Janet McNulty started writing stories as a hobby to keep her mind active between college courses and working multiple jobs. She has published a couple of books, including a mystery and dystopian series. The Solaris Saga, an action-packed space fantasy series is the latest from McNulty's pen. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about this series, chats about Star Trek and Star Wars and reveals why she wanted her readers to loathe her main character.
Please give us a short introduction to what Solaris Seethes is about
Solaris Seethes follows Rynah, a security officer charged with protecting a crystal that keeps her planet’s magnetic fields intact, as she seeks revenge on the man who stole the crystal, thus dooming her planet and her people to death. In her quest for vengeance, she stumbles upon her grandfather’s old space ship, which also happens to harbor an artificial intelligence named Solaris, and gets more than she bargained for. Soon, Rynah finds herself forced to chase what she believes to be just children’s stories, as Solaris does not take no for an answer, while accepting help from four people from a planet she has never heard of.
What inspired you to write the Solaris Saga?
The Solaris Saga had been in the works for at least 16 years. It started out as a short story I wrote for a class while in middle school and over the years, I went back to it and added a few things here and there, jotting down a few notes about the story. It wasn’t until five years ago that I really invested the time to think about the characters and how they would embark on this adventure of theirs as I incorporated this idea I had of a magic crystal while in the 7th grade.
Which is your favorite – Star Wars or Star Trek?
Though most people loathe the prequels, I actually like Revenge of the Sith and Phantom Menace. Attack of the Clones I could have done without. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. Rip out the Anakin and Padme scenes (except maybe that one where Anakin talks about slaughtering the sand people because it does showcase how far he is willing to go) and you have an awesome movie. My favorite from the Original trilogy is Return of the Jedi because it does end on a very hopeful note. And though I like Force Awakens, I will wait until all the movies from this next Star Wars trilogy are out before I decide on my favorite of that bunch.
As for Star Trek, I love Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. Wrath of Khan has superb acting on the part of Ricardo Montalban, who delivers Khan’s lines with such finesse, while also portraying this deep desire he has for revenge against Kirk. The Voyage Home is just funny and different from a lot of the Star Trek movies. I also like the reboots that they have done, having enjoyed the last three Star Trek movies. They are different, but I still like them.
Tell us more about Rynah – why did you pick her as a main character?
In my previous works, I created characters that you would immediately like, but in this case, I wanted a character that would grate the reader’s nerves and was so unlikeable that they would wish she would just die already, and Rynah fit the bill. I know it seems odd for an author to do, but I did not want a main character that the reader sympathized with right away, since Rynah is the one character that goes through the most dynamic development arcs. I decided that the best way to have her evolve as a character was to make her someone whom you loathed at first. You get glimpses of her change in attitude at the end to Solaris Seethes, but most of her endearments and developments take place in the following books.
Rynah doesn’t believe in ancient legend, but is forced to follow the ancient tales of her people. Why did you put her on this path?
I wanted to do something different from the typical, here is a prophecy, now all you believers follow it. I read a lot of fantasy that deal with the main character following some prophecy, and though they are doubtful on page one, by page five they are true believers. With Rynah, I wanted her digging her heels in at every turn and she does throughout the series.
The ancient legends are just stories to her, much like our mythologies are just fantastic tales to us, but they are also the reason why the relationship she had with her grandfather ended. She doesn’t realize it, but those ancient myths are the core of her being. When Solaris tells her about the so-called prophecy and starts repeating these lines from a poem she learned as a child, she rolls her eyes and scoffs at the whole notion and only goes along with it, believing that it will get her the revenge she seeks; though, it also puts her on a path of self-discovery. The more Rynah follows the ancient legends, the more she learns about herself, about her grandfather, about the world around, about her companions, and about the history of her own people.
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?
No, I haven’t. I started writing stories more as a hobby to keep my mind sane between college courses and working multiple jobs. When I found myself unemployed back in 2007, I started writing more full time just to cure my boredom in between job hunts.
The book contains riveting action scenes – how did you make them so believable?
Whenever I reach the point where I need to write an action scene, I play it out in my mind, picturing every aspect and detail of it, playing it over and over again before writing it down. Afterward, I have a couple of trusted beta readers read over it and ask them what they think.
What underlying message does this book have? What do you hope your readers will take away from it?
The underlying message is that you can’t always judge people based on first impressions. In Rynah’s case, she believes that the four people Solaris brings aboard are worthless, except for Alfric. She especially thinks little of Brie. In return, her four unwilling companions view her as little more than a self-centered woman who only cares about her own desires. As the story continues, they learn that Rynah has had her heart broken by the two people she loved most, which is why she has closed herself off to those around her, while Rynah discovers that Brie, whom she viewed as the weakest link, was actually the strongest of all of them combined, willing to do what was necessary to save all of them.
Sometimes, the person you think least of, surprises you the most.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I garden. I don’t have much of a green thumb, but I manage to get some things to grow. I like other outdoor activities such as hiking and sometimes I enjoy reading a good book, or just relaxing on the couch while catching up on some Netflix shows.
How were you able to incorporate your personality into your Solaris Series?
Mostly, I just incorporated some of my personal experiences into a couple of the characters. I’m not sure if that also put my personality in there, but it did help me to envision and write the characters.
I used some of my childhood experiences to weave Brie’s character together. I had been bullied while in school, and I used that when Brie talks about how she gets pushed around in her life and how it makes her feel. On the flip side, I took many of the disappointments that life has dealt me and used them to create Rynah’s character and onerous personality, but I still tried to make sure that she was her own woman.
What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?
All of the time and commitment involved. A lot of people think that they can just sit down and write a good story in just a couple of hours, but that is never the case. In two hours, I’m lucky if I can get a single page done. There is a multitude of time invested in creating characters, deciding how they will change and develop, or if you want them to remain the same throughout the story, and in figuring out certain plot points and how you will weave them together to tell in overarching story, while also not forgetting your minor characters. Of course, there is also the hours upon hours of self-editing and rewrites you will do before sending the manuscript to an editor. If you want to be an author, you need to realize that you are setting yourself up with a marriage of sorts, in that, you will be 100% committed to this book you want to write, investing few years of your life.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
Both Rynah and Solaris were challenging to write. Rynah starts off as a complete bitch, and trying to make her someone the reader can sympathize with was difficult. So, in the end, I chose to forget garnering sympathy for her and let people hate her because that would make her evolution as a person more compelling and believable, since she is the one character that grows the most in the series. There are signs that she is maturing in Solaris Seethes, but most of her development arcs are in the following books.
Solaris was difficult to write because she is an artificial intelligence. I wanted her to have a personality, while also remaining somewhat artificial because she is a computer, though a lot of times she seems to be more human than the humans. The other aspect of her character is the fact that she harbors secrets, ones that she cannot reveal. Trying to give the impression that she knows a lot more than she is telling, without it being the only focus of the story, was not easy.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a dystopian thriller / alternative history type book right now. I have only just started, so I am not very far into it, but it focuses on Noni, who is a law enforcement officer in this strictly regimented and tightly controlled society. The story is told from her point of view and follows her as she receives her commission and goes from believing in this society that she lives in to discovering its dark secrets. The first chapter is available on my website: https://www.mcnultyjanet.com/enchained-trilogy