Today I am delighted to be joining the Escapists Tours blog tour for Stellar Instinct, the new spy-fi thriller by Jonathan Nevair the author of the Wind Tide trilogy (Goodbye to the Sun, Jati’s Wager, No Song But Silence). This is a fantastic book and you can check out my review HERE, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! I would also like to thank Jonathan for the fantastic post that I’m featuring today.
There is also a chance to win a copy of the book for yourself, so check out the giveaway details at the end of the post.
Please check out the rest of the stops on the tour.
A secret agent. A gaming mastermind. Two players in a dangerous competition blurring the boundaries of entertainment and reality.
Mysterious signals pulse from an icy planet in a remote star system. GAM-OPs wants answers. Enter Lilline Renault, secret agent extraordinaire. To ordinary citizens she’s Keely Larkin, an adventure company guide with a flair for the daring and a penchant for writing trite poetry. Lilline’s at the top of the spy game, but publishing her literary work is proving harder than saving the galaxy.
When the mission uncovers a dastardly plan threatening billions of lives, Lilline leaps into action. Verses flow as she rockets through space, dons cunning disguises, and infiltrates enemy territory with an arsenal of secret gadgets. But to prevent the whims of a self-obsessed entrepreneur from turning the galaxy into a deadly playground means beating him at his own game. Lilline will need her best weapon to stand a fighting chance: her instinct.
STELLAR INSTINCT: A spy-fi thriller set in space.
Let me just begin by saying these are my personal views on writing thrillers and space operas, and I am speaking about my experience. I am not making blanket statements about these two genres/subgenres or suggesting any of this applies to other writers.
Thrillers come with a specific set of expectations. There are story beats that readers know and expect in thriller plotlines (sure, they may be tweaked, re-arranged, or subverted successfully, but they are still present in most cases). Add to that the fact that pacing takes priority over exposition out of the gate (again, I am speaking generally but it often does). This meant making some adjustments to the way I opened writing Stellar Instinct from my space opera series. In terms of world building, whatever I introduced to the secondary world in Stellar Instinct was made clear enough to serve the plot when first mentioned or returned to before the book was finished to make good on promises to readers. I can’t speak to other writers, but for me, space opera offers more room to delve into world building – to take those pauses to embellish details and construct a vast universe full of sensory details, as well as descriptions of cultures, technologies, socio-economic factors, etc. I learned a lot about the give-and-takes of these two genres by writing a thriller. I had to be very economical with my words in Stellar Instinct. Literary description can slow the pace, whereas in a space opera I relish being able to dig into those descriptive elements and bring them to life through words – to me that is part of the joy of space operas. They have a scale and space to work in that in a thriller feels tight and narrow. I know there are lots of space operas that could be described as fast-paced and tight, but for me, this is a distinction in how I view the two genres. Both have their advantages and writing pleasures for sure!
Take, for example, the end of a scene or a chapter. In a space opera, my approach is to move the plot and further develop character arcs, allowing them to expand and broaden as they “fill” the spaces within the world building to create a vast and epic galactic adventure. In a thriller, the focus of a chapter’s ending was more on a cliffhanger. Each chapter stopped earlier, just a bit while also enticing the reader to turn the page (I always want readers to keep turning the pages, but the thriller has an urgency to that process and experience that isn’t as intense in the space operas that I write). There is that inclusion of suspense, built around the promises you make to readers that will be fulfilled if they keep going. Dan Brown’s Masterclass on thrillers was an excellent resource. I used his advice of the three “C’s” – Contract, Clock, and Crucible. You make a promise out of the gate to the reader that you will fulfill if they finish the book (contract), there is an urgency with a limited timeframe (ticking clock), and the way the main character(s) will solve their conflict will be the worst possible scenario (crucible). I used a piece of advice from him that was great to keep the pace moving – have conversations while on the move (I notice this in tv thrillers all the time now – detectives talking while walking or driving to the next point of investigation), instead of discussing something around a table or at an official assembly and then going somewhere. Another piece of advice I liked was using secondary characters to take care of discoveries in a mission/investigation so you don’t have to take up space having a main character do that leg work. Those are things I might want in a space opera because I have the room to include them as part of the story experience.
With space opera, for me, there is more of an ebb and flow to the way the book builds. Often the rising action leads to a major confrontation that might be a space battle to decide the fate of civilization or stopping something in an epic power struggle, etc. These are often known conflicts along the way (in the books I write), whereas in the thriller I think of it more as mystery and suspense driving you to a big reveal and dramatic finish. The one really hard thing for me about the thriller is having to be sure you can pull off things like red herrings, MacGuffins, and the all-important plot twists that take you to an ending full of suspense and urgency. I know some writers wing that (I’ve heard Agatha Christie did, which is amazing). I worked backward as best I could through plotting with Stellar Instinct. This helped me be sure I could use misdirection and foreshadowing while also keeping things from the characters that the readers know. I will say this – writing a thriller was much harder for me than writing a space opera!
Jonathan Nevair (he/him/his) is a speculative fiction author and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. Jonathan’s books explore secondary worlds where language, culture, ethics, technology, and gender are reimagined to inspire human potential and growth (think of it as space opera sprinkled with a dash of Hopepunk.)
Jonathan lives in southeastern PA with his wife and rambunctious mountain feist, Cricket. When not writing and teaching, he spends his time chasing his dog through the woods and hoping he’ll be able to walk in space before he croaks.
Prize: An Audiobook or Paperback Copy of Stellar Instinct!
Starts: December 5, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: December 11, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
You can enter here:a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js