Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Brenda Cooper about her latest science fiction novel, Keepers.

About Brenda Cooper:

Brenda Cooper is the author of Wilders, Book One of the Project Earth series; Edge of Dark and Spear of Light, Books One and Two of The Glittering Edge series; The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, Books One and Two of Ruby’s Song; and the The Silver Ship series. Her most recent short-story collection is Cracking the Sky. She is also the author of Mayan December and has collaborated with Larry Niven (Building Harlequin’s Moon). Cooper is a working futurist and a technology professional with a passionate interest in the environment.

Click here to visit her official website.

About Keepers:

Two sisters, one from a megacity and one from the wilderness, work together to protect the wilderness and the reintroduction of wolves from a group more interested in private property than public good.

In a future Earth that’s run by brilliant green cities separated by open land held in common for the good of wild things, two sisters must work together across and between the vastly different environments to root out dangers to both. They must protect the cities and the wild from the Returners, who prefer the toxic past to the difficult present. The older sister, Lou, her protector Shuska, and biologist friend Matchiko have reputations as successful rugged environmentalists. They must stay safe, listen, work, and sleuth out hidden nests of Returners. Oh, and save a few wolves along the way. In the meantime, Lou’s younger sister, Coryn, is learning that working for the most powerful woman behind the scenes in a megacity is far harder than it looks. When the Returners threaten the city, the sisters must find a way to preserve both their ways of life.

Keepers asks, Do humans have enough creativity, responsibility, and generosity to survive?


- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?

I’m curious. I’m curious about almost everything, but right now I’m quite curious about humans. I find it fascinating that we can exist with so many odd things warring inside of us, and lately, between us.  We are quite creative and capable, particularly by ourselves and in small groups. Yet as a species we’re mostly death and destruction.

This is a fascinating time to be a curious people-watcher. There is a lot of change (much of it bad – not all, but a shocking amount of it), there is a lot of fear and desperation, and there are a ton of ideas.  I enjoy taking this curiosity into my work as a writer.

And on the more mundane side – I live in a beautiful part of Washington State with dogs and people I love, and enjoy riding bicycles, walking dogs, nature, and reading.

- Your latest novel, Keepers (Pyr, 2018), is the second novel in the Project Earth series. What kind of a science fiction novel is it? What can readers expect from it?

I’m told my greatest strengths are worldbuilding and character.  The main story is about two sisters who must protect each other from far away. Inside of that, each sister has a challenge. Lou is learning to be a boss of something she’s frankly not ready for, save a few wolves, and keep everyone she loves alive. Coryn is trying to figure out how to stand out in a crowded city, help her sister, and grapple with her inner demons.

I hope readers will find an entertaining story that deals with real-world problems head-on. I want them to be interested in this version of the future, and to think about how we might create the better parts of this possible future world and avoid some of the worst parts. I hope they’ll root for Coryn and Lou, and a few other people as well. I hope readers will be entertained, and that the book will also spark them to think.

- I haven't had an opportunity to read Wilders and Keepers yet, but I gather that both of them have strong ecological and environmental elements. Do these elements play an important part in the story?

Yes. This is set about fifty years from now, when climate change has driven people into cities and people have made it largely illegal to be in wild places, in a time when cities are more powerful than countries. The focus of the humans and robots that are allowed to legitimately be in the wild places between the cities is to rebuild and support wildness and nature and to strip away the abandoned blight that the human shift to the cities left behind.

- Can Keepers be read as a standalone novel or does it continue the story that started in Wilders?

It can be read standalone, but I think it will feel more complete if the two books are read in order. A lot of the things that happen in Wilders shape the personalities of the main characters. The good news is that this is a duology, and so the whole story is out now and available.

- Will there be more Project Earth novels?

Maybe.  If so, I think they may be set in different times in this world’s evolution.  I’m interested in one of the character’s origin stories – Julianna Lake.  A few readers have asked for that.  I’m also interested in the farther future of this world.  Do the people in it survive?

There is room for short stories in this world. I suspect a few of those will appear.

But for the moment I’m off to other finish the series I started with The Silver Ship and the Sea. It was rudely interrupted by the great recession and I now have a publisher (Wordfire Press) interested in helping me finish it.

- What was the most rewarding part of writing Keepers? And what was the most challenging part of the writing process?

I start with a pretty bare-bones outline, and then I fill it in, telling myself much of the story as I go along. This is almost always the most fun part of writing a novel, and it was for Keepers. I love being surprised as the story comes out on the page. The most challenging part is that I wanted to write a lot about wolves. Lou is charged with, and interested in, saving wolves. I read at least six books on wolves, and had a lovely time learning a lot about them. But then I really didn’t have room to put very much of that onto the page.

- Is there anything you'd like to add?

Keepers feels like some of the most important long fiction I’ve done so far. As I’ve read extensively about two of the main topics of the books (biodiversity and robotics), I’ve become really concerned on many levels, maybe even frightened.  I feel that these topics need to be written about.  I think many of us feel that way – like whatever the issue (there are myriad), this is a time for writers to speak up. Kim Stanley Robinson took on sea level rise in New York 2140 and Richard Powers wrote about the terrible losses to our forests and the many incredible things we are learning about trees in Overstory (which you’ll find in the literature section, but which has a few light speculative elements).

These are important topics, and we need to write about them. That said, I tried hard to avoid preaching and to center Keepers on my characters and the story. I hope it sweeps people along in an interesting family-entered story.

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