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Steph Bennion
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message 1: by Anna (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) Greetings Space Opera Fans!

One of my favorite parts of being part of a community like this is getting to know a lot of the authors who write the science fiction we love as fellow squee-ing fans of the genre, especially when they've been active community members long before we got around to reading their books.

This month we're privileged to have Steph Bennion, author of one of our Books of the Month, Hollow Moon, come on board to answer our questions about the inspiration behind her space opera story.

Steph Bennion Hollow Moon by Steph Bennion

So without further ado, here's Steph :-) Most of you already know her from the scientific and fandom discussions of the threads, so now we get to find out about the inspiration behind her book.

Be epic!

Anna Erishkigal
SOF Borg Queen


1. What books have most influenced your life?

Looking back, it was stories about freedom and friendships and the spirit of adventure. When I was young I remember being enthralled by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books, but it’s fair to say that my main love has always been science fiction. Arthur C Clarke, Harry Harrison and Robert Heinlein were my favourites back then; nowadays I’d probably cite Alastair Reynolds as my favourite genre writer. Away from science fiction, the writer I return to time and time again is Jonathan Coe – The House of Sleep is a particular favourite, as is his excellent biography of avant-garde writer B.S. Johnson.

2. How do you develop your plots and characters?

I’m a huge advocate for Christopher Booker’s work The Seven Basic Plots, which is a fascinating analysis of storytelling. Another fantastic resource is the TV Tropes website, which is great for getting a feel for the nuts and bolts of different genres. I think it’s important to understand the reasons why people like stories and what they expect to get from one before you can successfully deliver something they really want to read.

3. Tell us about your Space Opera Fans book?

Hollow Moon is a thumping good science-fiction adventure, for young adults and adults young at heart, described by Awesome Indies as “...a refreshing change from the dark paranormal, dystopian and urban fantasies that populate the YA shelves...” It’s the twenty-third century and humans have started to colonise nearby star systems. Taranis, the dark priest of destiny, has returned from the dead, setting off a chain of events that leads Ravana and her friends into a fast-paced mystery of interstellar intrigue. Hollow Moon is a planet-hopping adventure into the shady world of politics, rebellion and school band competitions, a tale of mystery, humour and thrills! What more could you want?

4. We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?

The intrepid teenage heroine of Hollow Moon is the unfortunately-named Ravana O’Brien, a half-Australian, half-Indian trainee engineer who lives with her father in a forgotten asteroid colony ship. The character started out as a deliberate attempt to create the antithesis of YA heroes like Harry Potter, except for the engineer bit which came from my own fascination with machines. Her friends were largely shaped by the plot; I adopted the fantasy trope of having a group of people each with their own special talent – Zotz and his inventions, Endymion the computer hacker, Philyra’s addiction to trashy holovid shows, etc. – and once I started writing them they took on a life of their own. Ostara, the naive and clueless detective who still manages to be incredibly optimistic, was someone I grew very fond of.

5. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

There’s a fair few villains in the book, all with different agendas that shape their characters. I hate to say it, but inspiration came from studying modern politics and seeing how certain viewpoints can be twisted to create a great deal of unpleasantness for those less fortunate in society. Governor Jaggarneth is an archetypical arrogant bureaucrat. Priest Taranis is the only one whom I loosely based on someone else: Davros, creator of the Daleks, from Doctor Who.

6. What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?

Holidays to far-flung places often provide real-life inspirations; the volcanic landscape of Tenerife and the Australian outback helped me picture the bleak planet of Ascension, for example. As I mentioned recently in another group thread, the asteroid colony ship Dandridge Cole, the ‘hollow moon’ of the novels, is named after Dandridge M Cole, the American aerospace engineer and futurist who with illustrator Roy Scarfo developed the concept in books like Beyond Tomorrow.

7. Sci-fi fans love techno-porn! What real-life science (or pseudo-science) did you research for your book?

I read quite a bit on the suitability for life on planets orbiting red dwarf stars, which led to the scenes in the Eden Ravines on Ascension. For spaceships, I researched propulsion systems and spaceplane proposals like Skylon. In the book, artificial gravity is achieved using centrifuges and I took the time to do the calculations to determine what the effect would be. The main bit of pseudo-science is the extra-dimensional drive that allows instantaneous interstellar travel. How it works is only hinted at in Hollow Moon, but it’s based on a rather creative interpretation of M-theory that I hope to expand on in future books. There’s a short story about the invention of the ED drive in the free anthology Wyrd Worlds.

8. What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I remember the mid section, where the characters arrive at the city of Hemakuta ahead of the peace conference, as being particularly painful to write. A great deal of plot and character development was needed to set up the second half of the book and it took a lot longer to get it down than anticipated. I also wanted the book to have its funny moments, which is not easy to do whilst still trying to drive the plot forwards. Writing comedy is hard!

9. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Chapter nine, where Ravana and friends discover the alien plantations, meet the rebel crew of the Sun Wukong and finally start to piece together what the bad guys are up to. It’s a real mix of light and shade; on one hand there’s the grim discovery in the secret laboratory, while on the other you’ve got Zotz bursting into song from Alien: The Opera – “The alien is coming, we need to run! Where can I find my flame-throwing gun?” – when they stumble across a nest of giant eggs. I had a lot of fun with that chapter.

10. Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

Doing research is very distracting! I spent hours reading about Betty and Barney Hill’s alien abduction and it barely gets two lines in the novel.

11. Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?

My novels tend to centre around working-class folk who find themselves battling the consequences of upheavals caused by those in power, which now I think about it makes me sound like a militant socialist! Let’s just say that Hollow Moon is ultimately about friendships and how people come together in times of need.

12. What are your future project(s)?

I’ve almost finished the first draft of a follow-up to Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods, as yet untitled, which wraps up the story of the civil war on Yuanshi. I wanted to examine how colonies achieve independence and how the science-fiction trope of an interstellar empire might actually come into being. This is also my first science-fiction novel set mainly on Earth; the story takes place in London, which in the twenty-third century is ravaged by rising sea levels, social inequalities and terrible politics. It’s all fiction, honest.

13. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

Touring in a rock band? The height of my musical career as a bassist was playing to half-empty clubs in London and getting a song played on BBC Radio Kent. This is Spinal Tap is so much funnier when you’ve actually been in a band, by the way.

14. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

There’s loads of stuff and a news feed at – on social media, Goodreads is my main addiction, particularly this group; I’m also a moderator of the Smashwords Authors Group [] (all indie authors welcome!).

15. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to the Space Opera Fans community members?

I’m finding some real gems amongst self-published works and it’s a shame how many seem to languish in obscurity. If you find a good one, spread the word!

Interview granted 2015/05/17

message 2: by Anna (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) *****************************************************************

And be sure to scope out Hollow Moon, one of our books of the month, up for discussion HERE:


message 3: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 302 comments Hi - Not quite another author chat, but Barbara G Tarn is featuring an 'interview' with a couple of characters from City Of Deceit (Hollow Moon #3):

message 4: by Hywela (new)

Hywela (hywela-lyn) | 4 comments Great post - I left a comment!

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