Marcha Fox is a prolific writer that has explored a wide variety of interests, but her major focus has always been science fiction. It began as a love of astronomy which eventually led to a bachelor of science degree in physics from Utah State University followed by a 21 year career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where she held a variety of positions including technical writer, engineer and eventually manager. Her NASA experiences included trips to Cape Canaveral in Florida, visiting other NASA centers in Mississippi, Alabama and Maryland as well as trips to the European Space Agency in The Netherlands but the most memorable was the sad task of helping to recover space shuttle debris in East Texas following the tragic Columbia accident in 2003.
Her Star Trails Tetralogy Series incorporates her knowledge of physics and space travel within a family saga set on a primitive planet where survival is an ongoing struggle and further complicated by political intrigue. While some of the science is speculative, her goal is to represent it as accurately as possible so readers learn accurate principles in a painless, entertaining manner within the context of the story. More information on the individual novels in this series, the science behind them, as well as the status of the fourth and final volume can be found at www.kallioperisingpress.com.
Question: You seem to be a modern-day Renaissance woman with many diverse interests and talents. What appeals to you about science fiction that you’ve decided to spend the largest portion of your creative time writing?
Marcha: My love affair with the heavens began the first time I looked up at the night sky and understood what the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, twinkle little star” was all about. My fascination with astronomy was reinforced when I discovered H.G. Wells’ and Jules Verne’s books in elementary school. I started writing Sci-Fi stories in 6th grade where I explained the extraterrestrial origins of our less-popular teachers. After a hiatus raising six kids I went back to school when I was 35 to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics. After that I worked in the aerospace industry which included 21 years as a NASA contractor.
While writing a science fiction novel back in the 80s I somewhat accidentally got into astrology during the character development process. In 2006 I began to study it formally and when I retired I “hung out the proverbial shingle” and became a professional astrologer, another way of embracing the stars and planets. You can find me in that capacity at www.valkyrieastrology.com.
The third and most likely component of this triad following physics and astrology is science fiction. The heavens on both a physical and metaphysical level are so integrated within my psyche they’re impossible to separate. I love this genre because it combines these parts of me so nicely, i.e., science on my logic side, intuition on my spiritual side and imagination on my creative side.
To be perfectly honest it all goes full circle because my goal in life has always been to be a Sci-Fi writer, clear back to 6th grade. I’m a bit of a perfectionist at heart and thus was motivated to get that physics degree to be a more convincing Sci-Fi writer; the career at NASA was a means to an end. Life’s diversions have caused a delay but at last here I am, doing what I’ve always wanted to do.
Question: In book I of your Tetralogy, Beyond the Hidden Sky, the fourteen-year-old Creena Brightstar is torn between loyalty to family and a need for independence. Her trek across space reminds me of the Andre Gide quote, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” How closely do you relate to Creena and her bravery and sense of adventure?
Marcha: I relate to Creena very much. I believe that our fears and phobias are there as challenges to be overcome. I saw a quote on Facebook recently which stated it beautifully: “Fear is not your enemy. It is your compass pointing to the areas where you need to grow.” Overcoming fear is part of our journey. I used to be terrified of public speaking but would not allow myself any peace until I got over it. I still get a few butterflies before giving a talk or lecture but have learned to do it and actually enjoy it nonetheless.
I never dreamed I could make it through college as a physics major and even had an escape plan if I flunked out. I was sure the math would kill me, but the next thing I knew I had the degree in hand. One of my astronomy professors deserves credit for stating, “Anyone who wants to badly enough can get a degree in physics.” I put it to the test, expecting to prove him wrong and told him so at my graduation. Of course he didn’t even remember making such a statement but I proved him right and we had a good laugh over it.
I‘ve lived in New York, California, Utah and Texas with every move an adventure replete with culture shock. I’ve thus experienced a fair amount of the country which also broadened my horizons substantially. Anyone who has never lived outside their home town has no idea what’s out there; visiting just doesn’t do it.
After the space shuttle, Columbia, crashed in February 2003 I felt compelled to join the recovery team in East Texas where I spent a few weeks walking grid patterns through piney woods and brambles with U.S. Forest Service smokejumpers picking up debris. Most of them were Native Americans and my job was to positively identify anything we found as space shuttle related. The diary I kept of that experience will someday make it into my NASA memoirs, a future project on my rather long to-do list. For the 12th anniversary of the Columbia crash I wrote up a few memories as a memorial which can be found on my blog site.
Probably the most frightening and challenging thing I did was to have and raise six kids! I was an only child and hated the feelings of isolation and loneliness so wanted to make sure my kids would never feel like that. Even though all of them don’t always get along (I definitely had a few examples in my household of Creena and her brother, Dirck) it does my heart good to know that most of them are fairly close to one another, both by physical locale as well as emotionally. I was afraid of every single one of these endeavors yet something compelled me to do them anyway. I don’t regret a single one.
Question: How much preplanning do you do for a book? Some people complete plot outlines before they ever begin to write while other writers rely on their intuition and go wherever the writing instinct takes them. Where do you fall along this spectrum?
Marcha: I’m a little bit of both, but lean toward the intuition side, especially once I got to the third book. For me, the story starts with an idea (of course) and the main characters involved. That provides a very rough idea which results in a rather vague chapter outline. However, when I start to write, that’s when all the details come out. The characters take over and I mostly go with instinct from that point to completion. I can usually kick out a first draft in about six weeks but then the editing process takes over which goes on much longer.
