Exclusive Interview: “Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars” Author Lina Rather

 

With Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Lina Rather isn’t just continuing the Our Lady Of Endless Worlds series she started in 2019 with Sisters Of The Vast Black, she’s presenting the aftermath of that sci-fi space opera novella. In the following email interview, Rather discusses what happens to her intrepid space nuns in this second adventure, and why she’s putting the sisters through it.

Lina Rather Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars Our Lady Of Endless Worlds Sisters Of The Vast Black

For people who haven’t read it, what was Sisters Of The Vast Black about, and when and where did it take place?

I always describe Sisters Of The Vast Black as “nuns inside a giant slug in outer space,” and that’s a good overview. But to expand — the book is set in a far-flung future where humans have scattered themselves amongst the stars following a war between the outer human colonies and Earth. It follows the Sisters of St. Rita onboard their living space ship as they travel between worlds offering charity and performing services. When they get caught up in the affairs of one fledgling colony, they realize that the old war may not be over after all.

And is there a reason, when you were writing Sisters Of The Vast Black, you decided to make it about space nuns as opposed to space monks or some other religious order…IN SPACE!!!!!

At the time that I began the novella, I was working in a historical archive. One of the largest collections I worked on was university student records, and I became especially interested in the women students who had gone on to enter a religious order. I wanted to explore the reasons why a woman might choose to join this life, whether those reasons are for faith or for her own purposes.

Cool. And then for people who did read Sisters Of The Vast Black, and thus can ignore me when I yell SPOILER ALTERT, what is Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars about, and how does it connect to Sisters Of The Vast Black, both narratively and chronologically?

Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars takes place a little less than a year after Sisters Of The Vast Black. At the end of the first book, the sisters fled after clashing with Earth’s authorities. They’ve spent the past year in hiding, trying to continue their mission now that they’re without the resources of the Church. Unfortunately, the story of what happened to them and the colony they tried to help in the first book is starting to emerge, and the sisters may be the unwilling figureheads of revolution.

When in the process of writing Sisters Of The Vast Black did you get the idea for Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars, and what inspired this second book’s plot?

I didn’t think about a second Our Lady of Endless Worlds book until I’d turned in edits on the first one. After spending so much time inside the sisters’ heads, I wasn’t eager to let them go. And I love books that let characters deal with the fallout of massive sci-fi events. No one came out of the events of the last book unscathed, and I’m glad to have the space to explore how each sister has to come to terms with having the foundations of their life shaken.

Sisters Of The Vast Black was a sci-fi space opera story. Is Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars one as well?

Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars is still a space opera, but an “intimate” one. I love a big space war, but I also love looking deeply at the individuals who have to live through it.

Now, in researching you for this interview, I noticed that your website lists a bunch of short stories you’ve written. Are any of them connected to the Our Lady of Endless Worlds series?

None of my short stories are set in the same world as the Our Lady Of Endless Worlds series (yet!), but readers who enjoy the tone and themes of the series might like “The Pilgrim’s Guide To The Lighthouse Of Quvenle The Seer” or “Last Long Night.”

So, are there any writers, or stories, that had a particularly big influence on Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars but not on Sisters Of The Vast Black or any of your short stories?

One writer who has had an influence on all my writing, but whose impact I definitely felt in this book, is Guy Gavriel Kay. Like him, I pull much of my inspiration from history, and I also love how he lets chance and coincidence play major roles like they do in real life. In a Kay book, a whole empire might turn based on whether or not it rains during a particular battle. None of the Sisters of St. Rita are chosen ones, nor did they choose what happened to them in Sisters Of The Vast Black. They are just ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and now must rise to the occasion. I’ve also been influenced by many writers who have explored faith, devotion, and divinity in recent years, especially Max Gladstone and Robert Jackson Bennett.

Another place I drew quite a bit of inspiration is the history of relics in the early Catholic Church. Holy Bones, Holy Dust by Charles Freeman is a great, enthusiastically-creepy history of the phenomenon. But I’ll leave it to the reader to find exactly how relics show up in the world of Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars.

How about non-literary influences; was Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

I’m not a huge media person, but I got really into Hollow Knight over early quarantine, and the organic, bodily creepiness of that world definitely bled into my world of living ships and future genetics.

Now, as we’ve been discussing, Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars is the follow-up to Sisters Of The Vast Black, and the second book of your Our Lady of Endless Worlds series. What I’m wondering, though, is do they form a duology, are they the first two books in a trilogy or quadrilogy or whatever a 37 book-ogy is called, are they just two books in an ongoing series, or is this it, you’re done with the space nuns?

For now, there are just two books, but never say never. Sisters Of The Vast Black was supposed to be a single book for a long time, after all. Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars happened at a very weird time. I began writing in January 2020 which was, of course, right before covid hit. The plot that I had in the beginning went completely out the window and it took a long time to come back to this world with its authoritarian governments and plagues. In many ways, I feel like a different person than the person who wrote Sisters Of The Vast Black and I’m not sure I hold the same ideas about the world anymore. But I do love the sisters and I won’t completely close the door on them yet.

Earlier I asked if Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around, if I may, and ask you if you think it — and by extension, Sisters Of The Vast Black — could work as a movie or two, or a show, or a game?

I would love to see a Netflix limited series of the books — mostly because I really want to see the giant slug ships in “real life.” If any TV producers out there are intrigued by the idea of a creepy, space-faring Call The Midwife, drop me a line.

And if some producer did call, who would you want them to cast as the main characters and why them?

Hmm, this is a hard question to answer—I don’t picture characters very distinctly in my head. I think that Nicola Walker of the British crime show Unforgotten would make a great Sister Faustina, though. She has the right weariness.

So, is there anything else you think someone interested in Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars should know before deciding to buy it or not?

If you like giant slugs, crumbling space empires, future theology, or cults you’ll probably enjoy this book. Read the first one first, though.

Lina Rather Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars Our Lady Of Endless Worlds Sisters Of The Vast Black

Finally, if someone enjoys Sisters Of The Forsaken Stars, what sci-fi space opera novella — or series of novellas — would you suggest they read next?

I think everyone should read the Murderbot series by Martha Wells, so if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? I also recently loved To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers.

 

 

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