Today I have a real treat for all of my readers! Please join me in welcoming my friend, Ms. Danica Cornell, author of the forthcoming DARK STAR science fiction/fantasy series. Among other things, she is here to talk about the inspiration behind Dark Star, playing God and the paradox of being a self-conscious/non-self-conscious writer.
Submitted by Danica Cornell
Thank you for inviting me here today, Effrosyni! I’m delighted to announce that you will be featured guest on my blog as well, around January 27th. I’m really looking forward to having you and hope your readers will mark their calendars and stop by for what I’m sure will be a fantastic discussion!
As a writer, are you a fan of the close-up view, like exploring a microcosm, a subculture? Or do you prefer the wide shot—looking at an entire cosm, culture?
I tend to think of myself as a big-picture gal who just so happens to have a penchant for psychology. In other words, I like to tackle major societal issues while simultaneously exploring what makes an individual character tick. A lot of readers may not realize this, but the social sciences actually play quite heavily into my writings. No doubt this is due to my background in psychology. Still, as an author of science fiction and fantasy, I’m all about developing complex characters within stories that seek to explore the really big questions like why are we here and where did we come from.
Do you consider yourself to be a self-conscious writer?
Funny you should ask. I say this because on January 1, I was looking back over 2013—reflecting on the year and how far I’ve come as a writer. That’s when I realized I started out this way—in fact I believe I was horribly self-conscious. But then something happened. After years of what I call “slogging away” at this craft, it seems that in late 2013 things really started to click for me. My writing tightened up and I found I was able to produce higher quality work in a lot less time. I think the reason for this is pretty straight forward. My experience has helped to hone my skills as an author, which in turn has given me more confidence, thus enabling me to write at a level previously unseen. So as it stands today, I’m going to say no—at least in terms of my ability as a writer.
However, if you’re inquiring about my tendency to be introspective and then translating these thoughts and ideas onto paper, then my answer is an unequivocal yes. And I don’t see that ever changing. Why? Because I believe critical thinking along with an ability to see that which cannot be seen are crucial to crafting interesting stories—not to mention, complex and compelling characters. Now that I think about it, I guess this answer makes me a bit of a paradox, eh? (Laughs)
What project/s are you currently working on?
At this time I’m putting the finishing touches on a scifi/fantasy novel entitled, DARK STAR I: The Assassins. It’s the first in my forthcoming DARK STAR Series and it’s where I’m focusing the bulk of my efforts right now. But I have some other things in the works too, including DARK STAR II: Rise of the Hubots and some other related projects.
Can you tell us a little bit about DARK STAR I?
The DARK STAR Series starts out in the year 2045, when a cruel twist of fate puts the fate of humanity in the hands of one woman. Dr. Rachel Cohen is dubbed the Department of Defense’s “Dame of Death.” She’s a beautiful—I mean blazing hot nanotechnology engineer who seems to have it all–fame, smarts, and access to a billion dollar fortune. That is until her world is unexpectedly turned upside down. Without warning, Rachel finds herself grappling with the murders of those closest to her while being hunted by an impossible-to-detect enemy. Now a fugitive, she must rely on a man with a sordid past to help her save humankind from extinction. But as you might expect, there’s one seemingly insurmountable problem. The only way to do this is to embrace the darkness within her–something Rachel has spent her entire life fighting against.
Sounds intriguing! What inspired you to write the DARK STAR Series?
Actually, the initial seed for DARK STAR was planted many, many years ago…back to a warm summer’s night shortly before my fourth birthday…
Like countless other evenings, I drifted off to sleep with my favorite doll, Mrs. Beasley, tucked in by my side. Later that night, I unexpectedly found myself and Mrs. Beasley thrust deep into a nightmarish scenario—one that easily dwarfed anything I had previously imagined. Without warning, we awoke to find several aliens towering over us.
That’s right, aliens.
As I soaked in my new reality it quickly became apparent there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. So, I did the only thing a sensible little girl could do. I remained perfectly still—even as the adrenaline surged through my veins. I was alert, on edge, and painfully aware there were no options for escape as the intruders leaned in to get a closer look. Perhaps most surprising of all was that despite their obvious extraterrestrial origin, these visitors possessed an intangible familiarity about them. It was as if they were distant cousins sent here from a distant world with the sole purpose of peering deep into my soul.
Curling my tiny fingers tightly around Mrs. Beasley’s arm, the two of us watched and listened as the intruders telepathically communicated amongst themselves. It struck me as almost insulting, the way they bickered back and forth in front of us before finally agreeing that I fit their “criteria” for God knows what. My best friend in the whole wide world was a perfectly fine specimen, too! Why couldn’t they see this? As a girl possessing a heaping dose of good, old-fashioned, Midwestern American horse sense, I would’ve expected aliens to be better prepared and better educated about such things—not to mention, better mannered.
Much to my dismay, my parents who were only one room over slept soundly throughout all the commotion. Even if they had been right next to me, it wouldn’t have made any difference. In listening to the aliens, it quickly became evident such missions were undertaken by highly skilled, top-tier agents—those whose well-honed abilities didn’t require their victims to be isolated.
Shortly after their squabbling ended, I found myself magically floating through the exterior wall of my bedroom. Mrs. Beasley was left behind only to wait, wonder, and worry about my well-being. Unfortunately, I don’t recall seeing any kind of space craft that might’ve been used to transport me from point A to point B—I must’ve passed out before reaching any such vessel.
