Women of Science Fiction 005: Interview with Ellery Kane

Women of Science Fiction

Ellery Kane does sci-fi dystopian her own way. Her Legacy series is a dark adventure that never leaves you bored. Her series has won several awards, including the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, young adult, eBook category. To find out more about Ellery, her work, and read her awesome blog, check out http://ellerykane.com/.

PK Tyler: Ellery, you’re a trained psychologist and describe yourself as a professional voyeur. How do you think that informs your writing?

Ellery Kane: Many of the skills essential to the practice of psychology also come in handy as a writer. As a psychologist, I often rely upon my powers of observation to tell me things about people that others might overlook. For example, there was the inmate who held his face in his hands, grimaced, wiped his eyes, and told me he was devastated by his crime. On the surface, he seemed to be crying. Surely, he was remorseful. But look a little closer—no tears. Equally important, in every forensic evaluation, I spend at least 90% of my time just listening. Listening and looking—those are simple but fantastic tools for a writer. Those two skills have helped me to develop nuanced characters and to create realistic dialogue.

PKT: Kirkus notes that your books deal with issues of child abuse and PTSD. What made you decide to tackle such difficult and emotional topics?

EK: As a forensic psychologist, I’ve been fortunate to have had the experience of working with all sorts of victims and perpetrators. And for some, in their lifetimes, they will play both roles. No matter the population I work with, the legacy of the past is a constant refrain. Where do you come from? What have you endured? What have you survived? Some struggle to get over the past; some learn from it; some are changed by it; some are haunted. It was that idea, what we do with our pasts, that inspired me. Almost all of the heroes in Legacy are shaped by trauma. But, I also wanted to write a story of hope where the characters transcend their pasts.

PKT: Can you tell us about the science in the Legacy series?

EK: The emotion-altering medications (EAMs) in Legacy are inspired by today’s psychotropic medications, and, in describing their properties, I attempted to make the science as real as possible. For example, Emovere, a drug that is intended to reduce fear and suppress anxiety, targets the brain’s amygdala. We know that the amygdala is essential for emotional expression. Overstimulation can lead to outbursts of fear and aggression; whereas destruction of the amygdala can cause emotional flatness and apathy. Substance X, a particularly nasty EAM, inhibits empathy by acting on the supramarginal gyrus, a little spot at the junction of the parietal, temporal, and frontal lobes. When that area is impaired, research has shown that subjects are not as skilled at understanding and appreciating the emotions of others.

PKT: In the Legacy series, emotions can be controlled with a pill. What inspired this plot idea? It’s extremely original and unique.

EK: In imagining Legacy, I was inspired by my day job as a psychologist, where I am often face to face with individuals who are eager, sometimes desperate, to alter their own emotional states. Just as Lex observes in 2041, “It seemed that almost everyone was eager to feel or not to feel something.” Those words are as true today as ever. Don’t get me wrong—for many people, medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics are necessary for their recovery. But, for others, pharmaceutical companies cash in on their desire to quickly and easily alter unpleasant emotions, the longing for a quick fix. As a psychologist, I often wonder about the implications of the longing for a quick fix, so it wasn’t a stretch to create Legacy’s world, where Zenigenic, an up and coming pharmaceutical company, develops a line of Emotion Altering Medications (EAMs).

PKT: The Legacy series is almost complete. What do you plan to write next?

EK: The third book in the Legacy Trilogy—Revelation—is expected to release in January. But, I may not be done with these characters yet! I am currently working on a yet-untitled prequel, a novella from Quin McAllister’s point of view.

PKT: What advice do you have for other girls or women considering writing in the science fiction genre?

EK: No matter the genre, I have the same advice for any aspiring writer:

Read voraciously.

Write something every day.

And the scariest part—share your work with others, accept criticism, and develop a thick skin. I’m still working on that one!

With that said, I also love this quote by R.L. Stine:

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

PKT: What has had the most significant impact on your writing in the last year? Why?

EK: This may sound strange, but writing has had the most significant impact on my writing. Before spring 2014, I hadn’t written creatively in at least eight years. Starting up again has been a bit like returning to the gym after slacking for a while. At first, things go very, very slowly, and you struggle a lot. You’re not very good at this anymore. But then, your writing muscles get stronger, and you start building up speed and skill. With each book I’ve written, I’ve seen significant improvement in my writing.  

PKT: What topics are you most attracted to as a reader? Do you read sci-fi?

EK: Since I was a little girl reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I’ve been an avid reader with versatile tastes. I enjoy lyrical and literary writing like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and short stories by Joyce Carol Oates. On the flip side, I revel in a good mystery or thriller like those by James Patterson, Stephen King, and Sue Grafton. And, like my main character, Lex, I am a huge fan of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of young adult and new adult fiction. Some of my recent favorites are The Thief of Always, Divergent, The Hunger Games, and The Sea of Tranquility.

PKT: If you could be a fictional character for the duration of one book, who would you be and how would your personality affect the plot?

EK: This is a tough one! Out of the books I’ve read recently, I’d say, Tris from Divergent. I love her transformation throughout the series—and hello! she gets to hang out with Four—but I absolutely despised the ending. Without giving away any spoilers, if I was Tris, Allegiant would definitely not be happening. In fact, my sheer horror at the ending to that series was what inspired me to start writing again after my lengthy hiatus.

PKT: First lines are often the hardest part of a book. What’s the first line of Legacy and what are you trying to convey?

EK: “When I last saw my mother, we were standing on the Golden Gate Bridge.” With that sentence, I hoped to establish Lex’s feeling of loss and longing for her mother—a key theme throughout the Legacy Trilogy.

Quick Five:

Would you rather live in the distant future or distant past?

EK: Though I love the romanticism of the distant past, I’d say distant future. I’d miss the modern conveniences way too much.

Do you type, write by hand, or dictate?

EK: Type mostly. Write by hand—scrawl, really—in the middle of the night, when I’m struck by inspiration.

You can bring someone back from the dead—but it can’t be someone you know or in your family—who would you bring back?

EK: Robin Williams, because the world always needs more laughter.

You’re being sent to the moon. What 1 book do you take?

EK: A moon survival guide?

Which is scarier? Snakes or Spiders?

EK: I grew up on a farm in Texas, so I’m fairly comfortable with most critters. I think scorpions trump snakes AND spiders.

About the Author
picture 5Forensic psychologist by day, young-adult novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing—professionally and creatively—for as long as she can remember. Just like her main character, Lex, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. An avid short story writer as a teenager, Ellery recently began writing for enjoyment again, and the Legacy series was born.

Ellery’s debut novel, Legacy, has received several awards, including winning the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, young adult, e-Book category.

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