Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview with SJ Kincaid, author of the Insignia trilogy and US/UK giveaway of Catalyst!

Welcome back, everyone! So excited to get to host this terrific interview with SJ Kincaid, the author of the Insignia trilogy!

If you read my last post, you know how much I enjoyed this trilogy. I loved getting some of my burning questions answered by her, and hope that you guys all go out and buy it now. It's worth it!

Goodreads description of Insignia:
"Insignia expertly combines humor with a disarming and highly realistic view of the future. The characters are real, funny, and memorable. You won't be able to put this book down."—Veronica Roth, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Divergent and Insurgent

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S. J. Kincaid's fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy perfect for fans of Ender's Game.

The planet's natural resources are almost gone, and war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning. The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn't seem like a hero. He's a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom's life completely changes. Suddenly, he's someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there's a price to pay. . . 

As a kid, S. J. Kincaid wanted to be an astronaut, but she decided to become a full-time writer after spending a year studying in Edinburgh and living next to a haunted graveyard. However, after writing many novels and having had no success in finding a publisher for any of them, S. J. decided she would write one more, then give up for good. That last book turned out to be INSIGNIA, and she hasn't looked back since. Follow S. J. Kincaid at or on Twitter: @SJKincaidBooks. On Facebook: sjkincaidbooks.

1. People have compared your books to a host of other well known books including Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, and Ready Player One. Did any of these books inspire you before you wrote your trilogy? Do you agree with the comparisons? How did you try to move beyond it (by the way, I think you totally succeeded, especially in the last two books)?

            Harry Potter and Ender’s Game are amazing, so I’m flattered by the comparisons. I’ve also heard great things about Ready Player One. If I were to pinpoint my biggest influences before the trilogy, I’d say: 1) Star Trek (this was my childhood), 2) Starship Troopers the movie (campy military sci-fi movie/political parody), 3) Scrubs the TV show (the mixture of tone between hilarity and moments of real seriousness), 4) Chuck the TV show (computer in the brain), and 5) Catch-22 (the absurd tone set in a military type environment).
            I really do think everything has been done before, and every single book, movie, TV show will draw upon familiar elements. The real secret is to organize things in a way that makes sense to you and create a world that you feel passionate about and invested in. I really had fun building the world of INSIGNIA and I miss it now that the series is done.

2. I absolutely love your world building. Did you do research for it? How did you go about creating it?
            Thank you! It took a lot of work building the world, and it’s one reason I already miss the series. I miss the world.
            I was in nursing school when I wrote it, so that put me temporarily in a mode where I could understand a lot more pathophysiology, etc. than I do now. That really helped me build the science of neural processors. I based a lot of the computer stuff on my own (limited) understanding of my own PC. As for the setting, the Pentagonal Spire, I went to a boarding school so drew upon that. I wanted there to be some equivalent to dormitories, and there are a few basic places you need with every live-in school. I also knew I didn’t want them to be full-blown military because that would require far more research and leave more grounds for inaccuracy, so I just had them be wards of the military, not members of it. The thing that required the most research was the technology. I read a lot of articles about likely near-future technology. I didn’t want anything too outlandish. I did want to stick as close to reality as possible.
            As for the political systems, etc. I really just exaggerated a lot of what’s already happening. The USA did actually form this alliance with India under George W Bush, and China and Russia have been moving towards countering US influence by strengthening their own relations. That part was probably the easiest of the world-building.

3. My favorite part of your books are the characters. Did any of your characters surprise you? If so, which one and why?
            Elliot Ramirez. I originally planned for him to be a rival of Tom’s, and even set it up like he was going to be the King Arthur to Tom’s Mordred, but I grew to like Elliot and began to regard him as a sort of mentor figure to Tom instead. He’s very much Tom’s opposite in many ways, and Tom has a lot he could learn from him.

