Off Planet Author Interview & Give Away!

I always enjoy doing my Take 10 Q&As with various authors. This time, I'm really excited for you to get to know Aileen Erin! She was one of the students I mentored when she was attending Seton Hill University for her MFA. And I'm proud to say she has done well with her writing career since graduation (so satisfying for a mentor). 

Her latest book is a YA Science Fiction that I had the pleasure of providing feedback for the first 50 pages. Once she finished writing it, she asked me to provide a blurb for her book and I enjoyed it so much I gave her a blurb and invited her to my blog.

My blurb: "In this bleak world, one spark of hope soon turns into an inferno. And just like a fireball, once this story is ignited, it just doesn't stop."

Cover copy: Maité Martinez has always yearned for more than waitressing in a greasy diner, especially when most people have left the polluted ruins of Earth behind for a better life on other planets. It’s not just working at the diner that’s making life hard for her. Being a half-human, half-alien girl has never been trickier. With the corporate government hunting down the last of her father’s alien Auanare race living on Earth, hiding her growing special abilities has become a full-time job on its own.

Every minute Maité stays on Earth is one minute closer to getting caught. The stress is almost more than she can bear, and when a fancy Space Tech officer gets handsy with her at the diner, she reacts without thinking. Breaking the officer’s nose wasn’t her smartest move. Now she’s faced with three years forced labor on the volcano planet, Abbadon. With the job she’s slotted for, it may as well have been a death sentence.

It doesn’t take Maité long before she realizes there’s more to the mining on Abbadon than Space Tech has let on. As she makes unlikely allies, Maité uncovers Space Tech’s plot to nuke the Aunare homeworld. The firepower stored in Abbadon’s warehouses is more than enough to do the job ten times over.

As the clock ticks, Maité knows that if she can’t find a way to stop Space Tech, there will be an interstellar war big enough to end all life in the universe. There’s only one question: Can she stop the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?

Take 10 with Aileen Erin:

1.) First the obvious question (but one of my favorites) – How did you get the idea for OFF-PLANET?

I was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico while my husband was working on Avengers, when I learned about Richard Branson’s Spaceport America. I couldn’t believe that someone had already built a commercial spaceport. I was immediately fascinated. From there, I started dreaming about a world where we’d need a spaceport. Although have a nightmare might be more accurate than dream, because I thought of what would happen with pollution, the poverty line, governments getting officially taken over my corporations… And what would an alien race think about all of this? From all that brainstorming, the world of OFF PLANET sprung, as well as the heroine—Maité.

2.) Maité, your main protagonist is strong and independent—almost too independent for her own good. She knows how to fight and doesn’t quit. Why did you pick these characteristics for your main character?

The real world is tough for everyone. The choices we make aren’t all black and white. Things are often complicated. I like to explore all of that on an extreme with my protagonists, and through them, hopefully inspire people to keep going despite it all. I put Maité through hell in a fantastical world to give readers an escape. To inspire. To encourage. To show that life can be hard, but you can keep going. And then I like to end with something happy, and leave them with hope.

3.) Your other series, Alpha Girl are urban fantasy novels with werewolves. Why did you decide to write science fiction?

I used to hear the cliché of “write what you know” a lot, but then it turned into “write what you love.” Which I like so much better. Especially since I could never possibly know what it’s like to be a werewolf and I’ll probably never know what it feels like to leave Earth’s atmosphere and travel across the galaxy. And I guess it’s safe to say that I don’t have just one love when it comes to genre. I enjoy speculative fiction in all its many forms—urban fantasy to epic fantasy to horror to science fiction. I can’t pick just one and only write that. It would destroy my creative well. And it’s not just going to be urban fantasy and science fiction for me. I have an epic fantasy waiting to be written, and I’m writing a darker horror spin off from Alpha Girl series I’m currently working on. I want to explore all the worlds of speculative fiction, and I don’t ever want to be boxed in by one genre or subgenre. So, making the jump from urban fantasy to science fiction never seemed like a big leap for me, just a natural one.

4.) You wrote the first fifty pages of OFF-PLANET as a student in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. And your thesis novel was BECOMING ALPHA. What do you think of the MFA experience? Would you recommend it to other authors?

I absolutely loved my MFA experience. Before attending Seton Hill, I’d never really taken a creative writing class. I was always a reader and loved to write, but I’d never studied the craft. After graduating college and working for a few years, I found that writing was my true love. It was what I spent almost all my spare time doing. And yet, after I had a full, finished book, I knew there was something lacking. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong, so I knew I needed to study the craft. I needed that MFA to teach me how to do what I was most passionate about.

So, I came to Seton Hill for my first writer’s residency with my mind wide open, ready to learn. Seton Hill is pretty unique in that it’s such an open, welcoming community. Everyone is there to help each other learn and become better at the craft. The first day there, they teach you how to properly give a critique in a way that won’t tear a writer down, but help them see what’s on the page and give them ways to make it better. Like everything else in life, you get out of your MFA what you put into it. I worked hard, and I found it to be transformative for my craft, but also for life in general. I gained this whole second writing family that I cherish and am thankful to be a part of, and a level of confidence in my writing that I wouldn’t have gotten without getting my MFA.