After regaining consciousness, I found myself on a surgical table, surrounded by even more aliens, two of whom were tasked with performing an open heart surgical procedure on me. I could feel a searing pain as these surgeons utilized what appeared to be a laser to gain access into my chest cavity. Of course I was unable to move or cry or scream as they replaced my beating heart with some kind of device resembling a razor blade. (Remember, I was not yet four at the time. As such, I didn’t have the life experience or education necessary to be future tech savvy.) (Smiles)
Oddly enough, I awoke the next morning in my bed—right next to Mrs. Beasley. There were no scars, no wall damage, and no evidence whatsoever that anything unusual had happened. Yet, I had been forever changed. Even at this young age, my perception of myself, my world, and my universe had been permanently altered.
Over time, I came to the conclusion that my frightening dream was likely a divinely-inspired product of my fertile imagination—one that had provided me with a glimpse into what could lie beyond the great beyond. I learned that no matter how lonely I might feel, I am never truly alone. We are not alone. Perhaps most importantly, I came to understand that in this existence, there are layers and layers of falsehoods that have been designed to shroud us from the truth. All of us.
Looking back over my childhood, I remember those closest to me often spoke of my old soul. They said I possessed an inherent wisdom beyond anything that could be rationally explained for my age. What they didn’t realize is that it took an imagination-fueled nightmare to awaken me to the myriad of possibilities that exist all around us. It was this nightmare that served as the initial seed for my DARK STAR Series.
Wow, that’s some story! You said a childhood nightmare was the initial seed for DARK STAR. Does this mean you believe this was only a dream? Were there other seeds as well?
Absolutely. Since nothing else like this happened again, I am certain what I experienced that night was nothing more than a frightening dream. And to answer the second part of your question, yes, there were additional seeds for DARK STAR.
The most notable seed occurred years later. As an adult in my 30’s, I ended up working as nanotechnology business development subcontractor after my husband and I came up with a technology concept known as Global Environmental Micro Sensors (GEMS). It’s probably no surprise that such work only added fuel to my already highly active imagination—and such was never truer than when I wrote a section of a government proposal describing how the GEMS technology could be hardened for Mars exploration. In this particular section I also described the societal impacts I envisioned if biologically-based life forms were to be discovered, including the implications such findings might have on the world’s religions and the potential for backlash from the neoluddite movement.
In short, that one proposal sealed the deal. I knew right then and there I wanted to write science fiction, but it was only recently that I decided to add some fantastical elements to my stories—mainly because I enjoy them!
So this idea has been forming for awhile. And what about your protagonist, Dr. Rachel Cohen. How did you dream her to life?
Around the time of the GEMS work, l also ended up studying Judaism. Though I didn’t convert, I decided to utilize my knowledge of the Jewish faith and culture in the DARK STAR Series which was just beginning to take shape in my mind. This is how I ultimately ended up creating DARK STAR’s protagonist, Dr. Rachel Cohen. To be honest, once the Rachel character came to me, I couldn’t get her off my brain. It was as if with each breath I took in, I breathed her to life a little bit more and more until one day she became crystal clear to me.
Is there a difference between Danica the writer and Danica the person?
Yes, I think so. To begin, Danica is a pen name I came up with a few years ago. My real name is Donna Manobianco. But beyond this, what has happened is I’ve become much more comfortable in my skin as an author (as Danica) than how I feel at times in my real life (as Donna). I suspect a lot of this is because as a writer I can play God. I have ultimate control over the direction of my stories and the destinies of their characters. Real life isn’t so easy, as we all know. (Smiles)
What was the first thing you ever wrote and how old were you then?
The idea of being a professional writer clicked for me in the fourth grade. I just loved writing short stories! I recall my teacher was impressed with the richness of my tales and most especially with the depth of my characters. But at the same time she was concerned about the sad, even dystopian tone in all of these assignments—so much so that she ended up requesting a conference with my mother. It’s not that I wrote about harming others or myself—there was no overt violence or anything like that. It’s just that these stories were serious—even sullen in nature. It was after this meeting that I went on to pen a few comedies—as a way to placate my instructor. But the reality is that my heart was always drawn to more serious subjects. Things like difficult societal problems and flawed and complicated characters were the types of stories I gravitated towards. I think it’s because I could sink my teeth into and analyze such stories (and people) in a way that nobody else in any of my classes could—even all the way throughout high school.
Choose a male and a female character from your book and tell us which
actor/actress you’d wish to play them in a film adaptation.
Every single time I’ve imagined watching any of the DARK STAR stories on the silver screen, I’ve always envisioned Angelina Jolie as “Rachel” and Tom Cruise as “Jake.” I’ve literally tried to see other actors in these roles but time and time again I keep coming back to these two.
Why do you think this is?
I think it’s because Jolie and Cruise have both successfully played complicated, flawed characters. From my perspective, each of them brings a depth of feeling and understanding to their art that’s second to none.
Tell us about your website/blog. What will readers find there?
My full website is located at www.danicacornell.com. Here readers will find all the latest news on my home page—things like my support of UNICEF, contests, giveaways, articles, and my latest book trailers/videos. This site also has pages dedicated to my bio; books; videos; photos; links; featured authors; FAQs; contact information; and later this year I’ll be adding an online store featuring DARK STAR gear. To be honest, I’ve put a lot of effort into developing this site, and I hope folks find it to be visually appealing, not to mention fun and informative.
Danica Cornell is a self-confessed chocoholic and visionary entrepreneur who’s busily penning the DARK STAR science fiction/fantasy series.
To learn more about this emerging author, please visit her website. You may also find her on Twitter, where she’s been known to tweet about aliens, hybrid humans, and the future of technology and society, among other things.