Happy Thursday y’all! This is my stop during the blog tour for Running Out of Space by S.J. Higbee. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 11 till 31 October. You can check see the tour schedule here. I’m so excited to have author S.J. Higbee here today answering a few questions about herself and her book.
For a limited time Running Out of Space will be only $0.99 on Amazon. Be sure to check out the excerpt after the interview!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I teach Creative Writing for adults at the Northbook Metropolitan College in Worthing and have been doing so for the past nine years. I love it. Many of my students return each term and some have been with me since I started there. I also tutor a boy on the autistic spectrum as part a teaching team that goes into his home, though I am employed by the local authority to do so. Again, it’s a very rewarding job. When I’m not doing that, I also play a major part in caring for my grandchildren during holidays and some week-ends. They are 12 and 7 respectively, and are a joy – though it does leave me feeling my age at times! My main hobby is reading – I love nothing more than losing myself in a story.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I always knew I was going to write. I was one of those children who wrote long, complicated stories from the time I could pick up a pencil and won a national story competition aged nine, though looking back I am amazed they could read my shocking handwriting… I wrote pantomimes and produced them when living in the middle of Somerset while married to my first husband, but trying to write anything worth reading while in the middle of such a stressful relationship was pretty much a non-starter and once the children came along, there wasn’t even time to read. Once I was divorced, I started reading and writing again, but it wasn’t until I began reading science fiction and fantasy, I realized exactly what I wanted to write. My first novel was completed waaay back into the mid-1990s, but is gathering dust in the loft and unfit for anything other than providing insulation up there.
Is there an author or book that influenced you in any way?
I particularly loved the Nania series as a girl and as a teenager Ray Bradbury’s writing blew me away. But it wasn’t until I got hold of C.J. Cherryh’s work later on that I just knew I wanted to write about being in space with the same immersive viewpoint that she used in the likes of Heavy Time.
Where did you get the ideas?
I dream them, mostly. I have a snippet or a scene. I dream very vividly with bright colours, smells, sounds and have suffered terrible nightmares on and off all through my life, to the extent that I sometimes get flashbacks during the day which can traumatic. Fortunately, these have eased off a lot in the last few years – I think it is because I am writing. I sometimes get ideas about a book when walking or in the shower.
Is there anything in Running Out of Space based on real-life experience or is it purely imagination?
There always has to be part of what you are and what you’ve done in your writing, I think. That terrific sense of frustration that Elizabeth experiences at not being able to be a serving officer on her father’s ship lines up with my own anger at the manner in which we abandoned all our expertise and hard won experience with the Moon landings – and just stopped. As for the intergenerational misunderstanding and resentments which power this series – I think that often runs in families where there has been a very strong parent-figure in control and I do know how that feels. Although, I would hasten to add that for the purposes of heightening the fiction, I have exaggerated it from my own experience quite a lot.
What was your favorite part to write?
Most of the time, writing is hard. It doesn’t come easily. But there were a couple of scenes that just poured out of the tips of my fingers and were a joy to put on the page. The first is the quarrel between Elizabeth and Rico which somehow tips into farce even though she is grief-stricken at the time – and the second is the shuttle crash. I dreamt that scene so very vividly that I woke up smelling and tasting the smoke…
If you could go back and do it all over again, is there anything you would change about Running Out of Space?
It has taken a very long time to get to its current form – I’m fairly fast at getting down my initial draft, but refining and honing them throughout the editing phase takes me a very long time. I am hoping that aspect of my writing will get faster.
Is there a character or theme you’d like to revisit?
Yes – and I am returning to it. Running Out of Space is the first in The Sunblinded Trilogy, but once I completed it, I realized I had the perfect character for my private investigator in the crime series set in space. Elizabeth. So she will be featuring in a spinoff series and the first book will be entitled Bloodless.
What are you working on now?
I am currently grappling with a novel called Miranda’s Tempest which takes the events from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and envisages what happens next. I have found this one really hard to write well, but have recently received some brilliantly helpful feedback from an interested agent, so I am in the throes of a major rewrite. I wrote a short story entitled ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ for the anthology Eve’s War a while ago and the idea simply wouldn’t leave alone, hence the novel. It’s not quite right yet, but I am getting there…
Now that you are published, what’s been some of the hardest criticism you’ve dealt with? Best compliment?
Someone I like and respect once said, ‘I know you write well, but I don’t care enough to finish it.’ Ouch… Best compliment – ‘I love the way you write – I don’t know anyone else who writes quite like you.’
Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Keep going. If you are writing a first draft, then keep writing, don’t stop. If you have ideas or alterations to put in place on the way, make notes using something like TrackChanges so long as it won’t impact on your plot. If you have finished the first draft and it hasn’t come out quite as you want it to, then put it away for a while and then return to it and have another go. In the meantime, write the next one.
Anything you’d like to say to your fans?
I am also very fortunate to have a novel called Netted coming out in 2019 with Kristell Ink, part of the Grimbold Publishing family. It is a post-apocalyptic adventure set in Maine and featuring the adventures of a couple that have been stranded with their infant son out in the wilderness.
Now for a few fun questions…
Favorite color? To wear – purples and lilacs. To look at – my house is decorated in various shades of yellow and peach – sunshine colours.
Favorite TV show?
Favorite place to write? My desktop computer is set up in the corner of the lounge. Fortunately I have headphones and a lovely selection of music so it doesn’t stop other family members watching TV.
If you had to choose just one book, what would it be and why? Urgh! ONE? This is so cruel! Currently, it would have to be After Atlas – Book 2 of Planetfall by Emma Newman – but next year it’s likely to be something quite different.
