Hey, Linden! Welcome to this little space on the Internet where we are about to discuss your upcoming debut novel, The First Sister. I came across the gorgeous cover of this anticipated 2020 release while browsing through catalogues and couldn’t help but share it on Twitter. Happy to see such excitement for this queer epicness, I knew I had to invite your over for Pride month. And I’m so very ecstatic about this interview that has followed.
But before we start this Q&A, our readers should know about the GIVEAWAY! Yes, you can win an ARC (advanced reading copy) of The First Sister by following two simple rules through this tweet. It’s open internationally and ends on June 30, 2020 so make sure you enter for a chance.
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
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Q/A with Linden A. Lewis
Starting with the introductions, would you like to help our readers know more about your debut novel, yourself, and the weather where you are?
Absolutely! I’m Linden, and The First Sister is my first novel coming out August 4, 2020. It’s the first in a planned trilogy, and is, at its core, QUEERS IN SPACE! (I once had a writing instructor ask if I knew how to write straight people. It was a joke, but I’m beginning to believe I don’t know how.) As for the weather in Madrid, Spain, it’s gorgeous! Getting warmer, and the blue skies are clear.
The First Sister is a debut already gaining appreciation for the various aspects it perfectly executes: the epicness of a space opera, a complex yet rich storyline, subtle action sequences, an immersive prose, and great embedding of LGBTQ+ and multicultural diversity. Which of these aspects is your personal favourite and which one was the most difficult to execute?
From the get-go, I wanted a queer space epic, and being a queer person, I felt like I really got to play in a world of my very own and decide how things could be different–or unfortunately, the same–hundreds of years in the future. It was so much fun creating characters that I want to see more of in stories, like “this character is nonbinary” or “this character is bisexual.” And it was freeing to give myself the permission to write that. The hardest thing was probably the worldbuilding. I talked with an astrophysicist about the novel, asking “Would this be plausible?” Which is what led to the creation of hermium in the novel, so we could explain things like barriers and domes that helped people live on really harsh planets.
Said to be perfect for the fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Red Rising, how does your novel stay on the same, broader lane of ‘social commentary in futuristic settings’ but still rides its own wheels as a clear messenger of taking control of one’s life and body, whether one is a man, a woman, a non-binary, a genderqueer or a genderfluid?
I adore The Handmaid’s Tale and Red Rising, but as a queer person, I wanted to see how the same topics–loss of bodily autonomy because of war or the government–would affect queer people. Oftentimes we lose ourselves in beautiful stories without actually seeing ourselves, so I wanted to put queer people front and center.
The story has been narrated through three perspectives: the first sister—who has no name or voice—needs to serve on a ship after being abandoned by her previous captain, Lito—torn between allegiances—is a soldier who is sent to kill his former partner and traitor to the system, and Hiro—a non-binary hero—who leaves audio messages for their love, Lito. What binds these three characters’ journeys together?
While some of the things that bind them together is spoiler territory, I can safely say that their ultimate goal of peace and freedom bind them together. They also find themselves in unexpected situations in which they have the ability to change things.
Various themes have been commented on in The First Sister that clearly resonate with the real world; whether it’s the exploration of technology, authoritarian power, colonization, and imperialism or the layered dynamics of race and gender. Did you always want to depict these themes in your work or were they developed as and when you began crafting this story?
Absolutely! The seeds were always there. I deeply appreciate the old saying, “Those who forget history are bound to repeat it,” and I think that’s absolutely true of our future. If we can’t heal our current societies from things like racism and homophobia, we’re going to carry it to the stars with us. While some things in The First Sister are hopeful, many are about humanity carrying prejudices with them when they should’ve left them behind long ago.
It’s difficult to come across many futuristic science-fiction, especially those set in space, that give the limelight to LGBT+ representation. It’s great to see The First Sister bringing a non-binary main character to the shelves but how important do you think queer representation is in this genre?
I’ve been so excited to see more queer reads lately, and I think more and more queer people are going to be showing up in the science fiction genre. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve only met people who are enthusiastically looking for queer scifi, from my agent to everybody involved in the publishing, and I’m hopeful this trend continues. I’m looking forward to stacking the shelves full of queer scifi.
Time for a fun question! If your three main characters were right here to promote this book, what would they say that would make the readers keep an eye out for The First Sister coming out on August 4, 2020?
First Sister would say you should check this book out if you like a ‘I should be spying on you but now I have a crush on you’ story. Lito would be too embarrassed and ask Hiro to help. And Hiro would enthusiastically tell you, ‘From plot twists to characters, there’s nothing straight in this book.’
This was such a fun chat but before letting you go, everyone needs to know about the queer books of 2020 you’re most excited for or maybe recommend some you’ve already loved through the first half of this year?
I’ve been reading a TON lately. Here are some queer reads that came out earlier this year that I can’t recommend enough: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall; Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey; Docile by K.M. Szpara; The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski; and The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. I’ve lost myself in each of them.
As for what I’m looking forward to, I NEED Harrow the Ninth (second book of Gideon the Ninth). Space necromancers? YES.
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