Debbie Zaken is an award-winning Young Adult author. Her debut novel, Colliding Skies, is the first in a YA sci-fi series from Oftomes Publishing. It received 1st place in the Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Florida Rising Kite 2016 Award. Born in Miami, Debbie grew up in Guatemala and is fluent in English, Spanish and Hebrew. She currently resides with her husband and her two fabulously trilingual and adorable girls in South Florida.
I asked her a couple of questions about her book and her writing experience.
- What’s the most shocking fact you learned about your topic that most people still don’t know?
My book, Colliding Skies, is a Young Adult sci-fi novel. It’s about a teenage girl just kind of going about her life when an extraterrestrial ship arrives on Earth and how this completely alters the course of her life. On the surface, it would be easy to think that because it is a work of science fiction, this scenario is as far removed from reality as possible. But what I learned in the course of writing and publishing this book, is that it’s not too hard to draw parallels from actual historical events and/or current events to science fiction. Science fiction is in many ways, a reflection of society. It’s a representation of our most pressing cultural anxieties. It can make a very powerful statement about the past and the present.
Science fiction has the ability to take on a controversial topic, strip the baggage and preconceptions that usually come with it, and change it just enough so that people reading it can view it from a slightly different perspective. So for example, my book touches upon themes of race (human/alien), the concept and suspicion of “other” and “different”, and explores inter-racial relationships as seen through the perspective of human versus extraterrestrial. It shows biases and stereotypes that both sides have about each other. It also alludes to themes of power, political struggles, and corruption. Some of these themes I was aware of when I was writing the book, others really only became more obvious to me when the book was out and readers pointed them out in reviews and comments.
I think the most shocking thing I learned through this process was how many current events shape the way we read and perceive stories. I wrote Colliding Skies five years ago. When the book came out in March of 2018, the political climate in the United States had changed drastically from when I originally wrote it. I think that is why readers found parallels in the story to current events that I hadn’t really thought about before. This change has really made me more aware of the ability of science fiction to offer commentary on the present.
I see this very clearly now as I work on the sequel to Colliding Skies. I’m drawn to explore in more depth themes of political power, corruption, gender identity, and oppression. I now understandability science fiction has to raise questions about humanity, about individuals, and about our future.
2. Why did you decide to write a book on this topic?
The topic of the book wasn’t really wasn’t a conscious decision for me. I am an avid Young Adult reader. When the idea for the story came to me, the age of the protagonist and the plot fit into the Young Adult Sci-fi genre.
For me, it really starts with the character. That’s what usually comes to me first. After the character comes alive in my head, I start wondering who they are and what they’re going through. I want to know more about them. That’s how the plot forms in my head. That is what happened to me with Colliding Skies.
The premise for Colliding Skies actually came to me from a song. I was in my car listening to a specific song one morning and the idea just popped into my head. It was like an entire music video played in my mind while I drove. I played the song on repeat the entire way and by the time I got to work that morning, I had the basic premise of the book fleshed out. I went home that night and wrote a brief outline.
As I delved deeper into the story, I did, however, find myself drawn to certain themes of race (human/alien), the concept and suspicion of “other” and “different”. I found it interesting to explore inter-racial relationships as seen through the perspective of human versus extraterrestrial. I really wanted to show biases and stereotypes that both sides might have about each other. I think that is the power of science fiction. To allow us to see society and ourselves from a slightly different perspective.
3. What’s the book about and who would benefit or like to read it?
Colliding Skies is about a teenage girl, Skye Reilly, who has her life pretty mapped out. That is until the Celeians arrive and she meets Ethan, an alluring alien.
The Celeians promise many things. An end to disease, global warming, and famine. The knowledge to help humankind. Despite the suspicions surrounding the intriguing aliens and rising anti-alien protests, Skye gives Ethan her trust, and eventually her heart. When the Magistrate, a council of alien leaders, threatens to put an end to their interspecies relationship, following her heart could cost Skye her life and the lives of everyone she loves.
I think the book would appeal to anyone who likes science fiction and is drawn to romance and coming of age stories.
Links to Debbie’s social media and book: