So I had this line running through my head, probably in relation to someone I'd interacted with: "He was more machine than man." And I liked the way it sounded.
I wrote it down.
What if he was a machine, and less a man? But what if he looked like a man and behaved like a man? And then I wondered, "What if we could create a being that was exactly like a human in every way? He could breathe, had a heart, organs, a brain, a personality? Would he then be human?"
The next line formed.
It was kind of like that skit from Monty Python, when Thomas Hardy is writing The Return of the Native. There was a crowd cheering for me and everything, with gasps and awes at my deletions and additions.
No, really. But in an ideal world, writing would be a spectator sport. Right?
In terms of the concepts, the idea at the core of Blue Hearts of Mars is very old, going so far back as Frankenstein and probably even further, like back to a time when some dude wanted to turn a man made of wood or straw into a human. Or, even further back, like to when some God wanted to turn a creature made of clay into a human. I wasn't exactly thinking of that stuff, however, because I was thinking about the story too, not just the premises. And I wanted all of it to be interwoven into one, hopefully seamless, narrative.
Technologically, our civilization is very much past where Mary Shelly was—I mean, we reanimate dead flesh all the time (not really)—but we're still not quite to where Star Trek: The Next Generation is, so to speak. I'm thinking of Data and his android nature that wants to comprehend humans, but can't quite grasp them.
What I believe Data lacked was a soul. But there's a question burning in me that's greater than whether or not we'll ever be able to create a being like Data, because I think we'll get there.
The big question is: when we do, will what animates a human, animate an android? Do they have souls or spirits? The life-force that leaves when a person dies—what is that? These questions inspired Blue Hearts of Mars. I've watched such ideas populate shows like Star Trek: TNG, and the new Battlestar Galactica, and I don't believe they've been answered. I suppose we won't have answers for them until we get there. Blue Hearts is my answer and it makes its appearance as a YA Sci-fi romance, not straight-forward, hard sci-fi. Because without romance, what's the point?
Romance is my weakness. Before I started writing fiction, I wrote poetry. And all my poetry managed to end up about love. No matter how hard I tried to barricade my poems against love, it always found a way in. I'd even sheepishly apologize to the people in my poetry critique group. "Sorry, yeah, this poem is about love, too," before I launched into reading it. Some of the ladies would laugh and tell me, "No need to apologize!" I guess because they loved romance too. The men were always strangely silent.
I have always read fantasy and science fiction, but until recently, most of what I read was relegated to what other people wanted me to read: my college professors, the pocketbooks behind the traditional publishing behemoths, the classification system of bookstores and how they're designed, to name just a few.
A reader couldn't hop onto Goodreads and get a Listopia list of YA Sci-fi romance until just a few years ago. If you liked sci-fi, but wanted a strong element of romance, how did you find it? These days you can very easily navigate your way onto a discussion board and talk to other people who care about books that possess these features. As recent as 2001, a common method of finding books was merely perusing the stacks at Barnes and Noble or Borders. There wasn't a shelf assigned to YA Sci-fi Romance.
In short, this explosion of niche genres is awesome. It's mind-blowing and revolutionary. Thanks to this parallel universe known as the Internet, we have a way of spreading the word on exciting new genres that appeal to our varied tastes. Today I am in the mood for a story about time-travel and romance. I join a group on Goodreads or look for an Amazon discussion on this topic or start one myself, and boom, I get ten titles or more to add to my list. So, let's say hypothetically speaking that you're in the mood for a YA Sci-fi Romance? You know what book you should read? Blue Hearts of Mars. I heard it's really good.
Nicole wrote her first fantasy novel in 7th grade on her mother's old Brother typewriter. It was never finished but it strongly resembled a Dragonlance plot and she's forever wondered what happened to the manuscript and Tonathan--the handsome elven protagonist. After living in Nashville where she worked as an editor, she returned to the Utah desert where she was raised. Nicole now lives near the Wasatch mountains with her husband. She writes and raises her son and three cats full time.