Deborah O’Neill Cordes has been my friend and supporter since our debut novels published on the same day in June 2012. Since then, she has published eight more books under her own name or as half of the duo that writes as Morgan O’Neill. I love every one of her books and today she’s talking about her newest release, Alienne Mine, the prequel to Dragon Dawn. (Note: Dragon Dawn is on sale for 99 cents on Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K. Sept. 15-21)
Take us through your process of discovery, Deborah. What element of the books came first, characters? plot? theme?
“What if” questions have always intrigued me, and so the plot of my dinosaurian time travel series came first, because I found myself wanting to know “what might have been.” The initial spark of inspiration for Dragon Dawn occurred around 1980, when the father and son scientific team of Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered evidence that a massive comet or asteroid crashed into our planet around sixty-six million years ago, killing eighty percent of life, including the non-avian dinosaurs. I wondered what would have happened if some dinosaur species, like the intelligent troodontids, had survived the mass extinction and evolved to intelligence.
As time went on, I inserted some time travel twists into my thoughts and speculated about parallel universes existing “side by side” in a multiverse. What if through the twists and turns of time travel, the consciousness of a human female astronaut from our universe was placed into the body of an intelligent female dinosaurian in a parallel universe? Thirty years later – and with numerous rewrites of the manuscript and updates to the science – Dragon Dawn was born. A sequel to DD is in the works, and as I began pondering its various plot threads, I “saw” a beautiful, blue-green alien watching Earth and yearning for love, and – voilà! – the idea for the prequel to Dragon Dawn, titled Alienne Mine, rose full-blown in my mind.
You take Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief” to a new level. How do you create alien characters that readers can relate to and accept?
My dinosaurian and alien characters have humanlike characteristics, traits which readers can understand. Yet I realize I must also give my characters some concrete differences, so it seems they could have sprung from alien worlds. In other words, I must navigate a shifty path through what I consider ying and yang traits, opposite behaviors that in the end will create wholly believable aliens and dinosaurians. With that in mind, I’ve always thought the similarities between aliens and humans could outweigh the differences. If there is life elsewhere in the universe, evolution would no doubt follow the same fundamental biological laws, giving rise to intelligent species that have at least some physical and emotional traits akin to ours. Specifically for Dragon Dawn, a dinosaurian being like my character Dawann would possess many similarities to us. Even though she is descended from dinosaurs and we are descended from mammals, our two species have a common heritage in more distant times (for example, we both descend from ancient reptiles and therefore have many genes in common). Dawann might feel very much like us in times of conflict, peace, stress, and love. Evidence of this can be seen when human scientists study African gray parrots, perhaps the smartest descendants of dinosaurs alive today (crows being the other birds that could claim the top prize). Scientists communicating with these birds have discovered their bright minds and deep emotional bonds – an “alien” intelligence, to be sure, not wholly understandable but with many feelings and thoughts shared by human beings.
You create a vivid world in your stories. How do you manage the details to maintain the flow of the story and consistency of your characters?
I am quite fortunate to be blessed with almost total recall of facts and trivia, a sort of photographic memory. It’s something that’s helped me create my novels without having to maintain piles of notes and index cards. It’s all in my skull. Continuity will be maintained for as long as I keep my wits! 😉
That’s amazing! I am dinosaur-green with jealousy. Do you fall in love with your characters?
It depends. I have a special place in my heart for each and every one of them. But some are based on real people, and I find I love those the most. For example, in the newest Morgan O’Neill novel Begun by Time, one of the heroes, Arthur Howard, was written with my husband in mind. I gave Arthur his analytical and questing mind, along with his lack of jealousy and steadfast love. So, yes, I definitely fell in love with Arthur!
That is so sweet! What is the biggest chance you’ve taken as a writer? How did that work out?
Actually, it happened this year. I’ve always written bigger works – from 50k to 200k words – but in 2015 I decided to try a short form, and Alienne Mine was the result. It’s a little over 14,000 words, not quite big enough to be called a novella, but a wee bit larger than the average short story. As for how it worked out, I’ll let my readers decide. 🙂
I vote for: It worked! What are you currently working on?
