Interview with EJ Fisch

1. You're a long-time fan of science fiction. Who or what inspired you to become such a fan?
I was actually just reminiscing about this the other day thanks to the new trailer for Star Wars episode VII. I vividly remember the summer between 4th and 5th grade; my sister and I spent a lot of time at our friends' house, and they persuaded us to watch Star Wars one day while we were there. We actually started with The Phantom Menace (I'll pause and let Star Wars fans everywhere shudder), but it was enough to captivate my little 10-year-old self. The transformation basically happened overnight. I immediately went to watch the rest of the movies and started looking for other things that fit into the same space opera genre. Over the years, I've also fallen in love with the settings in Firefly/Serenity, Mass Effect, and Battlestar Galactica. Ever since I started publishing my own books, I've been trying to check out some older sci fi stories, as well as try sub genres other than space opera and space fantasy (e.g. cyberpunk). Star Wars was my first love though, and it's what inspired me to start writing in the first place. 
2. Please tell our readers about the Ziva Payvan series?
These books center around a group of characters who are all members of a superhuman race and work for the main law enforcement agency on their planet. I often tell people that the series combines the sci fi and spy thriller genres because it deals with assassins, conspiracies, and frame-ups but it's set in a fictional galaxy. My main character, Ziva Payvan, is a spec ops lieutenant with the Haphezian Special Police who leads her team on covert missions and fights to expose the galaxy's secrets, all while hiding a deadly secret of her own. She by no means thinks of herself as a hero (she refers to herself as a "problem solver" and believes good and evil are kind of relative to the situation) but she often gets the role of hero thrust upon her, which is something she's not really a fan of. Books 1 and 2 -- Dakiti and Nexus -- are available in both Kindle and paperback formats through Amazon, and I'm currently about 75% done with the first draft of Book 3, Ronan.
3. What kind of struggles did you face when you created this world?
I think one of the toughest things about creating any fictional world (particularly in sci fi) is figuring out the necessary balance between "foreign" and "familiar." Typically in sci fi, you're either dealing with a futuristic or near-future Earth, a futuristic version of our galaxy, or a completely fictional universe with alien worlds. In the case of the former two, the world building is fairly easy from a cultural standpoint because you can base pretty much everything on our world's current structure. In the case of the latter, you want to be able to make an alien culture unique and interesting, but at the same time you don't want it to be wacky enough that it overwhelms readers. That's the boat I find myself in. In the galaxy my story is set in, the central planets support a mostly-human population, while all the non-human races reside out in the Fringe Systems on the outer edges. I still try to give Ziva's Haphezian culture unique aspects, and that's a lot of fun, but because the galaxy is basically controlled by humans, I figure it's okay to include some "familiar" concepts as well. But like I said, it's hard to find a balance. Some readers have mentioned how happy they've been to not be bombarded by too much foreign culture. Others have said they thought there were a few too many familiar concepts that seemed unrealistic for an alien culture. I just have to remember that it's impossible to please everyone. The world-building elements usually come to me fairly easily, but then I have to figure out how, where, and even IF I should use them. 
4. What are some of Ziva's strengths and weaknesses?  
I think one of her biggest strengths is exactly that: her strength. She's strong in both a literal and more abstract sense. She's tall, muscular, and physically fit, but she's also capable of pushing herself mentally and staying focused in extremely stressful situations. When combined, these elements make her a force to be reckoned with and provide her with the tools she needs to do her job and survive on a day-to-day basis. She doesn't want to let herself get attached to more people than necessary, but she's extremely loyal and will do just about anything for the few people she is attached to. She's smart and inventive, and although she doesn't particularly like doing some of the things her job entails, she knows she's still very good at them. On the flip side, she's not exactly a -- shall we say -- nice person. She's not very patient; she could sit and wait all day behind the scope of a sniper rifle, but she gets really impatient with other people if she thinks they're incompetent or not contributing to whatever she's doing. She's obsessed enough with the idea of not getting attached to people that she lashes out in order to keep them from getting close to her. She's also developed a nasty habit of lying to herself and keeping her real thoughts and feelings bottled up, and while that does allow her to do her job better, it also means she's prone to blowing up and losing composure at inconvenient times. Overall, she's an extremely enjoyable -- albeit complex -- character to write, and getting to show the different aspects of her personality has always been a lot of fun.
5. What are some of the things you do when you're not writing?
I'm currently finishing up a 5th year of college and am on track to graduate in June, so I guess you could say school and homework are some of the things I do when I'm not writing (although I do my fair share of writing when I should be taking lecture notes...shhh, don't tell my professors). I enjoy working out regularly and reading (sometimes even beta reading) other indie-published books. I also love to draw and play video games, but I've been devoting so much of my free time to writing lately that I haven't had much time for my other hobbies. 

