Katja: Welcome to YA’s the Word, Jonathan, it’s lovely to have you here today. Please tell us a little about your novel, Katya’s World.
Jonathan: Thanks for inviting me, Katja. Well, Katya’s World is the first of the “Russalka Chronicles.” It’s set on Russalka, a distant colony world that’s unusual in that the surface is entirely ocean with the exceptions of the ice caps. Actually, when you think about it, even those are just frozen ocean so, yes, it’s 100% oceanic. When Earth discovered the place they were going to pass on it until they found the ocean was rich in rare minerals. So, the place ended up being colonised anyway, but it’s a tough life. Almost everybody lives in settlements that have been cut out of the rock of submerged hills and mountains, sealed and pressurised. They travel around by submarine. The surface is avoided because it’s battered with almost endless storm conditions. It’s never calm up there.
If that wasn’t tough enough, even the colonisation process itself didn’t run smoothly. The first wave of colonists arrived and began the process of creating settlements in the sure knowledge that further colony ships would start arriving soon. It never happened. Earth suffered a series of internal conflicts and collapsed into anarchy for decades, leaving her distant colonies to fend for themselves. Then when they did arrive – about a century behind schedule – it was to demand that Russalka give itself over to Earth. After a century of looking after themselves, the Russalkin (which is what the colonists were calling themselves by this point) argued with that, and the Terrans attacked. It was a brief but vicious war that damaged much of what the Russalkin had built and that killed many of the population. As a result, the world’s demographics are skewed, and the new generation doesn’t have much of a childhood before being thrown into positions of responsibility.
This is a bit lengthy for “a little” about the novel, isn’t it? Ah, well. Haven’t even said anything about the plot yet, either.
Katja: Trust me, I’m the last person to criticise a lack of brevity! *smiles*
Jonathan: So, that’s the state of the world, Katya’s homeworld, she being Katya Kuriakova, just shy of her sixteenth birthday and about to embark on a career as a navigator. Her first voyage goes off the rails when the mini-submarine she’s to serve aboard, the “Pushkin’s Baby,” is commandeered by the Federal Maritime Authority to take a prisoner under guard to a secure installation. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that they don’t get there. It turns out that Russalka’s history is a great deal more complicated than Katya ever thought, and that even what she thought she knew may not be true at all. It all gets very busy for Katya as her world starts to fall to pieces around her.
Katja: I read and reviewed Katya’s World last year, and was struck by its originality. There were none of the cliches – funny side-kick and moody love-interest – that I’ve come to expect in my favourite genre. These points worked for me as a reader, letting me focus on Katya as a character in her own right. I wonder though, did you ever have reservations about not adding a love interest or best-friend?
Jonathan: I think the main reason is that I love the sea. I’d dearly love to live somewhere that I could see it every day. I’m also fascinated by submarines, a bit of a geek about them, so you may be sure that the sections about submarine operations in the Russalka Chronicles are accurate. The ocean hides its mysteries well, which is a great advantage over either a desert world or a barren moon. In either case, a satellite could have each mapped in tiny detail in a matter of days. Russalka has resisted such easy exploration, and still hides much even from the colonists who have been there for over a century. Some reviews have noted that not much is said about the natural wonders of Russalka or of its wild life. That isn’t an oversight on my part. It reflects the Russalkins’ own ignorance of their world. They have a hard time just surviving, so they don’t care much about what’s on the other side of the pressure hulls. One day, they’re sure that they’ll get around to doing some serious marine research, but not just yet. It’s an ignorance they may well come to regret.
Katja: I’m always nosey about what people are reading, so could you share with us the last five books you read?
The Fate Core RPG book. Yes, I read roleplaying game rulebooks for leisure.
An anthology of Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories. I’m a junky for short ghost stories, any period, but my favourites are Victorian through to the 1950s. I must have read hundreds.
A bunch of books that I’m going to count as one, because they’re all for the same project. All about crowd funding and self-publishing. You can make a mad guess at what the putative project involves.
Katja: What’s next for you?
Jonathan: Currently I’m writing the fourth Johannes Cabal novel. About three quarters of the way through, I would estimate. It’s not due out until late next year, but publishers like to have a submission draft in their hands ages before the publication date. Once that early Cabal draft is out of the way, I’ll be going almost directly onto the third Russalka Chronicle. Somewhere amidst all that, I plan to have a go at that crowd-funded, self-published thing I alluded to above. That’s all a bit experimental, so fingers crossed that it works out.
Katja: Thanks for featuring, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thanks for having me, Katja