The distant world of Haphez is located on the edge of populated space. The planet's native superhuman race is feared and respected by neighboring civilizations. Their military and police forces are unmatched.
Lieutenant Aroska Tarbic is an agent with the revered Haphezian Special Police. HeÂ’s lost a lot in a short period of time; the other members of his squad were killed in a tragic accident, and his younger brother was wrongfully convicted and executed for a crime he didnÂ’t commit. Just when Aroska thinks heÂ’s starting to piece his life back together, heÂ’s assigned to a joint task force with a special operations team. It seems like a unique opportunity, at least until he learns that his new commander is none other than Ziva Payvan, HSPÂ’s finest operativeÂ… and the assassin who killed his brother.
Ziva is good at her job, a business that requires her to ignore her feelings and carry out her missions without question. SheÂ’s confident in her own abilities to complete the assignment, but Aroska is a wildcard. When their team stumbles across a young human during a routine investigation, they soon realize that the situation isn't what it seems. The boy has unwittingly uncovered an age-old plot, one that could put the entire Haphezian race in jeopardy.
Now the lines between friend and foe have become blurred, and no one can be trusted. United by the imminent threat, Ziva and Aroska must set their differences aside in order to save their peopleÂ… and maybe even each other.
All roads lead toÂ… DAKITI
Tell us about your book.
Â Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1 was, as you might guess, my first novel. Sure, itÂ’s the first installment in my series, but it was also the first novel-length story I ever completed. I actually wrote the majority of the book during my senior year of high school and finished it in the fall of 2010. Then I set it aside and that was that; back then, I had no intention of ever publishing and wrote primarily for fun. Finally, in about February 2014, I stopped and realized IÂ’d finished Dakiti, its sequel, and was dabbling in the third book, and I had nothing to show for it. So I went back and gave it a massive facelift in preparation for self-publishing (one of the biggest decisions IÂ’ve ever made!) and the rest is history.
The book is sort of space opera/space fantasy with some thriller elements thrown in. The story centers around a superhuman race of characters who work for the primary law enforcement agency on their home planet. Ziva Payvan, my female lead, is a covert operative and assassin who is forced to team up with my male lead, Aroska Tarbic, because he possesses a certain skill set that will help with her current mission. ThereÂ’s just one problem: two years ago, Ziva killed AroskaÂ’s brother.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it.
As I mentioned, this series also has a second and third book, Nexus and Ronan. In Dakiti, the stage is set. Characters and their backstory/relationships are introduced. Facts about the world and the surrounding galaxy are established, albeit fairly briefly. The focus is on the people involved and how theyÂ’re forced to interact. Because of that interaction, Ziva and Aroska end up saving the lives of not only their comrades and teammates but also each other.
Nexus is also very character-driven, but while there are some overlapping background details, the plot is fairly standalone. IÂ’ve had readers mention that itÂ’s possible to read Nexus without having read Dakiti for this reason, and while thatÂ’s true to an extent, I wouldnÂ’t recommend it (granted, IÂ’m somewhat biased, but reading both is important in order to really see the character development). Character flaws and fears are exposed in this story about emotional survival. When Ziva finds herself on the run after being framed for an assassination, she ends up turning to the last person she ever expected to ask for help.
Ronan is still just as character-driven as its predecessors, but all the background details start coming together as well. Elements of Dakiti and Nexus that seemed unrelated are suddenly very related, and questions the reader has had since the beginning are finally answered. The mysteries from Book 1 are combined with the character development from Book 2, and you end up with a story on a much bigger scale and with much higher stakes than either of the other two. Faced with a threat that could change the structure of the entire galaxy, Ziva finds herself torn between protecting herself Â– and a secret she has killed to keep Â– or making a personal sacrifice to protect everything she holds dear.
What inspires you?
I draw inspiration from just about anywhere. But overall, IÂ’m a very visual person, so I prefer images or videos where I can see whatÂ’s happening. What sci fi author hasnÂ’t drawn at least a little inspiration from things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or Firefly? Pinterest has come in very handy for storing and organizing images that have inspired some of the locations and environments in my stories. I have an Â“Imagination at WorkÂ” board collection, broken down into sub-categories like landscapes, architecture, interior design, sci fi concept art, and even makeup, clothing, and hairstyles. There have been several occasions where IÂ’ll stumble across an image and think, Â“Yes, thatÂ’s perfect, thatÂ’s [insert city/planet here].Â” Occasionally I even draw ideas from my own dreams (which are totally insane, but thatÂ’s a completely different story).
