Thursday, September 3, 2020

Julie E. Czerneda Interview - Mirage

Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners, the latest being SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Next out will be an anthology of original stories set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis, out in 2018. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, lands in stores October 2017. When not jumping between wonderful blogs, Julie’s at work on something very special: her highly anticipated new Esen novel, Search Image (Fall 2018).


Greatest thing you learned at school.
That science constantly adds to our body of knowledge. One of my very favourite moments was having a biology textbook recalled because DNA had been discovered, so it had to be rewritten. How exhilarating was that? I’ve never lost my joy in that awareness something new, or a change to what we know, is around the next corner.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
What an interesting question. I can’t say I ever have. My family was creative across a wide spectrum, from music and art to woodwork and automotive design. I grew up within the unspoken expectation that every day there’d be something to new to try and we’d all celebrate whatever came of it.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

There have been so many. Had I known writing stories would bring me the friendships and communities it has, I’d have either sent my stuff out sooner or been too scared to try in case it didn't find a home and I’d miss it all.
Yet…there is one. A very, very good friend of mine was caring for her ailing elder not too long ago. She told me she kept Beholder’s Eye in reach, and reread it when things were darkest. I hadn’t imagined a book of mine offering comfort like that and yes, it’s incredibly rewarding to hear. That special connection between a story, character, and reader—it’s unintended magic.

Which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book one and in what way have they changed?
Paul Ragem, the Human who befriends Esen, the alien at the heart of the Web Shifter books. In the beginning, he’s just beginning as well. Paul’s started to show promise in the career he loves and trained to do, going forth on the first few missions. He’s left home but still returns as often as he can to share stories of his adventures. Everything’s possible and the universe waits.

Without giving away the plot, in order to keep Esen safe, Paul chooses to leave his career and family behind. We see him make a new life for the both. A business. A new family. A group of others determined to protect Esen’s secret but it’s clear that if Esen is threatened, Paul is willing to leave what he’s gained again. He’s made a lifetime commitment to the Dear Little Blob, as her truest friend, often a life-coach of sorts, and protector—and during the middle books, you can see him accept these roles with an inner nobility and compassion. He never loses his curiosity and joy for life, but he’s found a purpose superceding whatever he wants for himself.

As Esen herself grows to know more about Humans, she wants more for her friend. (As did I!) She becomes the force pushing Paul back to his origins. In the Web Shifter’s Library series, which is where Mirage fits, he’s in the midst of reconnecting with his past.

It wouldn’t be as easy as “Hi, I’m back” and Paul Ragem will change and grow even further. And he’ll stumble at times. He’s remarkable, not perfect, and I’m looking forward to that. After all, he’s one of my favourite and earliest creations.


  • 1. In Mirage I’d the pleasure of continuing to tuck our friends from New Zealand here and there. I’ve listed their names in the acknowledgements. Some are the names of grass or continents. Others are characters. Such fun!
  • 2. We’d planned from the start of CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon, to be there and to launch Mirage at the convention. A party with the friends I’d put in the book was my fondest hope—but it wasn’t to be, of course. I attended and enjoyed the virtual con but our minds are set. We Shall Return. If only so they can tease me about the book.
  • 3. The heads on the book cover were from a charcoal sketch I did as a suggestion. The artist/designer, Adam Auerbach, paid me the wonderful compliment of using them almost as is. What a thrill!
  • 4. The Sacrissee head? Based on Saiga Antelope.
  • 5. Another cover tidbit. When I saw Adam’s bright yellow eyes, which were his idea to pop on the cover, I went back and put them in the story. Before that, the aliens’ eyes were an unimaginative brown. The yellow worked out much better.
  • 6. The chapter that’s a flashback to Skalet’s first mission as a Kraal is from my short story “She’s Such a Nasty Morsel.” I wrote it for the anthology Women of War ed by Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter. We were sitting in the hall at Torcon 3, I believe it was, and Tanya invited me to write a story. I said I didn’t write women of war and my friend Kristen Britain gave me a look and said: “What about Skalet—she’s such a nasty morsel!” And that was that. Plus some reading of biographies of scientists in the Antarctic.
  • 7. Esen as a Karras Slug? Inspired by an article in Science News about leaping larvae. You’ll find the description of how they leap on page 251 of the hardcover. Science never disappoints!
  • 8. I felt an unusual level of responsibility, creating the character of Niala Mavis. There was interpersonal history to be respected—no spoilers—and the weight of five decades apart. She was, and is, a focal point of Paul’s efforts to move forward. To keep what he can of the past, but see it as part of his future. She’s back in Spectrum by the way. Oh yes.
  • 9. I’m a huge huge fan of C.J. Cherryh and her work. Have been since her first book came out and it’s been my privilege to reach the point where I email her without shaking. (Sorry, C.J. Always the fan.) Her newest book, Resurgence, was my highly anticipated reward read for finishing Mirage. If you’ve read them both, you’ll know why I didn’t hesitate at all writing her midway through about TRAINS! A coincidental meeting of creative minds that has me grinning to this day.
  • 10. I finished the first draft as the pandemic struck and everything changed. Because it no longer felt right in any sense, I went back through the story in revision and diluted the “threat of contagion” device I’d employed, making it far less significant as a plot point. It hadn’t been vital and to leave it as it was, I felt, trivialized the pain we were all experiencing then and since. Looking back, I’m glad I did.
Best date you've ever had?
Last Friday, two days before I finished Spectrum, my current novel, Roger and I took advantage of the lovely weather and spent the day doing whatever occurred to us. It was one of those perfect together days. (We do “best date ever” all the time.)

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
Hurray! (I love mornings.)

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I’ve lost people close to me. A parade of beloved pets have come and gone. For me, it’s always going to be love because it’s affirming, carves a moment in my time on this world in my heart, and if forever isn’t guaranteed? I’ll take what I can get.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Honest, I apologize to all not-morning people, but today it was “great start, me!” I know that look on my face, and it means I’m going to get twenty times more than I expect done, and laugh throughout. (I did.)

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
How fortunate I am.

The second book in the Web Shifter's Library series returns to the adventures of Esen, a shapeshifting alien who must navigate the perils of a hostile universe.

Relationships get complicated when you don’t know who—or what—you really are. Esen must find a way to rescue a hapless group of chimeras, beings who are a new and unique blend of species she knows, when she can’t become one herself. When Evan Gooseberry tries to help, he is shattered to learn he himself isn’t entirely Human and begins to suspect his new friend Esen isn’t what she seems.

Complicating matters, a mysterious contagion has killed the crew of the ship that brought the chimeras—and Evan—to Botharis. Everyone’s been quarantined inside the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, including over a hundred disgruntled alien scholars.

The risks climb as Skalet and Lionel continue their quest to solve the disappearance of Paul’s mother’s ship, the Sidereal Pathfinder, only to find themselves caught in a tangle of loyalties as Skalet is betrayed by her own Kraal affiliates, who infiltrate the Library.

All of which would be quite enough for one Web-being’s day, but Paul Ragem hopes to rekindle the romance of his first love. A shame Esen hasn’t told him who’s hiding in their greenhouse.

You can purchase Mirage at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JULIE E. CZERNEDA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Mirage (Web Shifter's Library #2) by Julie E. Czerneda.


  1. I was falling asleep listening to the rain.

  2. At midnight last night I was looking up at the stars while I was taking one of our dogs outside.

  3. "What were you doing at midnight last night?" Watching a DVD.

  4. There's a problem with the final paragraph--it doesn't refer to MIRAGE. Sorry! Julie

  5. We were watching movies last night at midnight.

  6. I was working on a jigsaw puzzle at midnight.