Catch up with EJ Fisch here:


An excerpt from Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1...

“Lieutenant, come in. What can I do for you?” Emeri Arion rose from his desk and beckoned for Aroska to come closer. He’d been the prime director of HSP – ranking even higher than the other directors at the agency’s regional offices – since before Aroska had been employed there. He was generally well-liked and respected, despite the fact that he was rather reclusive and rarely ventured beyond the walls of his office. In spite of that, he knew all the operations agents by name and kept close tabs on all their major missions. As always, he was impeccably dressed in his HSP dress blues, and the two turquoise stripes that ran through his graying hair were combed perfectly into place.
Aroska politely declined when Emeri offered him a chair. He suddenly felt numb again, unsure how the director would respond to what he was about to say. There was a good chance he could lose his job or even be imprisoned because of what he knew, but if he chose to stay quiet, the only way to successfully avoid working with Payvan would be to resign anyway.
Might as well get on with it, he thought. He crossed his arms and took a step back from the director’s desk. “Ziva Payvan?”
A flicker of uncertainty flashed across Emeri’s teal eyes. “So you received your assignment.”
“She killed my brother.”
If Emeri was shocked, he concealed it well. He was completely silent for a long time, his mouth a straight line as he stared Aroska down. Finally, he cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back. “Lieutenant, you know as well as I do that the identity of the Cleaner assigned to carry out a death sentence is kept confidential. What makes you so sure it was Payvan?”
Aroska sighed and reluctantly explained how he had overheard the director’s conversation on the day of Soren’s murder, carefully avoiding the fact that he’d told Adin. Emeri stood with closed eyes, massaging his forehead for the duration of the story.
“Soren was innocent!” Aroska cried, recalling Adin’s warning about losing his temper. “I submitted the evidence that proved it!”
“Evidence you weren't supposed to have,” Emeri said, voice quiet but firm. “You were benched from the investigation because of your relationship with the convict. On top of that, his grace period was up. You missed the deadline. A Cleaner could have struck at any time.”
“But HSP received my data before Soren was killed!”
“Yes we did, but—”
“So Payvan killed him even when she knew he was innocent! That shouka murdered my brother, and she tried to kill my father!”
“At ease, Tarbic,” Emeri snapped. “You don’t know as much as you think you do. She’s the most skilled operative HSP’s got.”
Aroska began to reply but was cut off when the office door burst open. The woman from the elevator stormed into the room, face contorted with frustration similar to what Aroska himself was feeling. She bristled and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw him there, silently regarding him with those striking red eyes. Her presence made his stomach churn, but now it wasn't out of excitement as it had first been at the elevator. Thinking back on Adin’s reaction and taking her current behavior into consideration, he was beginning to wonder if she was… She isn't, is she? The office fell totally silent as the two of them held eye contact.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d knock, Lieutenant,” Emeri finally said, unimpressed.
Aroska’s heart sank. I should have known. This powerful, attractive creature who had briefly distracted him from his troubles was also the ruthless monster responsible for the death of his brother. If not for the fact that he was paralyzed by rage, he would have lunged across the room and strangled her then and there, even with Emeri watching.
Maintaining her rigid posture, Payvan slowly began to move in a wide circle around them, looking Aroska up and down as she went. She was certainly solid, with strong arms and long, powerful legs. Her jet-black hair was pulled back tightly into a braid, and she bore a long scar beside her left eye that Aroska somehow hadn’t noticed earlier. She finally shifted her penetrating gaze to Emeri, who was looking rather chagrined.
“Welcome home – I trust your missions were successful,” he said, adding a sharp nod in Aroska’s direction. He knows. “I’m sure you remember Lieutenant Tarbic.”
“I do,” she replied in a gravelly alto voice that sent chills down Aroska’s spine. She turned toward him again, though she was clearly still addressing Emeri. “I must say he looked better through my rifle scope,” she said, tracing invisible crosshairs through the air with her fingers. 


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