Guest Post by S.J. Higbee: Five Books That Inspired Her Debut Novel “Running Out of Space”

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in a blog tour for one of my writer friends, S.J. Higbee! She recently self-published her debut novel RUNNING OUT OF SPACE, the first installment of the Sunblinded Trilogy. I was one of S.J.’s beta-readers for this novel a couple years ago, and I remember being swept away by her futuristic universe of spaceships, interplanetary travel, and a young woman who can’t seem to keep herself out of trouble. Now she’s here to share five novels that inspired RUNNING OUT OF SPACE – and I think you’ll be surprised at the variety of her picks. 

Also, thanks to Lola’s Blog Tours for letting me be part of S.J.’s blog tour, which runs until October 31st. Check out the complete schedule here.

Thank you so much, Sara, for inviting me to give my Top Five List of books that have influenced my writing and probably contributed towards the themes and ideas in Running Out of Space. I say “probably” because I am very much someone who gets an idea and then goes for it, so it is only during the layers of editing and rewriting that I get a chance to reflect on the books that have affected my storylines and themes.

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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 24: March 2016 Haul, Part 1

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

This is getting embarrassing – to the point where, apart from new releases, I might have to institute a temporary “book-buying” ban. (*blushes*) Not to mention this was going to be one installment of Stacking The Shelves. Next week I’ll explain why I split it in two.

For now, here’s Batch #1, a mix of 2016 books with the latest additions to my ongoing “market research” project on fairy novels. Let’s have a look:

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Interview with Sarah Zama, Author of Give In To The Feeling

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I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Sarah Zama here today! We met last year during the A To Z Blogging Challenge, through commenting on Alex Hurst’s Japan photo-essay collection and then on Sarah’s own series about the Roaring Twenties. Now, Sarah, who lives in Italy, is preparing to release her first book. Give In To The Feeling is a fantasy noir / paranormal romance novelette set in Chicago during the height of the Prohibition era. I’ve already read an “advance copy,” and I really enjoyed it! In fact, you’ll see a review of it in next month’s Recent Reads. 😉

For now, I’ll let Sarah tell you more about Give In To The Feeling in her own words. We’ll also talk about fantasy literature, her favorite writers, the Roaring Twenties (of course!), and her advice to writers who aren’t published yet. So, let’s dive in!

(Also, click here if you’re interested in checking out the other dates on Sarah’s Give In To The Feeling blog tour.)

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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 23: Mermaids, Fairies, and Magic Galore

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

I bet I know what some of you might be thinking: “Huh? She bought MORE books?? Especially after that big haul a few weeks ago?!”

Yep. My bedroom will look like this pretty soon!

Yep. My bedroom will look like this pretty soon!

I know. (*blushes*) But this new haul is relatively small; and as I’d said in January, my reading priorities for 2016 are newly published books and any novels that will help with my two “market research” projects. With that in mind, here are the latest additions to my (still overstuffed) shelves.

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Recent Reads: July 2015 (Plus, I’m Back from #WDC15!)

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

Back from my blogging hiatus! 🙂 And WOW, Writer’s Digest Conference was AWESOME! I don’t even know where to begin with describing what an invaluable experience it was. So, all I’ll say for now is that I’ll be writing two articles’ worth (possibly three) of conference coverage for DIY MFA.  It sounds like a lot, but I’ve been so “in the zone” that each piece seemed to write itself in a fingersnap. Unfortunately, this means I won’t have time for a Field Trip post here at the blog – but I’ll do a special edition of Stacking The Shelves instead.  Stay tuned for that on Saturday!

Now, Recent Reads. Last month’s debut of the new format went amazingly well. I’m so glad that readers enjoyed the shorter reviews, and that you’ve been understanding of the change in format. Today I’d like to add one more feature that takes advantage of the shorter reviews: Read of the Month, which highlights my favorite book from the past month. That way, you won’t have to search for the highest rating or most positive review. 😉

So, what did I choose as my Read of the Month? What other books did I devour, figuratively speaking? Find out below!

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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 13: Of Elementals and Elves

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

First of all, a huge and sincere apology to anyone who’s waiting on my response for blog tags and awards! I needed to focus on more deadline-driven articles first, and everything kind of came to a head all at once. 😦 I’m hoping to start catching up before my trip to Writer’s Digest Conference at the end of the month, and then continue when I’m back.

Now, books. Yes. Two new ones, and they are…

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Interview with Angela B. Chrysler, Author of “Dolor and Shadow”

Angela

I’m always excited to meet other fantasy writers through blogging or social media. That’s how I found Angela B. Chrysler last fall, though I don’t quite remember how. I want to say it was on Twitter… But what I do recall is that when Angela shared the premise of her debut novel Dolor and Shadow with me, I knew the story would be up my alley. High fantasy combined with Norse mythology, a foreboding atmosphere, and a dynamic female protagonist – where are the checkboxes to tick off? Oh, and Angela’s a fellow Tolkienite. Yay!

Dolor and Shadow was released on Sunday, May 31st, and I’m honored to have Angela here today for our newest Author Interview. Learn more about her novel, why she chose to self-publish, and how many books she plans to release over the next year. (Holy cow, it’s staggering!)  Let’s dive in, shall we?

