I was recently interviewed by writer Simon Rose on my space detective thriller trilogy Splintered Universe, now available in all three formats: print, ebook, and audiobook.
Below is the interview:
My guest today is Nina Munteanu, author of science fiction and fantasy novels, non-fiction books and essays on writing and science. Her latest in a series of prolific works is the recent completion of the audiobook of her science fiction space-thriller trilogy, Splintered Universe.
Can you tell us a little about the Splintered Universe Trilogy?
The Splintered Universe Trilogy is a detective mystery-thriller that explores metaphysical and existential questions through a high-test space adventure. The three books include Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse and Metaverse.
The main character Rhea Hawke is a Galactic Guardian and the only human in an otherwise alien race of 7-foot tall purple-skinned Eosians—who she actually despises (for reasons you find out later). She’s a loner and a misfit in an elite police force tasked with keeping order in the galaxy; Rhea’s unruly tactics grate on them—particularly her boss. In Outer Diverse, Rhea investigates the genocide of an entire spiritual sect; but instead she kills her only lead.
Following the scent of Glitter Dust, Rhea connects the massacre to the murders of several prominent galactic citizens and finally to the deadly Vos, who invaded our galaxy, then disappeared. She realizes that the Vos have quietly returned, infiltrating every aspect of the civilized world—with dark menace in mind. But no one believes her—particularly her boss, who fires her instead for incompetence: badge, Great Coat and MEC weapon confiscated and her sentient ship Benny put in storage. Compelled by an urgency she herself doesn’t understand, she goes rogue and enlists the aid of surprising allies to save the galaxy.
You mention that Splintered Universe explores issues of existentialism and metaphysics. Can you speak to them?
The Splintered Universe Trilogy explores the fractal fabric of paradox, where the flow of particle, energy, wave and intention embrace: black holes, quasars, neutrinos, intuition, déjà vu, clairvoyance, altruism, faith…
The prediction by Gnostic priest Raphael Martinez (The coming of the Suntelia Aeon will be signified by the joining of twin souls) weaves many disparate threads of existence to Atlantis and the Eosian alien race (who resemble the Bible’s Nephilim), the sacred vishna tree (part of L’Ordre de l’Arbre Sacré in Quebec) and the precious mythical metal Orichalcum used by the Eosians. The prediction ties to an ancient knowledge that describes our very existence through déjà vu, synchronicity, sacred geometry, phi and the golden mean and the notion that “diverses” are mirror universes linked through dreams. The key is Rhea herself—who discovers that she is not who or what she thinks.
You’re a bit known for your world building. Tell us a little about that in this trilogy.
I’m an ecologist, so world building with realistic ecosystems is more than fun for me. I enjoy doing the research to create realistic and meaningful worlds. I consulted authorities in the areas of space exploration and habitable zones, AI, biotechnology, sleep biology, neuroscience, and ecology to design alien worlds and systems, populated with extremophiles.
In her pursuit of justice, Rhea travels to all parts of the galaxy and encounters some very strange worlds. In Book 1, Rhea pursues dust trafficker V’mer to the sulphurous AI-run water planet (Mar Delena), located inside the hole of the gaseous “donut” of Fomalhaut; it’s always raining acid. That’s where Book 1 starts: acid rain painfully spattering Rhea’s face as she lies injured and waiting to be dusted (with a lethal dose) by V’mer, surrounded by the oily fur-covered rodent-like Delenians—all dust addicts.
Rhea almost drowns in a high-speed skipboat chase of the murderer of a spiritual sect on the icy moon, Uma 1, (orbiting 47 Uma b of 47 Ursae Majoris b). The moon is mostly ocean beneath a thick layer of ice with thermal vents that provide the inhabitants—a spiritual sect called the Schiss—a home.
47 Uma a (also called Horus) was colonized in ancient times by the Khonsus, a raptor-like biped race with mind-probing capability. It is also the home of the ancient migrating trees, ammuts (giant flying insects), and the weeping mountains with their narcotic boiling seas used by the giant apophus to attack and set its millions of babies to devour Rhea in Book 1.
Virgil 9 is a tidally locked moon that orbits the gas giant 70 Virginis b; day and night last for weeks while water swings the extreme from deluge flood to desert conditions. In Virgil City, Rhea does commerce with information broker Shlsh Shle She, a moody amoeba-like photosynthetic Ngu who is just a pseudopod of a larger hive-entity.
Sekmet is a bog planet, where the raw materials of dust are harvested by the Rill, bulbous short smelly bog creatures with tube eyes, webbed limbs and large sexual organs; and who Rhea pretty much wipes out with her MEC weapon. Sekmet is also the location of a galactic penal colony (Hades) where Rhea is sent in Book 2. When she tries to escape, she must contend with other native creatures of Sekmet such as the giant crocodile-like sobeks and the terrifying kepry—giant flying crustaceans.
In Book 3, Rhea returns to Earth, transformed by Eosian settlers from its former polluted state dominated by urban concrete cities to an entirely natural world, now unpolluted and featuring the ancient purple vishna tree and a crystal symbiotic organic technology.
Worlds always have cool bling associated with them. What technologies or devices are featured in Splintered Universe?
