writing.
DJ: What is Confluence and also the Linesman series about?
S.K.:The Linesman series came about as a ‘what if’ question. What if humans had discovered faster than light travel from ‘lines’ in an abandoned alien space ship they found? They used that technology to spread out into the galaxy, without fully understanding how it worked. (Although they thought they did.)
Five hundred years later they find another alien ship (yes, only the second in all that time). The two major galactic powers are about to go to war, and each side wants that ship, for they believe the weapons on it can help them win.
Enter our protagonist, Ean Lambert, self-taught linesman, who sings to the lines, and is uniquely positioned to communicate with the new ship. Who finds that maybe the lines aren’t just ‘technology’ after all.
Being space opera this is all mixed in with politics, war, battles, power struggles and, we hope, a dash of humour.
Confluence is the third book in the series. It’s the end of a major political story, and the lines are starting to take a more active role.
It stars Ean’s bodyguard, Radko, as a main point-of-view character. We learn a lot more about her (and her family), and she gets a mission (no spoilers, but there’s a reason), while Ean’s left to manage a volatile situation where it seems that someone in the New Alliance is not working for the side they should be. Lancia is being pushed further out of the political mainstream. And the alien ships are behaving strangely.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Linesman series?
S.K.: Aside from all those space operas we have read and enjoyed, for the Linesman series we can point to two specific influences.
One, a story Karen read a long time ago. Science fiction. We can’t remember who wrote it, but it was about someone whose girlfriend had the second sight. It turned out they were on a world where, due to a genetic mutation, most of the population was deaf. Every once in a while someone was born with ‘second sight’. That is, they could hear. (If anyone knows this story we’d love to know what it was called and who wrote it.) We think of the linesmen like that. People whose genes allow them to hear and communicate with the lines, but in most people this genetic trait has died out.
The other main influence is music. We both love music and the way music has so much influence on not just our lives, but everyone’s. Music influences our moods, our relaxation, our energy, our awareness, even how successfully we exercise. And it can certainly do other things as well, like, probably, allow the brain to make new connections between nerve cells. It helps with memory retention, particularly for problems like dementia. The right music can even increase your score on an IQ test.
And, of course, there’s the fascinating topic of synaesthesia.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters in the trilogy? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
S.K.: We know you said briefly. We’ll try.
Ean Lambert. He is the main protagonist in all three books. He sings. All the time. He’s wanted to be a linesman ever since he knew that such people existed; he’s spent his whole life getting there. He comes from a disadvantaged background, which doesn’t sit well with other linesmen, but he’s pretty special all the same. He might appear to lack confidence, but he knows his lines and he knows his ability with them.
Jordon Rossi is the second point-of-view character in book one (Linesman). He’s a level ten linesman (the best of the best). He’s been feted and treated like a superstar since he was a kid. He has a lot to come to terms with. The savvy reader will see (hopefully) a subtle change over the three books. It wouldn’t be realistic to have him totally change. (And Karen likes him.)
Captain Selma Kari Wang is second main protagonist in book two (Alliance). Her ship has been destroyed, her crew killed. She herself is badly injured. Her body has been rebuilt. She believes she should have died along with her crew. Instead, she is co-opted by the New Alliance to do a job she doesn’t want to do. She wants to die.
Stellan Vilhjalmsson provides the Gate Union point-of-view for Alliance. He is an assassin who has lost his stomach for his job after one of his targets came to his assistance during a mugging. He completed his task, but is forever wiping the blood, figuratively, off his hands.
And, of course, there’s Radko. Ean’s bodyguard, who gets a starring role in Confluence. She’s a reader favourite.
DJ: What is the universe/world for the Linesman series like?
S.K.: The worlds themselves vary, with different governing bodies depending on how the world was settled, but except for occasional forays into Ean’s past, we don’t talk much about the planets, for Linesman is set in space.
There are three main political groups in the galaxy. Two of them—Gate Union and Redmond—have allied politically and are about to go to war against the Alliance. The Alliance was once great, but is close to imploding.
The people are human, with some genetically modified hybrids. Before this story starts, even though they have expanded across a lot of our galaxy, humans have only come across one visible alien object. The line ship from which they developed faster-than-light travel.
Genderwise and jobwise, there is true equality. (Fashionwise, too.)
A big power presence are the line cartels, who train and manage the linesman. They’re supposedly neutral, but in this war they side with Gate Union. High-level Linesmen are revered above the rest of the population because they’re rare, and they are the ones who fix the line ships that keep the galactic economy running.
A lot of technology is line-based. Line communication is instantaneous within a sector.
DJ: There is apparently this technology called “The Lines”, could you explain (without spoiling) where this tech came from, what it does, and possibly how it works?
S.K.: Without spoiling. Hmm. Can we quote from the first book?
“Lines are energy, pure and simple. You manipulate that energy with your mind.”–Linesman
Which turns out to be a massive oversimplification in the same way that one might say the human body is made up of a pump and some electrical impulses.
