Welcome to my stop on the Under Nameless Stars Blog Tour, hosted by Strange Chemistry. If you love animals, you are going to love this interview! Interviews with animals seem to be a trend here, but Christian Schoon has exceeded all my expectations by sharing some amazing photos of some of his rescue animals. You don’t want to miss these photos, so keep reading!
Don’t forget to keep reading all the way to the end, because we have an awesome international giveaway! You can win copies of both books in this series, Zenn Scarlett and Under Nameless Stars, as well as a cool “Name Your Own Star” gift pack! You will have to answer some questions about the books in order to get points, so please visit all the stops on this tour to find each blog’s question. (My question is at the end.)
Welcome to the blog, Christian! I’m thrilled to have you and your menagerie of rescue animals visiting today! Your descriptions of aliens in both Zenn Scarlett books are amazingly detailed. What sort of research did you have to do to make these details believable?
Well, first of all: thanks for having me here on the blog. Great to spend some quality time with you & your eminently well-informed readers/viewers of all things Bookish, Bones-y and Buffy-like. As for sussing out the details I needed to flesh out the alien creatures in the first book and Under Nameless Stars, this was – thankfully – a fairly simple and organic process. Over the years, I’ve been a devout science/biology/evolution-continually-blows-me-away kind of geek. In addition to just reading tons of books on this general subject, I also worked my way through part of college writing for a med school newspaper. Then, when I bailed out of life in LA and moved to the farmstead in the Midwest a decade ago, we started accumulating animals. Lots of ‘em. And this meant I interacted with a number of majorly awesome small and large animal veterinarians. The result was a crowded memory bank of facts about a pretty wide range of elementary anatomical data and medical procedures, as well as at least a passing familiarity with all kinds of earthly animals, their habitats and the evolutionary adaptations that let them pass down copies of their genetic goodness to the next generation. So, while I did some online and book research for my cast of alien fauna in the books, much of the details were rattling around in my head, and just needed a quick going over with the magic wand of “Becometh Now Otherworldly – presto change-o.”
As I was reading Under Nameless Stars, I had flashbacks of such shows as Star Trek: the Next Generation and Star Wars, mostly because of the huge cast of unique and fascinating alien lifeforms. Did these, or any other media, influence the book?
Without a doubt these were both major and direct influences (and, of course, I am unworthy to be in the same blog-room with these mighty icons of genre-dom. But I’ll just sit quietly here in the corner and be adoring.) I was also an avid consumer of sci-fi books as a kid, glomming onto everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ swashbuckling Mars epics to the usual suspects of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, etc. etc.
The character of Jules was one of my very favorites! Not only is he a dolphin that can walk around on land, but he is extremely funny and at times inappropriate with his dialog. He also becomes one of Zenn Scarlett’s closest friends during their journey together. How did his character evolve?
From very early on in my life I’ve been fascinated by the non-human intelligence of cetaceans like dolphins and whales. In college I was the guy who put up big, hand-painted banners in the student union insisting that we all boycott Japanese products until they stopped harpooning whales (under the guise of “scientific research” – which, by the way, they CONTINUE to do. The ass-hats. Don’t get me started…) I’d also written a couple of short stories that involved dolphins and humans and bridging the human/non-human gap. When I wanted to work a bottlenose into Zenn’s story, the whole idea of making Jules ambulatory started to take root. It was big fun to imagine the mechanism he might need to get around in the bipedal world. His naïve, humorous and up-front character just seemed natural for a dolphin. Glad you liked him – he’s a fave of mine.
Under Nameless Stars is the second book in a duology, and everything is mostly resolved at the end. Even so, do you foresee any other adventures for Zenn, Liam and Jules? Would you ever revisit the world?
I’d be eager to reunite Zenn, Jules, Hamish, Katie and a few other characters on a new adventure. And I have a basic outline of where the story will go next: it involves a visit to the worlds of the Leukkan Kire nature preserves and the villages and palaces constructed on the backs of 1,500-foot-wide sunkillers drifting in the Kiran skies. Right now, this book is vying with several other projects I’m juggling, so can’t report anything definite in the way of time tables. But yes. I do have some juicy intrigues simmering in the pot.
If you could have any of the creatures you created for the Zenn Scarlett books as a pet, which one would you choose?
