Monday, July 23, 2018

INTERVIEW: Brave New Girls Authors Talk Inspiration!

A post by Mary Fan
Hi everyone! Mary here, and it's my turn to do an interview! Instead of a tradition Q&A with one person, I decided to ask some of the BRAVE NEW GIRLS authors about their inspirations. What's BRAVE NEW GIRLS? Well, I'm glad you asked! ;-)

Back in 2014, sci-fi author Paige Daniels and I were bemoaning the lack of tech-savvy heroines in fiction. Oh, you'd see the odd glasses-wearing sidekick working the lab while the real (male) hero beat bad guys. Or the impossibly sexy babe who somehow had five PhDs at 22 so she could be the (male) hero's love interest and ostensibly have a role in the plot. But there was a distinct lack of stories about the
girls in the lab, the girls behind the keyboards, the girls who loved science for its own sake.

So we ran a crowd-funding campaign to launch the Brave New Girls YA sci-fi anthologies in which every story featured a brainy girl who was the hero of her own story. No big strong men stealing the spotlight -- the smart girl would be the main character for a change. While the original campaign was for one anthology, Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets (2015), it wound up being successful enough for us to put out two more: Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme (2017) and Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack (just released July 5!).

Each volume contains multiple short stories, with illustrations for every story acting as a cover within the cover. I asked some of the authors to talk about what inspired theirs. Here are their answers:

Art by Jennifer L. Lopez
Jeanne Kramer Smyth

"The 17th Quadrennial Intergalactic Neo-Cultural Expo and Science Fair"
Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme
My story, 'The 17th Quadrennial Intergalactic Neo-Cultural Expo and Science Fair', in the 2nd BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology, was inspired by a combination of things:
- my participation in a science fair in 10th grade
- my desire to set something in space (and the awesome conversations I had with my friend who works at NASA about what might go wrong, both on a space station and with science projects)
- the name of a show my father directed years ago ('Banjo Dancing, or The 48th Annual Squitters Mountain Song Dance Folklore Convention and Banjo Contest, and Why I Lost ...')
Art by Jennifer Stolzer
(both illustrations)
Jamie Krakover

"Arch Nemesis"
Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme

"Pyramid Scheme"
Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack
My first Brave New Girls story was inspired by the fact that I always wanted to write a St. Louis centered story. I focused on the Arch because it's such an iconic landmark in the city. But I wanted that landmark to have secrets than no one knew about. As a female engineer I saw the need for strong female characters with science and engineering minds. So I crafted Valerie, who had experienced loss but also had something to prove and a need to thwart the activities there.
From there I decided to throw in math and science references and puns centered around Arches and thus Arch Nemesis was born. After completing Arch Nemesis I realized that my main character had more adventures to take and since I left things a little open ended, I took a similar approach with Pyramid Scheme. I built on the strong character and explored an adventure within the great pyramid, once again incorporating science and math as well as puns. I wanted the main character to have learned from her previous experiences, developed her engineering skills further and gave her a sidekick to help in her adventure (even though she thought she didn't need one). Overall I've just had a blast utilizing my engineering knowledge and sneaking in fun, nerdy references wherever I could.
Art by Sharon Emmitt
Jennifer Lee Rossman

Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack
I love fairy tale retellings (my first-ever publication was in an anthology of sci-fi fairy tales), and the idea of a Rumplestiltskin retelling really interested me. It seemed to lend itself well to a futuristic setting since the girl gets three chances to guess his name, and that's how many chances you usually get to guess a login name on the computer. 
The rest of the plot - the war machines, the factory, the gold wiring - fell into place around that premise, and I decided to make the main character a wheelchair-user like me because we need more positive disability rep in stories.
Art by Lyssa Chiavari
Lyssa Chiavari

"Sea-Stars and Sand Dollars",
Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack
I've always been really interested in the concept of seasteading, and one of my favorite TV series is SeaQuest DSV. I wanted to do something that combined those things together and also tied into my ongoing sci-fi series, so I decided to do a fun adventure story about one of the adult side characters from the series back when she was a teenager. It worked out so well that several elements from the story got built into the second book!

Me! (I'm also the co-editor) (What? Couldn't resist!)

"Takes A Hacker"
Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets

"The Case of the Missing Sherlock"
Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme

"The Altered Avatar"
Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines Who Hack 

Art by Mary Fan
I've always loved stories about virtual reality, and so for "Takes a Hacker," I wanted to use that as a setting. The heroine is a teen Jane Colt, who's also the heroine of the space adventure trilogy named after her. I thought it would be fun to explore the character at an earlier stage in her life. I also thought it'd be fun to center the story around a science fair of some kind. I'd participated in Science Olympiad as a high-schooler, and while the story ended up being much more... adventurous... than my own experiences, I thought it was a nice nod. Also, I wanted to reject the idea that girls in tech could only be awkward nerds (nothing wrong with that, but there's more than one way to be a girl) or babelicious bimbos (okay, there is something wrong with that). The backstory I'd established for Jane was that she'd always been something of a belle -- good-looking and charming enough when she felt like it. Not to mention the daughter of one of the richest men on her planet. At the same time, I didn't want romance to define her. Besides, for continuity's sake, her love interest in the series couldn't be present in the prequel short. So I made the story an anti-romance... the story of a break-up. Because that's part of being a teen too, and Jane doesn't need no man telling her what to do! 
Art by Jennifer L. Lopez
"The Case of the Missing Sherlock" and "The Altered Avatar" both feature a crime-solving duo inspired by Sherlock Holmes and John Watson -- except now, they're an AI called Sherlock (built to look like a teen girl despite being named after a male character) and a teen engineer named Chevonne Watson. Both are whip-smart and love their sciences. Sherlock gets herself into all sorts of trouble with her whackadoo experiments -- which she swears will help her solve crimes someday -- and Chevonne is an apprentice biomedical engineer. 
"The Case of the Missing Sherlock" thrusts Chevonne into the role of detective. I'd written two stories starring these two characters already, and while she had an active part in both of them, it was still Sherlock doing the heavy lifting. I wanted Chevonne to solve the mystery, and so I got rid of Sherlock altogether -- and had Chevonne show off her smarts by figuring out what happened. 
Art by MunkyWrench
"The Altered Avatar" is told from Sherlock's perspective and featured a futuristic riff on augmented reality. Once again, the girls' science smarts are what save the day.
The thing about all three of these stories is that it's not a big deal that these girls are into tech. It's just part of their reality, and no one questions it. Hopefully, that will be true in the real world someday too. There won't be any of this "ooo you're a girl and you do science/tech/engineering/math!" nonsense. It'll just be "oh, another girl in STEM -- lots and lots and lots of those these days." Because when you're fighting for equality, normalcy, even mundanity, is the goal.

Oof, I did not mea to make my segment so long! Anyway, all three anthologies are available in paperback and e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more! Check 'em out!



Cheryl Oreglia said...

Outstanding! I have three granddaughters and when they start reading I'm starting them on these! Wonderful to see strong female characters in YA literature. Thanks for sharing the Brave New Girls Mary!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Love, love, love.

Mary Fan said...

Yayyyy!!! Thank you!

Mary Fan said...


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