Action and dialog come easily but then I have to go back and include the imagery and other details to flesh it out. Characters, scenes and situations will just pop into my mind at random times whether I’m vacuuming, weeding or falling asleep which often turn out to be the best parts. I love it when I don’t have a clue how something is going to be resolved and count on my characters to figure out how to deal with it. If it has me in suspense then it should definitely work for my readers.
Question: How does your background in science and interest in astrology and metaphysics play a part in your writing?
Marcha: As with all experience, it comes in very handy! Having worked at NASA for over two decades I understand how that agency operates and have had the privilege of seeing and doing many remarkable things. The experience of being a part of a major engineering project is very helpful in writing science fiction. Most of my career was spent in Space Shuttle Safety where our charter was to protect the astronaut crew first and the vehicle second. When I worked in Payload Safety we didn’t care if something worked or not as long as it didn’t hurt someone. Knowing all the ways that hardware or equipment can fail provides lots of story material to say nothing of being intimately familiar with the politics of government agencies and corporate bureaucracies.
Since science fiction inspired me as a child I hope to do the same for my readers. I include painless science and engineering lessons in my stories where I show the relevance of such knowledge and endeavors. My website has a section for parents and educators which provides additional ideas for using different parts of the books as the springboard for discussion on a variety of topics. Science and engineering are fun and exciting pursuits which I try to demonstrate in my stories. If junior high or high school science teachers need an idea for extra credit for their brighter students, by books combined with the suggestions on my website could be just what they’re looking for.
Question: After writing four books do you have a favorite book or a character with whom you feel a special affinity?
Marcha: My favorite book tends to be the one I’m working on at the time. I love all my characters (at least the nice ones) so picking a favorite is as impossible as naming one of my actual children for that honor. I love giving the antagonists their “just desserts” more than anything. I laugh every time I think of how I disposed of one particular bad guy in “Refractions of Frozen Time.” He SO got what he deserved! LOL! I can’t decide which book I like best, but I definitely have some favorite chapters: Beyond the Hidden Sky: “AG4MI” and “Encore” A Dark of Endless Days: “Colonel Jenkins;” “Aftermath;” and “Hauling Hay” A Psilent Place Below: “Prisoners” and “Delta-Sub-Q-Alpha Prime Refractions of Frozen Time: “Charging” and “Karma”
The total page count for the Star Trails Tetralogy is over 1500 pages so that’s a long time to spend with your characters. I’m going to miss them as I move on to other projects. Some of them are bound to show up in subsequent short stories or novels which are offshoots, prequels or sequels. I covered the Brightstars pretty well in this series but those with follow-up potential include the family’s youngest member, Deven, as well as Dirck’s friend, Win Sendori and newcomer, Antara Denale, who showed up unexpectedly in Volume IV. I’m always open to suggestions from fans regarding whom they’d like to see more of as well.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your newest book?
Marcha: “Refractions of Frozen Time” is the culmination of the saga which has been developing throughout the three previous books. Ever since “Beyond the Hidden Sky” the Brightstars have been separated; at least one family member has been absent at any given time with the others threatened continually by everything from weather extremes to political treachery.
This final episode features the discovery of a mineral that manipulates space and time. Unless they uncover its secrets before it’s too late, the Brightstar family will never be united again. With the antagonist, Augustus Troy, closing in on the ability to destroy anyone for whom they have a mindprint (which includes virtually all the “good guys”) they are working frantically to both find a way to defend themselves as well as bring back the family patriarch who’s on his way to permanent exile on a prison planet/blackhole.
Anyone one who is fascinated with classic hard sci-fi elements such as telepathic communications, teleportation, and time travel is likely to enjoy this volume along with its various plot twists, turns and surprises which have been building up since the story began. While each volume can be enjoyed independently, reading them in sequence is recommended to fully enjoy the story’s complexities, which is especially true for this final and concluding volume. Anyone who starts with this final episode is likely to have a few questions which are undoubtedly answered in the previous books. Excerpts to all four books can be found on my Bublish author page (link below).
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Marcha-Fox/e/B0074RV16O/
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marchafoxauthor
Star Trails Homepage: www.StarTrailsSaga.com)
My Blog Page: http://marcha2014.wordpress.com/
Bublish Author Page: https://www.bublish.com/author/view/3111
“Beyond the Hidden Sky” (Volume I)
Create Space (Print copy): https://www.createspace.com/3911767
Book Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/ennmW2jTIsc
“Sneak Peeks” on Bublish (Read sample chapters with author commentary)
Consequences Can Bite http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/2861/
Decisions, Decisions http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/3131/
Thinking Like a Robot http://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4599/
A Terrifying Alien World http://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4632
“A Dark of Endless Days” (Volume II)
Create Space (Print copy): https://www.createspace.com/3937890
Book Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/P_2sbLHvBj8
“Sneak Peeks” on Bublish
Listen to your inner voice: http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/2735
UFO Lands at Hill AFB: http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/3228
How does it work? http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/3754
Mingling with Earthlings: https://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4741
“A Psilent Place Below” (Volume III)
Create Space: (Print copy): https://www.createspace.com/3991023
Book Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/-MTp9vUFLy0
“Sneak Peeks” on Bublish
The World of Psi http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/2752
Thoughts Become Things http://www.bublish.com/bubble/view/3589/
A Quieter Hero http://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4698/
“Refractions of Frozen Time” (Volume IV)
Print Copy on Create Space: https://www.createspace.com/5055000
Book Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/SRY0P4-ZBYw
“Sneak Peeks” on Bublish
The Fickle Finger of Fate http://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4602/
Commandos Raid the Caverns http:/www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4666/
The Heart of the Scorpion: http://www.bublish.com/bubble/stream/4730/
Star Trails Compendium (Includes terms and definitions as well as background information on Cyraria)