I’m under contract with Entangled/Macmillan to write the sequel to The Thornless Rose, the Elizabethan time travel novel I co-wrote with Cary Morgan Frates under the pen name Morgan O’Neill. As soon as the Morgan O’Neill project is completed, I’ll turn back to my own works and finish the sequel to Dragon Dawn, titled Dawn of Time. In that book, the characters from Alienne Mine and Dragon Dawn will team up to fight the evil alien called The Keeper and restore the universe to its rightful course. I’ll also do a final edit on the aforementioned 200k word novel, a historical epic about medieval Russia, The Sacred Cradle. I’m not certain if I’ll shave that down, or split it into two books. I have a feeling 2016 and 2017 will be busy years!
Wow! You are writing a tome! I wish you all best on all of your projects, Deborah. Thanks for being my guest today.
Thanks so much for hosting me on your wonderful blog, Betty. And thank you to everyone who stops by today. All my very best ~ Deborah.
Alienne Mine, a Prequel to Dragon Dawn.
Far from her home world, an alien female clandestinely observes the Earth, but her intense need for a mate overwhelms her desire for secrecy. It is time to pick her Chosen, the one who will share her life. With her keen ultraviolet vision, she’s watched the human astronaut, Edward McAdams, a man with a unique and compelling aura. Is he the one? If so, will he agree to leave Earth and travel with her to the stars? But her plans are threatened when she discovers dangers lurking in the vast reaches of the Milky Way galaxy, menacing aliens who may not only imperil Edward, but everyone else on Earth.
Dragon Dawn, Book One of the Dinosaurian Time Travel Series.
What if the extinction of the dinosaurs hadn’t occurred? An alien stranded on Mars is determined to find out by sending human astronauts back in time to rewrite Earth’s past. But a female astronaut, through a strange twist of fate, survives the change in the space-time continuum. After finding herself in a dinosaurian body, she must race against time – and the formidable alien – to restore the universe to its rightful course.
Visit Deborah at:
Deborah O’Neill Cordes website: http://deborahoneillcordes.com/
Morgan O’Neill website: http://www.morganoneill.com/
Alienne Mine is available on Amazon US:
Dragon Dawn is on sale for 99 cents from September 15-21.
In the U.S. order Dragon Dawn at Amazon:
In the U.K.order Dragon Dawn at Amazon:
Deborah O’Neill Cordes is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist of historical and speculative fiction. She is the author of the sci-fi time travel novel, Dragon Dawn, Book One of the Dinosaurian Time Travel Series, and its prequel, Alienne Mine, which blends fields of study she loves in equal measure – Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s degree in history. She is also the co-author of the Morgan O’Neill time travel novels. Deborah resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two West Highland White Terriers, who, alas, are precocious terriers and therefore never white.
Excerpt from Alienne Mine, a Prequel to Dragon Dawn:
As Alienne readied her mind to send Edward back to his world, she realized she had not told him about things like the wet-ware in her brain or her ability to communicate telepathically, if she chose to do so.
There was still much to share, the many things he could learn from her and she from him, but there was no time for that now. “I must say goodbye, Edward.”
He drew her close and whispered, “With a kiss.”
He touched his lips to hers, and her twin hearts leapt in wonder. A gentle caress, the soft, shared breath of two living beings. A mark of his world, alien to her but entrancingly familiar given how long she’d watched humans loving one another.
“Alienne.” He groaned her name just as his embrace deepened, but she had sent the thought command to the teleportation device in the instant he leaned down to kiss her. Before another breath was spent, he was gone.
She leaned back against the wall of her ship, the cold metal as much a shock to her senses as the warmth she’d experienced in his arms. They’d touched briefly, for a moment in time, yet she knew the thrill of being alive would not return until he held her again.
I must go. She studied the planet Mars and realized she could not delay. Whatever was down there might find her. This hiding place on Deimos offered no real protection. If her instincts were correct, she needed to leave orbit – and fast.