"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

23 April 2013


Hello! My blog post for the Zenn Scarlett blog tour is one day late (so so very bad I know!) but dissertation work has officially taken over my life and the deadline is tomorrow (eeeek!)

ANYWAY, enough about me! Let me introduce you to author Christian Schoon who I had the pleasure of interviewing. I really enjoyed Zenn Scarlett and found it a breath of fresh air amongst all the YA that's out there right now. It was original, funny, mysterious and just all round exciting! I loved the protagonist Zenn Scarlett, adored Hamish (my favourite character by far!) and was just swept away by the plot and the wonderfully alien world of Mars. I recommend it to all lovers of YA and science fiction! Anyway lets get down to business! 

Hi Christian! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi to you Becca and your readers and thanks for being part of Zenn’s tour! So, I’m a science fiction writer who lives on a farm in Midwest where I have entirely too many animals and enjoy having them entirely too much. That kinda sums up life right now, though I do continue to do some freelance copywriting for the entertainment industry, mostly DVD synopsis copy, taglines and ads for films (a hold-over from my former life on the outskirts of Los Angeles).

Tell us a little about the wonderful book that is Zenn Scarlett.

Zenn Scarlett chronicles the adventures of a teenage girl studying at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic and training facility on Mars. She’s in her novice year of school at the cloister, and is specializing in the care and treatment of enormous, often potentially lethal, alien life forms. Extraordinary alien creatures, exotic medical procedures, xenophobic paranoia, ominous instances of cross-species ESP and unlikely romance ensue…

Is there any particular author/novel/event that inspired you to write Zenn Scarlett?

Soon after moving to the Midwest from LA, my wife and I became involved with animal welfare groups working with equines as well as exotic animals like bears, cougars, pythons and other large critters. My time spent in the company of the vets taking care of these animals was a direct inspiration for the cloister’s menagerie of off-world creatures and Zenn’s empathy for and fascination with alien animals.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

No question: the re-writes. I really enjoy getting the initial story down, fleshing out the characters and building the world they inhabit. This is just pure, exhilarating downhill racing.  But like most writers, I then need to labor back up the hill and polish and cut and shift scenes and lose unneeded characters and add in new elements and then go back over the edited version and follow up all the changes to adjust for how they affected the pre-edited story. Yeah, it’s work. But, of course, necessary and vital to turning out a truly finished product.

Zenn Scarlett is full of biology and veterinary facts. What research did you do to help with your writing of the novel? 

I had a lot of the basic biological data in my head already, simply because of my long-term SF/animal/science geekery.  I would need to check up on specific, fine-grain details to make sure I didn’t make any ginormous goofs (at least, I HOPE I didn’t…) and so I’d track down a website or crack a reference book for that. I probably did more fact-checking on Martian environmental facts than anything.

If you could meet any character from Zenn Scarlett, go out for a coffee and have a little chat, who would it be and why?

I’d like to sit down Hamish and get into his thinking. (He’s a sentient, eight-foot beetle-like insectoid from the jungle moon Siren who’s in his trial period as the cloister’s new sexton, or handyman… bug). The prospect of talking to an intelligent alien life form is simply too mind-bogglingly appealing to pass up! Plus, he’s just such a nice guy.

There are some amazingly strange and wonderful alien creatures in Zenn Scarlett! Where did you draw inspiration from? Which one is your favourites?!

Thanks for that! I had a great time writing about the creatures at the cloister. As noted above, much of the inspiration for them came from extrapolating on the animals we’ve housed here at the farm and at the animal shelters and rescues we volunteer with. As far as a fave, I really like Katie, Zenn’s pet rikkaset. She’s about the size of a house cat, with a foxy-lynx-ish face and raccoon-like  paws; plus, she’s smart enough to communicate with sign language and, again, chatting with an alien critter would be such a blast.

I absolutely love the setting on Mars! It seems so real and so strange all at the same time. How hard was it create a setting both alien and familiar to the reader?

I think you hit on the real key to the whole process of worldbuilding: let it be strange, but anchor it with familiar touchstones. So, it’s then a balance between letting your imagination go wild: an exovet medical facility on Mars – and then rein things back in a bit: the cloister is built along the lines of a medieval cloister on Earth, so there’s a library/studyhall (scriptorium), a meeting hall (calefactory), a kitchen and dining hall (refectory) and so forth. And this extends to the creatures as well – make them big and unusual, but with known-quantity descriptions that give your readers something they can hang their visuals on.

Do you think that human settlement on Mars is a possibility in the future? And if tomorrow you had a call to move there would you jump at the chance to go?

I think a human colony on Mars is very possible, even likely. But due to the logistics of both transport and habitat involved, I’d put it in the far, far future, say hundreds of years from now, at least if the colony is substantial and self-sustaining. If I got the call to go to Mars today, and they told me I’d be living according to the currently available technology as far as the living conditions (ie, a small, cramped dome of some kind with no privacy and sketchy food and no escape from my potentially annoying co-explorers and, very likely, no return ticket to Earth) then I'd have to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” Now, if I could live on Zenn’s Mars, where entire canyon systems are mini-terraformed and there’s room for me to take all my animals (oh yes, and my wife and some close friends…), then I’d be elbowing people out of the way to be first in line.

Can you tell us anything about any future novels that you may be working on? A sequel to Zenn Scarlett by any chance?

I can tell you my next book is well underway and that, yes, it’s the sequel to Zenn Scarlett. We’ll travel with her off Mars and into what is, in my humble opinion, a wildly  exciting story of encounters with new alien races, awesomely odd off-world creatures, confounding romantic entanglements and a quest to pretty much save civilization as we know it!  Hey, aim big, I say… 

Quick Fire Round:

Favourite book?
Impossible to narrow down! But non-fiction, let’s say Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, YA: White’s The Once and Future King

Favourite childhood book?
Rusty’s Space Ship

Favourite author?
Recently: Philip Pullman

Favourite genre?
Science Fiction/Fantasy!

Favourite film/tv show?
Lord of the Rings trilogy for film, the Battlestar Galactica reboot on TV

Favourite writing place?
At the massive desk I built out of old barn boards and planking

Favourite character?
Ha! Zenn Scarlett, natch.

Favourite writing snack/drink?
English breakfast tea and candy corn (not together…)

Favourite place?

Favourite hobbies? 
Reading, music (listening/playing), travel, hanging out w/ the animals & doing sketchy carpentry around the farm, video games now & then.

Christian Schoon Bio
Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses.  He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about - and received an education from - these remarkable animals. 

Pre-Order Zenn Scarlett on Amazon:
Find Christian at:
Author blog:
Publisher’s website:

1 comment:

  1. Hey Becca. Thanks for inviting me over for a chat. Awesome site - and good luck w/ the dissertation!


I love reading all of your comments so please leave me a little one below :) Also, Lost in Thought blog is a free award zone. Thank you for the thought!