Author interview with Sherrie Cronin (46.Ascending series)
Sherrie Cronin is the author of the 46.Ascending series which comprises 5 (going on 6) novels which focus on members of the Zeitman family. Each family member has a special power which is the subject of each novel.
Of particular interest to time travel fans are the main characters in z2 and d4 – Alex and Ariel, who are able to warp and manipulate time, and see into the future respectively.
Personally, I love Sherrie’s powerful writing style and how she melds many concepts from many fields into a unique novel – even the novel titles show a flair of originality! I’ve not yet read x0, y1 or c3 which have plots centered on telepathy, shape shifting and mind transportation – but they’re on my to-read list!
In this author interview Sherrie tells us more about herself and the novels in the 46.Ascending series.
Sherrie, many many thanks for sharing your thoughts and a real behind the scenes view! I loved reading z2 and d4, and getting this kind of insight into them (and your other novels) is amazing!
Whilst the paperback format of your novels are self-complete, you describe your novels as “interactive” – ebooks contain links to music, photos, videos and opinion pieces which can enhance the readers’ enjoyment of the novel. Are there any additional features that you would like to see in ereaders to facilitate or even improve interactivity?
Sherrie: First of all, I love the word “whilst” and wish I could popularize in the United States. It is a word we need.
Secondly, I do wish someone had asked me this question a few years ago. When I started this collection I was very excited about the interactive aspect, designing my soundtracks and amassing online photos to take my readers to the far away locals I love to write about. However, with each novel my interest in this has waned a little more. Why? Lots of reasons. While some readers liked the idea, others complained (sometimes at great length) about the distraction. It was hard to find links (especially music videos) that would open on all readers, in all countries. Pages I linked to would disappear and finding suitable new links and updating them on every electronic version I had out there was daunting.
So while deep in my heart I still think it is a cool idea, the truth is that I’ve become far more focused on just the story telling. I confess to using a 5-year-old Kindle to proofread my electronic versions. This means I don’t know exactly what new things today’s ereaders can do, and it would be unfair of me to complain about my old Kindle here.
You dedicate a separate blog for each novel in your series, and your posts aren’t just marketing efforts but thoughtful insights into various themes which touch on the premise of the respective novels. (I particularly like this article on your view of what makes time travel interesting!)
Does maintaining so many blogs pull you away from your writing?
Sherrie: I am so glad you asked about this. Instead of putting all those great interactive ideas I once had into the novel itself, over the last five years I have moved much of the interactivity for each book to my blogs, which are much easier to maintain. Links work for everyone (or no one) and can be repaired in a single place. The blogs talk about the songs, the locations and even the politics and sociology referenced in each book, and I can elaborate upon any of them all I want. I tell the reader how to find the pertinent blog in the introduction to the novel, and those interested in learning or seeing more know where to find it.
I know that the path taken by many writers is to have a single blog in which they write posts about their writing. Do you have any idea how many of those are out there? Honestly, I didn’t think the world needed one more of them, at least not from me. The nice thing about my five blogs is that each weaves together topics that genuinely interest me. For example “Treasure Hunting for a Good Time”, my z2 blog, talks about time travel, the nature of time, intolerance and bigotry and how these feelings change over decades and centuries, how group hatreds begin and end, immigration, Central America, treasure hunting and archeology. The variety makes writing blog posts something I enjoy. (And I am so glad that you liked the post about what makes time travel interesting at https://zsquaredblog.org/2016/02/18/best-movies-about-time-at-least-in-this-spacetime-continuum/)
Does maintaining so many blogs pull you away from your writing?
Sherrie: You bet it does, and that is the source of one of the main frustrations in my life. There just isn’t enough time. So to speak.
Your naming convention for your novels has a mathematical basis (which I love!), and the series title, “46.Ascending” is also unique. There’s a hint at the end of d4 for this name, yet your novels run concurrently and can be read independently and in any order. Does this mean that the entire series was pretty much mapped out before you first put pen to paper?
Sherrie: Yes, it was. Back in 2010 and 2011 the spare bedroom floor was covered with poster boards filled with overlapping time lines as I mapped out the basics of each story and how they would interrelate. In fact, I made up the whole family’s history, including how Lola and Alex met and details about their own parents. Much of what I did will never make it into a book, but I think that process was invaluable for making me comfortable with tackling such a complex challenge.
I read that your daughter inspired the main character in d4, Ariel. I imagine that in some ways this might have made it a little easier to imagine how Ariel might react in a given situation. But did you find it difficult at times, for example when Baldur abducts Ariel – were you able to distance yourself from Ariel’s daughter roots, or were you screaming inside as a mother and forcing yourself to write on?
