Interview with Karen A. Wyle
Author of Twin-Bred
As a novelist, I write SF (near future as well as alien planets), fantasy, and historical romance. I also write picture books, collaborating with various illustrators. I'm a quasi-retired appellate attorney, and have written one nonfiction book, attempting to summarize American law and legal practice for the benefit of anyone who wants to better understand the American legal landscape.
Buy this book
Where did the central idea for this book come from?
- I don't always remember, or even know, the origin of a book, but I do remember what gave rise to this one. I read two articles within a short period of time: one about how twins behave in utero, sometimes appearing to show affection for each other, and another about "womb twin survivors," those whose twins didn't survive long enough to be born. These survivors often carry profound grief with them, and at least one of those mentioned coped with this grief by treating her lost twin as a sort of imaginary friend. As I often do, I viewed these articles through a science fiction lens -- and came up with the idea of using the bond between (fraternal) twins to try to overcome the gulf in understanding between humans and an alien species. I then introduced a brilliant, prickly loner of a scientist, Dr. Mara Cadell, who keeps secret the fact that her lost twin, Levi, remains with her as a friend and collaborator.
What about the alien species?
- Ideally, the Tofa, my aliens, would have been more utterly alien than they turned out. I still have an early draft of a dialogue between (I think) Dr. Cadell and one of the alien children, in which the child's dialogue conveys a profound difference from certain human concepts and modes of thought and behavior. That level of alienness proved unsustainable in a full-length novel with a great deal of alien-human interaction. I hope I did establish quite a few differences in emotional makeup and cognitive abilities between the human and Tofa twins. I also discovered, as I wrote my rough draft, that the Tofa as a species had their own concealed agenda for going along with the twin experiment.
Do you remember a favorite moment from writing the book?
- Yes! This was my first novel (not counting one I wrote at age 10, MANY years earlier), and the process of writing it included the first example of one of my favorite writer experiences: discovering that a detail I'd thrown in as set decoration, or to fill out a character description, turns out to be crucial in the culmination of the plot.
How do the humans and Tofa encounter each other in the first place, and what happens to make this project necessary?
- At some unspecified time in the future, humans head out into space and plant a small colony on Tofar (the world of the Tofa). When the main action of the book begins, the colony has been in place for 70 years, and tensions between the colonists and the Tofa have been growing in frequency and intensity. The underlying cause: the Tofa's incomprehensible reactions to human activities and customs. Linguistic translation is insufficient. Some deeper understanding is required, and Mara pitches her twin project as a possible (at least partial) solution.
Do you write yourself into your characters?
- I try not to put more than one or two aspects of my personality in my characters. Mara Cadell in Twin-Bred takes my impatience with foolishness to something of an extreme. Those who know her -- as much as anyone other than her twin Levi knows her -- would probably describe her as an introvert, but unlike me, she has a particular reason (the secret of Levi) to keep to herself. Speaking of Levi, he was my first experience with writing a character who's quite unlike me. He's cynical, sarcastic, and street-smart. I have no idea where his personality came from.
What was your writing process for this book?
- As a child, I had wanted and intended to be a novelist. Various events, external and internal, led me to give up on that dream by mid-college. Fast forward many years, and my elder offspring discovered National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo) and decided to participate during their junior year in high school. When they did so again in their senior year, I decided to give it a try, figuring I'd probably drop out after a day or two. All I had was my starting concept and characters. I didn't know the end until I was more than halfway through. (For more about NaNoWriMo and why it can be a great way for would-be authors to get started, see my interviews about my novels Playback Effect and What Heals the Heart.)
Is Twin-Bred the only book involving humans and Tofa?
- By no means! It's the first book in a trilogy, followed by Reach and Leaders. The second book introduces another alien planet and another species. The trilogy is available as a (virtual) box set for two-thirds the price of buying all three ebooks separately.
If the book were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye ?
- I picture Mara Cadell as wiry and medium height, with dark hair, a narrow face, and a sharp nose. Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish-language version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) would make a good Mara.
Do you expect to write any more about the characters and species in Twin-Bred?
- I would like to. I'd have to re-immerse myself in the existing books first. I do have a few notes for a possible fourth book.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- I'm revising and editing my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, Far From Mortal Realms, a fantasy featuring the Fair Folk (aka the fae or faeries) -- and lawyers! Trust me, it isn't as odd a combination as it sounds. After all, the fae are notorious for trying to trap people with cunningly worded agreements.. . .
Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?
After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists and the native Tofa still know very little about each other. Misunderstanding breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers of either species carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.
Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?