Exclusive Interview: Margaret Wander Bonanno

Unspoken Truth As a follow-up to my review of Unspoken Truth last Friday, I was able to interview author Margaret Wander Bonanno to talk about Star Trek and her latest novel!
Margaret’s official website can be found at: http://margaretwanderbonanno.com.

Can you tell us a bit about Unspoken Truth in your own words?

It’s a little slice of Saavik’s life that begins with the scene in The Voyage Home where we see her standing beside Amanda at the foot of Mount Seleya watching the Bounty carrying her crewmates depart for Earth.

She’s very young, more traumatized than she realizes following the events on Genesis, and uncertain what to do with her life. In trying to run from her demons, she rushes headlong into what she thinks will be a very ordinary scientific expedition. Instead, she ends up as part of a controversial first-contact mission, and embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer who’s simultaneously stalking her.

I’ve also filled in bits of her childhood and adolescence, as suggested in Carolyn Clowes’ The Pandora Principle. Lots of interplay between her and Spock, Sarek, and Amanda. And, lastly, a bit of a love story, and her final decision about where she wants to go with her life.

So, a mini-biography, in a sense. Not as sweeping as Pike’s story in Burning Dreams, but filling in the blanks between Saavik’s last appearance onscreen, and what other authors (notably Sherman and Shwartz in Vulcan’s Heart) have done with her in other novels.

How did the decision to tell a story revolving around Saavik come about?

It was the same process that initiated Burning Dreams…Marco Palmieri, then-senior editor for the Trek line at Pocket, called me and said “How’d you like to write a book about –?”

I knocked out an outline, Marco suggested some additions that would make the story stronger, and we were off and running.

How much freedom were you given with her character development?

Complete freedom once the outline was approved. Marco’s one of those savvy editors who knows when to let a writer run with the material. He will be greatly missed.

What do you enjoy most about writing Star Trek novels?

The fact that the universe already exists and I don’t need to create it from scratch. There’s no need to explain the technology, because it’s already understood. Also, the characters – their appearance, their voices and mannerisms – are so familiar that the dialogue sometimes almost writes itself. And because Star Trek has always been about moral dilemmas, the author can explore them without seeming to preach.

Do you have a favorite Star Trek episode or film?

Just one? If I had to choose, I’d say the triptych of The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home. It’s a complete story of epic proportions with all of the sweeping operatic grandeur you could possibly desire, and a very satisfying ending.

Then there’s “City on the Edge of Forever” and “Balance of Terror” and “The Enterprise Incident” and…

What’s next for you? Any new stories on the horizon, Star Trek or other?

I’m tinkering with something non-Trek right now. Can’t quite seem to get it where I want it at the moment, primarily because one of the main characters is a female Marine, and I need to do more research than simply watching reruns of NCIS, LOL.

Not sure where the Trek franchise is going with the novels now, TPTB having “excessed” the two senior editors at Pocket, putting several novels based around the new Trek film on Hold, etc. So it’s quite possible that Unspoken Truth will be my last Trek novel.

But hurry-up-and-wait is what writers do best. And there are always possibilities…

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.

Started out as a “mainstream” writer. Sold three novels during the brief gasp of feminist fiction in the late 70s/early 80s, before the Recession of ’82 and the Thor Power Tool decision changed the face of publishing forever. In lieu of giving up altogether, I sat down with my agent and he asked me what else I could do. I ticked off a bunch of things I couldn’t do (horror, mysteries, romance), and then said “Hey, I can write Star Trek!”

My agent winced – at the time Pocket only published six books a year, and the competition was beyond fierce – but indulged me and submitted some of my work. Two years and several false starts later, Pocket finally bought Dwellers in the Crucible.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?

Believe it or not, I seldom read s/f. My favorites are thrillers and mysteries…if they’re well written. Can’t stand anything that’s obviously formulaic. The burden of being a writer is that after a while you can see the “bones” of another writer’s story. So an author needs to be really good in order to surprise me. So, John le Carré, first, last, and always. Martin Cruz Smith, ditto. These are authors whose books you can read over and over, even though you know the ending. In fact, sometimes the writing is so captivating that the ending can still surprise you.

As for mysteries, the late Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke, Jonathan Kellerman, Lawrence Block. And sometimes I’ll nab a best-seller to see what all the fuss is about, or just grab something randomly off the bookshelf because the premise intrigues me. Eclectic, I guess you could say.

What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?

What is this “spare time” of which you speak? Like every midlist writer who doesn’t have a trust fund to fall back on, I have a Day Job as a copy editor and proofreader. I also have a 3½-year-old granddaughter who’s a lot of fun.

I’ve been collecting/training bonsai long enough to finally stop killing most of them. I bike, read, do crosswords, garden, do yoga (not often enough) to keep my knees from creaking from sitting at the computer all day. Pretty tame stuff.

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