Today I am beyond thrilled to introduce RoAnna Sylver, author of Chameleon Moon, the first novel in a series that blends fantasy and science fiction. She’s been generous enough to share how Chameleon Moon came to be, so please give her a warm welcome!
Blurb for Chameleon Moon:
The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.
But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.
They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.
Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.
Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…
- Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Chameleon Moon?
So much of this story is actually made of secrets, spoilers and reveals, that I’m going to tell you something else instead. The often-quoted, sometimes-misunderstood arc words, “Everything Is Going To Be Okay.”
Chameleon Moon is a dystopian novel – but it’s a weird one, and not just for the complex polyamorous relationship network or nerdy Greek mythology allegories. It firmly rejects the grimdark, gritty, frankly depressing dominant narrative of recent years, and so do I. I tell you straight up that it really is going to be okay, so that you’re free to experience the full range of emotion. It’s like wearing a seat belt or strapping yourself into a roller coaster. You can’t fully enjoy the ride if you’re worried about actually being dropped.
That doesn’t mean that it’s not intense, frightening, or painful at times. Art – writing included – is ‘the lie that tells the truth,’ and the truth of our lives as marginalized people, especially now, is that we are often scared and in pain. To sugarcoat or give simple platitudes without clarity or commitment would be inauthentic and hollow. It will be okay If we work to make it better, hold onto one another, and refuse to let each other fall.
It’s also one of the most important things in my life, and a more personal work than you might guess.
The quarantined and burning city, Parole, is a metaphor for how living with my chronically ill body and neurodivergent brain feels. I have several genetic disorders such as Arnold-Chiari Malformation, Townes-Brock Syndrome, POTS, fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions. On the mental side, there’s acute anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a constellation of other fun brainweird things. My body and brain are constantly on fire, and I can’t escape myself. Any minute it feels like I might collapse, crash and burn. But there’s something beautiful inside me waiting to be let out, I have the power to keep on living, and I am not alone.
Chameleon Moon is about a bunch of scared people – all of them LGBTQIA, polyamorous, disabled, neurodivergent, and/or otherwise marginalized – reacting in very different ways to an impossible situation. Everyone is motivated by the desire to survive, and keep the people they love alive. Trauma brings out the best and worst in everyone… and that’s really fun to write. Everyone is also hiding something, whether they even know it or not. That’s even more fun to write.
This book is also named for change, transformation, and entering a new phase. Everything is in flux, everything is in motion, and nothing will be the same. It’s a Chameleon Moon.
- What part of the story came to you first?
The earliest character concepts for Regan and Evelyn popped into my head in 2008, in a hospital waiting room. My dad and I were waiting for my mom to get out of surgery, and I was drawing, trying to keep my mind occupied. I sketched these two out more or less from nowhere, but just had a feeling they were important. I already intended to hang onto them and draw them some more when we got home, because they made me feel so much better. (Like… dare I say it, everything would be okay.)
When we got up into my mom’s room, her roommate’s name was Evelyn.
…I just pay attention to these things. And I’m very glad now that I did.
(Fun fact tho: Cairus Maddox is actually one of my very first… RP characters. I’ve had him since I was 14. Hang onto your old friends, guys! They might end up in a book someday. And even if they don’t, they’re never a waste of time.)
- How long did it take you to get from first concept to finished novel?
I’m counting the 2nd Edition as the “finished novel,” since it’s the only canon and fully finished one in my head, so… 8 years since that first thought-seed in 2008. (Don’t give up!)
- What was your favourite part of writing Chameleon Moon?
The wild, hectic, exhausting push that was re-writing the Second Edition.
The terrifying floor-dropping-from-under-me feeling, learning that my publisher was closing, my first book was going out of print, and if I wanted to keep being a writer, it was totally up to me. And then everyone around me, family and friends, refusing to let me sink into fear and defeat, reminding me that no, I didn’t have to do it alone after all. Realizing that this was not the end, but a new beginning. A second chance to tell this story, bigger, brighter, truer to my heart, and make everything shine.
