Wednesday, August 15, 2018

S.K. Dunstall Author Interview

Photo Credit: Andrew Kopp ©2015

S.K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realized the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born. They are the the national bestselling author of the Linesman series, including Linesman, Alliance, and Confluence. Find out more online at

Where were you born and where do you call home?
We were both born in a little town in North East Victoria, Australia. Just down from the bottom of the mountains. You’d think as a result, that we’d like cold weather. We don’t.

We’re still in Victoria, but nowadays we both live in Melbourne, the capital. The weather’s better here, and it’s changeable. We have a saying in Melbourne, “If you don’t like our weather, wait five minutes.”

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Write. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Write what you want to write, because when writing stops being fun it’s not worth doing. Finish your stuff. Then learn how to edit.

If you can, develop a thick skin so far as your writing is concerned. Because eventually it has to go out to other people, and you need to take their feedback.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
For Nika and Josune? That’s hard. We’d have to say they both evolved organically. Nika came from the idea of body modding—a perfectionist, and artist, someone who’s into her work. Once Alejandro arrived, also from people we knew who’d been in similar situations.

Josune just turned up and took over.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that writing was not just a hobby.
Not really. We always wanted to write for publication, although we didn’t always pursue it because life got in the way. If you’re looking for actual events it would probably be when we signed with our agent. It made us feel as if we were on our way.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing STARS UNCHARTED?
When we introduced Josune. The story started to feel as if it was coming together then.

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
We don’t have a lot of contact with other authors outside of conferences and social media, so we’ll talk about some of the writers that have influenced us over our writing.

Diana Wynne Jones would have to be the all-time favorite for both of us. She was an amazing writer.

Ilona Andrews—they can write, but they also engage their readers amazingly. And though we only meet them at conferences and on social media, the whole Australian writing community is generous and supportive.

What part of Nika did you enjoy writing the most?
All of it. Nika was satisfying to write because she wasn’t perfect. She had her faults, but she was also a strong woman who ended up in a really deep hole with Alejandro (and later, Wickmore) and didn’t know how to dig herself out of it. Yet despite that, she remained strong.

Trying to keep her in character was difficult. This is a woman who was obsessed from an early age. She wanted to be the best at something she loved, and all she wanted to do was to make people feel better about themselves and turn out pieces of art. Later, even though she didn’t realize it, when she was kept isolated by Alejandro and Wickmore, it was all she had.

The bits we laughed aloud to, however, and read out to each other, were her interactions with Snow.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
A single book. Hmm. That depends on our mood. Today, Sherylyn would recommend Anne Bishop’s The Others series, Karen would go for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Josune and Hammond?
The surprise was probably Josune herself. She wasn’t in the first few drafts. Wasn’t there until the last draft before we sent it to our agent. She turned up, settled in, and took over her part of the book. We sat back and let her tell her story.

As for their relationship, (mild spoiler coming, don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know), we don’t generally plan relationships. They happen or they don’t, and if we’d chosen to make a relationship, it would have been Nika and Roystan. This time Josune was, “No, I like Hammond. And look, he likes me, too. See,” and we authors go, “Oh. Okay. If that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is.”

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
There’s a follow-up book to Stars Uncharted, tentatively titled Stars Beyond. That’s with our editor now. It’s due out September 2019.

Outside of that, nothing concrete. We’re playing with a couple of ideas. Two stories in the Linesman universe but not about Ean Lambert, and another standalone space opera. We’ve given ourselves a few more weeks to play, before we get back to our agent with proposals.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Sherylyn wanted to be a librarian, Karen wanted to be a scientist. Needless to say, we’re not either.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
For both of us, it was probably Sherylyn getting retrenched.

Before that, she worked stupid hours—8:00am to 9:00pm five days a week and brought work home and did it on the weekends. She lived to work.

Now, she works three days a week, leaves mostly within half an hour of finishing time, and actually has a life outside work. She volunteers, she gets time to paint, time to write, she’s even taken up uni to finish her degree. She has a life now.

For Karen, it was the fact that when Sherylyn retrenched, she received enough of a package to pay two years’ house payments in advance. We’d just bought a house together, and being two years in front freed us from the worry of how we were going to pay for it.

That sort of financial freedom is amazingly relieving.

Who has had the most influence in your life?
Our parents, most definitely.

Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
It was going to be dinner with two close friends, (one of Sherlyn’s friends from school, whom she has remained close to) because they’ve moved to the country and we were in their town last weekend. Unfortunately, the friend has just come out of hospital, and is on a very limited diet right now, so we didn’t have dinner.

Before that, it was one of our beta readers. His wife and Sherylyn have been good friends all their working lives (they started at the same company, the one Sherylyn was retrenched from), and have remained friends ever since.

A ragtag band of explorers are looking to make the biggest score in the galaxy in the brand-new science fiction adventure novel from the national bestselling author of Linesman.

Three people who are not who they claim to be:

Nika Rik Terri, body modder extraordinaire, has devoted her life to redesigning people's bodies right down to the molecular level. Give her a living body and a genemod machine, and she will turn out a work of art.

Josune Arriola is crew on the famous explorer ship the Hassim, whose memory banks contain records of unexplored worlds worth a fortune. But Josune and the rest of the crew are united in their single-minded pursuit of the most famous lost planet of all.


“A fresh concept, cutting edge technology, and characters that pop! A must-read.” —William C. Dietz, New York Times bestselling author of Battle Hymn

“An absorbing space opera, in the tradition of The Expanse and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.” —Charles Stross, award-winning author of The Delirium Brief

“Masterfully [weaves] hard science, such as telomeres and theoretical chemical elements, with engaging characters and a touch of romance, resulting in a brilliant female-driven tale. . . . Readers of Asimov, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, or Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series will enjoy this story.“ Booklist (starred review)

You can purchase Stars Uncharted at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you S.K. DUNSTALL for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall. 


  1. Im not sure which cartoon character I would be, someone who is stressed and worried a lot lol

  2. I'm not sure, Tweety Bird I guess. :D

  3. "What cartoon character best describes you?" Hmm. Daffy Duck?