There are ten lines. Each line has its own function. Line four, for example, makes the gravity work on a ship. Line five is the communication line. Line nine takes you into the void, while line ten jumps you to a new place in the galaxy.
A space ship always has ten lines. Smaller devices, such as a comms, contain a tiny fragment of one line (line five).
We could say more, but if that would be spoilers for those who haven’t yet read the first book.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing the Confluence
S.K.: Sherylyn: My favourite part about writing Confluence was getting more of the lines in. Having the lines show more sentience. I would love to have added more, but the word count was already too high. But future books…
Karen: Probably the characters. All the series characters—Ean, Radko, Michelle. But some of the people accompanying Radko—especially Chaudry.
It was also nice to bring that whole political story arc to completion.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for Linesman and Alliance (the first two booking the series)? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
S.K.: Our reviewers and readers have been amazing. We’ve had some fantastic feedback.
The readers have added a whole new dimension to the books. It sounds trite to say it was unexpected, especially since we’re both readers ourselves, but the one thing we hadn’t expected in this whole writing gig was the readers. Their questions, their comments. Their encouragement.
They’re making us think about things we never imagined when set out to write the books, and they’ve broadened our knowledge with theirs.
People want more about the lines, and the line technology. They want to know how the lines work. Some of them want more technical detail. Others just want more of the human-line interaction.
They want to know about the music.
They want the aliens.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
S.K.: We didn’t plan Linesman as a series. Initially, it was to be stand-alone, with other books about different people, but set within the Linesman universe. We had some of these stories planned. Kari Wang, whose story is part of Alliance, was one of them.
When Anne, our editor, asked for three books with Ean Lambert as the protagonist, we looked at what we had and proposed Alliance, plus a story featuring one of (Lancastrian Emperor) Yu’s illegitimate children. This was the proposal Anne accepted.
Alliance was much as we planned it. (Inasmuch as we do plan, for it was a two-page synopsis and that was about it.)
Confluence. Somewhere along the line (and that was mostly as a result of early reader feedback) we changed the protagonist of book three to Radko. (No, Radko is not one of Yu’s illegitimate children—and that is not a spoiler.) The whole story changed as a result. And yet, if you read the two-page synopsis we submitted at contract time, it’s still the same basic story, just told in a different way, using a different point-of-view character.
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 Confluence that you can share with us?
S.K.: Sherylyn: I like this quote.
Sale kept talking to Vega. “We’ve around a hundred—”
They were sucked into the tube and jerked sideways. Then up, then down, then sideways again, and finally expelled into the shuttle bay, where Ean bowled over three trainee linesmen.
Ean heard the distinct snap of breaking bone. Two linesmen stayed down. One of them was Arnold Peters.
Lines three and four conferred. “Still too fast.”
Sale picked herself up. Her voice shook as she continued. “Hundred linesmen who need medical attention. One linesman is badly injured. Blaster burns. Other problems are line related [spoiler removed].” She looked at the linesmen Ean had knocked over. “At least two with broken bones from friendly fire.”
“I realize this is a miracle ship,” Governor Jade confessed to Sale as the cart made its way back the way it had come. “But it still scares me. I’m happy to get back to something human.”
She didn’t have to say it aloud.
“We don’t mind,” the ship lines said comfortingly in Ean’s mind. “We don’t want her anyway.”
DJ: Now that Confluence is released, what is next for you?
S.K.: We still have plenty of stories we want to tell in the Linesman universe, including the big one. (Not saying what it is, because, spoilers, but think elephant in the room. The one thing we haven’t covered yet. Abram’s worried about it, and he’s right to be worried.)
But, that’s not what we’re working on at the moment.
We’re writing a new space opera. Different universe, different characters, but still character based, action, and fun.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/S.-K.-Dunstall/e/B00QRDSJY8
Facebook: S K Dunstall
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
S.K.: Thank you for inviting us to chat. It has been fun.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Confluence is published by Ace and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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From the national bestselling author of Alliance, linesman Ean Lambert finds himself caught in a dangerous fight for political power…
The lines. Mysterious yet familiar: the key to controlling every ship in the galaxy. Once they were thought of as tools, but since linesman Ean Lambert discovered strange new lines in an alien vessel, they have become so much more—symbols of a power too great to ignore.
While the Crown Princess of Lancia seeks to share the new technology, her father, the Emperor, has other plans. His latest political maneuverings seem to be tilting the balance of control to Lancia’s favor—a move that not all members of the New Alliance are looking upon favorably.
As tensions mount, Ean’s former shipmates must unite to avert a disastrous conflict: the princess working within the tumultuous Alliance, Ean seeking the help of the impatient alien ships, and Ean’s close friend and bodyguard, Radko, embarking on a mysterious and perilous mission.
But the biggest threat comes from an unexpected source. Someone is trying to take down the New Alliance from within—and will use anything, even the lines themselves, to ensure its destruction…
About the Author:
K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who live in Melbourne, Australia. They are the authors of the Linesman series of novels. Linesman, Alliance and Confluence. Confluence is released on 29 November, 2016.