I created an entire fleet of ships, all run on various technologies, from crystals, to wave-energy to dreams. That was fun to create. Two main ship builders include: Zeta Corp from Earth and Tangent Shipping run by the Fauche from Sigma Draconis. Rhea’s own ship, Benny, is an old ray class Fauche-built corvette, a two-man hybrid organic/nano-tech vehicle with folding wings and fuel scoops (so it can mine energy fuel from gas giants). Benny is a sentient ship that jacks the particle-stream and with whom Rhea has an interesting relationship. The ship serves essentially as butler, administrator, companion, and rescuer.
I also created a wide range of weapons, based on which alien race created them and for what purpose. Rhea gained some notoriety with her own created weapon, the MEC (short for Magnetic-Electro Concussion) pistol, a versatile wave-weapon that can target DNA signatures and do almost anything you want with a single sweep. Her proprietary MEC design is coveted by many groups—from shady crime syndicates such as Eclipse to her own Guardians.
I hear that the last audiobook (the third book) in the trilogy is finally out this January. That means that all three books of the Splintered Universe are now available in print, ebook and audiobook format. How does it feel to have a trilogy available in three complete formats?
It feels great! I’m so excited that readers can now obtain my trilogy in those different ways. It speaks to our different ways of consuming story. Some prefer to settle back by the fire or our favourite place to read with a “real” book; others like a mobile ebook so we can read while we travel and play; and then some like to lean back in the car and listen to a great story.
What was your experience with the narrator of the three books?
The experience was truly cosmic. When Iambik took on the books as audiobooks, they provided me with three voice artists to audition. I chose Dawn Harvey because I could visualize my main character through her voice, and given that the entire trilogy is told in the first person, the narrator’s voice had to be just right. Dawn’s voice is dark and sultry like coffee. It is sexy and irreverent with a hidden vulnerability and sensitivity that perfectly captured the main character Rhea Hawke. What I didn’t realize then was how well Harvey would represent the 30-odd other characters, mostly aliens—one who spoke through several mouths.
Working with Dawn was a pleasure. Dawn is a dedicated professional; she created unique and consistent voices for the book’s thirty-odd mostly alien characters. She ensured that each character had the appropriate vernacular, tone, accent and cadence. Then she did proofs and confirmed them with me. She also tackled the “alien” vocabulary; Rhea’s universe is full of strange and foreign terms (I have a comprehensive glossary at the back of each book). Dawn sent me a list to make sure she was pronouncing everything correctly—mostly made-up words. Dawn is a professional dedicated to her craft and her art. She literally breathed life into Rhea Hawke and all the other characters. The result is three audiobooks that will blow your socks off. I mean it. If you like audiobooks, get the first one and tell me different. When I first listened to Outer Diverse in the car on my way to Nova Scotia, I lost myself in her storytelling and forgot that I’d written it.
Where can people find the Splintered Universe Trilogy?
The best place, of course is Amazon (Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). All three formats are available through Amazon. The Audiobooks are currently available for free through Audible on Amazon. The books are also available through Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, and many other book selling sites and brick and mortar stores.
When you’re not writing what do you do?
These days I’m mostly on the University of Toronto campus, teaching health science and engineering students how to write. When the students find out that I write science fiction, they get all excited. It’s a lot of fun. I also teach a science fiction writing coarse at George Brown College. When I’m not teaching or writing, I’m doing something in Nature, usually by the water. I’ve always had an interest in water. I studied and researched freshwater ecology as a limnologist for three decades. I’m a bit of an environmentalist these days, hoping to raise awareness and action for water. My latest novel—hopefully coming out next year—arose from my nature walks and my research in water. The story chronicles the lives of four generations of women and their relationship with water.
You can also listen to the Podcast interview of Dawn Harvey and Nina Munteanu by Casey Trowbridge of Talking Audiobooks on the process of their collaboration. Learn more about the process between writer and voice artist narrator:
The trilogy has received a fair bit of acclaim from reviewers and readers:
“Rhea Hawke is a Galactic Guardian, and I love to say her name. Her name alone let’s you know that there is a bad ass super hero of a woman on site. I can picture her boots, her great coat, and her side arms. I want to be her when I grow up. Obviously, you can tell I developed some hero worship for her by the end of this book. I really got wrapped up in this novel.”–Goodreads Review of Outer Diverse
“Ms. Harvey manages to enthuse the personality of the characters into each voice. The wise, gentle Ka has a soft, strong sound that reminds you of a wise old bird. Shlsh She She, a slippery, slimy creature has a slurry, garbled voice like a mouthful of mushy, wet food. Dawn’s reading conveys the loneliness in Rhea, the sexiness of Serge, the frustrated friendliness of Bas, and the faithful coziness of Benny. She is able to bring emphasis to the action or romance, weariness or fear elements of the story. The narration never takes over the story; but rather enhances it.”–Martha’s Bookshelf on Outer Diverse Audiobook
The excellent cover art for all three books is done by Toronto graphic artist and SF author Costi Gurgu (author of RecipeArium). People keep asking me who the model for the covers is; you’ll have to corner Costi at the next spec fiction con and ask him yourself.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.