Claude Arseneault showing me how wonderful it could be to have an editor who was also a huge fan, helping me bring out story threads I didn’t even know were there, and making everything so much more exciting, deep and real.
Running the cover art contest. Every single beautiful entry, that everyone made because they loved the story and wanted to help me bring it back. Seeing the way Laya Rose brought my characters and world to life, and being able to feel how much she knew and loved them.
Writing the title, and every single chapter name in my own handwriting. (The amazing Lyssa Chiavari actually made my writing into a font! It was supposed to be that! But then in the 11th hour, it somehow broke. So, okay. The show must go on. Every chapter header: my writing, and her digital magic.)
Changing Zilch’s pronouns (back) to they/them. Introducing Celeste, CyborJ, and small hints of Rowan. Writing the songs, “What you Remember” and “Dream Sweet.” Taking out anything I didn’t love, or that didn’t fit with the story’s message of hope in the midst of horror. In their place, adding countless connections, obvious and hidden. Like the ever-growing, unapologetic web of poly love. Realizing that Regan wasn’t the jaded, bitter guy he’d been the first time around, because this time he had people to fight for, and that he loved his life. That’s what changed the book.
Every time I hear that this story helped someone. That they didn’t give up, in writing or life. Or that the 2nd Edition is better, truer, sweeter. Thank you.
- How would you like to see representation change in the next five years?
Somebody said today on Twitter that reading CM made them realize how rare it was to see a main character with anxiety. That made me both happy and sad at the same time. I love that readers are identifying so strongly with Regan – that’s one of the most common reactions I get, that he’s super-relatable, which sounds almost funny at first because this is a green, scaly dragon-lizard guy, until you remember that I wrote him largely based on my experiences with acute anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and yes, trauma-induced compartmentalization and amnesia. It means everything that readers can find themselves in him, and Parole’s other citizens. (There’s a lot of me in all of them, too.)
But I don’t want this to be a rare experience. I don’t want it to be special or a surprise. I want disabled, neurodivergent, LGBTQIA, and all forms of marginalized representation to be so common in fiction, and ring so true that we see ourselves wherever we look, wherever we need – and never feel alone, lost, or wrong again.
- Who is your favourite ownvoices author right now and why?
I think I read primarily OwnVoices books now, and it hasn’t exactly been a conscious decision, but it’s one I’m okay with. The narratives are rich, nuanced, and real, because they come from our real lives. Sci-fi/fantasy with inclusive LGBTQIA casts and themes tend to be my preferred niche (naturally), and some of my favorite cool people are Shira Glassman, Claudie Arsenault, B. R. Sanders, Kayla Bashe, Kiran Oliver, Bogi Takács, Rachel Sharp, Xan West and Jules Kelley. (I’m reading the ace/aro fairy tale collection Unburied Fables right now, and have loved every one so far in there too!) My TBR pile is vast and a little intimidating, mostly because I’m terrible at finishing even things I really want to, but it also contains Lyssa Chiavari (Fourth World) and Becky Chambers (Long Way To A Small Angry Planet).
- What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
Book 2! The Lifeline Signal will open up the world outside Parole and the much bigger story beyond the barrier. (Spoiler: It’s got almost as many problems as Parole, and needs heroes just as badly.) Book 2 is set for “Winter 2017,” meaning ideally the end of January or early February, health/spoons willing. Until then, I recommend picking up the short story collection Life Within Parole, and the standalone story You’re Not Going That Way, which takes place directly before Book 2 and sets up the next chapter of the Chameleon Moon series.
RoAnna Sylver is passionate about stories that give hope, healing and even fun for LGBT, disabled and other marginalized people, and thinks we need a lot more. Aside from writing oddly hopeful dystopia books, RoAnna is a blogger, artist, singer and voice actor. She lives with family and a small snorking dog, and probably spends too much time playing videogames. You can find her on Twitter @RoAnnaSylver or on Facebook. You can also sign up to support her work all year long at Patreon.
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