Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Neodymium Betrayal! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Jen Finelli: Thanks for letting me be here to talk about it! Neodymium Exodus is about a young space-warrior who’s Contaminated—meaning she talks to an invisible energy being from another dimension—and about the army captain who wants to cure her so she doesn’t infect anyone else with her cross-dimensional disease.
It’s about a young girl believing in herself, about someone trying to tear down that belief for her own good, and about the question of human agency vs. fate in a world where butterfly wings can create hurricanes.
A universe of sentient insectoids, purple jungles, and insane electromagnetic fields...
And a mace-wielding teen space-ninja kidnapped by a vengeful zealot who forces her to choose between the fate of the Universe--and the ones she loves.
BD: The novel deftly combines hard biomedical science fiction with multicultural fantasy. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
JF: I’ve been working on the Neodymium Chronicles for over twenty years, so the series has grown with me. I suffered the death of my little brother, like the main character Lem fears with her little sister; I craved just a quiet, drama-less clinic in the jungle like Cinta does, with the bleeding heart of a pacifist; and, as a sexual assault medical forensic examiner in the military, and a female physician dealing with some of the darkest parts of human life, I became enraged and hopeless after days when there is no Deus ex machina, just like Jei with his cages and with the loss of the children he’s trying to protect.
Science fiction has this amazing power to comment on reality safely, hidden under layers and layers of world and metaphor, and that’s really where my creative influences lie—with a real world that’s suffering and struggling through technological growth, competing views of existence, and multicultural social change as we try to understand each other as part of a sentient race that needs diversity, but in fear craves homogeneity. Even in the smaller details, I pull from the real world as much as I can: My commentary on the experience of refugee children at the edges of warfare actually comes from wartime experiences shared by refugee organizations I have supported, as well as a close friend of mine who lived through the Liberian Civil War. If it’s not my experience in the book, it’s someone’s, safely disguised so we can talk about hope and healing in the darkness without getting too political or triggering.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Lem’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JF: I think it’s important to talk about the questions of diversity, and diversity of opinions, in a world that’s pushing everyone to stand in line. I think it’s also incredibly important to highlight mental health issues in a normative way. Both Jei and Lem have issues that I would probably actually diagnose as a physician, and as a person suffering from PTSD myself, I have tried to normalize their experience, and allow real human expression from neuroatypical people shine through as part of who they are without overwhelming the whole person. Beyond that, I think it’s important for everyone to have the conversation with themselves about their agency, and their place as someone who matters—it’s a common theme in the things I write to become the protagonist of your own story, even when your prince isn’t coming, or even when your faith isn’t holding up. Sometimes, we have to step beyond false positivity into those moments when every option seems bad, and we still have to take that next step forward. That’s the real world. So, I think this story matters because, at its core, it’s about our journey to become who we are.
BD: What makes Wordfire Press the perfect home for the Neodymium Chronicles?
JF: Kevin J. Anderson actually wrote one of my favorite Star Wars novels, Jedi Search. I had no recollection of that when I applied—I just liked that they seemed very author-friendly, but had the “big publisher” experience given Anderson’s vast success. I was so excited to have my dream publisher for logistics reasons that it didn’t click in my head until I’d had a few weeks working with Marie (my main publisher), and Kevin: “Holy crap, I’m living the dream! This guy wrote Luke Skywalker healing himself by Force-tricking a parasite!” (For whatever reason, that scene has always stuck with me—doctor brain, maybe.) That may sound silly, but that book influenced me a lot, and I can’t believe that I’m working with its author.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
JF: Book 2 just came out, and Book 3 is due this fall! Neodymium Betrayal! On a normal day of mace-wielding duels and interplanetary sabotage, young Jei Bereens has things under control. He's plagued by night-terrors and an arch-enemy as slippery as the grime on his gun, but freedom fighters all around the galaxy look to him for help. He's got the favor of a mystical energy being and a best friend who'd die for him. On a normal day, Jei is legend.
Today is not a normal day.
Today, Jei broke an enemy soldier's mask and found his best friend inside.
Tomorrow, that best friend will sell Jei out in the name of saving the universe.
And the next day, Jei will disobey orders and break promises to take her down.
Not bad, huh?
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JF: I’m working on the fourth book in the Neodymium series now! I sometimes make small sci-fi videos on my YouTube channel, which they can find easily enough by browsing my website. All my stuff is at byjenfinelli.com.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Neodymium Betrayal, the Neodymium Chronicles, and your other work?
JF: They can find Neodymium Betrayal, which just came out, here.
And, of course, Neodymium Exodus is anywhere books are sold.
Actually, just for reading this far in the interview, I’d love to give your readers a free story. They’re welcome to pick one up here. I’m partial to the one about fighting a mermaid.