Behind the Scenes of the Clan Chronicles Take 1: Content | Guestpost + Giveaway by Julie Czerneda


Back for the third time, Julie Czerneda generously wrote another guest post for us, this time providing a “Behind the Scenes” post for her Clan Chronicles series. You can read her first two posts for us here and here.


I’ve looked forward to pulling back the curtain, so to speak, which I couldn’t do while writing the last book. At last I can! I asked my readers for questions they’d like me to answer during this blog tour and am delighted to keep my promise.

About My Characters

Wendy asked, “Your Inspiration for creating some of the characters/species. Why those personalities etc.?”

Personalities indeed! Some come to me as I write a scene. For example, TapTap in The Gate to Futures Past popped out of the bag fully formed, exactly as you read him. It’s not so much luck when that happens, though there’s that, but more the sum of what’s been bubbling in my hindbrain. I’d been waiting to reveal this central Oud character, and already had the wee worker types on starships. Also, TapTap needed to be comprehensible and sympathetic. Not easy when you’re Oud. Thus the babble, the cute, the compassion, the respect from others all poured out, from the bag.

Other personalities require planning and, in those cases, typically I’m looking to fill a void. I need balance in the moment, or contrast, or something. For example, if everyone is brave and tough, time for someone timid and frail. Or sneaky. If two are honest, definitely time for a scoundrel, or some timely incomprehension. It’s not one-for-one but more how the gestalt of a situation feels to me. We’re diverse; the participants in a story, unless I choose otherwise for good reason, must be too. Plus it’s often great fun to toss in the unexpected “nose like a flower” character.

Then there’s the temptation to use real folks, who come with ample personality of their own. I have done so, carefully, of course. You know who you are. (No, really, they know. I don’t use people without their permission.)

BF asked “Did you know the outcome of those characters you off’d ahead of time or did it just work out that way?”

Always. Ish.

Death is—must be—significant. I knew a certain character in Survival would perish before writing the first word of that book, and spent significant effort to ignore that knowledge as I wrote. Otherwise, I feared it would somehow be foreshadowed and the shock was vital to everything that happens next.
In the Clan Chronicles? Oh I knew. I knew Morgan’s past would come to bite him, yet there’d be both payback and redemption. I knew an innocent would be spent on Plexis, as well as that body in the freezer. As for the rest? I’ve known for over a decade, down to the order of “off’ing.”

The “ish?” Only once, to my best recollection, did I leave a character’s outcome hanging until I wrote to the decision point and even that I did on purpose. I didn’t want to know who’d be left standing at the end of In the Company of Others until writing those final chapters, which I did in one fell swoop. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and I don’t know if I’ll ever do that to myself again.

The Nature of Things

Note: in a future post, I’ll be answering questions about biology and science. These following are questions about my aliens I’ve gathered together because they are more content-based. I’ll do my utmost to avoid spoilers.

Julie MB asked, “At what point did the true nature of the Clan occur to you (as exposed in Gate)? Way back when you were writing A Thousand Words for Stranger, or did you come up with this development while writing one of the more recent books?”

It was during one of the more recent books. I did my best to find the note I’d scrawled, because it was a eureka! sort of moment, but haven’t yet. I do know approximately when and the title may surprise you. The true nature of the Clan came to me as I neared the end of A Play of Shadow (my second fantasy). When I’m engrossed in writing the finale of the current book, for some reason my mind tends to scamper ahead to what’s next. But it wasn’t that, not entirely. I believe I was thinking this way longer than I’d realized, since it proved such a good fit to all I’d written before in the series. I suspect one of those “of course that’s what they are” realizations that snicks into place because it’s the only puzzle piece left.

Mind you, now I have to dig out the actual note both to prove this to myself and because it was such a cool AHA! I recalled rushing to tell my editor-dear. (Who, when I asked just now, admitted to remembering the moment, and I’m sure my burbling excitement, but not exactly when I’d told her.)

Starr – “Up to this point, the Tikitik have figured prominently in the story of how the clan came to be, will they walk away from their shining experiment?”

I did leave the Tikitik rather busy, at the end of The Gate to Futures Past. That said? As I think about who and what they are, I feel they’d call it done and move on to “other” projects. They’d answered their question, after all, and were never interested in Hoveny tech. As for what else they might do? I’ll confess to curiosity. I did enjoy writing them and have questions of my own. While I’m not saying I’ll write more about this species anytime soon, I’ve kept my notes. Then there are the Sinzi…oh my.

