The Teen SF series Tijaran Tales is coming to an end. On the 14th of April, ‘The Girl From The Sky’, the final instalment, will be out, published by Luna Press Publishing. Join us as we catch up with author Francesca T Barbini.
KL: Six books in roughly six years. What’s it like to manage a series?
FTB: It feels like walking on a tightrope: you can sway a little, but you need to keep going in one direction. There is a lot of pressure due to the scheduling. Within the space of a year, you have to write it, do the editing, marketing and organise the launch. Then you start all over again times 5. I suppose keeping the length of each book below 100K words does help.
The only ‘break’ in the series happened when I was signed up by my Canadian publisher, Oloris – but who would complain about receiving a publishing contract, right?
KL: And yet another striking cover art.
FTB: I am over the moon about this one. Jay Johnstone, the artist, understands the feel of every book to perfection. I only need to tell him a few details, and he just takes it from there. I am so grateful for his support and commitment to Tijaran Tales.
KL: Where did Tijaran Tales start? What inspired you?
FTB: To put it simply, it was my passion for space exploration. I’ll be lucky if space tourism kicks off (in an affordable way) in my lifetime, but I doubt we’ll be close to terraforming other planets. Setting the scene on other planets was a tribute to a future that I may never see.
I also grew up with Star Trek and its spin-offs, as well as Japanese mangas and movies like Akira. The concepts of science, robotic and technology have been in my life since very early on.
KL: You have a core of adolescent people in your series, and although they try to make the right choices, they have taken some seriously callous decisions. Will we always have morals and do the right thing? Don’t you think we will evolve and move away from that?
FTB: Our moral compasses have changed over the centuries; what was right then is often seen as wrong now and vice-versa. We have a propensity for committing to a course of actions even when we know it will hurt others. Humans thrive on this dichotomy and stories do too. No one is captivated by a flat, one-dimensional character: it feels fake, not recognisable, precisely because it’s not like us.
One issue I explored with Julius McCoy, the main character, is how emotions affect this moral compass. Essentially emotions allow us to have two standards. People who are against the death penalty have been known to swing towards it when they have lost a loved one at the hands of a murderer. Two standards.
KL: Overall, the society in Tijaran Tales seems very ‘together’. Quite different from those of other current YA Dystopian books.
FTB: To a point, but yes, mostly different. In the book we learn that humans have hit rock bottom several times, barely managed to bring the planet back from the brink of destruction and lost billions of people in the Chemical War. I wanted a society that had learned from its mistakes. A more optimistic, hopeful amalgam of people, who had finally managed to leave behind silly differences and sort most of the problems out. A place where the wrong doer is the odd one out.
Right now, we are nowhere near that optimum.
KL: Speaking of that, we’ve had a few example of Cli-fi: Climate Change Science Fiction.
FTB: That’s right. And I think that it’s very pertinent too. Climate change is a reality of our time. Tijaran Tales refers to it as well, and by the time my series takes place, we have in fact managed to do something about it. Unfortunately, you and I live in the now, where Climate Change is happening. Al Gore’s documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ and lately, Leonardo Di Caprio’s one, ‘Before the Flood‘, are powerful reminders of this situation. SF points to the future, using the present as a trampoline. Authors have the power to present glimpses of what could be if the present remains unaltered. It’s scarier than any alien threat, quite frankly.
SF movies often show how humans rally together when threatened by an outside force – I wonder if that’s what we need to get our act together before it’s too late.
KL: Have you said goodbye to your characters?
FTB: I tell you, that was hard. After seven years of constantly thinking about them, their actions and feelings, they felt real to me. I miss them, as crazy as it may sound. I have the last book launch on the 14th of April, at Eastercon, the annual British SF convention, and I cannot guarantee I’ll make it through without a little tear – I’ll stay away from the wine…
KL: Does that mean we’ll see Julius McCoy again?
FTB: I have plans…*rubs hands together* There are also new characters I would like to develop. So I’ll get there via a detour. I’m in the hatching process, as I call it.
FTB: Yep. The idea is there. I’m sitting on it. I’ll see where it takes me.
‘The Girl From The Sky’ is out in paperback and e-book on the 14th of April.
Kitty L loves books, space, fiction, frogs, furry animals and coffee. A lot of coffee. Fantasy, SF and Dark Fantasy have cocooned her world since the Mesolithic period. And she likes it like that.