Out of this World: Nicole Murphy

To celebrate Star Wars Day, we asked some of our science fiction authors to tell us what Star Wars means to them. Then, to support science fiction readers everywhere, we dropped the prices on their books…
Nicole Murphy
I can still remember how it felt as a seven-year-old, seeing A New Hope for the first time. I walked out of the cinema feeling like my head was going to burst open, unable to hold my mind as it expanded to take in the scope of what I had just seen. I wasn’t new to SF – I was a veteran Dr Who watcher at that age – but Star Wars expanded my vision in a way nothing ever had before. The opening scene alone, with the famous sliding shot showing the size of the Imperial Star Destroyer, was the most incredible thing and then consider the scope of the Death Star alone to a seven-year-old – a space station the size of a moon that could blow up whole planets. That was just the beginning.
Since then, every Star Wars picture has continued to expand my mind (yes, even those that shall not be named) with the size of the story, the world, the characters, the stakes. And I’ve never let my mind get small. I can honestly say that Star Wars played a huge part in the person I am today and I will be forever grateful for it’s place in my life. May the Force be with you – always.

21764From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.

Cassandra Wiltmore is the heir to the throne of Rica, but it’s unlikely she’ll be stepping up any time soon. So she spends her days managing and building the Rican Balcite Mining Company. The company has made her family wealthy beyond imagination, but that kind of power needs careful control, and Cassandra is just the Wiltmore to control it.

When a new bid for the mining license is announced, Cassandra is determined to squash it. Then the thefts and threats begin, and every step she takes seems to be wrong. Taking on a new protector seems like an indulgence Cass can’t afford, but she equally cannot afford to be caught off-guard. If only the best man for the job wasn’t also the best-looking man she’s ever seen.

Kernan Radaton has ambition, and as protector to Cassandra Wiltmore, he’s well placed to reach all his long-held goals. If only his new all-business boss didn’t make him think of only pleasure. With the company, the heir and the family under attack, the last thing anyone needs is a distraction. But once everything is safe again, Kernan is developing new ambitions — ones that involve a lot of very personal time spent getting to know his boss on a very personal level.

 

The intimacy factor

by Nicole Murphy

One of the difficult things to do when writing romance is to build the emotional intimacy between the couple. In real life, it can take weeks, months for this to happen but in the fast pace of a romance novel (where you can go from stranger to happily ever after in just days), making that realistic is tough.

That’s why ‘forced proximity’ is such a valuable trope— it gives the author a valid excuse to plunge the hero and heroine into each other’s company in close quarters and build that intimacy quickly.

I used forced proximity in my sci-fi romance Winning the King. Diana and Gareth’s relationship has already had a bump, due to the fact that he believes the stories he’s heard of her and decides she flat out isn’t good enough for him. He needs to learn the truth about Diana, and learn it quickly, for the relationship to move forward without using up too much of the plot. So he and Diana are forced into each other’s company while the world around them appears to be falling apart. Stressed, scared, they have no one but each other to turn to for comfort.

Forced proximity works brilliantly to develop emotional intimacy—whether it’s the way the hero and heroine get together, or something forced on them partway through the story—but I don’t like it when all it’s used for is physical intimacy.

I read a story once where the story opened with the hero and heroine meeting by being trapped in a basement during an earthquake. Now, it could have been a brilliant thing—they become attached as they get themselves through this difficult period (particularly as they had been arguing when the quake hit) but then when saved, the real world is keeping them apart. Instead, the hero and heroine somehow decided that this was the perfect time to have sex. It turns out the forced proximity was just being used in order to manoeuvre the hero and heroine into a one-night stand (one-quake stand?) so that the story could be a secret baby story. They got rescued, said goodbye to each other and that was it until the baby arrived, and somehow they met again…a real waste of a brilliant trope.

warriors

My favourite romance involves the forced proximity trope. In Johanna Lindsey’s Warrior’s Woman, Tedra de Arr is forced to spend time with Challen Ly-San-Ter after losing a challenge to him. It is through being constantly with each other that Challen and Tedra learn not only that they want to jump each other’s bones, but to like, respect and admire each other. There’s no way that could have happened without Tedra being forced to spend so much time with Challen.

So yep— chalk me up as a big fan of forced proximity. What’s your favourite forced proximity story?


winning

From Nicole Murphy comes a sexy SF romance: everything has always come easily to her…except him.