I also try to be inspired by everyday events. Elements from a news story about a manhunt or criminal investigation might find their way into a book. Two years ago, I had jury duty, and while it was kind of miserable, that ended up coming in really handy for a courtroom scene in Ronan. If I see a unique street name, IÂ’ll write it down and it will probably become the name of a planet or city. ThereÂ’s definitely no shortage of ideas; I just have to figure out how/when/if to use them.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
The majority of the time, the characters come before the plot. IÂ’ll often have an idea or even a full-fledged concept for a character way ahead of time, and I end up having to figure out ways to incorporate these people into stories. Pinterest once again plays a big role here. I have various character inspiration boards containing different appearance-related elements, and I sort those out and get ideas for the overall character design. For example, I came across a bunch of grungy post-apocalyptic fashions, and then I found a really cool concept for a prosthetic arm, and I decided I wanted a character who dressed like that but had a robot arm thanks to an accident in his past. That character exists now; his name is Taran and he made his first appearance in Ronan.
Characters come to me pretty easily, but plot is harder. Once upon a time, I would just wing it and see what happened, but once I got further into my series, there was enough continuity that I had to be a lot more careful. I donÂ’t really use outlines, at least not huge ones that cover the entire novel, but I do write out extensive notes in which I ask myself questions and come up with multiple answers based on my available options. ItÂ’s kind of a slow process Â– itÂ’s usually a long time before I feel like IÂ’m ready to actually write anything. Once I get started, I can usually move pretty fast. If I have an idea for a scene that doesnÂ’t happen until later, IÂ’ll go ahead and get it written out so I donÂ’t forget it by the time I actually get to it. Then I have a goal, a checkpoint to reach. If I have Part A and Part C, itÂ’s a lot easier to figure out what needs to happen in Part B that it would have been if I had Parts A and B and just tried to move forward blindly.
How much research do you do?
It depends, of course, on what exactly IÂ’m writing. Since my main characters are all agents or operatives on some level, IÂ’ve done a lot of general research on basic firearms terminology, police psychology, mental/emotional resilience, etc., just to help me and my characters not sound like complete fools. IÂ’ve also put all of my main characters through a Myers Briggs test so I can find their MBTI types, learn the reasoning behind those types, and then make sure IÂ’m keeping all of their actions and personalities consistent as I write.
IÂ’ve also had to do more specific research for certain plot points within each book. For example, in Dakiti, my characters perform a HALO jump in order to reach their target, and I had some friends help me figure out all the physics so I could calculate how long the fall would take. In Nexus, I read statements from shooting victims and studied some anatomy to see how a gunshot to the upper abdomen would affect a person internally. In Ronan, I did some rudimentary neuroscience research and contacted one of the professors from my former college with questions (her PhD is in neuroscience). Since my books are soft sci fi, I never worry too much about how things like space travel and laser/plasma weapons actually work, but there are still a lot of smaller-scale details that I want to get right.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
It may sound totally clichÃ©d, but I learned that you can always do better, and that you shouldnÂ’t be afraid to ask for help (or accept help when itÂ’s offered). When I finished Dakiti, I was excited because it was so much longer and more complex than anything IÂ’d ever written. But then when I made the decision to publish and went back to look at it, I couldnÂ’t believe how terrible it seemed. I went through it myself a couple of times and fixed it up as best as I could, and then I did what I had always considered the unthinkable: I let my friends read it and asked feedback and suggestions on how to make it even better. Now of course, sending a book out to beta readers is just part of the routine, but at the time, I had never shared my work with anyone and it was absolutely terrifying. But it was absolutely crazy how helpful it was to get opinions from other people who were looking at the story from different perspectives. Things always make more sense in your own head than they do to other people, and once you know what some of those things are, itÂ’s easier to know how to deal with them in the future. No matter how good you think your work is, itÂ’s never quite as good as you think, and there are always ways to make it better.
Even though itÂ’s kind of a basic rule of publishing, it was absolutely amazing how helpful it was to have other people read my story, give me feedback, and then apply that feedback to the actual writing. It improved the story tenfold, and IÂ’ve made more improvements to it since then. Dakiti paved the way for the rest of the series, and if I hadnÂ’t taken that proverbial leap of faith at the beginning, these books might not even exist today. These days, IÂ’m more afraid of not using beta readers than I was of using them originally.
What actors/actresses would you cast in your bookÂ’s movie?
