Guest Post: by Pippa Jay, Author of Keir and Gethyon

Worlds of the Imagination will be showcasing a variety of different writers who write speculative fiction. This will normally be done on Thursday, you can check the guest scheduling page in order to see who will be appearing. I am very pleased to bring you our first guest, science-fiction writer, Pippa Jay, who’s first novel with Burst Books will be launching this coming Monday! Pippa’s already got several books out, you can learn more by checking her website .

~L.T. Getty

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Writing What You Know When You Don’t Know

They say you should write what you know. I’ve never quite been sure who They are. In my more deranged moments, I imagine a group of monk-like hooded figures scrawling the Rules of Writing in leather-bound tomes at desks lit only by candles. Although I suppose in this day and age,They would more likely be pale, bespectacled scholars tapping at their tablets and sending their rules into the digital ether. But I digress.

Yes, I think you should write what you know. But how can you describe alien planets when you’ve never visited one? How can you describe FTL travel when nobody has invented it? Describe an alien race and culture when you have no experience of them?

Use what you know and expand. Research. So you’ve never been to another planet? What about a new country, perhaps one completely different to your own? I live in the UK, but in 2000 I got the chance to visit and stay in Taiwan. I remember the humidity, the strange smells, the signs all in alien symbols and the people – such a contrast to living in a town where white European is the majority and everyone speaks English. The differences in customs, language, food, surroundings. It’s as close to visiting an alien world as I’m likely to get, and the kind of experience you can build on.

What about an alien species? Well, there are cultures on our planet, both now and in the past, that are very different to the ones we’re familiar with. As for what aliens might look and feel like – in my first novel I had a saurian race (reptiles) and I used my memories of touching snakes at an animal encounter at our local zoo, a childhood spent hunting lizards in the garden, and our recent pet acquisition – a leopard gecko by the name of Yoshi. You don’t have to be an expert in biology and explain every last working detail of their physiognomy and biochemistry to make them real, although a lot of readers appreciate that kind of information. But how their skin feels, how they move, how they look and behave will give them realism.

Research can help too. After reading a couple of blog posts on whether the science in scifi should be accurate (or as accurate as it can be based on current knowledge) I went to YouTube to look up explosions in space. I didn’t want to be accused of using scifi film special effects as a basis for my descriptions – I want as much realism as possible, even though I’m dealing with something as far away from reality as you can get! Twitter is a wonderful place to ask questions. Wikipedia is handy but not to be taken as the be all and end all.

So anything you encounter or experience in real life can be used to describe and create things we may never know in our own lifetime.You’re still writing what you know, but with a twist. All it takes is a little imagination.


Gethyon, a YA scifi novel coming from BURST (Champagne Books) June 3

 Abandoned by his mother after his father’s death, Gethyon Rees feels at odds with his world and longs to travel the stars. But discovering he has the power to do so leaves him scarred for life. Worse, it alerts the Siah-dhu—a dark entity that seeks his kind for their special abilities—to his existence, and sets a bounty hunter on his trail.

When those same alien powers lead Gethyon to commit a terrible act, they also aid his escape. Marooned on the sea-world of Ulto Marinos, Gethyon and his twin sister must work off their debt to the Seagrafter captain who rescued them while Gethyon puzzles over their transportation. How has he done this? And what more is he capable of?

Before he can learn any answers, the Wardens arrive to arrest him for his crime. Can his powers save him now? And where will he end up next?

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3 responses to “Guest Post: by Pippa Jay, Author of Keir and Gethyon

  1. Thanks for having me, Leia!

  2. Love the post, Pippa. So true about writing what you know, but the imagination is critical for fantasy writers. Rita Bay

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