Today I am interviewing Spencer Ellsworth, author of the new science-fiction novel, A Red Peace, first book in the Starfire trilogy.
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DJ: Hey Spencer Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Spencer Ellsworth: Hi DJ!
I’m a lifelong science fiction and fantasy writer. It started when I read The Hobbit at the age of six. I currently work for a tribal college in the Pacific Northwest, and have previously worked in the publishing industry, along with stints in wilderness survival and special education.
The most interesting thing I’ve ever done was probably when I lived off crayfish and rattlesnakes for three days.
DJ: What is A Red Peace about?
Spencer: A galactic empire falls, the Resistance sweeps into power, and their first order is “kill all the humans.”
I like to think of it as a kind of Russian Revolution—or pick your other idealistic-revolution-gone-wrong—in space. Our main characters are a smuggler who helps some humans on the run, and a soldier dealing with internal conflict over his orders.
We’ve been trained by Star Wars to identify with a plucky rebellion, often forgetting that such plucky rebellions usually become demagogues clamping down on free speech.
DJ: What were some of your influences A Red Peace and the series?
Spencer: On the respectable end, I’ve always loved how Octavia Butler could write a serious social critique with all the high energy and pace of a pulp novel. My favorite novel of all time is Wild Seed. Every time I reread it I just get pulled in and totally caught up and I find new dimensions to the ending.
On the less respectable end, I will consume any Star Wars or Transformers comic book. I tend to like my cheesy sci-fi franchises a lot more in comic book form. I love a big planet-eating robot or weird insectoid creature, limited only by the artist’s imagination.
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?
Spencer: Jaqi is a smuggler and a navigator, with a gift for finding little-used faster-than-light access ports. And she’s hungry. She sets out to find some fresh tomatoes, and ends up helping some children escape genocide.
She’s very easy to sympathize with, because all she wants is a normal life, and enough to eat, and she’s not going to get either one.
Araskar, our antagonist, is a good soldier, although his personal life’s a mess and his survivor’s guilt has driven him to a serious drug addiction. He was tricky to write, because the audience should both sympathize with him and hate him a little bit for consistently making the wrong choice.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Starfire trilogy like?
Spencer: The Starfire trilogy takes place 10,000 years from now, in another galaxy inhabited by humans and other sentient bipeds that has, for a thousand years, been locked in war with a race of giant space spiders. When we open on the book, the “cross” soldiers—a genetic hybrid soldier created just to fight the spiders—have overthrown the government and supposedly made peace with these creatures. The peace is more than it seems, of course. There’s always a price to pay when giant space spiders are involved.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing A Red Peace?
Spencer: It recaptured for me, the fun of being a kid and playing pretend. With this book I had two goals: keep it short and have fun. I had decided that I was going to scale down my wordcounts a bit the year before, because I had a habit of working on huge, never-ending novels. I wanted something that moved fast and took the audience through a lot of the fun bits of space opera: seedy spaceports, the “edge of the universe,” and weird techno-organic people.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Spencer: How much they want the second one! I like to think that the Starfire books are the literary equivalent of a season of Sherlock—three long episodes in a binge-able overall story. Also I hope they’ll have a craving for tomatoes. Every time I copyedited the book I also had to track down a decent caprese salad.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Starfire trilogy? A Red Peace is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Spencer: My goal was to write some fun, pulpy books that dipped a bit into something deeper. To marry that sense of depth and darkness I got from Butler, and the joy I got from reading franchise comics. I wanted readers to thrill to space bug battles, go along on a major heist through the guts of a space tick in book two, and have a heart-pounding climactic sword battle in book three. I also want readers to get a sense that there’s something deeper there, and the universe’s problems don’t go away when you beat the evil Empire.
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 A Red Peace that you can share with us?
Spencer: Quite a few foodie ones! Here’s my favorite:
“The problem with being in the wild for months at a time is the food. It’s not long before the fresh supplies are gone and you’re rehydrating squares of protein. Peanut-butter-flavored protein, chocolate-flavored protein, thurkuk-secretion-flavored protein (that one actually tastes more like peanut butter than the peanut-butter-flavored one).”
DJ: Now that A Red Peace is released, what is next for you?
Spencer: The sequel, Shadow Sun Seven, will be out in November, and the threequel that concludes the trilogy, Memory’s Blade, will be out in February of 2018. I also had a (long) short story released back in April, called When Stars Are Scattered, still free to read on Tor.com, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Give it a shot.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/spencerellsworth
Author Newsletter: Just go to spencerellsworth.com and click the signup link
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about A Red Peace the Starfire trilogy that we haven’t talked about yet?
Spencer: It’s actually a plan to hypnotize large numbers of people into bringing back the Macarena.
I could be joking, but the only way to tell is by reading the book.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions! Now I need to go find me some of those thurkuk-secretion-flavored rehydrating squares 😛
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*** A Red Peace is published by Tor.com and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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A Red Peace, first in Spencer Ellsworth’s Starfire trilogy, is an action-packed space opera in a universe where the oppressed half-Jorian crosses have risen up to supplant humanity and dominate the galaxy.
Half-breed human star navigator Jaqi, working the edges of human-settled space on contract to whoever will hire her, stumbles into possession of an artifact that the leader of the Rebellion wants desperately enough to send his personal guard after. An interstellar empire and the fate of the remnant of humanity hang in the balance.
Spencer Ellsworth has written a classic space opera, with space battles between giant bugs, sun-sized spiders, planets of cyborgs and a heroine with enough grit to bring down the galaxy’s newest warlord.
Spencer Ellsworth has been writing since he learned how, starting with the sweeping epic “Super Tiger” in crayon on scratch paper. His short fiction has been published at Lightspeed Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com and many other places. He is the author of the Starfire Trilogy, a series of short space opera novels coming from Tor.com in fall 2017 and early 2018. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and three children.
Agent: Sara Megibow at KT Literary