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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 12: Long Ago and Far Away…

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

All of the books in today’s stack have one thing in common: They take place in times or places very different from my own (and perhaps yours, too). It’s a mix of fantasy, science fiction, romance, and exotic cultures. Murder, mystery, magic, and family. Freedom, power, secrets, and friendship. Intrigued? Then what are you waiting for? 😉

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Recent Reads: “The Night Butterflies” by Sara Litchfield

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The Night Butterflies
Sara Litchfield
Science Fiction / Dystopian / Self-Published
209 pages

Synopsis:

It is always dark. Warmer than it should be. The sun is a dull glower of reproach, only sometimes visible through the fallout. A once-majestic university town is crumbled, ashen and divided. The Men have made their home the Facility, where they develop the medication to combat the radiation that would otherwise kill those left alive.

Another day at school for Teacher. Another morning of bullying and torment from a batch of doll-like triplets more violent and unbalanced by the day. They are the nightmare product of Project Eden, the operation devised by Leader for the survival of the community, seeded in the Mothers without their consent.

Teacher has hope. She has a secret. When it is uncovered by Jimmy-1, a triplet who might be different, what will it mean for his future and hers?

Not just another dystopian novel. New author Sara Litchfield explores what it means to be a child, a mother, and a monster in a chilling world devoid of comfort.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genetically engineered babies, mind-numbing medications, and an incinerator where rebels and children are burned alive – that’s the post-apocalyptic Britain that readers will visit in Sara Litchfield’s debut novel, The Night Butterflies. If the book title or the author’s name sounds familiar, it might be because I’ve mentioned both here before. I already knew Sara from being one of the beta-readers for The Night Butterflies last year. So I was thrilled when the final printed version arrived in the mail so I could read it again.

One thing that the above synopsis doesn’t reveal about The Night Butterflies is that it’s told from five POVs: three adults (Teacher, and Jimmy-1’s parents Karen and Nick), and two children (Jimmy-1, and Teacher’s daughter Ellie). It’s impossible to be more specific about each character without diving into too much backstory. What I can say, though, is that each character has a unique perspective on the story’s events. Readers will see the entire scope play out and gain a chilling understanding of how everyone in this small, isolated community will be impacted. Also, under Litchfield’s elegant yet visceral prose, the voices of each POV character are unique from one another. Jimmy-1’s in particular is choppy and direct, reflecting his learning disability as well as glimmers of intelligence and empathy. Creating a quintet of distinct characters is an ambitious feat for a debut novel, yet Litchfield pulls it off beautifully.

Like any speculative fiction novel, dystopians need a solid world-building foundation so the story can hold up. Holy mama, does The Night Butterflies deliver on this. Take the totalitarian regime of The Hunger Games (minus the Games), plunk it in the post-nuclear landscape Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (minus the cannibals), and add dashes of bio-engineering with twisted results. It’s desolate, it’s scary, and it’s staggering. Fortunately, Litchfield doesn’t overwhelm readers with her backstory. Instead, she drops hints of it throughout The Night Butterflies. Readers gradually learn about what happened in the past, how it led up to current times, and how the community functions (or rather, cowers) under a mad scientist’s iron grip. So, everything makes sense despite the chilling nature of the “status quo,” and you find yourself absorbed in its many layers.

Having read an early draft of The Night Butterflies, I can now compare what I remember from last year to the final version. It’s amazing to see how much has changed, yet how much of it remained the same. For example, in the final copy, Litchfield allows certain POV characters who were originally mere observers to jump deeper into the conflict, and brings in new scenes that filled in previously gaps in the story. The world is better explained and more deeply fleshed out as a result. At the same time, much of what I loved about the original version – especially Jimmy-1’s character arc – is still there.

Despite enjoying The Night Butterflies, I wasn’t satisfied with its narrative style. It leans heavily on exposition; and as a reader who enjoys strong dialogue and character interactions, I often wished there was more of both elements and less thinking from each POV character. (Other reviewers didn’t seem to mind this, so maybe it’s just me.) I also thought that certain scenes and descriptions were rushed, which jarred the story’s flow at times and made it difficult to picture what was happening. The epilogue in particular could have gone into more detail about how the town and the lives of the POV characters I’d grown to care about had changed since the climax.

Overall, though, The Night Butterflies is a plunge into the human soul that reader won’t soon forget. It shows the risks that everyday people are willing to take to do what’s right, and the questions they’re willing to ask so they can understand the science and morals (or lack thereof) of their dilemma. And despite its bleak world and weighty subject matter, its message of hope and humanity will buoy your spirits like its namesake. I know not everyone is keen on reading self-published novel, but if you’re willing to give one a chance, try this haunting tale by Sara Litchfield. The amount of depth it possesses and thought it provokes will challenge – and perhaps change – those perceptions.

Have you read The Night Butterflies? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.

Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 7: The Lucky Number Seven

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves. 

First of all, a quick apology for the recent inactivity here.  Life offline has been hectic lately, so I’ve had to re-prioritize things to focus on the WIP, a couple outside articles that have deadlines, and necessary relaxation. Posts for this blog have slipped as a result. I hope to catch up over the next couple weeks, so bear with me for a little bit.

Now – more books. Yes, I’ve gotten heaps of books for Christmas and from Barnes & Noble recently, but certain titles I was looking for at B&N weren’t in stock. *gasps* So, I promptly decided not to wait to get them. *lol* Today’s Stacking The Shelves therefore includes my latest Amazon haul, as well as a book gifted by its author. And if you noticed the title, this blog’s seventh edition of STS will feature seven books! How about that? Continue reading