I am thrilled to have Karen Bao, author of Dove Arising, on the blog today. I adored that the book’s setting was on the moon and felt that with her science background Karen was able to create a colony I could really imagine and visualize. Phaet is a character determined and loyal- she’ll do anything to help her family. I’ve got a really stellar interview to share plus my Lego version of the cover.
About the Book:
By: Karen Bao
Release Date: February 24th 2015
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.
Then her mother is arrested.
The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth-dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.
Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble…
I love that you chose the moon for your futuristic colony. Did you work with experts to understand more of the details of what life would be like?
Yeah. Luckily, I took classes in physics during drafting, and chemistry and geology during editing. Those classes not only answered my questions but also inspired some aspects of world-building. When a problem really stumped me, I asked my professors: “So, hypothetically, if humans were to live on the Moon, how would they create the illusion of gravity WITHOUT spinning at high speeds a la Ender’s Game?” Our answers (magnetic repulsion, which would probably kill people in real life) definitely weren’t perfect, but they worked just enough for the story.
You are a student yourself- I believe you are going into the science field? Do your studies impact what direction your writing takes?
I study ecology, or the study of organisms’ relationships to one another and to their environments. The science is close to my heart and really impacts my writing. It’s a huge part of the Dove Arising universe: worrisome trends in climate and biodiversity coupled with government inaction led to a group of scientists founding a society on the Moon. In other words, they thought Earth would soon be uninhabitable, so they pooled their funds and left.
The scientists weren’t quite right: the Earth in Dove Arising is still populated, but sea levels are high and climate is out of whack. Oceans are full of algae but largely devoid of fish, turtles, mammals, etc. Because rising sea levels have swamped coastal cities like New York, most people live on raft-like cities that drift across the sea. Since I want to specialize in marine ecology, creating these oceanic cities was both fun and cathartic.
What was the strangest thing you learned in your research for Dove Arising?
I used to think that the Moon was a boring old space rock, but it’s got such entertaining “weather” and topography. For instance, meteorite showers are common because the Moon lacks a true atmosphere (the Lunars call the storms “grit-rain”). Moonquakes are frequent and can register up to 5.5 on the Richter scale. Finally, lunar lava tubes are subsurface tunnels formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. All these tidbits were way too cool (and life-threatening) to leave out of the story. You’ll have to read to find out more.
Your society is one in which the people are restricted yet are willing to give up freedoms for safety. How did you go about planning your society and what regulations would rule their lives?
The Lunar government is based largely on my mom’s stories about Communist China. She grew up witnessing distrust and competition amongst people, and even the internment of her own father. I adapted that society for an off-world environment. Like China, the Lunars emphasize scientific progress to give them a competitive edge over other nations, ie those on Earth. Similarly, the Lunar government tracks academic performance, ranks students based on monthly tests, and publishes the rankings. The Chinese Communists’ surveillance apparatus was the basis for the Lunars’, but the Lunars’ is kind of on steroids. The creepiest bit is that Lunar citizens’ handscreens let the government listen in on their conversations and monitor their vital signs.
Your main character rarely speaks. Did this complicate the writing process and what methods did you use to have Phaet express herself?
Phaet’s reserve made her a tough cookie. First, it necessitated writing in first-person present tense; I convey almost all her emotions through thoughts, not words or actions. She also has bodily reactions to events, like receiving bad news; she analyzes her heart rate or stress hormones with the precision of a true biology nerd.
A few other characters, like Phaet’s family, her best friend Umbriel, and even her fellow trainee Wes, can read her movements and tell what she’s feeling. I often had these people articulate her emotions instead of having her tell the reader about them.
Sometimes I got so frustrated with Phaet that I wanted to say, “Girl, feel something already!” But then I remembered that her reserve is so central to her personality. I couldn’t possibly mess with it.
Immediately when I saw this cover I couldn’t help but picture a Lego mini-figure running with the moon in the background. I decided it needed to be done so here you are. I hope you enjoy…