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Author Highlight: Molly Lerma

Molly and I met years ago when we worked for the same employer in Arizona. I had no idea she liked to write and had published a series until we reconnected on social media! 

Now, Molly lives in the Michigan Mitten where she writes to give her daughter and pets the lives they deserve. When not slaving over the keyboard, you can find her gaming, at the movies, or spending copious amounts of time and money at the local bookstore.

1. How did you come up with the story concept for The Fifth Column?

The Fifth Column is a spinoff of a series called Renegade Star, by J.N. Chaney. He put out a call for writers interested in doing a co-written project, so I leapt at the chance. His main series revolves around a Renegade (think Mal Reynolds from Firefly, a kind of courier for hire, someone that will do questionable things like smuggling stolen goods) who falls in with a group dedicated to looking for Earth in a far flung future where humanity's history has been lost. In his adventures, he has numerous run ins with the Union and another warring faction called the Sarkonians. There is a lot of focus on the Union, but not much on the Sarkonian Empire. I thought it would be fun to explore that world and see what life was like for a female soldier for the "bad" guys. It kind of evolved into this story of a conscripted special ops soldier who just wants to be free, but she doesn't face things alone. She ends up being an enemy of the state but has her best friend at her side, so that was a fun concept for me to write.

2. What do you love about writing Space Opera? What do you hate (or maybe just dislike) about it?

I love writing Space Opera because I get to imagine what the future would be like. Similar to Urban Fantasy, you have to consider all the world building because you're writing about a time where space travel is as common as getting in your car and going down the road. It can be thousands of years in the future, so you can get creative with clothing, dialect, and technology. 

I hate it for the same reason. While the worldbuilding can be tons of fun, you're still constrained by the laws of science. That means all of the technology has to be plausible and researched in depth. Sometimes I'll do hours of research for one small piece of equipment that only gets used on one page. 

3. When it comes to world-building do you have any particular tricks or techniques? It helps to have guidelines. For me, in Space Opera, that means being bound by the laws of physics and currently known science. For example, I never use pistols that utilize lasers as ammunition. Another thing I actively avoid is using known Earth colloquialisms, idioms, and references. This forces me to throw out a lot of tired cliches and come up with new sayings and to get creative with dialogue, which is always a good thing. Basically, if you have some confines it keeps you from getting too crazy. 4. What was the most difficult part of the publishing process for you? Deadlines. I have so many projects and due dates to meet. They seem to sneak up on me! 5. What does your writing space look like? Oh, gods. You don't want to know. It involves a cat, lots of pens, and an OBSCENE amount of Post Its. 6. What are your tricks for juggling writing while maintaining a personal life? This is a tough one. There are four kids in this house and that makes it hectic. I try to work at night to give myself the daytime, but it doesn't always work out. The best thing I've found is to make a plan and stick to it unless there is something dire I have to do. If I say I have a brunch date to drink mimosas with Mary, I do it.  7. What's the best piece of advice you've received about writing? "Facts don't care about your feelings." I have this written on one of the many sticky notes littering my desk. For me, it's a reminder that not everything I write will be good and criticism is an opportunity to be better, even if it hurts. Bonus advice that has always done well for me: "Write drunk, edit sober." 8. What is the best book you’ve read or listened to recently?

Burn the Dark, by S.A. Hunt is an awesome UF that I fell in love with. It brings modern technology into the field, something I haven't seen before. The main character is a witch hunter who records her encounters and puts them on YouTube, though her viewers think it's all fake. 

I have to mention the In Death series, by J.D. Robb. It's a police procedural set in 2060s era NYC. She started them in 1995 and I've been reading since 2002 or so. It's amazing how close some of her technology is to what's currently out there. There's a touch of paranormal, but the murder mystery is where it's at, in addition to the books being dark and gritty. The writing is superb and there are 50 books in the series so far (51 on September 8), plus a number of novellas.

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