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You might not know this but WAY back in the day I reviewed this fabulous book called A Human Element and totally fell in love with the author’s writing style, approachable personality, and beautiful smile. Donna is one of my oldest friends here in the Indie Publishing world and I’m delighted that she’s agreed to be a part of the Women in SciFi series!
PK Tyler – You’ve written two dark paranormal science fiction book called A Human Element and A Hidden Element. Can you tell us about more about the psi-powers the characters have, and how aliens are part of the story too?
Donna Galanti –In the Element Trilogy, the alien world of Elyon is dying and its people have made several trips to Earth to re-populate. The aliens fall into three categories with powers. Seekers, who can seek out people, see the future, and have super strength. Healers, who can heal flesh wounds. Then there are the Destroyers who can do kill people with their minds. All three can also perform telekinesis and read minds. While the Destroyers are certainly monstrous, we discover in the books that humans can be just as monstrous even without super powers.Humans can breed with the aliens and carry these powers as well.
The story is really more about the paranormal than alien life forms. I’m drawn to writing about the paranormal because so many things fall under this realm, but I think we are drawn to it because they all have the same theme: the mysterious unknown. Are ghosts real? Do we have the power to read minds? Can we heal with our touch? Can we move objects with our thoughts? Can we kill with our mind power? Research says we use a very small percent of our brain power. I like to imagine the possibilities if we could access the remaining percent. We may not need physical bodies at all or need to talk to communicate.
PKT – For readers who loved the first two books in the series, do you have anything else similar like short stories to share?
DG – I do! My short story collection, The Dark Inside, features characters and places from both books in the Element Trilogy. I dig deeper into the heart of these characters as heartbreak, danger, lust, and betrayal blaze to life in this collection of stories that reveal the dark places hidden within us. When what you most desire is on the line how far will you go to get it, and what will you give up? You can enter to win a free e-book copy of The Dark Inside in the giveaway at the bottom of this post.
PKT – How did you research for these science fiction novels? Is it all imagination, or do you look for technological facts and tidbits to add to your stories?
DG – Honestly, I have to say that at first, the entire story – even the character names – came to me in a flash one day driving to work. I wrote it all out (dangerously) as I drove. It’s as if the idea spoke to me from some place I hadn’t tapped into … or someone was speaking through me (more paranormal?). I shelved the idea for years but it kept haunting me to write it.
And in the firstnovel, A Human Element, we’re faced with the question: Is there life out there? And if there is, will it be hostile or welcoming? A big part of my research was to figure out how to create alien travel from so far away to Earth. I devised my own process where time and space is in a different dimension than what we are used to believing. Also, I tapped into some ideas about space and alien life by reading theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking’s The Theory of Everything. I also watched several videos with the astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who I adore.
Stephen Hawking says he is nearly certain that alien life exists in other parts of the universe. He also says that humans should avoid contact with alien life forms. “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” he said. In 1961 US radio astronomer Frank Drake developed an equation to help estimate the number of planets hosting intelligent life in the galaxy. He estimated 10,000. A lot, right? In 2001 more rigorous calculations connected to the 1960s “Drake equation” suggests that our galaxy may contain hundreds of thousands of life-bearing planets. Just imagine. And this is something I ponder in the Element Trilogy.
The movie Contact, based on a novel written by astronomer Carl Sagan, raises the debate too about whether life is out there. I saw Sagan speak back in 1995. His goal was to educate the world on the infinite wonders and discoveries to be found in space. He died the next year but I think he attained his goal, and forever leaves his imprint on not only how we look at the stars – but how we should dream about what’s amongst them. At one point in Contact, Dr. Arroway says: “The universe is a pretty big place. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it’s just us… seems like an awful waste of space. Right?”I believe that too. And we should dream about what’s beyond our world, as Sagan inspired us to do. All of these ideas came into play in writing the Element Trilogy.
PKT – For readers who aren’t familiar with your work, what other well-known authors do you love, and who inspires you to write science fiction and fantasy?
DG – Dean Koontz was a huge influence in my work and still inspires me! His book, Watchers, was the first book I stayed up all night to read and cried at the end. His characters are so tormented, so lost, and yet have hope. I’m lucky to be friends with Koontz’s biographer, Katherine Ramsland, as well (she also did Anne Rice’s biography) and so grateful I’ve had access to a more in-depth look at Koontz’s life and writing process. Check out his writer’s biography as it’s a fascinating look into his mind!
