27 HOURS author Tristina Wright talks sci-fi, queer rep, and the challenges of writing a sequel!
Tristina Wright‘s 27 Hours, a science fiction fantasy adventure that follows queer teens falling in love while simultaneously fighting a war with vicious monsters in space! It’s got everything you could ever need from a story: Action, suspense, romantic tension, and fresh world building.
27 Hours hit shelves in October and there’s been plenty of buzz for this thrilling, inclusive sci-fi adventure. Thanks to Entangled Teen, we had a chance to chat with the author about diversity and changes in the publishing industry, writing with chronic pain, and how writing a sequel differs from a debut!
27 Hours features fierce characters and in-depth worldbuilding. Which came to you first, the people or the setting? How did developing one inform the other?
Oh characters always come to me first. I don’t know why, but all of my ideas start with one or two characters, and I build outward from there. Slowly. Really slowly.
Most of the time, the setting will form rather quickly once I figure out my characters and what it is they’re going for, but with 27 Hours, it was really difficult to nail down their story and sense of time/place. It took me years, in fact, to figure out where Rumor fit in any timeline and what in the grand cosmos his story was. All I knew for the longest time was I had this really pissed off boy who saw something he shouldn’t. Sahara and space, actually, didn’t happen until much later drafts.
The novel also has lots of amazingly diverse rep. What do you think about the state of diverse rep in the YA publishing world?
I think it’s getting a lot better than where it was when I first dipped my toes into YA back in…..2008? Whoa, it’s been ten years. Hang on, I need a moment to regroup there! Anyway, a decade ago, I wouldn’t have been able to get 27 Hours published as it is. No sugarcoating it. It wouldn’t have happened unless I self-published it or made everyone straight, cisgender, and white. There would have been far too much diversity, and I would’ve been told flat-out it was unsellable.
That said, there is still a long way to go. Publishing still has issues with “we already have our [insert rep here]book” so we can’t take that on, but will publish a zillion other books with American white allocishet protagonists until the end of time. It’s easier to get published if you’re a cis male versus any other gender. It’s easier to get published if you’re white versus non-white. It’s easier to get published if you’re nonqueer versus queer. It’s easier to get published if you’re abled versus disabled. It’s easier to get published if you’re non-religious/Christian versus visibly religious (in a religion other than Christianity). Not saying, you’re guaranteed, but there are systemic structures within this country in place that give people different starting places on the game board. And that needs to change within publishing as a whole, starting from the top down.
You get to play with multiple POVs in the novel. Which character was your favorite to write and why? Who was the most challenging?
Rumor is my favorite to write, hands down. He’s been in my brain the longest, so he’s the easiest to talk to and to get onto the page. I can write entire conversations with him in moments. My editor has to rein me in, actually! Especially any scenes between him and Braeden.
The most challenging would be Nyx, probably. She’s so observant, and she internalizes a lot. She thinks before she communicates (very much the opposite of Rumor), which made it challenging in that it was easy for her to fall into the Passive Observer. I had to be really careful of that when I was writing her, to push her into action, into a goal for each moment even when she was observing or internalizing something. It was a tricky line to walk.
Were there any big ideas you had for Sahara that you ultimately weren’t able to use?
Well, the series isn’t finished yet, so come back and ask me this again at the end. 😉
As a long-time sci-fi fantasy lover, what are some of your favorite SFF works out there?
Oh gosh, a lot of the newer works are swiftly becoming my go-to favorites because of how they’re reshaping the canon as far as inclusion and who we focus on as writers. Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is one of my all-time favorites. Kameron Hurley’s The Stars are Legion, which is affectionately called Lesbians in Space. NK Jemisin’s Worldbreaker Saga is utterly phenomenal and will completely upend how you see fiction tropes. The Sin du Jour series by Matt Wallace is lovely and hilarious and truly awesome. I recommend it to everyone. I will forever read anything by Fonda Lee, Jennette Ng, Joyce Chng, KC Alexander, Laura Lam, Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire, Tara Sim, Cassandra Khaw. Also, one of my favorite SF romance series is the Beyond series by Kit Rocha, which is post-apocalyptic and queer and just so utterly badass.
What’s your writing process like?
So much coffee. A best friend to text all day long. A playlist for the book. Wordcount-wise? Honestly, it all depends on my chronic pain levels and my kids, so I don’t have a set schedule, which can be both good and bad. Good because I can be flexible. Bad because I can fall behind if I have too many bad pain days. Thankfully, I have a really understanding and patient editor who is amazing in every possible definition of that word.
As far as how I actually put together a book….that changes every time I write one. Sometimes I sit down with a blank page and just go. Sometimes I outline the thing to death. Sometimes I pull up a beat sheet and note all the major beats of the plot. Sometimes I’ll skip around and write whatever scenes come to mind and then stitch it all together later. The process really does change from book to book, and I find most authors will agree on this. Every book is its own beast and demands its own method of construction, and you have to relearn how to write each time you start over.
We know you’re in the thick of writing the sequel to 27 Hours now. How does writing the first book in a series compare to writing the second, so far?
More time! No really, with this series especially (meaning my first) I had all the time with the first book. There was no proposal or spec. I wrote it on my own schedule. I took years with it. I had multiple stages of readers and feedback. I tweaked it over and over before it went out on submission. And then my editor and I had a ton of time to edit it and work on it even more.
With the second, there’s a deadline. Granted, there’s padding built into that deadline because publishers know Things Happen and authors miss deadlines because Life™. But there’s definitely no more of that “taking my time” with it. I have to have more of a grasp on things this time around, which brings more pressure to things. It’s different! Not necessarily bad or worse, just different.
MORE BOOK INFO
Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.
But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.
Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.
They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.
During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.
27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tristina Wright is a blue-haired bisexual with anxiety and opinions. She’s also possibly a mermaid, but no one can get confirmation. She fell in love with science fiction and fantasy at a young age and frequently got caught writing in class instead of paying attention. She enjoys worlds with monsters and kissing and monsters kissing. She married a nerd who can build computers and make the sun shine with his smile. Most days, she can be found drinking coffee from her favorite chipped mug and making up more stories for her wombfruit, who keep life exciting and unpredictable.
Still trying to figure out the mermaid thing.