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Interview with Jesikah Sundin

Cover art for GamemasterJesikah Sundin is a friend and fellow author who I met and got to know through a series of Seattle-area conventions and other events. She’s visiting today to talk about the final book in her Biodome Chronicles series, Gamemaster, which came out yesterday!

DV: Tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

JS: Jesikah Sundin is a high spirited but down-to-earth woman of impeccable taste in comfort clothes, serious skills in twisting her unruly curls into top knots, can drink anyone under the table . . . er, with coffee that is . . . has zero problems with being shallow or behaving with vanity despite comfort clothes and top knot while simultaneously capable of deep, philosophical discussions, preferably of an existential nature. She laughs a lot, even in inappropriate moments, and rambles when excited or suffering from social anxiety. In her downtime, when she’s not flinging memes onto social media like an internet ninja, you can find her fangirling about books, gardening, and cooking, but especially about her friends and family. There is nothing more important to her than the people in her life. Oh . . . and the forest is her happy place.

(Thanks for letting me talk about myself in the 3rd person, hee hee!)

DV: For those of us who might be a little bit behind on your series (*cough* me *cough*), could you give us a quick, spoiler-light synopsis of the plot up to the beginning of Gamemaster?

Sure thing! Each book features three point-of-views, but the focus is mainly on Fillion Nichols and his perception of reality as he falls deeper and deeper into the psychological game his father has plotted. I liken it to the frog in the pot. Where LEGACY (book 1) is tepid water, GAMEMASTER (book 3) is a full, raging boil. The pacing in each book was intentional to match this metaphor, too 😉 LEGACY is a slow start but, mid-way through, it starts to kick up speed with a few bubbles of heat. In ELEMENTS, the pace is steady and constant — a simmer. In TRANSITIONS, the heat is rolling. Beta and ARC reviewers have all shared that they consumed GAMEMASTER in a matter of 2-4 days and it’s 500 pages long! That full, raging boil is intense. But, back to the character . . . So, in GAMEMASTER, Fillion must learn to spin the tales, to weave them together, to make a reality all his own. This requires him to trust his own voice and his own instincts and slowly extricate himself from the gaslighting puppet master programming his life. In Books 1, 2, and 2.5 (novella collection), Fillion is a legacy heir for New Eden Township, the famed Mars proto-type biodome city. In Book 3, he ascends to ownership and becomes the Gamemaster. 

DV: As a former LARPer, I love the level of detail that you put into the LARP components of this world. What went into your preparation for that aspect of this series?

Ooooh, I’m so glad you asked this question. In the four years I’ve been published, no one has asked me this and I’ve been dying to share. *clears throat* Well, I created a LARP called Eco-Crafting Eden, which works similarly to the video game Civilizations, but with a post-apocalyptic eco-twist. This LARP is the backbone to New Eden Township. Eco-Crafting Eden is discussed in the series and Fillion even watches video segments in ELEMENTS (book 2). The best part? I had help from www.larping.org in creating and researching all the LARPing aspects within my story.  They even granted me permission to quote them in epigraphs preceding the chapters. Fantastic group of people! You can read an article I wrote for them back in August 2013 titled, The ‘Legacy’ of LARP: Mars and The Biodome Chronicles

To allow my readers to feel like they, too, could join New Eden Township, I included THE CODE at the end of my book with a signature line, aka the player’s guide. And, to really amp up the LARPing experience and to pair with the psycholgoical thriller aspects of my series, I went deep on character narrative. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but intimate characterization is as close to the role-playing experience as I could get for the reader. 

DV: What was the most interesting thing you learned in doing your research for this series, or Gamemaster in particular?

Nice question. I worked with a psychologist to create my villain, who is a narcissistic psychopath. I wanted him to be realistic. I also wanted my characters to realistically react to him. In LEGACY, my villain is rather tame. Instead, he makes Fillion look like a melodramatic, punk, seventeen-year-old boy who is bored with his life and ungrateful and [fill in the blank]. It isn’t until the end that the reader sees that perhaps Fillion’s claims are not unfounded. By the end of GAMEMASTER, the villain has shown all his colors. But it’s a complicated dance of charm, trust, spin-room conversations, projected emotions, and set-up to fail scenarios. Learning the mind of a narcissistic psychopath and how that differs from individuals with narcissistic tendencies has opened my eyes. Needless to say, writing this series has been very healing for me. 

I also wanted to show that even heroes are sometimes villains and that utopia may be paradise, but even ideals we wax poetic are fraught with flaws, too. My heroine, Willow Oak Watson, fights against a patriarchal society that punishes women for . . . everything. Her brother is a head noble and helps to manage New Eden Township, making a difficult situation worse. Although Leaf, her brother, is a good guy — gentle hearted, loving, family-centered — he’s still a product of his environment. Willow is angry, she feels betrayed, and she’s tired of being told her worth matters so little simply because she’s a woman. I watched people in my life, women in particular. It’s amazing to me how many women are angry but are too afraid to do anything about it or feel like their efforts won’t matter in the end. Similar to how I felt at the time when I began writing this series. And, for Willow, she refuses to back down. She refuses to be seen as anything but equal to anyone within her community, regardless of gender or position. She was a role model I needed and I’m utterly shocked by some of the reviews on Willow, and all by fellow women. They call her a brat, say that she’s crazy, or emotionally unstable, and all I hear are the words men (and other women) have told these individuals. They’ve been socialized to react this way toward angry women and to shame themselves out of their true feelings. Honestly, when I began this series, I never in a million years thought reader reactions would be so divided on Willow. But, those who stick it out love her by end of ELEMENTS. They start to “get it” and begin to glare back at Leaf and New Eden Township. *shrugs*

DV: What project or projects are you working on next?

THE LAST FOREST KINGDOMS, another ecopunk series set in spaaaaaaace. I’m billing it as a scifi story of pagan origins with an added dash of gender-swapped Arthurian Legend elements. 

Here is my concept synopsis:

Avalon, a terraformed machine designed for bio-environmental warfare testing.

Five Kingdoms separated by magnetic fields.

A forgotten people.

Until Atruna (Rune) Pagoni crashes on the uncharted moon and restarts Avalon’s program for permanent destruction during impact. A collision prophesied by woodland sibyls, the seers hunted and killed for heralding Avalon’s whispers. An event feared by one Kingdom, its ruler willing to annihilate all other Kingdoms to protect its secret.

Sentenced by the savages who found her, Rune follows Galen, an appointed hunter, into untamed lands to track down Avalon’s computer origins. If she fails to locate the power source, everyone will die. If she refuses this quest, she’ll be executed.

On an engineered moon with biologically enhanced people time has forgotten, everything is not as it seems. Rune must survive the wilds of each Forest Kingdom and the war waged by one man to stop her, if Avalon doesn’t stop her first.


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One Response to “Interview with Jesikah Sundin”

  1. LINDA BASS says:

    AWESOME!!

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