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Q&A With Joel Shepherd
23 Years on Fire
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Pyr Catalog Fall-Winter 2013-14

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September, 2013


This month, Cassandra Kresnov, the synthetic human built to kill, returns in a new series beginning with 23 Years on Fire. Joel Shepherd was kind enough to join us to answer a few questions about Sandy and why he was compelled to revisit this dynamic character. Read on!
Exclusive Q&A with Joel Shepherd!

Rene Sears:
23 Years on Fire returns to the world of Cassandra Kresnov. Was writing a new series with history and characters already established easy in some ways or constraining?

Joel Shepherd Joel Shepherd: Writing a second trilogy was in some ways easy because I already had a well developed world and characters to play with. It was only constraining in the sense that I had to conceive a way of telling the story that wouldn't require readers to have read the first three books to enjoy the second three--and I think I achieved that. But it nice that I didn't have to work at giving the world a sense of depth--the depth was pre-existing, all I had to do is let it play out.

Rene Sears: Sandy, a synthetic human built to kill, explores the boundaries of her own humanity in
the book. What was a favorite scene to write in this vein?

Joel Shepherd: I think my favourite Sandy scenes are the scenes with the three street kids she befriends, and comes to have maternal feelings for. Because she is a killing machine, and she's only just really coming to terms with that, and allowing herself to be herself without guilt... and then gets thrown for a loop when three kids who she should have ignored for the sake of the mission, begin to mean even more to her than the mission itself. I like to give Sandy difficult dilemmas that she can't solve with a bullet, and this plays the two opposing sides of her nature against each other--the lethal one, and the nurturing one. I probably enjoy writing those internal character conflicts even more than action scenes.
Rene Sears: Do you listen to music while you write? What's an album you've been listening to recently (if you still listen to albums?)
Joel Shepherd: I usually only listen to music if my writing environment is noisy, or sometimes if I'm stuck and need a boost. Sometimes music can kick the brain into gear, but it can't be too distracting -so nothing with intrusive lyrics, because then my brain starts listening to the words.   Instrumental music can fade into the background, and make a nice ambiance. A lot of Sandy's action scenes have been written to any album by Tool. There have also been quite a few Hans Zimmer soundtracks (Inception, Last Samurai), and classical/prog-rock fusion band Sky. And lately, some Tanushan, urban city scenes work quite well with random Trance tracks downloaded on Youtube--my latest favourite is Moonsouls--"In Your Heart."

Many thanks to Joel for joining us!

Book23 Years on Fire

The first book in a new Cassandra Kresnov series!

23 Years on Fire

"A fast-paced story of intrigue and adventure set against galactic politics. With particular appeal to readers of high-tech sf and cyberpunk, this title belongs in most sf collections."
-Library Journal  


"[H]ighly entertaining. It rather reads like a summer Hollywood sci-fi flick...."

-The BiblioSanctum


"Any reader, who likes science fiction adventure, covert operations stories, or even hard science fiction, if you don't mind your science being biomedical engineering, will enjoy this book."

-Bull Spec


"Although I suppose this is technically military SF, Shepherd rarely dwells on the devices of that subgenre and spends more time on intrigue, problem solving, and character interaction...Good to see Kresnov back."
-Don D'Ammassa's Critical Mass


Commander Cassandra Kresnov has her hands full. She must lead an assault against the Federation world of Pyeongwha, where a terrible sociological phenomenon has unleashed hell against the civilian population. Most challenging of all, she also meets three young street kids who stir emotions in her she didn't think she was capable of. Can the Federation's most lethal killer afford unexpected sentiment? What will be the cost if she is forced to choose between them and her mission, not only to her cause, but to her soul?
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That's it for this issue. As always, please check out our website and drop by our blog.

Happy Reading,

Rene Sears
Editorial Assistant, Pyr

an imprint of Prometheus Books