I have a fascinating interview author Veronica Scott about her new sci-fi romance Outbreak. So you know what we’re talking about, here’s the blurb:
She saved countless soldiers in the wars … but does she have the weapons to fight an outbreak?
Dr. Emily Shane, veteran of the Sector Wars, is known as “The Angel of Fantalar” for her bravery under fire as a medic. However, the doctor has her own war wounds–severe PTSD and guilt over those she failed to save.
Persuaded to fill a seemingly frivolous berth as ship’s doctor on the huge and luxurious interstellar cruise liner Nebula Zephyr, she finds the job brings unexpected perks–a luxe beach deck with water imported from Tahumaroa II, and Security Officer Jake Dilon, a fellow veteran who heats her up like a tropical sun.
However, Emily soon learns she and Jake didn’t leave all peril behind in the war. A mysterious ailment aboard the Zephyr begins to claim victim after victim … and they must race against time and space to find the cause and a cure! Trapped on a ship no spaceport will allow to dock, their efforts are complicated by a temperamental princess and a terrorist–one who won’t hesitate to take down any being in the way of his target. If anyone’s left when the disease is through with them…
On to the interview
Cara Bristol: I always thought the idea of a space cruise ship was such a neat idea. It makes perfect sense to me. Once space travel becomes the norm and we have places to go, why not take a cruise? How did you come up with the idea?
Veronica Scott: It all started with my first scifi romance, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, which is loosely based on the sinking of Titanic. I had to create a luxury cruise ship for the book and once I’d done that, I kept wanting to set stories on an interstellar cruise ship that didn’t end up destroyed.
Cara Bristol: What is the essential conflict in Star Cruise: Outbreak?
Veronica Scott: The main plot involves a mysterious disease that starts out looking much like the norovirus prevalent on cruise ships today, which then turns out to be something much more serious and deadly. I enjoy books and movies about plagues and outbreaks, and the doctors who are involved, and have always wanted to write my own. The hero and the heroine are both military veterans with PTSD issues, coping in different ways, so there’s a contrasting theme going on there, plus the romance of course. I also have a subplot about a young hereditary princess on board the ship, with threats against her life.
Cara Bristol: You write strong heroines. There’s not a wimpy one in the bunch. Is this a conscious decision on your part?
Veronica Scott: Oh yes! I can’t stand heroines who are wimpy or Too Stupid Too Live (TSTL). Of course we all have our moments of weakness or we wouldn’t be human, but I admire men and women who never give up, who keep fighting and struggling, no matter what the odds. Ripley from the “Aliens” movies series and Sarah Connor from “Terminator” are two of my favorites. In my own life, I was widowed very young, when my daughters were just 3 and 5, so I’ve had to be strong and persevere myself.
Cara Bristol: How do your ideas come to you? Do you get the idea for the character first, or the plot? How do your ideas germinate?
Veronica Scott: There’s no one way I get ideas. Sometimes I imagine the character first and then the story comes to life around them. Other times I get excited about an idea, like the outbreak of a fatal disease on an interstellar cruise ship, and I start asking myself who would be there, who would be the logical heroine, who would help or hinder her, who are the victims of the malady etc. And of course who the hero would be! Only once have I been inspired to write an entire book based on nothing more than two photos.
Cara Bristol: I’ve read that you enjoy research. What is your process? Do you research before you write or research as you go? How important is accuracy in fiction?
Veronica Scott: I do a surprising amount of research for the science fiction novels. I usually start with googling a topic and see where that takes me. For Star Cruise: Outbreak, I relied on previous research I’d done into the cruise industry – reading blogs, cruise line home pages, checking union information for staffers, job postings, news accounts, books about the logistics of sailing in big ships like aircraft carriers. I also had to do a lot of medical research, into things like Legionnaire’s Disease, noroviruses, procedures for autopsies, the steps of an operation for a bomb blast wound, ebola…since two of the characters have serious PTSD, I researched that carefully. I wanted to be properly respectful to the issues our modern day veterans face. Since I’m writing science fiction, I don’t have to adhere to any fact that I learn BUT I’m trying to create a believable, consistent world, so I like building off of things readers may find familiar. And often a detail that I discover through research may spark a plot development or a really cool “what if” question that helps me enrich the story. You don’t know what you don’t know until you look it up.
