Book Blog Tour: Author Interview and Giveaway of Kea’s Flight

Today we are joined on The Australian Bookshelf with SciFi authors Erika Hammerschmidt and John C. Ricker as part of their book blog tour with Enchanted Book Tours. Erika and John are the authors of Kea’s Flight, a unique sci fi story. There is a copy of Kea’s Flight up for grabs too!

Meet the authors

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Erika Hammerschmidt
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John C. Ricker

Erika Hammerschmidt was born in Minnesota and graduated from Augsburg
College with two language majors and an art minor. She was diagnosed
with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 11, and has written Born on the
Wrong Planet, a memoir about her childhood. Her husband John C. Ricker
was born in Hawaii, received a diagnosis of Asperger’s at the age of
24, and studied computer science before working in vacuum technology.
They live in Minnesota with their parrot, Rain Man. Together they have
co-authored the science fiction novel Kea’s Flight.

Synopsis: It’s the 25th century, and humans have learned how to end unwanted pregnancies by removing and cryogenically freezing the embryos to save for later. But they never planned for how many there would be, or how much control people would want over their offspring’s genetic makeup.

Kea was an exile before she was born. Grown from an embryo that was rejected for having autism-spectrum genes, she has been raised on a starship full of Earth’s unwanted children. When a sudden discovery threatens their plan to find a home, Kea must join with other rejects to save the ship from its own insane government.

Author Interview

Erika has taken the time to answer some questions about Kea’s Flight.

What can you tell us about Kea’s Flight?

It’s a science fiction novel about a future where unwanted pregnancies
are ended by removing the embryos and keeping them cryogenically
frozen. There end up being so many that some are sent away into space,
to be raised on starships and colonize other planets.

Kea, the main character, was exiled to space as an embryo for having
autism spectrum genes. She grows up on a starship ruled by an
oppressive crew of exiled convicts from Earth. Under constant
surveillance, she finds ways to share secret thoughts with other young
people on the ship, and they work together to save the ship from its
own corruption.

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

John and I were having a conversation with John’s father, Richard
Ricker, who is a Lutheran pastor. Richard loves philosophical and
moral discussions, and has a very open mind about a lot of issues, so
it’s a joy to talk with him about deep important topics. We were
talking about all the controversy over abortion, and I commented that
it would be great if unwanted embryos could just be removed alive and
kept safe until someone wanted them. John just laughed and said that
there would be so many that we’d have to start sending them into
space. That was where the idea for the story first began.

As a couple who both have a diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome, how
important was it for the readers to understand Kea’s experience?

As authors and as people with Asperger’s, I think we’ve mainly been
trying to show the humanity of our characters before their diagnoses.
There is fiction about characters on the autism spectrum– Rain Man,
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and many others–
but in all that fiction, we had never seen a book or movie where the
things the autistic characters do are more important than the fact
that they’re autistic.

The characters in Kea’s Flight are on the mild end of the spectrum,
and this may be because they were not diagnosed in the way real
autistic people are diagnosed. In their world, technology allows
parents to screen their unborn embryos for genetic predispositions to
disorders. If they have those predispositions, the parents usually
don’t want them, so they have them removed and sent away into space to
be raised on starships. The main characters in Kea’s Flight have genes
associated with mental disorders, but not all of them have actual
symptoms, and those who do may have developed those symptoms in part
because they were raised as disabled kids. They have a whole different
set of challenges, both internal and external, from the challenges
that John and I faced. But their disorders aren’t the focal point of
the story, and I think that’s important.

On a similar note, part of the reason I wanted to write a science
fiction novel in the first place was so I could be seen as an author
first, rather than an autistic person. My first book was a memoir
about growing up on the autism spectrum, so a lot of people already
associate me with autism. I wanted to be seen as a fiction writer, as
well.

Has there been any feedback from the Asperger’s/ Autism community
about your novel? What are your readers saying about Kea’s Flight?

Kea’s Flight hasn’t been around long enough to get many reviews yet,
but the people who have told us what they think have been very
appreciative. Several have said the surprise ending is brilliant, some
have said nice things about the variety of thoughts and insights the
characters come up with throughout the book, and a number of them have
said that they like the way people with Asperger’s are portrayed as
strong and intelligent.

Those who have given us feedback have mainly been people involved with
organizations we’ve given speeches for, and people who are fans of
Abby and Norma, my webcomic about a college student with Asperger’s.
Many of them either are autistic or know someone on the autism
spectrum. So we’re optimistic about the reception the book will have
in the autism community.

