Today I am interviewing Suzanne Palmer, author of the new science-fiction novel, Finder.
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DJ: Hi Suzanne! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Suzanne Palmer: Hi! Thanks for talking to me! I write mostly space opera-style science fiction, with occasional fantasy and horror, and I won a Hugo last year for my novelette, “The Secret Life of Bots”. I’m also a linux system administrator, so I definitely may just possibly be a bit of a geek.
DJ: What is Finder about?
Suzanne: It’s the story of Fergus Ferguson, who is an interstellar repo man of sorts and has gone off to a backwater deep space settlement named Cernee to find and take back a stolen space ship. He gets caught up in a local civil war and also attracts the interest of the not-so-friendly aliens in the neighborhood, so it does not go at all smoothly for him.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Finder?
Suzanne: I’ve been reading science fiction my whole life, and while I love a lot of different types of stories, for me the ones I like reading the most, and want to tell, are the ones where the main characters are sort of ordinary people, with their own hangups and histories, who get put into a situation where they just have to do the best they can. I prefer stories where we can like the characters, and no matter how dark the story gets feel left with some spark of hope or justice or satisfaction at the end. So, authors like John Scalzi and Elizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder, and Martha Wells for just a few examples.
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?
Suzanne: My main character is Fergus Ferguson, who ran away from home in Scotland at fifteen, and has been making a living since then by finding things for people that have been lost or stolen. It gives him the solitude he thinks he wants, but when he gets to Cernee he gets very entangled with the people there and has to rethink what it is he needs out of his life. He’s resourceful and creative and sometimes has ridiculously bad luck, so hopefully the reader wants to root for him.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role for in story? Why?
Suzanne: Early on, Fergus finds himself involved with a very odd family of lichen farmers, and one of them is a young woman named Mari who is distinctly hostile and more than a little prone to violence. There are good reasons for them to help each other, but of course it’s never that easy, so there is a lot of tension and snark back and forth, and ultimately neither would get what they need without each other. She is an excellent foil for Fergus because she keeps him on his toes, and was a great vehicle for me as the author to really aggravate the hell out of him.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Finder like?
Suzanne: Cernee is a deep space settlement made out of a bunch of artificial habitats of variable stability connected to mined-out asteroids via thick cable lines. There is an overall authority in Cernee called the Governor, but beneath him much of the territory is carved out between different “powers”, with a few independent habitats and rocks here and there holding their own. Some places are friendlier than others, some much less so. Navigating the chaotic and often shifting political balances definitely makes Fergus’s job a lot more complicated, and though it is nominally peaceful when he arrives, it doesn’t stay that way for very long.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Suzanne: I hope they feel like it was an awesomely fun book, with the right amount of tension and seriousness and humor, and that they are talking the most about really wanting to read the next book…
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Finder? Was 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?
Suzanne: I’m not much of a planner and I rarely know where I’m going with something until I’ve written all the way to the end of the first draft, so I didn’t really start off with a message per se, but as I mentioned above I think if there is one it’s that people matter, and anyone can be a hero, even when they don’t think they have it in them.
Either that or it’s about bugs. Ew, bugs.
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 fromFinder that you can share with us?
Suzanne: This is more of a scene than a single quote, but I hope this works? Spicy noodles for the win.
“The Fireblow, eh?” Bale asked, eyeing Fergus’s T-shirt. “You ate there?”
“Did you finish it?”
“Not yet. I got a second bowl for takeaway.”
Bale nodded. “You may be all right,” he said.
DJ: Now that Finder is released, what is next for you?
Suzanne: I’ve just turned in the sequel, Undertow, to my editor, which I believe is preliminarily scheduled for May of next year, and I’m just starting work on the third book. I also want to find time to get back to some short fiction, because I really enjoy writing them and they make for a good change of pace. I have a novella that will be in the July/August issue of Asimov’s, but not much else in the immediate pipeline.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Suzzane: It is a sad thing, but I live in a rural town, and like so many rural communities, we are considered too low-density population-wise for the cable cos to make their usual oodles of profit off, so there is no high speed internet here. We are working on doing it ourselves, but in the meantime it does limit my online life. So with that said, here’s where I can be found:
I am also a moderator of the SFF room on the AbsoluteWrite forums, under the usual name of zanzjan.
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Finder that we haven’t talked about yet?
Suzanne: That there’s a bunch of secondary characters that are interesting (or at least I think so) but have limited roles by necessity of keeping the novel on track, but a number of them will be back… either in subsequent Fergus books or, potentially, tales of their own. So if you got attached to one of them, don’t despair.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Suzanne: Nope, but thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about my book, and I very much hope people enjoy it!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
From Hugo Award-winning debut author Suzanne Palmer comes an action-packed sci-fi caper starring Fergus Ferguson, interstellar repo man and professional finder.
Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.
His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.
Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly–and inconveniently–invested in the lives of the locals.
It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following Fergus around.
Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he’s called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.
About the Author:
Suzanne was born a short distance outside Boston, Massachusetts, a short time before man first walked on the moon. With two somewhat rowdy brothers as her earliest influences, she grew up adept at catching frogs, stomping in mud, and smashing things with sticks. To what extent she has outgrown any of those behaviors, so far, is a matter for debate.
She has been an avid reader of science fiction & fantasy from practically the moment she learned to read. She has also had a lifelong interest in all things creative, though if she has any musical talent it remains so far undiscovered. She won several art competitions as a child, and when she went off to college followed that love. Suzanne has a Bachelors degree of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Even during college years, her artwork had a strong narrative component, and her thesis exhibition consisted of an entire museum exhibit of artifacts from a fictional world. This included clothing, coins, furniture, manuscripts in an entire created language, and an 8′ tall two-legged creature complete with horns, fur, and teeth.
Unfortunately there’s a limit to the number of gigantic animal sculptures one can reasonably find places to keep, so Suzanne shifted much of her energies to 2D work. The work became more and more narrative in nature until late 2001 when, at a friend’s challenge, she took up writing directly. She’d dabbled with writing off and on most of her life but had never taken it particularly seriously, and had no intention of taking it seriously that time either, until after a month she had an entire 100,000-word novel in her hands. More than that, she had a really bad 100,000 word novel, so she went back to fix it, and fix it some more, and then realized with some surprise that it was no longer entirely awful. This was, as they say, the beginning of the end.
In 2005 she attended the Viable Paradise Writers Workshop on Martha’s Vineyard, and came away from it both unreasonably encouraged and with the rather surprising realization that writing had become an indelible part of her life, even more so than art. She’s been writing ever since, still does art when she can, and otherwise is just plain having fun with it all.
She has been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the Eugie M. Foster Award. She has won reader’s polls for best stories from Asimov’s, Analog, and Interzone. Her first novel will be coming out from DAW Books in 2019.
Suzanne lives in western Massachusetts with a number of two- and four-legged critters, including one Very Large Fluffy Dog, and is a Linux and Database System Administrator for the Sciences at Smith College.