When it comes to my paranormal novels set in ancient Egypt, I have an entire library of weighty research tomes and gorgeous picture books.
I think the question of accuracy is different for each genre and the resulting expectations of the readers. For science fiction, if I’ve presented a reasonable, coherent, consistent world for the action to occur in, then I feel I’ve done my job!
Cara Bristol: When did you seriously start to write fiction and how did that come about? How many books have you published?
Veronica Scott: I’ve written all my life, but I started seriously working toward publication in 2011. My daughters and grandson were pretty much out on their own by then, and I felt like I could invest time and energy in becoming publishable.I did still have a fulltime day job. I had a lot of bad habits and outdated writing styles to unlearn! My first two books came out in 2012, one from Carina Press and one self-published, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been a full time writer for a year now, going all self-published, though never say never to the right offer. (Carina still owns the rights to my first two Egyptian novels and has them available as a ebooks.) Star Cruise: Outbreak is my 11th published book, not counting some short stories in various anthologies. I have two more books ready to go, releasing in May and June, and I hope to have one or possibly two more to release later in the year.
Cara Bristol: How would you describe your books and your writing style?
Veronica Scott: I write what I enjoy reading, so lots of fast paced adventure, a strong hero and heroine, high stakes, a growing romance between equals and that Happily Ever After ending. I like to have an element of mysticism or fantasy, even in the science fiction novels, which often comes about through something to do with the alien planets where action takes place.
Cara Bristol: What challenges you most about writing and publishing?
Veronica Scott: I’m very happy with the writing – this year the words are just flowing like crazy. I enjoy being self-published – my background is in business so the aspects of running my own ‘small business’ aren’t too daunting. I love the social media interaction involved with being an author. But the challenge is that each of the three things could be easily be a full time occupation, and it’s tricky to juggle them all and feel I’m doing enough. And if I’m not careful, what I short change is the writing! Which is the wrong thing to stint myself on. So keeping the right balance is the essential task. And have time for my family and the cats of course.
Cara Bristol: I agree with you! I love all parts of being an author, but finding the balance is the hard part. What do you do you when you’re not writing ?
Veronica Scott: I love to read! I build Lego sets with my grandson. I have two cats who expect to be played with and fussed over. I watch some television, a mix of reality shows and scifi programs. I like to go thrifting and I always think I’m going to work on those crafts projects I saved the instructions for! But pretty much the majority of my time is taken up by being an author.
The sickbay portal burst open, and Mr. Enzell struggled into the lobby, half carrying his wife and surrounded by their white-faced children. Syl was sobbing in great gasps, and the boys’ faces were set in expressions of terror. The oldest had a blood-soaked wad of cloth pressed to his nose. Mrs. Enzell’s head lolled, and she looked as if she was crying tears of blood. Clint immediately moved to support the woman on the other side, calling for Emily as he did so.
“Trynna started bleeding a few minutes ago, Doctor,” Mr. Enzell said as medical personnel hurried to get their new patient hooked up to monitors. “She said she was dizzy and then—then her eyes—she was—the tears were blood. And next thing I knew, my son’s nose was bleeding. What’s going on?”
Emily caught the day nurse’s attention. “Call PA Bevar in, stat. Then take the boy into room two and get him in bed, please.” As her staff moved to carry out the orders, Emily busied herself setting up the intravenous flow of fluids for Mrs. Enzell and added a basic clotting factor. “This is apparently a complication of the intestinal virus, Mr. Enzell. Do you have any symptoms?”
He blinked. “I’m fine. Mark, my oldest, he’s not doing too well.”
“My nurse is taking care of him right now. And Syl? And the middle child?” Emily spared a glance for them.
He clutched the kids closer to him. “Fine so far. Scared for their mom and Mark. How can bleeding from the eyes be related to an upset stomach?” Mr. Enzell’s voice was rough.
“Sometimes an infection affects different areas of the body at different times.” She tried to keep her own tone soothing.
“So you’ve seen this before? You know what to do?” He stepped closer to the bed and took his wife’s hand. “How long before she’s better?”
“Being in sickbay should do the trick, dear.” Mrs. Enzell made an effort to reassure him. “Don’t give the doctor a hard time. I’m sure I’ll be all better by tonight.” Her voice was a thready whisper.
