Monday 15 April 2013

Zenn Scarlett blog tour and author guest post

zenn scarlettZenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

Book Synopsis

When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....

Shona's review 3 of 5 stars.

A huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Christian Schoon for the Advanced Readers Copy.

This book starts slowly. And for me this was a big problem. I spent the first half of the book struggling to read and stay focused, I was just not enjoying it.
Schoon has built a very detailed world with very detailed animals inhabiting it, which I think was one of the things that initially put me off. We spent so much time learning about the animals of this world that sometimes it felt more like a biology text than fiction.

Zenn herself comes across as being older than her years, and considering the world she has grown up in that's probably to be expected. Sometimes she comes across as preachy when talking to those who don't share her opinion about the animals she cares for and quite often is confrontational, but then other times I think she's just passionate and acting as anyone would about something they cared about. Towards the end of the book I had a better understanding of Zenn and had grown to like her.

Once the half way mark approached we got a hint that there was more to the story than we had been seeing and it piqued my curiosity. Where I had been on the verge of putting the book down and not looking at it again I now wanted to see what was going to happen.

I really enjoyed the last quarter of the book, the rest of the story unfolded at a nice pace and I didn't want to step away until I had finished reading. There are a few things mentioned near the end of the book that has you guessing what might happen, or second guessing things that have already happened. By the time I finished this book I was definitely interested to find out where the story was going. I will look for the next book in Zenn's story.

The Beastly Side of Writing Zenn Scarlett

A quick backgrounder: while I lived in Los Angeles, I spent a couple years as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company. Despite me being the type who, like Zenn, can be overwhelmed by too much social interaction, I had a good time in this sort of office setting. My co-workers were all great, I was younger then, more flexible, more adaptable. Then I left and started working at home as freelance writer. I wrote scripts for a number of teen and kid’s TV shows, like Power Rangers, the animated Batman series, Gravedale High, Hallmark’s fairy tales series. All SF or fantasy shows. And I discovered I really liked not being in an office. After a few more years, I couldn’t even imagine working in an office-type environment.

Jump ahead a few years. We’ve moved to Iowa (I grew up in the Midwest), bought an old farmstead, started getting involved in animal welfare. We’ve fostered as many as 18 horses on our pastures and in our barns. I’ve also worked with groups that rehab exotic wildlife like bears, cougars, coyotes, emus, big pythons, alligators and others. And in doing that, I’ve spent time with veterinarians who’ve developed the specialized skills needed to work with this sort of unconventional “pet.” (Hint: animals like this are not meant to be pets). And I also spent more and more time around non-humans….

Now, it’s tough to maintain the relationships needed to be a freelance scriptwriter if you don’t live in or close to LA or New York City. Studios want your smiling face in meetings, they often want your body on the set when shooting.  I decided I’d try my hand at novels. It made sense. No meetings. No commuting. Just me and the ‘puter.

So, combine the office-aversion with the genre-writing SF-geekish background with the living-in-Iowa-ness with the serious animal-obsession/amateur-veterinary-stuff and what do you get? A series of novels delving into the trials and tribulations of a socially challenged but highly focused girl in her novice year of learning to treat the maladies of a wide range of large, often dangerous, profoundly intriguing alien animals.  It’s a concept that many well-read bloggers, as well as my agent and my editor, have told me is fairly unique. But while the circumstances of, and life forms in, Zenn’s world may be unusual, I find her someone that I, in all my crowd-avoiding, animal-admiring, geek-proud ways, am totally comfortable with.

Henry David Thoreau said that “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” For Zenn the character, and for me the author, this sums things up nicely. The wild places, the wild things, can reveal us to ourselves in ways we might not otherwise see. So, when I say that writing Zenn Scarlett was a beastly process… I mean that in best possible way.

christian schoonChristian 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 and the awesome veterinarians who care so deeply for them.

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Twitter: @cjschoon

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