Alan – “What are the origins of the Hoveny Concentrix, and how did they create their unique technology?”

Interesting, isn’t it? I hope you don’t mind if I approach this from my point of view, not the Hoveny’s.

When I wrote A Thousand Words for Stranger, I didn’t consider history much beyond these two points: the Clan were latecomers to the Trade Pact, and the Trade Pact should feel rather new and upstart. Remember I was jumping into Esen and her first book next, and exhilarated to play with fun biology. Of course, that sort of willful ignorance by a writer always comes back to be an issue, something I recognized while writing about Esen, who lives in the Human Commonwealth. There’s a line in her book about the far edge of the Commonwealth being something new—a loose trading partnership with everyone welcome, rather than Human-governed.

The Hoveny didn’t show up until 2004, when I wrote “Brothers Bound” for the anthology Sirius: The Dog Star edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter. I was also writing Book #1 of this large thing called Species Imperative, and ancient mysterious alien civilizations were on my mind. Although the story was to be about a dog, and is, I’d been waiting for a chance to show how Humans might have made a place for themselves within an existing group of alien species (the First).

For that, I needed to set it “pre-Trade Pact” or Commonwealth, but made the decision to keep the setting close enough to feel as though it fit with both.

Years passed. I wrote the rest of SI, then it was time to head back into the Clan Chronicles for Stratification, the prequel trilogy. As I prepared for that, in 2006/7, I realized I’d set my own stage: the Hoveny and their eerie demise were exactly what I needed. DAW kindly reprinted the short story in the 10th Anniversary Edition of A Thousand Words for Stranger, in 2007, at my behest.

As for the Hoveny’s point of view? I describe how their technology came to be…unusual…in The Gate to Futures Past. Some ideas were meant to fail.

Ryan – “Skip ahead 500 years. What’s going on in the universe now?”

I have no idea. How fun to contemplate! As this is about the Clan Chronicles, I can tell you what happens in Guard will change your own notions about the future, but not why. After all, everything’s at risk. Maybe there is another 500 years ahead for the Trade Pact…

Or maybe a handful of days.

Catherine D- “Can you delve more into Huido, origin of his loyalty to Morgan … and if you are tempted to explore his culture further?”

I would, but that risks serious spoilers for To Guard Against the Dark. I hope you read and enjoy!

About the Author:

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners, the latest being SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Next out will be an anthology of original stories set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis, out in 2018. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, lands in stores October 2017. When not jumping between wonderful blogs, Julie’s at work on something very special: her highly anticipated new Esen novel, Search Image (Fall 2018). Visit for more.

About the Series:

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification concludes the series, answering these question at last. Who are the Clan? 
And what will be the fate of all?

#againstthedark Giveaway Details

Enter your comment below to be entered to win latest book in hardcover, To Guard Against the Dark, plus a mass market of The Gulf of Time and Stars.  (US and Canada unless otherwise stated)

To enter the tour-wide giveaway of the entire nine-book series, click here:


14 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Farley-Dawson

    I love these kinds of insights. The “knowing everything ahead of time” vs. “make it up as I go” issue regarding characters and worlds is interesting. The former does give you more flexibility to foreshadow — or not — as you go along, which may be particularly helpful over a multi-book series. It’s clear some authors prefer to use the “as I go” method at least for some characters and especially for their worlds — and it tends to show. I appreciate novels that tend to lean towards the first method because they seem to me to be more internally consistent, and yet still manage to surprise me as this latest trilogy has. I have to say, I totally didn’t see some of this coming! (in the very best of ways). :)

    • Julie Czerneda

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I find it helps to keep a running “watch out” list for myself as I write/edit/revise–of anything I’m not 100% certain about as I go. There’s always something to double-check.

  2. Ariadne K

    I can’t wait to read Guard (it’s been preordered!), but oh you’ve teased me by mentioning the Sinzi and I would so love to read more about them.

    • Julie Czerneda

      Hee hee. I know. I was being naughty. (For those who don’t know, the Sinzi are among my fav alien creations and appear in Species Imperative.) I’ve no immediate plans to revisit them. That said, I often think about them. Hmm.
      Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy Guard!


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