A Second Chance at Love, part 4: it’s in the stars

This is the last ‘A Second Chance at Love’ post in our series about tropes in romance literature


 

by Nicole Murphy

One of the important aspects of having a romance novel work is having a great reason for the tension between the hero and heroine. They’re not supposed to have their happily ever after until the end of the novel – how do you keep them apart when it’s so obvious they should be together?

I think that’s why ‘second chance at love’ is such a fantastic trope, because nothing creates tension between a couple better than a difficult first attempt at being a couple. There is of course instant passion, but there are also instant bad memories, perhaps even resentment, dislike and hurt.

All that past history enables a writer to really play out reasons for them not to have a happily ever after – it didn’t work the first time, why should it work now? There’s nothing artificial in this problem and it’s one that we can all relate to, but at the same time that we desperately want them to work it out because we’re all die-hard romantics.

I used this trope in Protecting her Heart, the third book in my science fiction romance series. I’d set myself a real challenge with this book – the heroine was one of the antagonists in the first book in the series. She was a harsh, uncompromising, unfeeling character. In order to work out how to make her a romance heroine, I had to work out her past – how did she become this character? What is within her that makes her capable of having a happy ever after? The answer – her first great love.

heart-sky

So Paolo comes back into Plissa’s life. Making her wish for the life she’d turned her back on. A life that was now impossible.

Someone told me the other day that they’ve read a lot of SF romance lately, and that this book was one of the best because the tension as to whether Plissa and Paolo could overcome all the problems in their relationship and get their happily ever after was so real for the entirety of the book. I was really proud of that.

I fell in love with the ‘second chance at love’ trope when reading Nalini Singh’s Secrets in the Marriage Bed. It was done brilliantly – the problems in the estranged marriage so obvious, the heroine fighting for her freedom, the hero blind to her needs. Nalini handled the trope and let the tension play out and be resolved beautifully.

What’s your favourite ‘Second Chance at Love’ story?


 

nicolemPlissa has always valued her head above her heart, her ambition over her relationships, but with Paolo back in her life—and her bed—it soon becomes clear that her future is not the only thing she’s risking.

I’m lucky I grew up with Leia

by Nicole Murphy

Great role models for girls and young women is a topic that rises time and again and it’s no surprise. It’s easy for men to find role models – everywhere they look, there are politicians and business men and actors and sports stars. A plethora of choices, all laid out for you. Find one that matches, and off you go.

Girls have a far smaller pool to choose from, and sometimes it can be hard to find someone to admire and emulate. There are remarkable women out there, but the media often doesn’t give them the exposure they deserve and, unless you go looking, you might never find someone who proves you can do whatever you want.

Movies offer one of the few places where you can, from time to time, see women as clearly as men. When a woman appears that is right up there with the guys, they are instantly grabbed hold of by girls and young women desperate for someone to look up to.

Recently it’s been characters like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy, and of course the actress that plays her, Jennifer Lawrence, who is herself a fabulous woman to look up to. Jessica Jones is also proving to be one of these longed for characters. But there are also times when as a young woman, particular one who loves science fiction and fantasy, the media isn’t offering up a lot of options for you.

Which is why I consider myself really lucky that I grew up during the first Star Wars era – 1977-1983. That’s because I got to have Princess Leia as my role model.

Leia with gun

I was seven when I saw the first Star Wars film – ripe to have my first female role model. There wasn’t a lot on television. I remember Sarah Jane from Doctor Who, and Miss Jane from Mr Squiggle, but neither of them were women that spoke to my heart. Certainly all the newsreaders and most of the actors you saw were men.

Then there was Leia. Smart enough to get the plans for the Death Star off the ship before Darth Vader took her captive. Strong enough to withstand torture and not reveal the whereabouts of the rebel bases.

The moment I truly fell in love with Leia was when Luke burst into her cell to rescue her. Leia, lying on her bed, raises herself on one elbow and says in a sarcastic tone, “Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?”

Ah, Leia. Facing probable death and still not willing to go down without showing how much she hates the Empire.

Then of course, the big strong men that rescued her get caught up, and she has to rescue them, grabbing a blaster and shooting out a vent so they can crawl into the ship innards and escape their pursuers. The fact they ended up in a rubbish compacter and almost crushed to death is NOT Leia’s fault.

For the next two films, Leia continued to be fabulous. Strong. Determined. Willing to jump in and do what had to be done. I loved watching her race the speeders around the forest of Endor, and every time she grabbed a blaster and started shooting, I almost danced with glee. This wasn’t a woman that hid out of the way when the fighting started. She was right there, side by side with the men, taking the risk because she was going to fight as hard for what they believed in as they did.

