Conversations & Guests

A Chat with Sci-Fi author M. Luke McDonell

Hello and Happy Holidays Dear Readers! Celia, here. Today, I’m pleased to welcome sci-fi author M. Luke McDonell to the Paranormal Unbound blog. She’s here to share her take on the genre and give us a look at her recent release The Perfect Specimen.

Hi, M. Luke! Thanks for being with us here on Paranormal Unbound. I’m super excited to talk science fiction with you today.
Thanks! Based on your manifesto, I’d say we have a lot in common.

author photoCan you tell us a little bit about yourself? Something not included in your bio, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.
I played Dungeons and Dragons when I was a kid. I realize now that my favorite part was drawing out the dungeons on graph paper (when I got to be dungeon master), rolling up characters and painting the little metal figurines. The games themselves didn’t last long because we were idiot kids and always put some super deadly slime mold 100 feet into the dungeon and everyone would immediately die.

When I started seriously writing fiction about five years ago, it felt like it came out of nowhere, but when I look back on things I did like this, I realize that as a dungeon master, I was developing characters and imagining and building a world.

What do you love about writing science fiction?
I get to dive deep into all my current interests and obsessions and ask, “What would happen if?” My stories take place in the not-too-distant future, so in the case of my recently released novella, The Perfect Specimen, I ask “What if some corporations pool their resources and colonize a habitable planet? What would life be like there? What kind of government would exist?”

I’ve had many people tell me that they never read science fiction but really liked this story. I think it’s because the characters aren’t far removed from us. They have the same hopes and dreams, just different tools with which to realize them. Or not realize them…

We enjoy chatting about heroes and heroines on this blog. What type do you prefer to write? Alpha, beta, gamma, snarky, badass, tortured, flawed, stubborn, patient, intelligent…
I like to throw them all onto the page and see what happens! I’m finishing up my novel, Six, right now, and the five main characters are all of those things, except patient.

Where do you find inspiration for the worlds you build in your sci-fi stories? Do you pull from your own experiences in the “real” world? Do you incorporate “real” science in your sci-fi?
I take current events and project them into the future, so my world is very much inspired by the real world. I have as much real science in my books as I have the time and justification to research. As anyone who has ever fallen into a rabbit hole on the internet knows, it is way too easy to spend eight hours researching some minutia that isn’t really that important to the story…aka procrastination!

For instance, my novella takes place on another planet. I got obsessed with how people get to this planet…space travel, faster than light travel, rockets, all that, and at some point I had to stop and admit, I’m not an engineer. There is a spaceship, it takes five weeks to get from Earth to Victoria, and that’s it. Done. If an astrophysicist gets a giggle from something I write, that is a-okay with me! This is, ultimately, fiction, and as John Updike said, “Perfectionism is the enemy of creation.”

Book CoverM. Luke, I love the cover of The Perfect Specimen. Did you design it yourself? Does it capture the essence of your novel?
Aw, thanks! I appreciate that. I’m a graphic designer by day so I had the luxury of making my own cover. I hope it captures the essence of the novel.

Describe your typical or ideal writing day.
Typically, I get up and go for a walk or to the gym to get my blood flowing. Then I do my graphic design work. When I finish that in the mid-afternoon, I start writing. I write at home in my attic office, or in a local coffee shop if I want more white noise. I’ll write until I’m starving, usually around 8pm.

Okay, let’s get serious now, shall we?

Star Trek or Star Wars? Both!

Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5? Babylon 5

Battlestar Galactica, original or remake? I liked the original when I was a kid but the remake was amazing…I loved it.

Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis or Stargate Universe?
Hmmm…they all kind of blend together in my mind.

Farscape or Firefly? Love them both.

Dollhouse or Orphan Black?
Orphan Black, though I’ve only seen a couple so far. I watched Dollhouse and enjoyed it, but…and I probably shouldn’t say this since I know you love Joss Whedon…I felt he relied too much on seduction to solve problems.

LOL, it’s true, I’m a total Joss Whedon fan but I can still respect your perspective. 🙂 Last question: Favorite sci-fi movie of all time?
I’m not sure, but to be completely honest, I keep watching The Fifth Element over and over again.

