I did several interview type things for the Blog Tour which helped launch Zanzibar’s Rings in February. This is one with The Writer’s Life.
TWL: Welcome to The Writer’s Life! How did you come up with the idea to write your book?
Jemima: It’s the third in a series, after The Perihelix and Curved Space to Corsair, and I wanted to make a good climax to the trilogy. But I’m better if I start with a title, even if it’s just a working title. With an unashamed target of people who need titles starting with the difficult letters like Q, X and Z for their reading challenges, I picked Z, and named one of the planets Zanzibar. Then I just had to think of some reason my heroes would be getting into trouble in the fifth planet of their system.
TWL: Can you give us a short excerpt?
Jemima: This is how it starts:
Lars Nilsson, sometimes known as the Swede, ambled into the kitchen, scratching his groin and yawning.
“Mm, smells good.”
“You keep your hands out of that. This is space rations, no contamination allowed.”
“I’m clean!” Why did Maggie Ingleton always think the worst of him?
Maggie shook her head and stared at his hand.
Lars looked down. “Ah.”
“What are you going to do today, anyway? Although it’s not long before first sunset.”
“Dunno. I’m bored.”
It was all right for Maggie. This business of hers, cooking delicious meals for spacers who could afford to stock up on them, had gone from a favour to him and his partner, Pete, to a system-wide favourite.
Asteroid mining; how he hated it. Had Pete realised? Those meals were possibly the only thing Lars missed about the dirty, stinky, life-threatening business. And he got better food direct from the cook here.
Pete was away in the south, doing something with his family and the rest of the Corsairs. Dolores had taken her shuttle off to Scania, and should be back in about a week. Why had everyone left him on his own?
Maggie wielded a large stirrer to attack something bubbling in a huge pan. “How about checking your stocks or something?”
“Did them yesterday.”
“Practising for the big race?”
Lars shrugged. He could take a hint. He turned, heading for the balcony, adding: “No idea whether I’ll do it without Pete.”
Did Maggie reply? The sudden rush of steam screaming for attention masked anything she said.Zanzibar’s Rings by Jemima Pett, ch 1.
TWL: What part of the book was the most fun to write?
Jemima: I wrote it as I developed the story, and then rearranged all the threads into a timeline later. So it was all fun to write, but pretty difficult to sort it into a good flow for the reader afterwards. I think I had most fun when they interrogate the baddie. Maybe I should do a legal mystery next time.
TWL: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?
Jemima: If you don’t follow space research, you may find it surprising that most planets have rings, or so it seems from data so far. Water worlds like Earth are the exception.
TWL: What other books are you working on and when will they be published?
Jemima: Zanzibar’s Rings brings the end of my second series. So although there are things in my head, not much has got as far as the computer page yet. There are three strands I’m developing, and none of them are likely to be out before 2023. The first is a middle grade mystery featuring a girl, JoJo Madeira, who can see ghosts, but there seems to be a lot of this about at present. Her first short adventure got good comments on my blog, though. The second is a spin-off in the science fiction world I’ve created, about a space rescue service for ordinary travellers. Then a third project is developing from my flash fiction last year, about a woman who spends her vacation time chasing down the places famous artists painted their masterpieces. She might find some mysteries on her way. I realise I’m more of a mystery writer than thriller or adventure, really.
TWL: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?
Jemima: It’s only afterwards that I’ve realised there is a message, or even a theme. The theme is about missing people. The message is about having only one planet to provide all your resources. You have to become self-sufficient, and co-operate, fast.
TWL: Do you have any final words?
Jemima: I’ve really enjoyed writing this book and its predecessors, and like my other series, I’m really going to miss the characters. They’ve been great to have around, especially during lockdown. And so have my online friends. Thank you all.
Next month – 10 Things you didn’t know about… Asteroid Mining!