Even though Leia disappeared from the big screen in 1983, she didn’t leave us. She’s been in books. She’s been in cartoons. Best of all, it turned out Carrie Fisher (the actress who played Leia) was every bit as sensational as the woman she embodied. Smart. Funny. Strong in a way that actually makes Leia look like a pussy.

Carrie Fisher

So I not only got Leia, I got Carrie Fisher too to be my role model. The woman who taught me that even when I’m afraid, I need to just get on and do it anyway.

Today, Star Wars – The Force Awakens opens. I’m finding it hard to contain my excitement because, finally, 32 years after she was last on the big screen, Leia is back. And 32 years later, I’m ready to see my role model as the mature version, leading me into my own maturity.

Leia in Force Awakens

If Leia doesn’t grab a blaster and start shooting the crap out of some baddies, I will be having words with JJ Abrams. You better believe it. Even us old girls need to get out and fight for what we believe in.


 

Nicole writes her own feisty, strong, SF romance stories. Check out her Jorda Trilogy, which kicks off with Loving the Prince.

21764

From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.

Winter Warmers Kick Off This Month – Check out June’s First Round Releases!

24265A fresh, exciting, sexy new voice in contemporary romance, Kate J Squires debuts with a scorching novel about sexy singles, intense competition, a cash prize—and no touching allowed.


24250

Kicking off a brand new romantic suspense series from Lee Christine is A Dangerous Arrangement: a violinist with a secret, a billionaire with a problem and a race against time set on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.


24249

Introducing Marnie St Clair, a sexy, sweet, seductive new voice in rural romance! She went from having everything to having nothing—except what she really needed.


24274

The final book in Nicole Murphy’s steamy, sexy science fiction trilogy brings back an unforgettable character for her own unforgettable story …

Hot New Reads for a Hot New Year!

22841From the best-selling author of The House on Burra Burra Lane, comes a brand-new story about opposites, attraction, an outback pub, and a pink house…


23094Viveka Portman’s latest instalment in the sexiest set of diaries you have ever read…


23092From Nicole Murphy comes a sexy new SF romance: everything has always come easily to her…except him.


23093A fresh, exciting, funny, fabulous take on New Adult Paranormal about an enterprising matchmaker…and her paranormal clientele.


23091From the polished, pacy, passionate pen of Alyssa J Montgomery come a delicious billionaire, a mining heiress, a marriage of convenience and a very inconvenient attraction.


Are you caught up on the sexploits of Sydney’s sexiest housewives?

22815Rugged, athletic, and absolutely enormous, Mud is aggressive on the rugby field and off. It takes a special kind of woman to tame the beast and take on all that man, but Jorja has never been anything less than exceptional. 


22814Meagan knows that she’s playing with fire with a special dessert that blows the restaurant’s budget, but maybe, with the help of some unorthodox persuasion techniques, she might just get what she wants – everything that she wants.


released 29 January
22816In business, as in pleasure, Christa has two rules: ask for what you want, and be prepared to get a bit creative.


A very special re-release

21183Originally released as Deadly Secrets, and now a print best-seller!
Jordan must save her farm from debt and sabotage – can she place her trust in a man from out of town?

6 Reasons why Science Fiction is the new Paranormal

by Kate

Think SF is too hardcore? Too bogged down in details? Not sexy enough for a paranormal reader like you? We beg to differ…

  1. Worlds – same, same, but different
    Just as in paranormals, much in a science fiction world is quite familiar, but with a few key changes. Whether it’s set on a space ship, a distant planet, or a dystopian Earth, there is enough that is familiar to ease your way into the world, but enough different to add a bit of spice and excitement.

    stargate-the-movie-e

    Stargate – the movie

     

  2. Sexy heroes – the galaxy is your oyster
    Whether it’s the strong warrior, the diplomatic politician, or the unflappable scientist, the universe is populated with gorgeous new heroes, just waiting for you to find them.

    the warrior hero - Chris Pine as Captain Kirk

    the warrior hero – Chris Pine as Captain Kirk

    The moral outlaw - Nathan Fillion as Captain Mal Reynolds

    The moral outlaw – Nathan Fillion as Captain Mal Reynolds

    Logic has never been sexier - Zachary Quinto as Spock

    Logic has never been sexier – Zachary Quinto as Spock

    Humour and strength - Will Smith in Independence Day

    Humour and strength – Will Smith in Independence Day

    The unlikely hero - Bruce Willis in The 5th Element

    The unlikely hero – Bruce Willis in The 5th Element

     

  3. Strong heroines – kicking alien butt
    Kick-ass, anti-, or just complex, three-dimensional heroines, Science Fiction features an array of women taking care of business in an array of situations, from facing down alien abductors or setting up planetary governments, to kicking some inter-galactic ass. Looking for strong female characters? You’ll find them in SF.