One challenge is that the book deals somewhat with the question of
rejecting embryos with genes for autism, which is a topic that is
becoming more and more relevant in the real world, and stirs a lot of
emotions among people on the autism spectrum. We haven’t tried to tell
people what to think on that controversial topic, but we have
addressed both sides of it: the unsustainable situation that results
when selective abortion is replaced with exiling unwanted embryos into
space, but also the humanity of the people who grow from those
embryos, and their struggles as they grow up unwanted. You can’t force
parents to want a disabled child, and forcing them to carry one to
term when they don’t want one will result in children being born into
families that don’t accept them. But is that better than never being
born at all? Kea’s Flight gets people thinking about that question,
but never really answers it. I’m not sure it’s possible to answer it.

What did you enjoy especially about writing Kea’s Flight?

I enjoyed being able to work so many of my random insights into one
work of fiction. The characters all have obsessive fascinations of
some kind, and they all get a chance to explore ideas that have been
sitting in our heads for a long time.

What do you imagine is your ideal reader?

Someone like me, with my language fascination, my love of weird plot
twists, my tendency to speculate wildly about what could become of the
social and political world. There aren’t many people who are that much
like me, but it’s the only audience I understand. I can’t always
figure out how other people think, or why they like what they like, so
I write for myself. I believe John does the same.

Kea’s Flight is co-written, how did that work?

There’s a general perception that co-authored books can’t be good. I
think they can, if all the different tasks involved are delegated to
the people most skilled at them. If two people simply piece together
passages of their writing into a book, there will be a clash of
writing styles, so John and I didn’t do that. We brainstormed ideas
together, with each of us focusing on particular types of ideas–
technology for John, language for me, and so on. Then I put our ideas
into writing, so that the whole book was in my writing style. I think
it worked better than it would have if either of us had written it
alone.

What authors most inspire you?

Neal Stephenson and Charles Sheffield for science fiction. Ngaio Marsh
for mystery. P.G. Wodehouse for humor. Lucy Maud Montgomery for
romance and coming-of-age stories. Isaac Asimov for essays. Kea’s
Flight is a little of each.

After we had the rough draft done, John encouraged me to read 1984 by
George Orwell, because our story is a dystopian future with dictators
and pervasive surveillance, and a friend recommended Ender’s Game by
Orson Scott Card, because it’s about young people growing up in a
space vessel. I was reading those at the same time we were fleshing
out our book, and they both may have served as inspiration in their
own ways. (I was also reading Watership Down by Richard Adams, for
what it’s worth. I think that one inspired me simply because it’s the
author’s first novel. In many ways you can tell that it’s his first
novel, and yet it succeeded immensely, so it gave me hope.)

What book are you currently reading?

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. It was a free download, and it’s a
classic that shaped so much of modern science fiction, I pretty much
have to read it sometime in my life.

What’s next for you both? What other books have you written?

I have one professionally published book, my memoir Born on the Wrong
Planet. It was published some years ago by Autism Asperger Publishing
Company. The rest of my books are self-published. In addition to Kea’s
Flight, I have a print collection of my webcomic Abby and Norma, and a
very weird children’s book called Why the Muskie Has No Toes.

This is John’s first time being published, but he is working on a
novel about corporations ruling the world and being challenged by a
cyborg heroine. He has put the first chapter online at his website,
YayInABox.com.

We’re both working on a sequel to Kea’s Flight already, too. It will
deal with what happened outside Kea’s ship while she and her friends
were traveling. (Remember, they were going near light speed, so it was
only twenty years for them, but a thousand years for the rest of the
universe.)

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We loved writing this story, creating all its pieces and making them
work well together. We got help and advice and feedback from so many
people, it’s hard to list them all. But they know who they are, and I
hope they know how thankful we are.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog to chat about Kea’s Flight.

Author links:

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11102806-kea-s-flight
Website: http://www.erikahammerschmidt.com/kea.php

Purchase Khea’s Flight:

ebook for Kindle on Amazon, for $3.89
ebook for Nook on Barnes and Noble, for $3.89
epub for iPhone, iPad, etc. on Lulu, for $3.89
PDF download on Lulu for $3.89
569-page paperback version on Lulu for $15.00, without ISBN, on standard paper

GIVEAWAY: To Win a copy of Kea’s Flight please follow my blog and leave a comment below with your email address. Entries close on may 15th

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