Gini Koch

Touched by an Alien, by Gini Koch

Gini Koch‘s Touched by an Alien [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] opens with Katherine “Kitty” Katt killing a rampaging alien with a Mont Blanc pen. Based on this act of impulsive heroism, a group of hot aliens from Alpha Centauri recruit her into a secret organization devoted to finding and stopping these evil superbeings.

If you hadn’t guessed, on a scale of fluff to serious, this one falls closer to the fluff end of things. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve written a fair amount of fluff myself, after all. This world needs more light, fun stories!

As with most books, there were things I liked, and there were things that didn’t work for me as well. It’s a quick-paced story with plenty of action, both alien butt-kicking and romantic/sexual. And I appreciated that Koch  used her A-C aliens to explore religious prejudice and other issues. It wasn’t just heroic aliens coming to fight evil; there was a bit more backstory going on there.

The biggest thing that bothered me was the way the relationship between Katt and the A-C Jeff Martini progressed.  The explicitly sexual scenes weren’t a problem, but the jealousy and possessiveness both Jeff and another A-C display toward Katt cross the line into creepy, as in this exchange:

He grabbed my upper arms. “Prove it.”

“Prove what? Jeff, I–“

“Prove who you belong to.” His eyes flashed as he pulled me to him and kissed me.

I know this sort of aggressive domination comes up in a fair number of romances. And I recognize that there’s a lot of fantasy and wish-fulfillment going on in this book. All of the A-Cs are gorgeous, the men and women both, but they’re only interested in intellect and personality, making Katt the hottest thing on the base. And Katt has some of that Harry Potter chosen one thing going on, where she’s the one who discovers most of the solutions and saves the day. In a more serious novel, I don’t think it would work. In a lighter wish-fulfillment book, it mostly does.

I know that for some people, having a hot, sexy man (or woman) aggressively pursuing and dominating you can be a very attractive fantasy. But Jeff kept setting off my domestic violence warning bells. There were external reasons for some of what happened, but it didn’t work for me.

I’d say that if your warning bells are similar to mine, that might be a problem in reading this one. On the other hand, if you appreciate that kind of fictionalized/fantasy romantic aggression and assertiveness, I suspect you’ll really enjoy the book.

Overall, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on here. And the audience is obviously out there, judging by how well the books have been doing. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’m the right audience for this one.

First Book Friday: Gini Koch

Very imporant administrative note: Goblin Tales passed 100 sales yesterday!

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right — First Book Friday, with Gini Koch. From Gini’s website, some of her hobbies include mooning over pictures of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and training her pets to ‘bring it’. I met her at World Fantasy, and… well, let’s put it this way. Her cover for Alien Tango features blue explosions, a rocketship, and an angry gator. Energetic, lively, fun, and a little random.

Gini’s a lot like that.

Her third book about “Super-Being Exterminator Kitty Katt and the Alpha Centaurian she loves,” is called Alien in the Family [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], and comes out on April 5.

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I didn’t think I was cut out to be a writer because I don’t outline, and I was told by a teacher (who I knew, even at age 15, to be an idiot) that unless you outlined, you couldn’t write ANYthing. And yet, I believed her. For 20 years. And, for those years, any time I’d try to write an outline, I’d lose all the joy of the idea, bog down, and end up with nothing useful after hours of time expended.

But I always wrote in my head. I just didn’t think playing out scenes constantly was being creative — I thought it was how I passed the time while everything around me moved so slowly. I’m a multitasker of the highest order and if I don’t have something occupying at least the front and the back of my mind, said mind tends to wander into all those lovely worlds I wasn’t qualified to write.

My first novel came about because the particular voices in my head were SO loud, obnoxious and demanding, that I wrote their story down just to shut them up. I was supposed to be working (on the weekend) but looked up 8 hours later to see a lot of pages written — and a novel taking shape. I’d also discovered a joy I hadn’t known before and realized this was the thing I wanted to do, wanted to BE. I also realized that I was doing just fine without an outline.

As I wrote more and more, my technique got better. Most would have trunked that first novel, but I loved the characters too much — they were the REASON I was writing, the reason I’d discovered the thing I truly loved to do. So, I rewrote their story. In full. 9 times.

And am rewriting their story a 10th time, because while my agent loved version 9.2.2 and shopped it around, and also while we got some incredibly complimentary rejections, because it’s set in the Old West and has people on horses it’s considered a “Western”, and they don’t sell, dontchaknow. So, the characters gave me their blessing, and we’re off into a different spin. I’m excited, my agent’s excited, and the characters are excited. But I digress…

Fortunately, I didn’t know about, and then ultimately ignored, most of the writing advice out there. I’m a linear writer, I need music and chaos around me to get anything done, and I work on a variety of things at once. The idea of having to “finish one thing before you go onto the next” is alien and abhorrent to me. If I’d listened to it, I wouldn’t be published. In anything. I wrote well over a dozen novels (none published yet, some trunked, some waiting patiently for me to go back and fix them like I did my beloved First Novel) and triple that in short stories, with some novellas along the way. But I still wasn’t “there”, and I knew it.

Touched by an Alien [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], came about through a variety of steps, the most significant being these, all of which took place in roughly the same year:

  • One of my friends was constantly nagging me to “write funny” — I finally listened to her, and the first professional sales I ever made were in short humor; 
  • I started playing around with different POV options, particularly going from 3rd person only to trying out 1st person;
  • I finally found the crit partner I truly clicked with, and watched my writing move from really good to truly publishable;
  • I realized I needed to understand pacing innately, which I didn’t at the time, and so I gave myself an assignment to write a variety of short stories in varying lengths, from micro-fiction up to 10,000 words. When I finished all of this, somehow, I  indeed understood pacing and ended up with a large variety of stories to sell, many of which have indeed sold (under different pen names).

And then I had a dream — a dark, noir-ish, scary dream — and I fully intended to write a dark, noir-ish, scary story. I was still doing my short story assignments, and this looked to fit my 4,000 word slot.

By page 3, the character’s voice had taken over, by page 5 I realized this was going to be a lot longer than 4,000 words, and by the end of the first chapter that dark short story turned into a funny, sexy, science fiction novel. As I was writing it, I realized it was “the one”… the novel that would get me a great agent. It was, and said agent sent it directly off to DAW Books. The rest, as they say, is history.

Would I change anything? Yeah. If I could do it all over again, I’d ignore that teacher’s rule, like I ended up ignoring all the other rules, and start writing decades sooner. But, you know, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up with Kitty Katt and Jeff Martini and my Alien series. So, perhaps the journey’s gone exactly how it should have. As a person, that’s my view. As an author, well … there’s bound to be a story in all of that somewhere.

Jim C. Hines