    Jean Grey - the most powerful of the X-warriors. Sure she almost kills everyone, but everyone has off days.

    Jean Grey – the most powerful of the X-warriors. Sure she almost kills everyone, but everyone has off days.

    Dana Scully - the smart, sceptical scientist that holds the X-files together

    Dana Scully – the smart, sceptical scientist that holds the X-files together

     

    Ellen Ripley - the warrior heroine of the Alien series

    Ellen Ripley – the warrior heroine of the Alien series

    Sarah Manning in Orphan Black - an anti-heroine chasing down answers behind an apparent cloning - hers.

    Sarah Manning in Orphan Black – an anti-heroine chasing down answers behind an apparent cloning – hers.

     

  4. High stakes
    Whether it’s planet-wide destruction, a chilling villain, or war on a galactic scale, something is always going on in SF that drives the relationship stakes into the atmosphere.

    Luke - I disapprove of your girlfriend...

    Luke – I disapprove of your girlfriend…

     

  5. Favourite tropes, with a twist
    Bodyguards, arranged marriages, damsels who can save themselves from their own distress (but get a little help along the way), friends-to-lovers, even billionaire playboys – just throw the word ‘space’ in front of them, and you’ve got an SF plot, just waiting to be written or read!

    Or, in this case, superhero genius inventor boss hero meets capable, intelligent, organised assistant/secretary heroine

    Or, in this case, superhero genius inventor boss hero meets capable, intelligent, organised assistant/secretary heroine

     

  6. Happy ever after ending guaranteed
    fifth-elementStar Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)giphy-facebook_s.jpgRikerTroiwedding

Who’s your SF OTP? Let us know below (pictures optional, but wholly encouraged!) for a chance to win a selection of books and upcoming ARCs from our science fiction catalogue!


Whetted your appetite for some sexy SF? Check out some Escape titles below!

21764

From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.


19729

What if your only chance at survival was to seduce the man who broke your heart?


 

8867The first book in SE Gilchrist’s bestselling erotic Sci-Fi series about a dark and delicious alien race on a desperate quest for survival — and the human women who can cure their years-long curse.


20382For fans of The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games comes a YA novel about freedom, choice and family — and the terrifying disease that makes them mutually exclusive.

 

Alluring August Additions from our Amazing Authors

Sure to set your TBR pile groaning. Many of our authors will be attending the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Sydney this month, and participating in the Australian Romance Readers Association Book Signing. If you’re there – come say hi!

Now, to the good stuff:

21764From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.


21769New Australian romantic suspense follows the R*BY Nominated Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.


21763From fantasy writer Lara Morgan comes the second in her engrossing, enchanting, exciting Twins of Saranthium trilogy, perfect for curbing Game of Thrones withdrawals.


21770The sequel to the critically acclaimed Red Moon, about a playboy werewolf, his shy room mate, the ties that bind and a battle for true love.


21768What happens when fairy tales get the romantic suspense treatment? A cross-genre mash-up with enchanting results!


21767One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.


21765She mixes more than flour and sugar into her cake batter, and he’s about to find out if a little bit of magic is to his taste…


21766From bestselling, groundbreaking author Ainslie Paton comes a groovy romance about changing times, growing up, breaking out and second chances. Set in Sydney in 1975, when pants and collars were wide, hair was big, eyelids were blue and neighbours shared each other’s lives.

Writing science fiction? Australia’s the place to be.

by Nicole Murphy

If you’re lucky, you’ve not been caught up in the troubles that have been plaguing the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) over the past few weeks.

In a nutshell, however – SFWA has been making moves over the past few years to be more inclusive, so sexist and racist attitudes aren’t being let go as they used to be. Some people see this as political correctness gone mad and they’re fighting it. Let me assure you, it’s not political correctness – it’s simply an attempt for women, people of colour, the disabled, etc to have the same voice as those who have always been in control.