PKT – How important was creating a strong female lead in your books (Laura) to you personally?
DG – It was a big part of my theme. There are strong men and monstrous creatures in the series, but yet this young woman, Laura, who has had so much tragedy in her life has the most courageous heart. She conquers her demons. She is the light I wish I could be. In writing her, I wrote the hero I chase in my own life.
In A Human Element three characters have similar lives. Laura is adopted and an only child raised by loving parents. Ben is an only child but abandoned to live a lonely existence in foster homes. X-10 is raised alone in a government facility as an unloved experiment.
One common thread connects them all. They grow up alone and eventually parentless.
Adopted children often suffer abandonment issues and feel like they never belong, that they aren’t ‘blood family’. Being adopted myself I understood this. But as an adopted child I was lucky. I had a loving family and I learned my heritage (and am very glad I was given up. Read more about that here). I got married and had an amazing son. In having him, I have my own ‘blood’ now. I do belong–with my family.
In A Human Element all three characters have similar backgrounds, but how are they different? Ben isolates himself, Laura has an open heart, and X-10 hates the world. Is it their genes that shape who they are or their environment? I’ve found it’s a bit of both.
Interruption from Pav – I LOVE X-10 SO much. I keep begging Donna to write more about him!
I like to think we can overcome our genes and thrive in an environment that allows us to do so. In such an environment we can conquer our obstacles and achieve anything, but without love we are lost. This gives me hope. And without hope change is not possible. And this is what Laura represents – and what I strive for – and she also represents the idea that sometimes the hero is not the one we expect but the one we don’t.
In A Human Element Laura believes we all have something redeemable in us, no matter how small. Much horror has come into her life and yet she remains hopeful. She is the strongest character in the book as she overcomes the horror that’s happened to her but still has a wide open, forgiving heart. She gives me hope.
PKT – A Human Element and A Hidden Element both contain dark and suspenseful themes. Could you talk a little more about the role suspense plays in your book?
DG – The Element Trilogy does carry dark themes such as delving into whether genes dictate who we are or not. I believe that we can overcome genes and it’s never too late to find peace. And sometimes the monsters to fear are the ones inside us, not the obvious ones. Suspense plays a huge role in the book as five characters all have secrets that they carry with them. We hear from all of their voices and eventually as the secrets are revealed with the chase being on, they all converge in one big climactic event.
PKT – How hard was it to write in suspense to your novels, when your characters have psychic and healing powers?
DG – Writing in third person helped keep the suspense heightened as we aren’t accessing every thought the characters have. Also, it was important that the characters each have their own secrets as I mentioned above, but also as keep part of that secret close to them so the reader doesn’t know it all yet until the story plays out.
PKT – It was great to have you on the website today! Tell us what you’ve got coming out next, and what you’re working on right now!
DG – I just completed a draft of the third and final book in the Element Trilogy during NaNoWriMo (writing a novel in a month!). I hope for it to release in 2017. Also, I am super excited that A Human Element will now be an audio book! It releases at the end of 2016 by Auspicious Apparatus Press.
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PKT – Travel by boat or by plane?
DG – Definitely plane! I get seasick very easily (no idea why I joined the U.S. Navy though! Good thing I was stationed on land in Pearl Harbor J ).
PKT – Chocolate or potato chips?
DG – Ohh, dark dark chocolate with Earl Grey tea. My go-to when I need a buzz for a writing sprint!
PKT – Cats or dogs?
DG – Soooo hard! I grew up with both and loved my Rhodesian Ridgeback named Beauty. But I have to go with cats. Cuddlier and soft. (and I have two rescued ginger brother cats). Plus they’ve taught me all I need to know about writing.
PKT – Reading or writing?
DG – Yikes! Reading for guilty pleasure. Writing so I can enjoy the “having written” part J.
PKT – Comedy or tragedy?
DG – Tragedy always! Love my tormented, tragic characters. Love to write, read, and watch them. Heh hehheh.
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About Donna Galanti
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy (Imajin Books) and the fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse that has lots of nooks and crannies, but sadly no ghosts. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com.
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Win $15 Amazon Gift Card, e-book of The Dark Inside, Element Trilogy story collection, and become a character in the final Element Trilogy book!