Very tough question! Let’s see… of course, the Indra looms up to the top of the list first, simply because then (assuming it comes with an attached starliner) I’d have the means to travel to the other planets that our stellar neighborhood harbors to see all the (possible) life that’s arisen on these worlds. But, then again, Indra don’t really fall into the pet category, do they? So, maybe a rikkaset, since they’re smart enough to communicate. And, hey, because: disappearing!
Where the Schoon’s call home…Farm house and the farmstead.
I know you are a big animal lover. (So am I!) Can you tell us about the farm where you live and rehabilitate abused and neglected animals?
Love to. Our 11-acre place includes a rambling, 130-year-old Victorian farm-house and a dozen or so outbuildings, among them a couple of massive hay barns, and a goodly amount of pasture. So, the pastures and attendant shelters house the horses that come to us via a local equine rescue group where I’m on the board of directors. This group is called in by law enforcement on cases of horse/donkey/burro neglect or abuse. After the animals are confiscated by the authorities, they arrive here & my job is to feed and water them, and nurse them back to health so they can be adopted out. We currently have 18 horses in various pastures. Our converted hog shed is now the Cat Barn, with about 15 or so cats, many brought to us from one of the feline rescue groups we volunteer with, along with occasional free-roaming cats that wander onto the property (which are promptly spayed or neutered. Spay and neuter your pets, people! Please. End of sermon.) In my office, I have a network of tube-connected cages for a couple of ferrets, which we get from our wicked-cool veterinarian whenever she comes across adoptable critters. Ferrets rock!
Check out a *few* of Christian’s animals! Does anyone besides me want to go live with him?
(Yes, folks, that is a BEAR.)
What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?
Well, I’m the kind of writer who’s reluctant to talk too much about pending stuff – it’s an irrational fear that I’ll lose the project’s mojo if I expose it to daylight too early on in the process. I can say one thing in the works is an animated steampunk TV series, and another one is a novel that’s gonna let me get my monster-creation-factory up and running at breakneck, shake-the-building-apart speed.
Animated Steampunk? Yes, please! Please tell us three things about you that can’t be found on your website.
(My poor, starving website. With the April launch of Under Nameless Stars bearing down on me, it’s been sadly neglected…. ) But, what you won’t learn there is that:
- Zenn’s sign-language-capable, refractive-fur-makes-her-invisible rikkaset Katie is named after one of my favorite cats, who lived to be 18 years old but who passed on a few years ago. She’d jump on my shoulders and ride around there, purring. Still miss her.
- I have an entirely unreasonable fear of sharks. It’s ridiculous, the statistical chances of being attacked are, of course, astronomical. But this phobia can actually keep me from swimming in the ocean at certain times. I have no problem SCUBA diving or snorkeling beneath the surface. But I really don’t like swimming ON the surface in deep water and being unable to see what’s rushing up like a small toothy submarine from below me. It’s a total cliché, but I blame Jaws. This bit of non-rationality aside, I do still write letters urging the conservation of sharks, which are under assault worldwide, from general over-fishing and slaughter for shark fin soup (where the rest of the shark is just tossed back into the water…this needs to stop.)
- Before the first book came out, I learned that Temple Grandin, one of my top-ranked humans, was a sci-fi reader and big Star Trek fan. So I brazenly wrote a cold-call letter to her and asked if she’d like to read Zenn Scarlett. To my shock and wonder, she agreed and then sent me back a very kind endorsement of the book. I continue to incandesce slightly from this encounter.
Thank you so much, Christian! Wasn’t this a lot of fun guys?? You can find Mr. Schoon here:
About the author: Christian Schoon paid his new-writer-dues as an in-house copywriter at the Walt Disney Company, followed by a stint as a freelance script/copywriter in Los Angeles. After moving back to the Midwest, he bought a farm, started volunteering with a group that rescues abused/neglected horses and another group helping to re-hab wildlife: black bears, cougars, coyotes, raccoons, assorted other critters. His animal welfare work, combined with his life-long sci-fi geekery, inspired Christian to write his first book, the young adult science fiction novel Zenn Scarlett.
And now for the giveaway! You will need to answer this question for extra points on the Rafflecopter:
#Q6: A sandhog has how many hind legs?
Click here to read an excerpt from Under Nameless Stars, where you will find the answer. You can also visit the other stops on the tour and get points for each question you answer:
When you’re ready to enter, click the Rafflecopter button below: