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05 March 2013

Interview with Christian Schoon

Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.

But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.

Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.

Thank you very much Mr. Schoon for the opportunity of having you on our blog today!

1)  How and why have you started to write? Were there something or someone that gave you an impulse?

My early attempts at writing were probably prompted by the fact my mother was an English teacher who simply expected her kids to appreciate both writing and reading, so we all sort of took to it naturally.  Also, in our household, my four brothers and one sister were all readers. And I started reading science fiction pretty early on in grade school – I recall that “Rusty’s Spaceship”  was one of those initial SF books that sparked my imagination and gave me a feeling that “Wow! I can open a book and travel into space any time I want! Cool!”

2)  Tell me something about your book Zenn Scarlett.

Zenn Scarlett is a 17-year-old girl in her novice year of training to be an exoveterinarian. She’s studying at an ancient Ciscan Cloister exovet school and clinic in an Earth colony on Mars. Her course work includes learning about how to heal animals that range from single-celled crypto-plasmoid creatures big as a sofa to semi-aquatic Tanduan swamp sloos longer than a battleship!

Her friends at the cloister include Hamish, an eight-foot-tall Sirenian beetle – and a good-looking towner boy named Liam. Liam comes from a broken home, and has gotten into scrapes with law in the nearby town. Zenn knows she really needs to focus on her schoolwork. The “patients” she works with are all very large, and mostly very dangerous; she can’t afford to slip up. But against her better judgment and her generally logical, scientific outlook on life, she finds herself increasingly drawn to Liam’s bad-boy charms. Can she resist? And what will happen if she can’t?

Then, mysteriously enough, the animals at the cloister suddenly begin acting very strangely, and one even escapes its enclosure and goes on a wild rampage – and Zenn is blamed for the escape.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Zenn’s absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her. And, most alarming of all, she’s now begun to have disturbing interludes where she seems to be sharing thoughts with some of the alien creatures at the clinic. 
As events threaten to spiral out of control, it’s up to Zenn to sort out these various mysteries, all without failing her first year of exovet training!

3)  While youre writing, have you discovered a character that you where developing feelings of love for? And was there a character that gave you headaches?

Well, if I was 17 years old again, and I met Zenn at a school dance or something, I think I’d definitely figure out some way to get her phone number before the night was over. I mean, a girl who has the courage, skill and medical know-how to climb onto the snout of an 80-foot-long whalehound and administer a therapeutic eye-wash? That’s my kind of girl. As for headaches, paradoxically, I’d also say Zenn falls into that category as well. It’s always a tough challenge for a writer to create a character readers can immediately identify with but who still has the sort of faults that make them look/act/talk/ and sometimes fail like a real human being and not a Styrofoam cut-out. So, like most true love affairs, my relationship with Zenn also brings its own crazy-making headaches as part of the package.

4)  How have you done your research for this novel?

The first and most important sort of research I did involved getting in touch with my inner teenager. I had a great time growing up, but also had my share of drama as a young guy. I had the usual romantic crushes… and soul-crushing break-ups. Got shot at by the police once (case of mistaken identity, I swear!). Spent my senior year of high school as a foreign exchange student in Sweden – got very homesick at first, but eventually had the time of my life, and learned many eye-opening truths about the world beyond the U.S. Played in a rock band. Acted in theatrical productions. Got into trouble, but also got decent grades in school. So, when it came to writing believable teenage characters, I worked at conjuring up the emotional feel of that time in my life, and tried to make sure that I was writing as honestly as I could, drawing on those teen-year emotions, desires, aspirations and, yes, idiotic mistakes that I made as a teenager.

The two other main kinds of research I did for Zenn Scarlett involved formulating a credible environment on Mars and making sure my veterinary procedures had the ring of truth.

I’ve always thought that terra-forming a whole planet was simply too huge a task to pull off (at least any time in humanity’s immediate future). So, I had the early pioneers to Mars seal off several large canyons and make those smaller, more contained areas livable. For the medical research, I’ve been fortunate to have experience with a number of exotic animal species through the volunteer wildlife rescue and rehabilitation work I do with several animal welfare organizations. So, I’ve gotten up-close and personal with animals like 450-pound black bears, full-grown mountain lions, 18-foot pythons, alligators, coyotes, emus, horses, donkeys and smaller guys like raccoons and possums. I was also lucky enough to have a local veterinarian as a friend. I asked her lots and lots of questions!

5)  Is there a book that inspired your writings?

I loved the Edgar Rice Burroughs “Princess of Mars” books when I was in grade school. I think they left a lasting impression! And I take exception with the critics of Disney’s “John Carter” film. I thought that movie was awesome. So there.

6)  In the end, would you like say some words to your fans from Romania?

 I’m just very happy to have had this chance to talk about Zenn Scarlett with any interested readers in Romania. Romania has such a long and magnificent literary tradition. I think it’s hard for us here in a nation as young as America to really appreciate how deeply the roots of storytelling reach into your country’s ancient past. That kind of history surely must affect Romanians today as they read and interpret stories, in ways both concrete and intangible. So, I have to say it’s a real honor for me to be able to share this short time with all of you. If you do happen to pick up a copy of Zenn Scarlett, I hope you’ll enjoy her veterinary and romantic adventures as much as I enjoyed writing them! Thanks for your time and “noroc pentru voi toaţi”! (I hope that says “Good luck to you all!”)


  1. I've just gotten a review copy of Zenn Scarlett and the first chapter is really promising. I'm enjoying it so far and love the premise.

    Thanks for the great interview Christian and Simona

  2. My pleasure Weinert I hope one day to have the opportunity of reading the book:)


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