1. You are continuing Nel Bently’s adventures in book four, Heretics. Did you always know where the story would take her from the first book?
When I first started out, Travelers was intended to be a standalone dual POV between an archaeologist in current days and the person whose bones she was excavating 13,000 years before. However, I quickly realized that, given Nel’s site in Chile, writing the latter POV wasn’t a story meant for me to tell. Instead, I leaned into the sci-fi aspect a bit more and the Stars Edge world was born. Once it was finished, I couldn’t let the characters go, and knew Nel–and I had a lot more to explore.
2. What has changed for Nel from book one to book four?
Her entire world for one! But, on a more intimate level, a lot about how she sees the world and where she sees herself in it has been turned on its head. She’s still battling through grief in Heretics, but now instead of drowning her feelings in the nearest bottle or pretty face, she is facing her anger and commitment-phobia through reluctant therapy (okay, and maybe a few drinks of high-end tequila stolen from the spaceport!) She has a long way to go, still, as does Lin in her own way, but she’s realizing that running can only take her so far.
3. Where do you see Nel in the future?
Oh, perhaps around the 2073 range? Just teasing! I’ve got two more books before this arc of her adventure will come to a close! I am currently working on Fugitives, the fifth and penultimate book It’s tough to share too much without running into spoiler territory, but I’ll say that while I might step away from her story for a bit after the final book, I do have a lot more planned for her world, and I’m not entirely ready to say goodbye.
4. Do you have fun incorporating your archeology in this series?
It’s a fun challenge, we’ll say. I adore my job as an archaeologist and dreaming up ways, both good and bad, that the field might change in the future with advancing technology, is a real blast. It can get tricky when my fellow archies read my work, however, because there’s no good way to make all the science perfect while maintaining good pacing in the narrative (and don’t get me started on the differing methodologies!) I think my favorite blending of sci-fi tech and digging in the series so far is when Nel, who is a map-lover like myself, is introduced to the tech that allows digital maps of her site–complete with color coding, grid lines, and artifact concentrations–to be projected onto her atmosuit helm. I would love to be able to use something similar on our big sites!
5. When did your interest in archeology begin?
I’ve always loved the sciences, but unlike a lot of people who planned a career in arch since they first saw Indy pick up his hat, I came to it later. I was finishing my pre-med courses and three years into a healthcare career. Disenchanted with the bureaucracy and systemic prejudice in the field, I had begun looking at pursuing human evolution instead. Then, on a ferry ride to my grandmother’s funeral, I noted an interesting article discussing a Homo erectus site on the front page of my table mate’s newspaper. When I asked if I could read it, he admitted it was his site. After a weekend of grief, laughter, and scientific discussion he made an offer: they needed volunteers and if I could get there, I could dig. That summer I dug my trowel into the stony, arid soil of Crete and have never looked back.
6. Do you have a master plan for your book series? Which method do you use – a vision board, sticky notes or something else?
I’ve recently pivoted a bit from a hardcore plotter to more of a discovery writer. While I have a good idea of where I want my stories to begin and end, how my characters get to that end and who ultimately survives that long, let’s be real it is subject to change several times throughout the process. My planning now involves bullet-points at the beginning of each document, with notes about the following book added as I go. I untangle plot-knots all the time when I’m at work or driving, too, so there are a fair number of epiphanies scribbled in note books, on field notes, or between level depths on my work pants.
7. Why did you write the two series – Blood of Titans and Stars Edge – rather than one?
For starters, I was exploring two very different ideas with the two. I started with Blood of Titans many years ago, and those books took a lot longer to write. While working on the last two books, the first scene from Travelers, with its vandalized site and foul-tempered archaeologist, popped into my head. As for why I wrote them simultaneously? Well, I guess I enjoy punishment! I found it’s useful to have multiple projects, so when I grow frustrated with one, I can turn to another.
8. What drew you to this specific genre?
I was exposed to a lot more fantasy as a kid and found I was more likely to find characters like myself, ironically, in worlds that had no grounding in ours. As I got older and developed my craft, I realized I wanted to write worlds that could serve as inspiration for how to move past some of the challenges our world faces–rather than the glaring warning signs that are embedded in a lot of classic sci-fi.
9. Do you have a favorite sci-fi author?
I don’t think I could pick a favorite, as there are so, so many incredible worlds. However, a few that have stood out to me recently are O. E. Tearmann, who writes a wonderful blend of cyberpunk and solarpunk with a fantastic cast of diverse characters, and Karen Lord, whose The Best of All Possible Worlds was a beautiful, thoughtful examination of immigration and melting-pot culture. As for old favorites: the loving juxtaposition of faith and science in Sagan’s Contact changed my world.
10. Where can your readers find you and your books?
You can check out my website, www.vsholmes.com, and grab a free sci-fi or fantasy short to see if you like my work, read my FAQ, and send me an email! Plus, if you become an Explorer you’ll get exclusive updates, free books, and more. All of my work is available on Amazon’s KU as well as in paperback wherever books are sold (or borrowed, you just have to ask!) As for social media, I’m most active and candid on Twitter and Instagram as @VS_Holmes and also on Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads.
Heretics – Stars Edge 4 Nel Bently
Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.
Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn. They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.
V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the BLOOD OF TITANS series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold in 2020. Travelers is also included in the Peregrine Moon Lander mission as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule. In addition, they have published short fiction in several anthologies.
As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds. When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their dog Rory, and own too many books.