Can you guys believe what a treat I have for you today! Somehow, I finagled an interview with Shanna, the main character from Frontier Incursion who took time out of her VERY busy Scout schedule to come say hello. Please join me in welcoming her to Ensconced in YA!
Goodreads Book Description: For Shanna, joining the Scout Corps had been a dream come true. The Scouts were charged with expanding their knowledge of Frontier, a hostile planet their ancestors had crashlanded on 300 years before. As the youngest in her class, Shanna struggles to find acceptance and respect amongst her older peers - a task made more difficult by the fact that she has not just one, but two of the colonists' huge feline companions, their starcats.
On a routine patrol, she and the other cadets are swept up in the greatest challenge yet to be faced by the settlers of Frontier. Now they find themselves on the very frontline of a war they knew nothing about, and possibly the Federation of Race's last chance against the hostile Garsal. Suddenly their world has changed, and in ways never dreamed of by Shanna and her fellow scouts.
Welcome to Ensconced in YA, Shanna! Can you tell us a little about your home town? What do you like most and dislike most about where you live?
Hi Christina, thanks for inviting me to pop in!
My family lives an hour’s walk from Watchtower, which is on the southern end of the plateau on Frontier. It was the first town established after Starfall was finally secure, and the main base for exploring Below. My favourite things about Watchtower are the people, really. I think it’s because my family has always lived out of town, so I’m really not an “in town” person - Watchtower’s where Scout HQ is, of course, but I’m always happy to leave the buildings behind and venture into the bush - it’s like I’m more alive when I’m outside the walls.
Wow, that sounds absolutely beautiful. I wish I could join you out there! Please tell us a little about your family.
Well, there’s four in the immediate family. Mum, Dad, Kaidan and me. Kaidan’s my brother and a couple of years younger. He’s a bit of a pest, but I’ve noticed he’s improving as he gets older. And he’s an absolute genius with a bow and arrow - you might have heard that he helped take out a staureg last year!
Mum and Dad met in the militia years ago. Mum’s family have lived at Hillview for generations raising starcats, but Mum decided to specialise in the militia. Dad came from a town family. His family were tailors. After they married, Mum realised that what she really liked, was the family business, and they went back to Hillview. When Grandma died in the plague year, Grandad handed Hillview over to them. He was lost without Grandma, Mum said, and he only lived a few more years. I can only just remember him.
Mum’s a great cat trainer, and a great cook, and Dad does most of the harness making as well as managing the rest of the property and assisting Mum with the cats.
While we are on the topic of these beautiful creatures--tell us about your family business of raising Starcats. What is the hardest and best thing about training them?
Mum’s family has trained starcats for generations. We mostly breed blue and violet toned greys and blacks. Storm and Twister are Sabre and Moshi’s cubs. Twister has the violet tidemarks, and Storm the blue ones. Mum and Dad sell on ready trained cats, or cubs, dependent on the customer’s needs and experience levels.
Starcats can be stubborn. You have to be so consistent with them, but at the same time, you have to love them. You can’t force a cat that size to do anything it doesn’t want to do, as you can imagine!
The best thing about training them is finding out how clever they can be, and what they’re really good at. They’re all a little different to each other - take my two - Twister is an amazing climber, while Storm is really fast and the leader of the two.
The hardest thing about training starcats is realising that there is absolutely no way to keep them off the bed. Once you and your cat pick each other, that’s the end of having a bed all to yourself. They insist on sleeping with you, and most of them like to lean on you.
Sounds crowded! Can you tell us a little about what kinds of occupations you can chose to specialize in? What made you decide to become a Scout?
There’s heaps of things to specialise in. Mum and Dad began in the militia, some people become bakers, some join the medical corps, like Verren’s family, some are stonemasons, and some tanners. On Frontier, survival depends on everyone working together, and everyone doing something useful, so we all need a trade or profession of some kind. Usually by the time we finish schooling, we’ve got some kind of idea what we might like to do.
The thing about being a Scout, is that you have to have a starcat - that was the big decider for me. It’s also a challenge - you have to do really well at school before the Scouts will even consider you. And of course there’s the whole exploring thing, as a Scout, you get to go Below!
Well, that's definitely an incentive to become a Scout! What is the best trick that a Starcat has ever played on your family?
Let me think...oh yes! It was a few years back, actually. Sabre had a litter of cubs, and for some reason, she kept moving them. Normally she just has the same spot in the breeding cavern, right down the back. This particular litter was large, however, eleven cubs, and they just seemed to be everywhere. We’d go out to the cavern, and she’d be up the back one morning, and then the next, she’d be tucked into one of the niches towards the front with the cubs packed in tightly. Mum kept putting her and the cubs back in the normal spot, and it was driving everyone absolutely mad, because you’d never know when you were about to trip over half a dozen cubs, rolling around on the floor. Anyway, I went out to check on them this particular morning, and there was no Sabre, and no cubs. Anywhere.
We went all over the place looking for them. We emptied the cavern, checked all of the other breeding pens, and looked in the sheds in the paddocks. Mum was frantic. It’s not normal for a starcat to take her cubs very far, but occasionally they’ll take them outside and plant them in a hollow or natural cave. We spent the whole day searching for them. Even Moshi couldn’t find them.
Finally, we just collapsed around the fire. Mum was in tears, and we were all exhausted. We’d sat there silently for a few minutes, when Kaidan held up a hand, and said “Did you hear that?”
Mum said, “Hear what?” And then Kaidan got up, and began to walk towards the storage room, turning his head from side to side. We all followed, and then we heard it. Little quiet squeaky sounds. He opened the door, and there inside, each neatly tucked into a shelf, were all of the cubs. They were still at the stage where their eyes were closed, so they had no idea that Sabre had shelved them. She was curled up, fast asleep, underneath the bottom shelf. We call it “Sabre’s post natal depression” episode!
That's hilarious! Of course, it was probably not as funny at the time... What are you most scared of, becoming a Scout? What are you most excited about?
What I thought about Scouting, and what it actually is, are two different things. I had no idea that I’d be expected to teach my fellow cadets - that was terrifying, to be honest. I’m younger than the rest, and then there was Taya, so to start with that didn’t go very well. And then there was the reality of doing things alone, and now there’s so many expectations that I’m afraid I’ll fail everyone.
On the other hand, I love going Below, even though that terrifies me too, there’s so much new to see and experience! Being a cadet seems to mean that I spend my life swinging between being terrified and being excited about new experiences.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you'll bring a Starcat by some day!
Thanks Christina! I’d love to drop in again, and the boys would love to meet you. Perhaps Boots and Satin might have a cub or two for me to show you by then as well!
Sweet! One all to myself? Hmmm, I'll have to make some room on the bed... and then I'll have to somehow contain my two small dogs-- I can just imagine the havoc a disappearing and reappearing Starcat would do to them!
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