The Mary Sue Interview: If You’re Looking for Lady-Led Sci-Fi, Prepare to Fall in Love With NOVA
If you’re looking for a gripping, YA-friendly summer read, you might want to pick up Margaret Fortune’s NOVA, the first in a new female-led sci-fi/romance/action-adventure series from DAW! With this as her debut novel, Fortune has previously won the Tillie Olsen Women’s Studies Award for her writing, and is bringing us the story of Lia Johansen,
a young woman and released prisoner of war who discovers she has been turned into a genetically engineered human bomb by her captors. Lia has thirty-six hours until her detonation destroys the New Sol Space Station and its human inhabitants. But in the final moments before nova, she realizes there’s problem—she’s a dud. The clock might have stopped but the chemicals for ignition are still in her system, and Lia is now even more dangerous than before.
We got the chance to speak with Fortune about NOVA, lady-led sci-fi, and more.
Sam Maggs (TMS): I’m so excited about this book; can you tell us a bit about NOVA?
Margaret Fortune: NOVA tells the story of Lia Johansen, a genetically engineered human bomb with one purpose: to strike a blow in an ongoing intergalactic war by slipping onto a strategic space station and exploding. When her clock freezes in the middle of the countdown, she suddenly finds herself with a life she never expected to live. Things are only made more complicated by the fact that she has no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no name besides that stolen from a dead POW.
NOVA blends elements of a fast-paced thriller with a slow-building mystery. As the story progresses, Lia must find a way to discover both her mission and her identity… but what she eventually finds is that nothing is what it seems. The plot takes many twists and turns which will keep readers on their toes until the end. I’ve heard multiple reports that early readers have missed their subway stops or stayed up past their bedtimes to read, so consider yourself warned!
TMS: Lia is a genetically-engineered bad-ass. Was it important to you to write a strong, smart female protagonist in this book?
Fortune: I think it’s important to have strong, realistic heroines in all types of literature, but especially science fiction, which has historically been so male-dominated. I always strive to write strong characters, both male and female, though their types of strength may differ. Where one character’s strength lies in their courage, another’s may lie in their intelligence, while another’s may be about strength of the heart. It’s about writing authentic people who live and breathe on the page, that readers can see reflections of themselves in and relate to. The three main women in this book (and the forthcoming series)—Lia, Shar, and Teal—are all amazingly strong women…but in very different ways.
TMS: What do you love about science fiction? Do you think genre books tend to feature more awesome female characters than other books?
Fortune: I love science fiction because it’s about possibilities. Whether the angle is psychological, sociological, or technological, it’s about looking at ourselves and the world around us and postulating what the future could hold. Space ships, aliens, time travel—anything is allowed so long as you can find some way to associate it with science. As a writer, I find that one of the joys of science fiction—and speculative fiction in general—is that you can find unique ways to explore the human experience by setting up an unusual dilemma or conceit that wouldn’t be possible within the bounds of reality.
As for female characters: I think “awesome” is a rather nebulous term. For me, an awesome heroine is one who exhibits intelligence, courage, and inner strength. A woman who uses her brains to evaluate her situation, marshals her available resources, and acts. She makes good decisions, shows leadership skills, and actively propels the plot with her choices rather than simply letting herself be continually thrown from one situation to the next. She doesn’t panic or give up simply because the going gets tough or Plan A fails. Maybe she has combat skills…but maybe she doesn’t. Just because a woman can beat someone up doesn’t automatically make her a strong person, and just because she can’t beat someone up doesn’t automatically make her weak.
Are there more violent females in genre fiction? Looking at all the action heroines in spec fiction these days, I’d say yes. But are there more awesome women in genre fiction? I honestly don’t know. Awesome women come in all shapes and forms, and all types of stories.
TMS: How would you like life on a space station?
Fortune: I suppose it would depend on what type of space station I was living on. If it was a station like the International Space Station, I think it would be amazing to visit, but I don’t know that I’d want to live there long term. If it was a station like the one in my book, I think it would be a wonderful place to live. As a sci-fi writer, I love the idea of being among the stars I so often write about.
TMS: Can we expect to see more of Lia?
Fortune: NOVA is the first book in a 5-book series, and the later books will feature many characters found in the first book. However, if you want to know if Lia herself appears in any of the later books, you’ll just have to read the series to find out!
NOVA is out today from Penguin Random House’s DAW imprint!
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