Q&A with Maria Hammarblad: Space travel might not be such a picnic

Today’s guest at Reading Reality is Maria Hammarblad, the author of the science fiction romance Kidnapped (of course there’s a review!) Maria took her heroine on a journey into outer space, but instead of it being a joyride on a fancy ship, it turned out to be more of a nightmare. Still a fancy ship, but with a scarred, tortured captor. Here’s what Maria had to say about the scarier final frontier. And rescuing dogs.

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Maria Hammarblad when she’s not writing?

Thank you for having me on the blog! I’m Swedish originally, came to the US late 2008, and today I live in the Tampa Bay area in Florida with my husband Mike and three rescue dogs. I work part time at Pet Doors USA; I take care of the company’s websites and make advertising material. I also go to school, aiming for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. It’s a bit tight to get the schedule together, but my husband pitches in with everything, and my employer is very accommodating when I need to change my schedule. Besides writing, I like to watch science fiction shows on TV, and I play the bass.

Kidnapped is science fiction romance. What drew you to SFR in particular?

You know, it just happened. I’ve always been fascinated with space and the thought of going to space. I see something, or hear something, my mind starts asking, “What if…” and all of a sudden I want to write.  When it comes to the romance part, I like love stories. Relations between people are interesting.

A lot of science fiction readers probably have the daydream of getting to travel aboard a spaceship. But you’ve made it seem more like a nightmare than a dream come true. What made you decide to take the story in this direction?

I too have always wanted to travel on a spaceship, like in Star Trek, but I always imagined it like something planned. Like, I would set out on a grand adventure, but get to pack up my things, know when I would come back home, be able to communicate with people still on Earth, and so on. Patricia is ripped away, without anything that even reminds her of home, and I think it would be pretty traumatic.

Travis’s ship is a scary and lonely place, and I’m sure Patricia would have been happier if she had been abducted by the rebels, but they wouldn’t have taken her in the first place.

Would you like to introduce us to your characters, Travis and Patricia?

Absolutely! Patricia is our heroine. She has her quirks, like talking to her car, but is overall pretty normal. She goes to work, likes to spend time with her friends, shops for clothes… She could be anyone.

Travis, on the other hand, was taken by this scary police state – the Alliance – as a very young boy, and has been brainwashed and trained all his life to be a perfect and obedient tool.  He has no likes or dislikes of his own. He does what he is told, and knows disobedience will be accompanied by punishment. Patricia turns his world upside down. She talks, laughs, cries, has nightmares, and he doesn’t know what to do with her. Poor guy, hahaha!

As the author, I know you might be prejudiced, but what’s your favorite scene from Kidnapped?

Difficult question! There is one scene where the happy couple has just reunited on a space station. Patricia is dressed as a hooker and can barely walk in her high heeled shoes, and Travis pretends to drag her away against her will. He ends up carrying her over his shoulder. She’s all happy and thinks this is a great adventure, and he is struggling to maintain his image of evil Alliance soldier without having to kill anyone. It’s quite comical in my head, I don’t think the humor in it quite made it to the pages, but it’s funny in my mind. ☺

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

My mom, definitely. We had the house filled with books, and she taught me to read and write when I was very young. Being able to read gave me an advantage in school too; I was able to slack for years because she already taught me most of the things the other kids were struggling with.

Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

I don’t know… I always wanted to make books. Going back to my mom, I made her staple papers together to resemble books before I could write. I drew suns in them and said they were “The Sun Book.” There are so many stories bouncing around in my head all the time, I would be unhappy if I didn’t let them out.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

I usually have an outline before I start writing, but once I get going, the story takes over. I get moments of, “Aaah, that’s what happens,” at very inconvenient times, like in the checkout lane at the grocery store, or when I’m driving. I become a little obsessive when I work on a story, I just want to write, write, and write.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

They definitely take over. I think of them as my imaginary friends who live in my head. Sometimes they don’t like each other even when they’re supposed to. Pesky invisible people, hehe!

What’s your favorite book, or who is your favorite writer, and why?

Ooh, there are so many. To name a few, Parallel by Christy Elkins is a wonderful book. She has an amazing imagination. State of Disgrace by Linda Ann Rentschler made me laugh out loud when I read it, as did Vengar the Barbarian by Chris J. Randolph.
A colleague recently told me to read The Hunger Games. I didn’t think I would like it, but I plowed through all three books in a weekend. I guess there’s a reason why they’re so popular. ☺

What projects do you have planned for the future? Will the Alliance ever come looking for Travis?

Right now, I’m working on edits for my novel Undercover that will be released in September, and I have a couple of releases scheduled for next year that require some attention. The Alliance might very well come looking for Travis – it doesn’t seem in character for them to let him off the hook this easily – but thus far any sequel ideas are very loose. I have been toying with the idea of making a prequel to Kidnapped, a short book that would give some background to the rebels and the history between Travis and Veronica. We’ll see what happens…

On your website, you talk a little bit about your work with rescue animals. Would you like to share some information about your fur-babies, or any other outside projects you have going on?

When I moved to America, I was shocked to hear how many cats and dogs are put down in shelters every year. It’s a huge cultural difference. I haven’t had much spare time lately, but when I can, I volunteer for Ewenity Farms Border Collie Rescue in Bradenton. Everyone can do something; just sharing shelter animals on Facebook or Twitter helps give them exposure, and is often the difference between life and death.
I have three dogs myself. Two are Border Collie mixes from Ewenity, and one is an American Eskimo from the Bishop shelter in Bradenton. We foster from time to time too. I wish I could take them all, but three of ours and one foster is the absolute upper limit of what I can take good care of.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee!  Lots of it, with milk. I always say “Caffeine is good for you.” It might not be, but that’s beside the point, hahaha!

