Interview with Kate Sheeran Swed, Author of The Tournament

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What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Tournament (Interstellar Trials Book 1)?

Until we can find a way to defy physics and push spaceships faster than lightspeed (hint: it’s not actually possible), humans hoping to explore distant star systems will need to get creative. A lot of stories about interstellar travel handle those kinds of distances with cryo sleep or embryo transportation. The idea that fascinates me the most, though, is the one that involves generation ships. When I say it fascinates me, I mean I’m mildly obsessed with it. This is not the first story I’ve written about them, and I doubt it’ll be the last.

One of the themes that comes up in a lot of my work is intergenerational conflict, so the idea of a ship (or in the case of my books, an entire fleet) full of people that’ve been sentenced to live their entire lives in the stars by a bunch of their great-great-great grandparents… it’s just full of possibilities. How do you live your life if you never touch the ground? Would you even know the difference, really? Resent it? And of course, there are lots of problems with that approach, scientifically. Ships break down. Crops fail. And there’s no one to come to your aid. That kind of isolation sends a chill up my spine.

So the idea behind the Interstellar Trials is that humanity sent a fleet of ships sailing for the stars, rather than just one or two. The variety in the gene pool is important. In reality, it’d strain Earth’s resources to assemble even one mission like this, but for reasons unknown, the characters’ ancestors sent a hundred ships. They must have been pretty desperate. Of course, humans being humans, a war broke out among the fleet ships and by the time the story begins, it’s been split into two factions for the heroine’s entire life. One side is ruled by a tyrannical dictator, and the other is free. All I needed, then, was a heroine who’s lived her entire life off the grid on the more dystopian side of the fleet.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Tournament (Interstellar Trials Book 1), what would they be?

Bad Intentions and the Devil Within by Digital Daggers are two of the main songs on my playlist for the main character, Reggie. You can probably tell just from the titles that she’s a *little* bit prickly. I like my heroines with sharp edges. For writing the space battles and stuff in this series, I listened to Moscow by Autoheart on repeat.

I have a playlist for the trilogy HERE.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I read across genres, and there’s genuinely not much I won’t at least try. But science fiction is my favorite. I like all kinds of sci-fi, too. The stuff I write tends to be soft (sometimes called light) sci fi, which means it’s more adventure based than hard science fiction (think the Martian). But I read it all! I’m also a huge fantasy fan, especially epic fantasy.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

I’m a mood reader, so my TBR pile is very unruly. I’m really excited to read Marie Lu’s new book, Stars and Smoke. I always love her stuff. I’m in the middle of Luke Mitchell’s Harvesters series right now, which is seriously addicting, so I’ll probably binge-read the rest of that before the month is out. Angie Thomas’ new fantasy book, Nic Blake and the Remarkables, also sounds like a lot of fun!

I seriously have so many books I want to read. It’s not even funny.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

My favorite scene is a spoiler (rude!) but my SECOND favorite scene happens just after Reggie uses her face-mask technology to steal another girl’s identity. She takes the girl’s spot in this tournament that’s supposed to be like an olive branch between the fleets because she thinks she might have a chance to escape that way.

She’s been an outsider on her own ship for her whole life, and now suddenly she’s surrounded by kids from both fleets. It’s seriously disorienting for her. She doesn’t know what any of the food is, she doesn’t know how to act, and she’s worried she won’t be able to pull off the scam. And then she meets Noah Ramsay, who kind of takes her under his wing. Anything with banter is my favorite, honestly. And I love a fish out of water.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I’m a creature of habit, really. It’d be so boring to watch me write. I sit down with my coffee (or water bottle if it’s later in the day) and I just work. Often with thunderstorms or movie soundtracks playing in my headphones to help me focus.

I do have a lineup of Marvel super-lady figures on my desk, though. I have Gamora, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and Black Widow. I also have Princess Leia, and a stuffed Rosita from the movie Sing!

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

I like this one, which is attributed to Goethe (possibly incorrectly): Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

I want readers to take away a sense of fun, adventure, and escape – and maybe lose track of the real world for a little while.


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