As you may have gleaned from reading my review of Touched by an Alien, I loved it. So much so that when the opportunity to interview Gini Koch came up I put on my “do not ask lame interview questions” cap and got on it. (Hopefully I succeeded.)
A big thank you to Gini!
Q: I know several readers whose faces scrunch up when I say “science fiction.” What would you say to those readers who go: “But I don’t like science fiction!” In other words, what do you think the appeal of the genre is? What might surprise them about it?
A: Well, what appeals to me about science fiction is that you can explore new worlds, new ideas, new species, anything you want. You can do a more intricate and far-flung storyline, or keep it small and intimate, depending on the needs of the story. And you really see an author’s imagination at work, when they’re describing new creatures and new worlds. Science fiction is fun, at least in my opinion.
I think what scares non-SF readers is the misconception that you can’t read or won’t enjoy the genre unless you have at least a degree in engineering, advanced rocket science preferred. But that’s not true for most SF out there — a good author is able to ensure that a reader who’s never taken a physics class can still understand what’s going on — and it’s definitely not true for “Touched by an Alien”. I’m not a hard SF writer, in any way. (Those looking for hard SF be warned — I love you, but I am not your girl.)
I can’t say what would surprise a new-to-science-fiction-reader because it would depend on the book they picked up. I could ramble on for days about different authors and what a reader could expect from them. But, since you’re interviewing me, I’m going to take the easier option and say what may surprise them about “Touched by an Alien” — it’s heavy on the funny, the romance, and the action. And it all takes place on Earth, so there’s a lot of familiarity in that as well.
Back to the familiar, yet oh-so-apt, comparison — if you enjoyed “Men in Black”, you’ll enjoy “Touched by an Alien”. They’re both science fiction, with a lot of humor, action and romance thrown in.
Q: Music plays a large (and awesome) role in the book and, style-wise, it’s all over the place. What other songs would Kitty have in her iTunes arsenal? Which songs are you currently partial to?
A: Oh, wow, if it’s got a beat, chances are that Kitty has it on her iPod. Kitty, like me, likes something in every musical genre, and has a lot of music. If the situation calls for it, believe me, she’ll have access to the appropriate tune because she’s a voracious collector of tunes.
Right now, I’m rocking a lot of Pink to get me going for the “work” portion of this crazy thing we call publication. Then it’ll be back to editing Book 4, “Alien Proliferation”, and my (very long) Aliens play list, which consists of a lot of Aerosmith, all of Smash Mouth, any song mentioned in any book so far (pubbed and to-be-pubbed) and other songs that just get me in the right mood for whatever scene I’m working on. I do like to mix it up, though, so you never know when I’ll switch off and suddenly it’s all Lifehouse or Motorhead or Elton John or The Ramones, or Abba, all the time. Literally, you can name a recording artist of any day, age or genre, and there’s a 90% chance I know their song/s and have at least one cut of theirs in my iPod.
I also put up what I’m listening to on a reasonably regular basis on my Playlist page (http://www.ginikoch.com/playlist.htm) should the urge overcome to know exactly what I’m listening to ‘right now’.
Q: The friendship that develops between Kitty and Reader is high on the list of my favorite things about Touched by an Alien. If they got to hang out – no aliens, no hairspray required, basically no impending doom – what would they be up to?
A: Shopping, clubbing, fine dining, traveling. If circumstances allowed, of course. They’re both human agents, meaning they both can spot and deal with trouble of a very alien nature. Folks like that don’t always get downtime.
But Reader loves to dance and so does Kitty and while Martini and Gower would be willing, and Martini is always open to giving something a go (and is a great dancer), Reader and Kitty would probably have a more wild time at a trendy club without those two along — besides, someone needs to be available to get them out of any trouble they might get into. As for shopping, due to his prior profession, Reader’s very into clothes and Kitty prefers not to shop alone. Plus they both like food and they both like traveling.
Either that or they’d just hang out, listening to Kitty’s iPod on random play, while Reader tells her stories about his time as a male model and she tells him about all the trouble she and her friends from high school and college got into.
Q: Several scenes had me laughing the kind of laugh that abruptly bubbles up, spills over, startling an unsuspecting spouse with its randomness. I’ve always wondered, is it hard to write funny? Is it instinctual, knowing when humor best serves the scene/story?
A: As the old saying goes, dying is easy, comedy is hard.
It’s very, very difficult to make people laugh, and it’s also rare when you can make the vast majority laugh (it’s impossible to please all the people all the time). Humor takes craft and timing, and while a lot of it comes naturally to me, I have to craft it all the same.
You also have to determine when you want a laugh or a chuckle, why you want it there, and if you need more or less of it for some reason. Add in that you have to keep the character’s voice consistent, especially in first person, and it’s walking a high wire.
That said, according to my friends and family, I’m a funny girl all the time. Plus, I find “writing funny” to be fun and I like the challenge. If something makes me laugh it goes in, and if it continues to make me laugh on myriad read-throughs, it stays in. To quote Gertrude Stein, “I write for myself and strangers. The strangers, dear readers, are an afterthought.” I think that’s true of most authors — we write what we like and hopefully others will like it, too.
Of course, while I want everyone to laugh when and where I want them to, I know everyone won’t. But it’s among the best feelings in the world when someone tells me they had a great time reading my book, because that’s my goal — that the reader got to escape into my book and have fun while doing so.
Q: If you had to pick one line (I know, I’m cruel) of dialogue to say “yup, that’s my favorite,” which one would it be?
A: You’re really lucky I like you. I mean, REALLY lucky. I wrote them all, I think they’re ALL good or they wouldn’t be in the book. LOL. But, okay, fine…I have so many…in a desperate attempt to choose (after HOURS of debate, I must add), I’m going with this one, Kitty’s response to Martini and Christopher while in the middle of the big Battle Royale with the in-control fuglies.
“My crazy’s working a lot better than your sanity.”
That line potentially sums up the whole book…
Q: Steven Tyler or James Hatfield?
A: Is my answer even in doubt? Steven Tyler, always and forever.
Q: Rick Castle or Mal Reynolds?
A: HANDS down the hardest interview question EVER. I canna choose, I canna choose! Oh, okay, fine…and I realize it’s a no-lose, since they’re both played by our beloved Nathan Fillion…
For the same reasons Kitty chooses Martini, I choose Castle. He’s smart, fun, funny, can be serious when needed, is successful, great family man, and is clearly looking for that one ‘right gal’ even while acting the playboy. He’s adorable in every way, so he wins. (This time.)
Q: The last book you read and loved?
A: “Small Gods” by Terry Pratchett, on a re-read.
Q: If you could spend the day with one character (not your own,) who would it be?
A: OMG, I thought this would be easy, but I’ve spent hours arguing with myself about what one character to choose. And then it hit me — great answer AND it allows me to get you for that other question.
Mal Reynolds. And we’d be spending the day in bed, thankyouverymuch.
Q: If Touched by an Alien were a flavor of ice cream, what would that flavor be called?
A: Alien Surprise or Conspiracy Theory. They would both look and taste delicious. One with nuts, one without.
Want a copy of Touched by an Alien? Just leave a comment on this post to be entered into the giveaway. I’ll draw the winner and post the name on May 28th. (Giveaway open to US addresses or anywhere The Book Depository ships to – full list here.)