The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome author Amanda Kool, here to talk a bit about her science fiction murder mystery novella Resembling Lepus. This is a fascinating post-dystopian read that offers some food for thought and an incredible world.
Title: Resembling Lepus
Author: Amanda Kool
Publication date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Grey Matter Press
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
Earth’s sixth mass extinction has ended, and in its wake a post-dystopian civilization has struggled to rebuild after a global cataclysm shattered its ecosystems and propelled all life to the brink of eradication.
In a world where the air is unhealthy, food is strictly rationed, and the energy consumption that triggered the destruction is highly regimented, scientists experiment with artificial biospheres to secure survival and techno-mimicry to breathe life into long-dead species. It’s an unavoidable surveillance state where every living thing is tracked, numbered, and categorized.
In this fledgling society born out of catastrophic loss and now challenged with a new reverence for all life, a lone detective is haunted by a series of murders traumatizing the populace. Assisted by a medical colleague, she finds herself entangled in a crisis with far-reaching consequences and dangerous repercussions that threaten the fragile balance of all existence.
What is the impact on humanity when mankind is required to play god to the creatures they have all but destroyed?
Welcome, Amanda, and thank you so much for being here to chat a little about Resembling Lepus.
First of all, what made you want to write Resembling Lepus? Where did the idea come from?
You know, I don’t know. This is probably my first foray into a quasi-detective story, where the solving of the mystery was not as important as the motivation behind the crime.
I love rabbits, though. I wanted to write about them in a way that made them vital, not throwaway. And the only way I could think to do it was to create a world that had collapsed so completely that they were crucial.
I love bunnies, too! I was so surprised by their role in the story, but ultimately thought it was absolutely perfect. Since Resembling Lepus is a novella that balances a post-dystopian world with a murder mystery, was it difficult to conceptualize either idea or did they naturally work well together?
I think post-dystopia and murder go together like peanut butter and chocolate, but it’s usually a consequence of the world – people fighting for resources, land, etc. (and I’ve written in that sandpit as well). I wanted to make the murder matter in a way I hadn’t seen before and have the victim be unique, unexpected, and even puzzling to the reader. Like, “Why should I give a shit about this?” and to hopefully have them care in the end.
Aside: The LAST POLICEMAN TRILOGY by Ben H. Winters. is set in a pre-to-mid-apocalyptic world and deals with a murder mystery. It’s a terrific read.
I’d say you were absolutely successful, and I do adore the unexpected. The post-dystopian world is fascinating and I love that each piece of it builds on each other to present a world that’s quite different from what we know and it’s easy to see how we might get from here to there. What was your process in developing the world and what were some things you absolutely wanted to be sure you included?
I wanted, first and foremost, to highlight that this world is not ours alone; we are not owed this world. We’re not the be-all and end-all of this planet, even though we think we are. I mean, we came up with all the labels and classifications for everything we see. We decide what is prey and what is pet. We decide what is sentient and what isn’t.
To offset that, I needed to create a place where all life is precious – even though it took an extinction event to get us to that point. But…humans gonna human, so the resulting world is as flawed as the one they left behind, and natural prejudice is still inherent. There is still hope in this world and people are getting better, but we are still innately…us. Turning that ship around takes time.
That’s such an important thing to keep in mind! I really loved the idea that, no matter how hard we try, we’re still human. Was it difficult to fit the story within a constrained word limit or did it naturally work out to be novella length?
I like a LONG form story. I like mood. I like a slow burn, a dark and languid pace. You can’t shut me up usually (ask Grey Matter Press 🙂 and the difficulty is curtailing the words and knowing when to write The End.
RESEMBLING LEPUS is the length it is because it was so hard to write. I mean, it was incredibly hard. I don’t usually write in first person POV. (I’m third person limited all the way.) It was the first thing I attempted to write after a rough couple of years. It was a weird story written when I was in a weird place. But I had the beginning, the end and I knew it was either going to be a short story or novella.
I aimed for a short so, of course, it ended up as a novella 🙂
I would never have been able to tell! Is there a message in Resembling Lepus? What do you hope readers will take from it?
Stop hurting bunnies! (I’m being a bit flippant there, but seriously. Cut that shit out.)
I hope readers take a good look at their backyards or parks or whatever green, or blue, or wild sandy places they have access to and just watch for a bit. Everything in a single square metre (above and below) is precious* and vital and interconnected.
*Except Europeans wasps. That’s a prejudice I have and a hill I will die on.
Great message! Definitely something we should do more of going forward, and, of course, take care of the bunnies. Which one of your characters is your favorite? Which character was the hardest to write?
I like Bobsy. He’s got an introverted, passionate way about him. And Noel, the gentle soul. The hardest character for me to write is usually the main character. This time, she wasn’t difficult at all and that surprised me. She was very human: she’s the best of us, while also clinging a bit to our old ways.
I have to say I was absolutely charmed by Bobsy. What was your favorite part of writing Resembling Lepus?
Writing “The End”. 😉
As I said, this story was like wrestling with myself every single day. And yet, the setting and the passion for these characters to avenge the victims was a driving force for them – and for me. The fact that I was able to write about saving such a tiny and insignificant creature really was important to me. I was in it with them.
How would you best describe Resembling Lepus?