Sherrie: To understand how I got in this situation, you need to know that I carried the basic story idea for 46. Ascending quite firmly in my head for years as I made many false starts on the first novel. The subtle superpowers were always meant to be developed by a single person over decades, in response to various emergencies in their life as they aged. I still like that idea, but the books started to take shape in early 2010 when I decided it would work better if I spread the superpowers out over five characters. As I toyed with various scenarios to bring the characters together, I noticed that the five people I needed to create paired pretty well with my own family. I thought it would be amusing to model the five protagonists after myself, my husband and our three nearly grown kids, and they all loved the idea.
As you guessed, it turned out to be fraught with problems. Not only was it hard to put these characters in danger, or worse yet have them harmed, it was difficult to do almost anything else with them. They couldn’t behave poorly, they couldn’t fight amongst themselves, and heaven forbid they have sex with anyone. Finally I had to decree that the characters were only “loosely modeled” on my own family, thereby freeing them all up to have faults and generally be more vulnerable and more human.
I did a guest blog post on this a couple of years ago and you can still find it on a blog called “Mama’s got Flair” at Basing Characters on People You Know and Love. The promise I made at the end of that post still holds. All future stories of mine will not contain characters intentionally modelled on anyone I know and love.
Your multiple blogs include selections of your favourite excerpts. Typically, what makes a particular passage special to you?
Sherrie: I like passages, written by myself and by others, that speak to something in my heart. There is no other criteria for me.
You mention in Goodreads that d4 was your most fun novel to write. Why is that?
Sherrie: Part of it is that I’ve become more relaxed as a writer. My outlines get looser with each book and as I allow myself to surprise myself more I find that writing is even more fun. Also, the two previous books dealt with some heavy topics. Racism plays a large role on z2 while c3 tackles the serious issue of sex trafficking. My villain in d4 was mostly just greedy. Not that greed isn’t awful, but compared to the other two books there was less about this villain that I found depressing.
I again offer my sincerest apologies for laying into the book cover for d4 which shows Ariel relaxing by practicing yoga. Can you tell us why you chose this as a book cover?
Sherrie: No apology needed at all. I wanted to show Ariel doing something that was special to her, and that gave her strength. It never occurred to me that her legs made the shape of an upside down four, but I loved it when you pointed it out!
Your bio tells us that your mother vetoed your astronaut career – a sentiment I guess shared with many mothers as most of us aren’t astronauts and effectively have a zero-way stay on Earth – a beautiful planet with beautiful people. Douglas Adams recognised that some people are cretins though, and he ejected some of them into space in his “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Would you like to send a person or group of people on a one-way trip to Pluto for non scientific reasons?
Sherrie: Oh I do love Douglas Adams, and I remember the scene. He sent everyone who couldn’t do anything useful out into space. Yes, I have my criteria for ejecting members of the human race, even while I recognize the extreme irony of it. You see, I just can’t tolerate those who won’t allow others to have their own opinions, choices, lifestyle and tastes. That’s is right. I am terribly intolerant of intolerance. So I would eject all the intolerant people into space.
I read on your Facebook page that you’re currently under way with the last book in the series (e5) which is fantastic news! Will this run in parallel like the earlier novels, or is it something different which will pull everything together in some way?
Sherrie: I can answer this one. It will do both. I hope.
The cause of the Zeitman special powers is questioned in d4; indeed, other characters have similar powers too. Is there a possibility that the 46.Ascending series may well extend further than the Zeitman family?
Sherrie: That’s not in the planning stages at this point. I have a whole different series in mind for when I finish e5, but of course none of us (not even Ariel) can say for sure what the future holds.
You’re a trained geophysicist and a successful author. What would you say to an oceanographer who’d like to try his hand at writing a novel some day?
Sherrie: Please, please do. I think there is a thirst for stories told by those with expertise in a field. I know that I appreciate authenticity and accuracy in my fiction and I can say from personal experience that the act of merging ones professional knowledge with a story line is immensely satisfying. I’ll look forward to reading the results!
I can’t help noticing that your email address takes the name of the mother in the very special Zeitman family. Wishing you and all of your special Zeitmans every happiness and best wishes for the future! 🙂
So far I’ve read (and thoroughly enjoyed) z2 and d4; you can find my reviews which highlight the aspects of time manipulation and seeing things ahead of time here:
You can find out more about Sherrie and her novels from her multiple blogs:
46.Ascending “…an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible”
(I did say “multiple” ! 😉 )