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Today’s guest is urban fantasy and science fiction romance writer Jessie Mihalik! She’s the author of The Queen’s Gambit, a science fiction romance novella in the Rogue Queen series, and she is currently releasing the sequel, The Queen’s Advantage, as a serial on her website (with several chapters available to read now!). Her latest book, Polaris Rising, is the first novel in a new romantic space opera trilogy, the Consortium Rebellion. The second book in this series, Aurora Blazing, is scheduled for release in October 2019.

Polaris Rising Cover Aurora Blazing Cover

On Writing and Reading Science Fiction Romance

Thank you so much for having me as a guest! Today, I want to talk a little bit about my experience writing science fiction romance, how I try to meet the expectations of both genres, and why you should give cross-genre books a try.

Polaris Rising, my debut novel, is a space opera and a science fiction romance. My heroine is a kick-ass space princess who becomes reluctant allies with an outlaw soldier. Shenanigans ensue and they fall desperately in lust, then in love. The relationship is at the core of the story, but there are also spaceships, battles, politics, rescues, and friendships—all of the things you’d expect from space opera.

When I started writing the book, I knew it might struggle to find the right audience, the right niche. Science fiction romance is something of a balancing act, and I deeply appreciate all of the writers, especially the women, who came before, forged a trail, and made the road far easier for me to follow.

Science fiction romance merges two genres with very loyal, very vocal fanbases, each with their own expectations and biases. Whenever that happens, it becomes tricky to please everyone—hence the balancing act.

On the science fiction side, some readers are deeply skeptical of anything labeled romance, sometimes without ever having read a romance. I’ve had conversations with people where they perk up at “space opera” then immediately deflate when I follow it with “romance.” Then they tend to find somewhere else to be.

I’m seeing it less than I used to (thanks again to all of the writers who forged this road before me!), but it’s a teensy bit frustrating to constantly have to defend that a good romance can also be good science fiction. And maybe my book isn’t it. I mean, I’d like to think it is, but I’m a little biased. Regardless, books that are great at both exist, and have for decades, if not longer. The two genres are not mutually exclusive.

On the romance side, some readers are deeply skeptical of science fiction in general. They think it’s not for them, either because they think it’ll be too technical or because they’ve been repeatedly (and unfairly) told “it’s not for you.”

And that’s a tragedy, because science fiction spans so many subgenres that there’s very likely a niche for everyone. Hate military SF but love cyberpunk? You’re still a science fiction fan. And from a technical perspective, science fiction ranges from extremely intricate and detailed hard SF to more hand-wavy space opera where the focus is more on the characters than the technology, so you can find exactly the level of technical detail you want.

I was lucky that as a kid, I read everything and no one teased me about it. Or if they did, it didn’t stick. I read Herbert, McCaffrey, Adams, and Tolkien—and so many more—as fast as I could tear through them. Science fiction and fantasy were the foundation of my formative reading years. I loved the escape, the vastness of new worlds.

Then in high school, I found romance. I’d borrow my grandma’s Harlequins and read them on the bus. And I was absolutely teased for reading them, but that didn’t stick, either, because romance filled a hole in my reading that I hadn’t even realized was there. I wanted those happily ever afters and impossible dreams coming true.

When I sat down to write a book, I wanted both. I wanted happily ever afters and the vastness of space and new planets. So I wrote both. And I had a blast doing it.

If you’re an aspiring science fiction writer, especially a writer who wants to dabble across genres, do it! Write the story you want to write.  Don’t worry about how it will be received or if it will work.

All of that comes later.

Write the story that’s in your soul and readers will find it. We need all kinds of stories, not just the things that stay neatly in the lines.

So go forth and boldly create!

And if you’re a reader who’s been hesitant to cross into a new genre, maybe dip in a toe. Check out a book from the library. Check out five books. You won’t lose anything except a little bit of time and you might find a whole new world that is exactly what you didn’t know you were missing.

Happy reading!

Jessie Mihalik Jessie Mihalik has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves. Find her online at www.jessiemihalik.com.