As much as I love trying to fan-cast my characters (I mean, what author doesnÂ’t do this?), IÂ’ve actually struggled a lot with it. Since my characters are all part of this superhuman race, theyÂ’re all a lot taller and more muscular than regular people, and therefore realistic casting is pretty much impossible. So instead of actually acting, I think of it in terms of the movie being completely CGI or something so the actors are just used for motion capture, facial models, and maybe voice. Ziva is described as having kind of severe facial features and always has an intense expression, so IÂ’ve always liked Tricia Helfer or maybe Ali Larter because of their facial structure. Stephen Amell is currently the front runner for Aroska, though IÂ’m not 100% satisfied (and his voice doesnÂ’t work so IÂ’d need someone else for voiceover). I picture a younger and slightly-more-burly Ryan Reynolds (with crazier hair) for Skeet, ZivaÂ’s second-in-command. For Zinni, the third member of ZivaÂ’s squad, I see Kristanna LokenÂ’s face, Leigh LezarkÂ’s hair, and Tina MajorinoÂ’s persona.
I have an entire Pinterest board of all the actors, athletes, musicians, etc. IÂ’ve chosen for pretty much every series character with a speaking part.
What were you like in school?
In high school I was a total nerd. I went to a really small school (~70 students in the high school) Â– if I were a character in a high school movie, I would have been the shy, quiet kid who gets either ignored completely or picked on constantly. But I think a lot of people were probably afraid of me. I was known for playing volleyball Â– that was probably the only reason I was ever Â“popularÂ” Â– and everyone knew better than to mess with me because theyÂ’d seen me knock my opponents down or give them bloody noses or send them back to the bench crying. I was First Team All-State and MVP of the state tournament my senior year, and I still hold the school records for kills per match, blocks per match, and blocks per season (the latter two are the only ones I really care about because blocking is the best). In the classroom, you could often find me doing homework for my other classes because heaven forbid I actually have homework at home. I was that crazy person who got her novel-outlining assignment done in three days during the story development segment of 10th grade English. I was that person who waited to write 10-page reports until two days before they were due but still got As on them. I graduated as co-valedictorian and was terrified of having to make a speech at graduation. While I enjoyed having a modest amount of fame, I was more content just sitting quietly, doing my work, and moving on to other things.
In college, I was that creepy girl who always lurked in the corner of the library in order to avoid talking to anyone except for the few acquaintances from my program. I was the one watching Firefly on Netflix or trying not to snort while reading The Martian. I was the one in the fourth row back (not too far back, but not too close to the front either) who was studiously taking notes during all the lectures. Just kiddingÂ…I was actually furiously plotting or writing Ronan. I wrote almost the entire book during my last two terms of school. I was the one who ordered the same thing at the campus Subway so often that the workers all had my sandwich memorized. I was the weird person grinning while using the elliptical in the gym because I was picturing space battles set to the epic instrumental music I was listening to. I graduated cum laude with a BS in IT Â– Health Informatics and a minor in medical sociology.
Do you have any pets? (Pictures would be great)
[insert attached photo here] These are my fur babies! The striped kitty with only one eye is Jenny. SheÂ’s the WorldÂ’s Sweetest CatÂ™. IÂ’ve always called her Â“DzinnyÂ” when IÂ’m loving on her, which is actually where the character name Â“ZinniÂ” came from (yes, I shamelessly use my pets for writerly gain). My puppyÂ’s name is Mae Â– sheÂ’s about 10 months old and is a lab/Australian shepherd mix (thatÂ’s what we were told, anyway Â– it might be border collie). I have a character named Mae in Ronan and the dog might sorta kinda maybe be named after her. The pastel-colored, angry-looking kitty is Chloe. SheÂ’s just weird. IÂ’m convinced she can adjust the colors of her fur to blend in to any environment. She has a deformed tail (itÂ’s basically just a knot) so instead of flicking around when sheÂ’s mad, it kinda opens and closes like a lobster claw. But life would be boring without her. SheÂ’s my official editing supervisor, and she always makes sure to help me when IÂ’m stuck on a certain sentenceÂ…by which I mean she walks on my keyboard and types a bunch of random stuff. TheyÂ’re a great bunch of critters and I love them.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Social media! IÂ’m available on pretty much any platform (Google+, Instagram, even Reddit) but IÂ’m most active on Facebook and Twitter. IÂ’ve started trying to post an update on my website at the beginning of every month, and I keep my blog updated with random writing-related musings or reviews for the books IÂ’ve been reading. My site contains individual pages for each of my books, as well as my WIPs and any collections IÂ’m a part of. ThereÂ’s also series artwork, a contact form, and an Â“AboutÂ” page containing links to past interviews and/or spotlights IÂ’ve participated in.
You can keep up with the latest news on Facebook or Twitter, and I always love chatting with readers or other writers. Feel free to contact me any time. Use one of the social media links below, or you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
(books are available in all international markets)