Maria, I understand completely. I’m instantly human if you add caffeine. Without, I’m a sad, sad creature. 

Thank you so much for answering all my questions, and for the insights into your work with rescue dogs. The dog picture above is from the Ewenity Farms site, and it conveys the message about rescuing animals so beautifully. (Our cats Erasmus and LaZorra were rescues, Sophie and Mellie are their daughters). 


Did you ever think that it might be fun if Scotty “beamed you up”?

I certainly did.

But that’s not quite the way it works out for Patricia Risden in Kidnapped by Maria Hammarblad. Oh, Tricia gets “beamed up” all right. And imprisoned. Because the world of the Alliance is a lot colder and bleaker than the Federation.

And Alliance Commander Travis isn’t like anyone on the Enterprise. Unless you’re thinking of the Mirror universe Enterprise. The one where the universe went very, very wrong.

But Travis isn’t quite that evil, although the Alliance that he serves is. Travis has just, well, misplaced his humanity. Tricia helps him find it again. All because he made a mistake. Two mistakes.

Travis’ first mistake was picking Tricia up in the first place. Travis was chasing a known revolutionary. Said revolutionary made a temporary stop on Earth. Very temporary, but just long enough to appear in front of Tricia’s car and cause her to have an accident.

Travis thought the revolutionary (his name is William) and Tricia knew each other. Travis whisked Tricia away when he couldn’t get to William.

Once Tricia was aboard his ship, he realized that Tricia was exactly what she appeared to be, a harmless Earth woman with no technological expertise whatsoever, and no knowledge of the Alliance or the Revolution against it.

But it was too late. Travis had already notified his Commander that he was bringing in a prisoner. Since she is harmless, he decides to give her the run of the ship.

That’s his second mistake. Tricia is harmless in any technical sense. But she is also bright, curious and dependent on him. Yes, she has more than a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. She sees him as a man, and not the murdering monster the rest of the Alliance sees.

Because Commander Travis is a murdering monster. He is an assassin and a butcher for the Alliance. He’s been programmed to be since he was a child. The last time he disobeyed, the Supreme Commander cut off his arm and replaced it with a mechanical one.

Tricia knows none of this. All she sees is her only possible way home. Her only companion. She falls in love with him.

Travis is a man under all his programming. Harmless Tricia finds the chink in his Alliance conditioning. And Travis re-programs all of his unswerving loyalty from serving the Alliance–to saving, and loving, the woman he kidnapped from Earth.

If they can both manage to survive everything the entire Alliance, and the Revolution, throw at them.

Escape Rating B-: The story gets off to a slow start. Travis is not a sympathetic character in the beginning, and Tricia definitely has more than a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. She goes from being scared of her kidnapper to falling in love with him.

It’s what happens after that that makes the story interesting. Travis has been so conditioned to serve the Alliance that he shouldn’t respond to Tricia at all. Instead, he falls too. But he can’t quite get rid of the Alliance conditioning, so he finds a way around it. His solution was pretty neat.

The Alliance Supreme Commander was just a bit too cartoon-villainess for my taste. The whole manipulative vampy-spacesuit sex-goddess thing just didn’t work for me. But the family-vibe of the Revolutionary ship did. Reminded me a bit of Firefly, which is never a bad thing.

What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? AKA The Sunday Post 6-17-12

The biggest thing on my mostly virtual nightstand this week is plane tickets. And they are virtual, since no one gets actual plane tickets anymore.

On Friday, I’ll be flying to the original home of Mickey Mouse. No, I don’t mean Orlando. If I were going to Orlando, I’d drive.

I’m going to Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland. But I’m not going to visit Mickey. Or, at least, not on purpose.

The American Library Association Annual Conference is in Anaheim again this year. (We were just there in 2008). What does ALA mean to me? A lot of meetings. And a LOT of opportunities to meet authors and pick up free Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) and books. I expect I’ll see pretty much the same ARCs that the BEA attendees did. I have my fingers crossed.

But while I’m at ALA, this blog will still go on. There’s even going to be a blog hop next weekend. But before that…

The Lovestruck Giveaway Hop is still going strong. Don’t just look at my hop post, but be sure to check out all the hoppers! There are over 125 blogs participating, so hop and take a chance on some great book giveaways.

This week I’ll have two tours with interviews and reviews.

On Tuesday, June 19, my guest will be S. J. McMillan to talk about her paranormal romance City of the Gods, the Descendant. I’m in the middle of this book right now, and she’s used an unusual culture as her starting point. Her heroine is the descendant of the Ancient Aztecs. The battle  between good and evil is shaping up to be pretty epic.

Thursday we’re going into space with Maria Hammarblad. Her heroine is Kidnapped, but lives out that frequent fantasy of traveling those “strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations”. Even though her kidnapper is a hunk, it turns out there’s no place like home.

Kidnapped is a great lead-in to Friday’s SFR Blog Hop. I’ll be participating, along with other members of the SFR (that’s science fiction romance) Brigade as we provide SFR related book giveaways on all our blogs.

About that traveling nightstand of mine. Especially when I’m on the road, I look at this post to figure out what I should be reading!

I have some books that caught my eye on NetGalley or Edelweiss that are due out next week. Let’s take a look at what they are:

Two sequels to books I reviewed last year. Suited by Jo Anderton is the follow-up to her marvelous science fiction debut, Debris.

And The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton is the second mystery by Elizabeth Speller, after last year’s haunting The Return of Captain John Emmett.

I expect to pick up what my husband calls a “metric butt-load” of books from the conference. After all, I need to give LaZorra a new throne. I dismantled her old one.