Last question and possibility the most important…what brand of cereal best describes you and why? Ha ha… what a fabulous question! It would be Rice Krispies. If you keep me warm and dry adding just a little liquid, I’ll snap, crack and pop with energy – but drown me in ice-cold yukky milk (I’m allergic to all things dairy) and I’ll become soggy and miserable.
Don’t Miss Running Out of Space, Available Now!Running Out of Space by S.J. Higbee
Series: The Sunblinded Trilogy #1
Published by Griffinwing Publishing on 2017-10-09
Length: 397 pages
Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…
I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and my shipmates were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile English girls can also deal with danger.
The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.
I opened my eyes to find myself lying on my back, staring at the sky – a shock. After nearly a year in a spacecraft, so much fresh air overstimmed my slagged senses. Apart from anything else, it stank. Of earth and greenness and rain. I sucked at the water trickling across my mouth because I was very thirsty, as well as soaking wet and cold. My teeth started to chatter.
Maybe it would be a zesting notion to get up. It took a while to struggle onto my knees and shakily scramble to my feet. Partly because everything hurt and partly because I couldn’t shake the idea I must be badly injured. I’d been in a shuttle crash, for Earth’s sake! But although my head was hammering hard enough to shiver my vision and I’d an impressive collection of cuts and purpling bruises, nothing seemed broken. I shaded my stinging eyes from the too-bright outdoor lighting, and tried to get my bearings.
The sodden landscape was cheerlessly grey, with rain falling sideways in swirling gusts that plastered torn overalls against my rapidly numbing body. I squinted sore eyes. That grey smudge. There… behind that stand of trees. That’s smoke.
I squelched across the gouge marks scarring the field, following the trail of shredded shuttle-stuff while my head thudded with vicious intensity. The tail section sheared off, here. The rest cleared the fence and finally ended up in the next field. I must’ve been thrown out.
It took a long light year to trudge through the vile gloop the Cerens like to call soil. I fell over. Twice. The second time, I nearly didn’t get up. The only thing that kept me going was the sure knowledge that if I stayed sitting in the gluey mess, I’d die of hypothermia. Or disgust. I didn’t survive a dregging shuttle crash just to end up as fertiliser for some food crop. Besides, what if Wynn finds me? I flinched at the thought of his beautiful blue eyes staring at my mucky corpse.
The going got easier once I reached the knee-high grass bordering the field as the tall plax-mesh fence offered significant shelter from the rain-laden wind. I headed for the track intersecting the fencing. A thick pall of smoke swirled through the opening long before I reached it. The chemical smell, overlaid with a cooked meat scent, made me cough like an apron-clad bloke downwind of the barbie. I used a shard of dura carbon to hack off the breast pocket on my overalls and cover my nose against the stinking smoke. But I could do nothing about the dread snaking in my belly.
If Wynn survived, why haven’t I seen him? No way would he wander off without searching for me. I stumbled to a halt, as icy certainty gripped me. That’s it, then. He’s dead. I buried my face in my hands, despairing. Until a new voice zipped through my head like a fireball.
Wynn could die out there, while you’re behaving like a baby. Haul it together, Lizzy!
Jessica, that you? It sounded like her, for sure. Whether it was or not, just hearing her bossy voice ringing around the inside of my skull was sufficient to help me haul it together. On trembling legs, I rounded the corner and took in the mess. Judging by the torn earth and burning remains, the shuttle must have cartwheeled half the length of the field before finally coming to a halt upside down. I shivered as I imagined the force needed to create such large gouges, while wading through the quagmire and peering into each gaping hole, already half-full of water. Looking around the rainy, smoke-grimed mudscape at the flaming remains of the shuttle, I wondered if there was a bleaker spot in the whole universe.
I spotted the first body, while stumbling through the wreckage. His head was tilted back at an impossible angle. His helmet had been torn off and his face was a red ruin. I shuddered. Hopefully, it was quick.
I moved onto the next hole, dropped to my knees, and prodded at the water with a length of casing. My stomach slid somewhere around my mud-caked thighs when I realised someone was down there.
Mark the spot, then move on. You can come back later, if you don’t find Wynn elsewhere.
Typical Jessica. Still bossy, even when dead. Nevertheless, I draped shredded insulation in the rough shape of an arrow, before moving towards the burning remains of the shuttle. It was now a question of numbers. I’d found two bodies, one unidentified. Aboard the shuttle, there’d been Helmethead, the pilot, Wynn, and the three guards sitting opposite. Six, apart from me.
The pilot was easy to find. His charred body was still strapped into the burnt-out remains of the cockpit, clearly beyond help. Another badly burned merc was hanging out of a ripped hole in the fuselage, but I couldn’t get close enough to see if he was still alive. Heat radiated from the blackened carcass of the shuttle. Further back, the fuel tanks were still burning.
Upwind of the thick, stinking smoke, the warmth was almost pleasant. I caught sight of someone was lying on open ground about ten yards in front of the shuttle, so mud-covered, I couldn’t tell whether he was wearing a uniform. Or alive.
Hurry up, it could be Wynn.
Yeah, I’m on it, Jessica. I half-ran, half-slithered towards the prone figure. But I slid to a stop a few feet away, as I realised the dregger was wearing a helmet. His arm twitched.
Mercury’s Dust, he’s alive. I couldn’t walk away. Kneeling beside him, I felt for his pulse. He’s warm to the touch… Which was when I recognised the numbers on the side of his helmet – I’d been staring at them when he’d hit me. It’s Helmethead! Wonder how he—
His hand snaked out and gripped my arm as he surged to his knees. “Hello, girlie. Must be my lucky day, after all.”
Get Running Out of Space today for a limited time at $0.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited.