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Friday, December 20, 2013

Write What You Don’t Know - a guest post by Pippa Jay

I’ve always been an advocate of ‘write what you know’. A pretty mean feat when I write science fiction. No, I haven’t been abducted by aliens and no, I’m not one of the Doctor’s companions (sadly!). So how can I justify the ‘write what you know’ in my stories when I can’t possibly know what it’s like to travel through time and space (aside from watching Doctor Who since the age of three)?

Extrapolation. No, that’s not a timey wimey Doctor Who-ism (they come later). Yes, I have absolutely NO idea what it’s like to set foot on an alien planet for the first time. BUT, I have been to other countries and been faced with surroundings and cultures not my own. So I take my memories of that, of how I felt to be somewhere quite alien to what I’m familiar with, and I expand it. Build on it. How did it sound/smell/taste? What did I notice first? How did it differ from what I’m used to and why? What does it feel like to hear everyone around you talking a foreign language nothing like your own? To be aware that certain gestures and behaviours considered the norm back home might be taken as offensive, insulting or confrontational here? The disorientation, feeling out of place, and nervous of making a mistake, but also fascinated by the differences. It doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine how an alien planet might strike a new arrival.

Then space travel. If you’ve ever flown in an aeroplane, you know that feeling of acceleration at take-off, that sense of your stomach falling through your feet when the airplane does one of those sudden drops in altitude. Maybe you’ve flown through a storm in one and felt the craft being buffeted. Or maybe you’re one of those insane people who enjoys rollercoasters. *shudders* Add that to research on youtube and the NASA website about the shuttle flights, and you can write a realistic piece on blasting into space.

Practically any experience in your life can be used to create something outside the realm of real human experience. That’s why so many writers say they get their inspiration from absolutely everything in life. The smallest thing can spark an idea or be used as the basis for building an entire fantasy.

So why is the title of this piece ‘write what you don’t know’? Haven’t I just contradicted that title with my post?

No. See, I’ve just been learning recently that you CAN write what you don’t know, thanks to the internet. A wonderful thing called RESEARCH. You can pretty much find anything you need to know on the web, or find someone to ask. In this case, I’ve chosen a setting in contemporary US that I will probably never get to see for real as the location for my supernatural story. Google maps have let me wander around the town I wanted to set the story in. Friends met and made on Facebook and Twitter have been willing to put up with the dozens of dumb questions I’ve asked to get the details right. It’s a gamble. Whether I would convince someone who actually lives there that I really know the place, only time will tell. I hope so. In the meantime, the research is a load of fun, and a great way to learn new stuff!

And while you wait for that one, you can check out some of my published adventures and see if you think I’ve pulled it off. :P

Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption?
For Keirlan de Corizi--the legendary ‘Blue Demon’ of Adalucien--death seems the only escape from a world where his discolored skin marks him as an oddity and condemns him to life as a pariah. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise: Tarquin Secker, a young woman who can travel the stars with a wave of her hand.
But Quin has secrets of her own. She’s spent eternity searching through space and time with a strange band of companions at her back. Defying her friends’ counsel, Quin risks her apparent immortality to save Keir. She offers him sanctuary and a new life on her home world, Lyagnius.
When Keir mistakenly unleashes his dormant alien powers and earns instant exile from Quin’s home world, will she risk everything to stand by him again?

A 2012 Readers Favorite Award Finalist, 2013 Aspen Gold RWA Contest Finalist, and 2012 SFR Galaxy Award Winner.

Available in print and all digital formats:

A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moments trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 20 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the SFR Brigade, a community of science fiction romance authors and publishing professionals committed to writing and promoting the very best in the genre.

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