Really, you don’t need to know more than that. Some of the comments made have been shameful. If you really want to, then you can read the basis of it here: http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/sfwa-sexism-sci-fi-nebulas-mary-kowal/

I can’t speak too much to exactly what is happening in SFWA – I’m not a member of SFWA (I qualify, but I’ve never bothered to join) and I’ve had very little interaction with any of the people involved in this fight, except to say that I support any attempts anyone makes to ensure everyone has a free run at what they want to do with their life.

But this article(http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=1246) by Julie E McKenna, along with a request from Kate, has me writing this article for the Escapades. It worries me that people might think all science fiction writers are like this, that if you dared to set foot in the Australian industry, you’d be treated like chump as well. I want you all to know – that isn’t the case.

Now, I need to state upfront that things aren’t perfect here in Australia. There have been issues with sexual harassment at some science fiction conventions (my own group, Conflux, have recently brought in an anti-harassment policy to help combat this – you can read it here: http://conflux.org.au/anti-harassment-policy/).

As a writer of primarily romance-based stories, I have issues in terms of being accepted as a ‘real writer’ by some people. I was told once that I’m known as the ‘queen of the eight-page sex scenes’. Now, I happen to think it’s important to get good representation of women’s sexuality in fantasy and science fiction (that’s a whole other rant for me to have), but it’s disappointing that no one says anything about my world building, or my characterisation, or my pacy plots, which are the things my publishers and readers rave about. No, it’s about the sex scenes. And because of that, there are people around the place that will NEVER take me seriously as a writer, and not all of them are men.

But all in all, if there’s one country in the world where being a woman who writes science fiction or fantasy doesn’t put you behind the men, it’s Australia.

The numbers back it up. HarperVoyager (the science fiction/fantasy imprint of HarperCollins) is Australia’s largest publisher of science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels. Of the Australian authors on the books (including me), 19 are women, 13 are men. The Aurealis Awards are Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards (I’m running them this year – eep!). Of the 49 authors and editors nominated, 28 are women, 21 are men. The Ditmar Awards are the fan-voted awards associated with the National Convention (I ran them last year – yeah, I kinda like awards). 17 authors and editors were nominated – only four were men, the rest were women.

There’s many reasons why this is the case. For example, Voyager has, for the nearly 19 years of its existence, been run only by women. A lot of the small press in Australia (where some of the best writing is coming from) is run by women.

Then there’s the fact that all the men who are at the top of the field are genuinely nice, welcoming guys who don’t really care what your genitalia is. As long as you’re writing interesting, entertaining work, then they’re on your side. At least, that’s been my experience. It isn’t any of the big names who have made me feel I write anything lesser than them because I have more sex scenes than they do. Often, their stories are just as romantic as mine, but you know, they’re guys so they’re allowed to do that…

Of course, it can be argued that for the past 15 or more years, the men haven’t had the chance to push the women down. The first writer to break out in Australian fantasy in this period was a woman – Sara Douglass. The first writer to take on the world and become one of the biggest names in fantasy full stop? Trudi Canavan. The only Australian author who got a fabulous hard-cover edition of their book as part of HarperVoyager’s 15 birthday celebrations in 2010? Kylie Chan.

But women getting their just rewards in the Australian speculative fiction industry isn’t just about their talents, as can be seen overseas where there are loads of talented women being kept down by the men who were there first.

So Australia has talented women, and men who don’t mind that. When we all get together in Canberra on April 5 to hand out the Aurealis Awards, the gender of the winner isn’t going to matter. We’re there to celebrate everyone’s success, because we know that every person that makes it, makes it easier for the next person.

I’m really proud to be a member of the Australian speculative fiction industry. There’s lots of interesting, imaginative things being done. People are embracing new opportunities. Sure, there’s still work to be done – inclusion of people of colour (particularly Indigenous Australians) and the disabled is where the conversation needs to occur here. But the thing is, I don’t doubt that MOST of the Australian industry is capable of having this conversation, and the ones that aren’t won’t get their voice heard.

Whereas if you look at what’s happening in some areas overseas, you have to wonder if anyone will ever be heard.

Nicole Murphy is the author of the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, published by HarperCollins (and to be re-launched as an electronic omnibus in April), and a couple dozen speculative fiction shorts. As Elizabeth Dunk she’s published contemporary romance with Escape Publishing and in June will be releasing a collection of paranormal erotic novellas, also with Escape.