“The fluids and coagulant should help,” Emily said. “You were wise to come in right away.”
Clint knocked on the portal. “Excuse me, Doctor, but I think you should come out here for a moment.”
“I’ll be right back.” Although she could tell the Enzells weren’t happy to see her leaving the room, she inferred from the security officer’s voice that a situation was brewing.
Three more patients sat sprawled in the waiting-room chairs, each projecting an impression of terror. A man and a woman clutching each other were obviously in the throes of major nosebleeds. The third person was more alert to his surroundings. Spotting Emily, he jumped from his chair and moved to intercept her. Yanking his shirt open in the center of the lobby, he said, “I woke up with these bruises on my chest, Doctor. What the seven hells is wrong with me?”
Staring at the large purple splotches, Emily strove for composure and a reassuring tone. “Side effect of the stomach bug, sir. If you’d step into the examining room on the left, we’ll be with you in a few moments. You’ve had no bleeding?”
He spun on his heel to gape at the two other waiting passengers. “Am I gonna hemorrhage like them? Are they gonna bleed to death?”
She took his elbow and was relieved to see Clint coming to the rescue yet again, taking the man’s other side. “No one is hemorrhaging, sir. Just nosebleeds. Now if you’ll come this way—”
“I’ve got him,” Clint said. He nodded to the door. “Incoming.”
As the two men headed toward the exam room, the passenger complaining bitterly to his security escort about being brushed off by the doctor, Emily hastened to assist a woman rushing into the lobby, daubing at bloody tear tracks on her cheeks. Her dress was bloodstained where tears had splattered. Glancing down the corridor, Emily saw several more people staggering in the direction of the sickbay. With relief, she identified Bevar, her Physician’s Assistant, sidestepping passengers in his way. A moment later, he was helping her with the hysterical, terrified woman.
“I need to talk to the captain right away,” Emily said, relinquishing her hold on the passenger’s arm. “Triage them for now. Only the most serious cases get a bed. Keep the others in the waiting area. We’ll be moving the sick to a ward on Level C soon.”
Bevar did a double take at the mention of a special ward but only said, “Yes, Doctor.” He put his arm around the woman he was supporting. “Take a deep breath through your mouth, ma’am, you’ll be fine. We’ll get you fixed up in no time.”
Forcing herself not to sprint, Emily headed to her office and shut the door, leaning on it for a moment, head against the smooth panel. “Maeve, get me Jake and the captain now.”
“Captain Fleming will be with you momentarily,” said the Ship’s AI, calm as ever. “Jake says he’s handling a problem in the casino and not to wait for him.”
“All right.” Emily moved to the desk. “You’re going to have to add robos to the cleaning workforce. We can’t have possibly infectious blood left uncleaned for any length of time at all.”
“Immediate response, yes, Doctor. Consider it noted. The captain will speak with you now.”
“Fleming here.” The captain’s image snapped into focus, his eyes narrowed. “Maeve says you have a new status for me?”
“We’ve run out of time, Captain. We need to institute measures to contain this outbreak right away.” Years of conducting military briefings for superior officers stood her in good stead as Emily outlined what was happening in sickbay and then said, “Passengers and crew should stay in their cabins and notify the ship if experiencing symptoms or showing the characteristic purple bruising. We’ll have to send teams in biohazard suits to pick them up and bring them to the quarantine ward on Level C. I’m going to need the entire level set aside if the current rate of new patients keeps up. Any luck on finding me more medical staff among the passengers?”
“There are three doctors listed on the manifest,” Maeve said. “All have been contacted and requested to report to you within the hour. I’ll redirect them to the quarantine ward on Level C. I’ve further identified an ex-military medic and a nurse among the crew.”
“Those reinforcements will help, but I’m going to need a lot more if this outbreak keeps growing.”
“How contagious is this bug, Doctor?” asked the captain.
“I don’t know.”
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Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Three time winner ~ SFR Galaxy Award (for ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE, WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM and MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR).
Proud recipient ~ NASA Exceptional Service Medal but must hasten to add the honor was not for her romantic fiction!
Played Star Trek Enterprise Crew Woman in the audiobook of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever” (2016)