Zenn Scarlett author interview and review

Today, as part of the Zenn Scarlett blog tour, I am very excited to welcome the book’s lovely and talented author Christian Schoon to The Library for Delinquents!

But first, a little about the book.

ZennScarlett_143947I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it before. In brief, Zenn Scarlett is a 17-year-old girl training to be an exoveterinarian, specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars. After a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. The race is on for Zenn to uncover the saboteur(s) and save everything she cares about.

The sheer imagination that went into writing this book is mind-boggling – there are so many weird and wonderful creatures, and yet the descriptions are so vivid that I could picture them all perfectly! And amongst all that, one of the big stars is a humble earth cat. I’ve never been much into science fiction – perhaps the complex scientific concepts side of things put me off. But Schoon has a light touch and a way of describing, say, how to rebuild an injured animal using magnetic fields, that makes it seem plausible but without getting bogged down in the details. There were some real treasures of characters, too. I loved Zenn, who is passionate about her work. She is somewhat introverted and for the most part ruled by her brain rather than her heart, but not immune to the all-very-new-to-her boy attention she finds herself subject to. And Hamish, the coelopt insectoid sexton at the school, reminded me a little of Spock or Data with his logical approach, but he’s  much more endearing. His personality seemed to develop as he grew in confidence and there were lots of LOL moments as he struggled to get to grips with human ways and language.

I won’t say too much more (you really just need to read this unique book yourselves!), except that it  transported me to another world, and I didn’t want it to end. So, I am really thrilled to have had the chance to pick the author’s brains…

Q. As an exoveterinarian specialising in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, I think it’s safe to say that Zenn Scarlett is a unique protagonist in current YA fiction. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a vet – I think that’s partly what attracted me to reading your book! What did you used to dream of being when you grew up?

I’m told my earliest answer to this question was an enthusiastic “I wanna be a squirrel or a dragon, but not a people.” And I haven’t really changed my mind on that. For a while in high school, it was either a marine biologist or an exobiologist. Then someone told me about the math skills required, and I opted for writing about spacy things instead.

Q. I saw on your website that you are involved with animal welfare groups, and reading the book I got a real sense of your love for all creatures great and small. From the 200-foot-long swamp sloos to the adorable, cuddly rikkasets that make themselves invisible, how did you come up with such a fascinating and inventive array of alien creatures?

I guess it must be my life long science fiction addiction. I’ve been so fabulously entertained by the entire menagerie of alien life conjured up by other authors, I think I always wanted to return the favour for my readers. I also think that by giving readers some small bit of the familiar or Earthly to hang onto when coming up with a creature, then I have more leeway to be imaginative in layering on the alien details.

Q. If you were reincarnated as one of the alien animals from Zenn Scarlett, which one would you be and why?

Ooo, this is a really tough one…. But I’d have to say a Lithohippus indra, a Stonehorse. I mean, to be able to tunnel through the fabric of space-time and take an entire starship with me? Not to mention having a 700-foot-long body and interdimensional whiskers… Oh yeah. Bring it.

Q. I warmed to Zenn instantly – particularly because of her feistiness and no-nonsense attitude. As a male author, how did you get into the mindset of a strong-willed, redheaded teenage girl?

Something that helped me with this was our local veterinarian, who’s female and plenty strong-willed. Plus, she’s held onto her own youthful exuberance and fearlessness in treating animals from bears and horses to pelicans and baby pigs. Zenn kinda gets those traits from her. Add to that my own more or less stopped-maturing-at-seventeen nature, and I was well on my way to creating Zenn’s character.

Q. So who are your favourite female protagonists in fiction, and why?

I really like Lyra in The Golden Compass and Pullman’s other books. She’s feisty, but really not at all cutesy or “girly.” She lies, she pouts, she’s manipulates, but Pullman still made her admirable and engaging.

Q. I have to admit that I haven’t previously delved much into the science-fiction genre, but reading Zenn Scarlett has whet my appetite. Can you recommend any authors for me to try?

Tons! You can’t go wrong starting with some of my fellow Strange Chemistry scribes: T.L. Costa, Jonathan L. Howard, Sean Cummings, Laura Lam, Gwenda Bond, Kim Curran, Ingrid Jonach, Bryony Pearce, Amalie Howard, Rachel Neumeier, Cassandra Clarke, Eliza Crewe and Rosie Best. Drop by the Strange Chemistry site to check out their awesomazing stuff! You might also want to check the great writing of E.C. Myers, Mike Mullin and Phoebe North. And that’s just tip of the write-burg!

Q. Thanks, I’ll be sure to give some of those a try. And finally, in the book you refer back to a time before the first alien contact, when a group of people known as UFOers (also called nuts, Zenn tells us!) were derided for believing in alien abductions. Would you count yourself as a UFOer? Is there anything out there?!

Oh, I’d bet big money there’s SOMETHING out there. I’d also bet big that all or by far most UFO sightings aren’t spacecraft from alien worlds (despite how deeply and profoundly I wish this was the case). Carl Sagan tells us that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. A friend’s story about his friend-of-a-friend’s story about his second cousin who was abducted and probed isn’t gonna do it for me. I want the medical reports and the post-exam x-rays and the trace fragments of non-earthly DNA and the crop circles NOT created by bored undergrads with a riding lawnmower. Yeah, I’m a sceptic on the UFO thing. But on the other hand, I’m a big-time believer that in my lifetime we’ll detect our first planet with some form of living organisms on it. Might just be microbes, but that’ll do. I won’t exactly be able to die happy (not many do…), but I will die a little happier.

Thanks for stopping by and answering my questions, Christian. I can’t wait to find out what you’re going to write next! And thanks to Strange Chemistry for the ARC, what a treat!

About Christian Schoon

AUTHOR PIC AS SMALL JPG 1 INCHBorn in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about – and received an education from – these remarkable animals.

Pre-Order Zenn Scarlett on Amazon

Find Christian at Goodreads

Author blog: christianschoon.com

Twitter: @cjschoon

Publisher: Strange Chemistry

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4 Comments

  1. Hehee, when I first glanced at that, I thought it said “extrovertinarian”, as in a healer of extroverts. But an alien vet is pretty cool too. Thanks for recommending – as it’s a Strange Chemistry book, I’m sure I’ll like it. Added to my TBR list!

    Reply
  2. Ha ha! That would be a whole different book, you might be on to something! Come back and tell me what you think when you’ve read it 🙂

    Reply
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