If you’re talking about genre, I have to leave that up to the experts. I’m the worst at trying to classify my writing as there’s always a few overlapping elements/genres to what I do.
Why pick just one? 🙂
I would have said it’s a Cozy SF or Speculative Fiction with a bit of Crime. But it’s also been labelled Cli-Fi – a genre I confess I only heard about when someone tweeted it in relation to LEPUS.
It’s a hard one because I did set out to write it as a cozy mystery. There’s a little village, there are people wearing knit caps and mittens, there are cups of tea – and there’s murder.
The fact that it’s set in the backdrop of a world that has gone through such a catastrophic upheaval is something that evolved as the victims evolved. I wrote that first scene and established the entire world, while still maintaining my small-town detective and her merry band of colleagues.
I could absolutely see all of that in Resembling Lepus! Let’s turn to you now. How have you done during the pandemic? Has it inspired any part of your writing?
Pandemic life suited me down to the ground. It’s also changed my life, cemented patterns, and made me think about what really matters (no big revelations there – everyone has done a variation of that in the last couple of years, I’m sure.) But I coped extremely well in all the lockdowns and the isolation. I was lucky – privileged – enough to have a job throughout. It was like the outside was lava and inside was safe.
Flipside: I wrote 75K words in 2020 on a Gothic Noir tale (still working on it) as a stress relief from a very demanding job (telehealth – in a pandemic!). By 2021 I was pretty burned out and I’m only getting back to regular writing now.
Oh, gosh, that certainly sounds stressful! Why do you write? What do you love about writing?
I don’t know why. I’ve always done it. I started as a kid making up stories and never stopped. What I love about it is when things you set in motion at the start, pay off at the end without planning (I’m an unadulterated pantser) and you think, for five seconds, that you’re an absolute genius – then you have to re-read and edit. Oh well.
When it works, it’s the best feeling.
I know that feeling! For some, taking the leap to publish is a huge one. Was that true of you?
Here’s a shocking revelation for a writer – I’m super introverted. Okay, not all writers are, but good golly there are a lot of us. Being in the spotlight, having your work read by others, criticised, scrutinised (and that’s if you’re lucky!) by anyone on social media is not in my comfort zone. Tweeting is not in my comfort zone. Answering these questions – nope!
But I’m lucky that I got picked up by GMP and so it’s a privilege to so do. Still makes me feel a little nauseous all the same.
I’m so glad you’ve made the leap, both with publishing and answering these questions. As a super introvert myself, I absolutely get it and I’m so honored to get to do this interview with you! Resembling Lepus is such an incredible read. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Other writers. I read something that I really like, and I think, I have got to do better as a writer. That really gives me a kick up the butt. It’s not a competition, but it’s good when others make you strive.
And then the usual – nature, movies, people I observe in the wild. I like focusing on nature and how things can go wrong (or right) because I’m lucky enough to have a nice big backyard and sometimes it can be the clichéd bucolic loveliness – and other times sometimes it’s wasps and attrition and a downright murder farm.
Which author or authors would you compare your novel or your writing to?
I wouldn’t dare 🙂
Haha, great answer! What’s your writing routine? How do you plan your stories? How long does it take you to write a novel?
The last two years, it’s been sporadic; fits and starts. I write a lot in my head before I put anything to paper, so dog walks help with that. I can’t have a set routine. The day job does not allow for it.
I’ll fall in love with an idea in the shower, or a snippet of dialogue I’ll make up during my commute, or an actor I’ve seen that sparks an entire world. I’ll construct enough of a loose plot – in my head – and make notes, then off I go. As a pantser, if I plan, it kills the enthusiasm for me. If I were to outline a novel, that’s all I’d ever manage.
Everyone’s mileage varies, but that’s how it is for me.
How long it takes is always dependent on how intense my day job or other commitments are at the time. TALLWOOD took a couple of years (it’s 225k).
Thank you so much for answering all these questions! Final one: Is there an interview question you’ve always wanted to be asked? What would your answer to it be?
What music did you listen to while writing this novel/novella/short?
I always have a soundtrack for each thing I write and sometimes, for a particular scene, it can be a single song. And if that scene takes me a day or a week or a month to write, then I’ll play that sucker over and over until it’s done.
From then on, when I hear a particular song or score, I am transported back to that scene.
Thank you for letting me ramble on. It was a real pleasure to think about this story again in depth and you have my gratitude for supporting me and Grey Matter Press with this interview.
Thank you so much, Amanda! It was a pleasure to have you here and so wonderful to get to know you and Resembling Lepus a little better!
About Amanda Kool
Amanda Kool has been writing for most of her life, starting on her mother’s typewriter–the kind with ribbons, ink, and no electric parts. Clickety Clack!
While her day job as a Technical/Proposal writer keeps both her menagerie (dogs, cats and the occasional chicken) and her mortgage fed, she spends her downtime writing Crime, Speculative, and Science fiction.
She has never met a semi-colon she didn’t like and has an unhealthy, but completely understandable, addiction to chocolate and top-shelf whiskey. If that’s a tired writer’s cliché, then she’s living the dream.
In addition to Resembling Lepus, Amanda also co-authored 1000 Mettle Folds with Australian horror writer Steve Gerlach, and she wrote the children’s story “The Paper Fox.”
Connect with Amanda Kool
Connect with Grey Matter Press
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Thank you so much, Amanda!
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