I think that anyone who wants to grow as writer they should definitely consider getting their MFA. Having that time to really focus on honing your craft is essential to go from a decent writer to an excellent one. It can help turn writers from a hobbyist to a professional.

5.) You also founded Ink Monster that’s a “…boutique publisher of romance-focused series for and about fierce female heroines.” Why did you start your own independent publishing company?

As I was attending Seton Hill, I was also studying the publishing industry. Reading trades, learning the trends, and trying to figure out what made or broke an indie author. There were so many changes happening so fast, and I wasn’t sure that going the traditional route was the best route for me. I’d written a young adult urban fantasy with werewolves post Twilight, and everything I heard from agents and acquiring editors alike was that if they had to read another YA UF submission with a vampire or a werewolf, they’d barf. (Not in those words, but that was the sentiment.) So, I figured if I wanted to give indie a try, BECOMING ALPHA was it. If it or I failed, then no harm. I could write under another name, write something else, submit it to agents and editors. I probably wasn’t going to sell BECOMING ALPHA traditionally anyhow. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that there was a hole left in the book world after Twilight that I could maybe fill.

I knew that if I was going to go indie, I had to treat it like a business—with a business model, marketing plan, distributor, and all the things that went along with it. I couldn’t just throw my ebook up at retailers and expect anything great to happen. I had to do all the things a traditional publisher would do. Starting my own publishing company was a ton of work, but 5.5 years later, I have to say it was the best decision for me. Turns out, I love having all the freedom that comes with being indie.

6.) Your husband Jeremy is involved with the Marvel movies (cough…executive producer…cough). Can you dish? Anything at all?

Ha! Yes, Jeremy has a pretty awesome job. We’ve moved around a ton as he’s made movies, and it’s been pretty crazy and fun and interesting. Also exhausting. I moved five times in the first two years of my daughter’s life (oy!), but I wouldn’t change anything for it. I’ve met and shared a meal with many of the Avengers, and yes, Hemsworth is that handsome in person. ;) Making those movies mostly involves a lot of long hours, hard work, and a whole crew of talented people. I’m lucky to have made a lot of friends out of his coworkers from all stages of production, and I’m super proud of the work he’s done. He’s now at Fox, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to make next.

Although I’m not sure any of that’s a “dish” exactly… ;)

7.) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself  growing up to be? Or did it take you by surprise?

I’ve always written, but I never believed I could become an author. It seemed like such a big, impossible dream. I was writing after college when I got home from work, and my husband gave me the push I needed to pursue really it. I quit my day job to do something less stressful so that I could focus on writing. Then, when I finished writing my first novel, he read my work and saw something in it, but he knew he didn’t know enough about writing a novel to help me revise it. So, he found Seton Hill and told me to apply. Then he gave me another nudge to take control of my career and go indie.

But I never thought I’d sell more than maybe a few books to my friends and family. Selling hundreds of thousands of books? That took me by surprise in a huge way. I still can’t believe that so many people have read and enjoyed my stories.

8.) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

So many people have so many different things that work for them. I’ve probably tried them all. After so many books written/published, I know I need a couple hours in the morning to get all my publishing work done. I need at least some of that to-do list gone or else it’ll hang over my head, making it impossible to focus on writing.

Once that’s done, the rest of my work day is spent writing. I love Freedom—it’s an app that will either kill your WiFi entirely or kill selected websites during a set period of time. Nothing but a hard reboot of your computer will turn it off before the timer ends. Getting rid of distractions is key for me.

I also don’t break until I absolutely have to. The more I get into a scene, the faster I write, and I don’t want to stop until something makes me—usually hunger. I try to keep those breaks as short as possible, so that I can get right back into the groove easily.

I also never stop writing at the end of a scene or chapter. I’ll always write at least a paragraph into the next one so that I have a starting place for when I sit down to write again. That gets rid of staring at a blank page, which can be intimidating.

9.) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write?  A favorite?

We converted our garage into a beautiful office. I have amazing bookshelves with a sliding ladder. I also have a recliner, a couch, and a desk. I alternate writing at each. And when I’m really on a deadline, I can sometimes be found writing in bed. I find being comfortable essential to losing myself in another world. So, the comfier I am, the better.

10.) What are you writing now?  What's coming out next?

I’m working on finishing up LUNAR COURT, book eight in the Alpha Girls series, which comes out on June 11th.

I’m also working on OFF BALANCE, the sequel to OFF PLANET, which releases March 2020, and INVOCATION, the horror spin-off from the Alpha Girls series, which should come out sometime late fall, early winter this year.

Links to Aileen Erin:

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  1. What inspired this book? Sounds interesting!

  2. What is your favourite way to relax and unwind?

  3. Alright, your office sounds amazing!! And hmm, who is your favorite superhero?

  4. Isn't Maria the best? (Sorry, I know that's kind of a cheat question, since I already know the answer.)

  5. This sounds like a really cool book. Putting it on my goodreads list.

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