4. Tom goes through a lot of growth over the span of the three books. There were several moments, particularly in book one and two where I wasn’t sure if I liked him, but because of your skill at storytelling and world building, I knew I was sticking around until the end. Was it difficult to write Tom and give him storylines and personal characteristics that you knew might rub people the wrong way? Can you tell us a little about risk taking when writing these books (because I think you take lots of risks, which totally pays off)?
            LOL, yes, he does go through a lot! Tom’s defining characteristic is his sheer stubbornness. He’s led a very insecure, unstable life and he’s been in a disadvantaged position for most of it, so he’s developed this uncompromising, unbending need to maintain his own sense of dignity. It’s a matter of pride for him, not ‘letting the bastards get him down’, but approaching the world with this attitude unwittingly creates enemies where he doesn’t even need to have them. One goal I always had with Tom was this: he will always be the primary cause of his own troubles. It makes Tom incredibly fun to write because there is always going to be conflict or turmoil of some sort once he is involved in a situation. If any other character was the center of INSIGNIA, the entire story probably wouldn’t have happened-- because no one else would’ve made his decisions.
            Having said that, he’s very much of a love-him-or-hate-him character. He polarizes both in the book and out of it. I’m okay with that, because people who don’t necessarily care for Tom generally seem to identify with Wyatt, Vik, Blackburn or Medusa. That’s one of the huge advantages of writing  story with prominent secondary characters-- it gives you more shots at winning a reader’s interest.
            Because Tom had a very prominent flaws (pride, stubbornness, insensitivity), I had both his strengths and weaknesses available to explore, and many of the risks in the series sprang from the idea of doing that. His stubbornness was in one way a very real strength, so of course, that begged the question in my mind about just what it would take to overcome that strength-- or could it be overcome? As soon as I have those questions, that’s when I want to take risks in the story.

5. Which character are you most like and why?
            Vik, but my humor is more teasing, less needling.

6. What were your favorite and least favorite parts about writing a trilogy?
            My favorite was evolving the characters over time, writing things into the third book that closed threads from the first book, (hopefully) surprising readers who might’ve expected something else, and just really digging in and getting invested in a narrative. My least favorite? Ugh, writing book two! That was a nightmare. Necessary, but a nightmare.

7. Who would be your dream cast for the trilogy?
            I have images of the kids, and don’t really know young Hollywood enough to match their faces to anyone. For several of the adults, I definitely have Hollywood actor mental images. Blackburn was inspired by John C McGinley’s Doctor Cox on Scrubs, physically and the way he spoke. Dalton, I always pictured as Rob Lowe. As for Vengerov, my mental image was Daniel Craig meets Vladimir Putin.

8. If you could spend one day in your world, what would you do and why?
            I’d sneak onto a spaceship and go into space. I really would love to go to space one day. I refuse to get my eyes lasered in case space tourism ever takes off. (Lasik surgery can create small perforations in the retina that can rupture in space, apparently!)

9. Can you give a few words of advice to aspiring writers?
            Read a lot, write a lot. Hear the word ‘no’ until it doesn’t bother you anymore. And never stop trying.

10. What are you working on next? Can you give us a teaser?
            It’s a little early to say! I have a sci-fi that is only a bit younger than INSIGNIA I’m hoping will go somewhere, and a tentative YA I’m working on. Nothing substantial yet. I’m in grad school for creative writing, so that’s my primary focus at the moment.

And now, enter to win the third book in the trilogy, CATALYST! I'm also chipping in a swag pack, to make this giveaway international! :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
post signature


  1. This series is on my TBR, but after reading this interview I want to read it even more. I love how she talks about her MC Tom as being the cause of his own problems and his personal growth throughout the series. Those are my favorite characters. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway!
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

    1. Cassi: This trilogy just gets better and better. I was completely blown away by book three!!! I think you found the wrong post for the review (you still get credit but I wanted you to see my review for the entire trilogy because the second two books totally changed my entire opinion about it)

  2. Thanks for doing this interview. I read Insignia but haven't had a chance to read the rest. I liked hearing about her influences, particularly the tv show Chuck since that was what went through my head when I first read the summary! Certainly looking forward to finishing the series.

  3. I don't think that I've ever read about this series before. If I had, surely I'd have read the first book by now. As it stands, I am definitely gonna read this. Thanks for sharing. You know how much I value your book reviews/thoughts.

  4. Awesome interview! I'll have to move this trilogy up on my TBR list :)

  5. Great interview, it answered lots of questions for me! Chuck is one of my favorites tv shows and is amazing to know it was an influence on the series.
    I really thought that Elliot Ramirez was going to be an enemy and I'm glad how it turned out. I never had a love-hate thing with Tom, sometimes he infuriated me, yes, but I really love his personality, flaws and everything.