Tell us about your debut release, The Perfect Specimen.
Book Cover My “hero,” Dr. Derek Singh, is a cancer researcher who wins a grant to study on newly-colonized planet Victoria. He hopes that one of Victoria’s millions of venomous insects holds the key to destroying cancerous tumors–and jump-starting his stalled career.

Unfortunately, the traps he sets each night capture nothing but dust, and his competitive colleagues don’t share the venom they’ve collected. The clock is running down on his two-year grant and he’s making no progress.

When his young neighbor–one of the few native-born children–finds out he studies “bugs,” she is eager to bring him all the specimens he needs. Derek worries she’ll be bitten or stung, but soon discovers Mia is in danger from a far larger predator–the corporation that funds him.

This is a prequel to my novel Six, which will be released sometime next year. Six picks up 25 years later, with Mia the main character. After I wrote Six I got curious about Mia’s childhood. As an adult, she is a bit arrogant. She hides a valuable gift that corporations would love to exploit, but she thinks she’s done the hiding all on her own. Turns out this isn’t true.

My debut novella is available now on Amazon.

Thanks for chatting with us today and bringing the sci-fi goodness to our blog, M. Luke! 🙂
Thanks for having me!

M. Luke McDonell is a San Francisco-based writer and designer. Her near-future fiction explores the effects of technology on individuals and society, with particular focus on the growing power of corporations and the associated voluntary and involuntary loss of rights and privacy.

Web site | Twitter

Share Your Thoughts
Okay Dear Readers, tell us — do you read science fiction? What draws you to the genre? I’ve read and enjoyed The Perfect Specimen. In the spirit of the holiday season, I’ll gift two commenters with a copy of M. Luke’s e-book. (Giveaway runs through 11:59 PM PST on 12/31/13. Winners announced here 1/2/14.)

The gods at have spoken! The winners of an e-book copy of The Perfect Specimen are: LisaC & PhyllisLM52!

25 thoughts on “A Chat with Sci-Fi author M. Luke McDonell

    • Thank you! The cover went through several iterations. The first was a display wall full of bugs, but I’m not actually a huge bug fan, so it kind of repelled me. Next I did a version that looked like it does now, but without the lab in the background. Adding the lab really tied everything together.

    • Thanks! The cover went through several iterations. The first was a wall of bugs, no girl. I don’t actually like bugs that much so this kind of repulsed me! The second was the cover as it is now, but with no lab in the background. Adding the lab really tied it all together.

      • Definitely! My writing partner and I are constructing a novel, and cover art has come up in conversation even though the book is not finished! Hopefully we can find a happy medium! 🙂

  1. I do read science fiction. I love the world building I discover in the novels, as well as the science that’s discussed. Science fiction, when written by talented authors, provides an intelligent read that’s also super-creative. This novella sounds wonderful, as does the upcoming novel, Six. Thanks for a great interview. michelle_willms(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. Pingback: A simple question | mlukemcdonell

  3. Pingback: Spotlight: The Perfect Specimen by M. Luke McDonell | celiabreslin

  4. Science Fiction was the very first genre I read as a teenager. The ability to go places so unlike our own world called to me and I got lost in it. Books like I, Robot – Soylent Green – The Ship series from Anne McCaffrey – just to name a few. Today still, I love to read a great SciFi book and will intersperse them with my PNR and Fantasy books.
    The Perfect Specimen sounds like a very good read to me. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! 🙂

  5. Hi, I was directed to this a couple of links back by a tweet from SomaFM, and this may be a bit off subject but, were you the inspiration for the “Indie Pop Rocks” station icon? (Oh, I’m checking it out here and the guitar is purple the hair is red, so, maybe not..) Anyway the questions stands…:)

    And (almost) on subject, do you use Creatve Cloud (or Creative Suite) for your design work? The shading looks very smooth and coherent for a piece with that kind of narrow range and distortion!

    Finally (on subject!), I’ve been a Sci-Fi reader since my late teens starting with Clarke and moving on to Herbert, from there more modern ones like Peter F.Hamilton and Neal Stephenson, and speaking of those, I felt a resonance with the Night’s Dawn series (Hamilton) and Cobweb (Stephenson) in the overview at [] My appetite is whetted! Hope to pick a copy in January.

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