Monday, December 2, 2013

EM Reviews - Home World by Bonnie Milani

About the Book

Centuries of ruinous war have left Earth little more than a dusty tourist world within the star-flung Commonwealth she founded. Now, amid the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Hawaii, Jezekiah Van Buren has found a way to restore Earth – Home World to the other worlds of the Commonwealth – to her lost glory. 
The most ingenious prince even the genetically-enhanced, Great Family Van Buren has ever produced, Jezekiah has achieved the impossible: he has arranged a treaty that will convert Earth's ancient enemies, the Lupans, to her most powerful allies. Once he has the treaty sealed, it will not only make Earth rich again, but it will grant him the chance to escape the Ring that marks him as Earth's next ruler. Once the treaty is signed, he will be free: free to create his own future, and free to marry Keiko Yakamoto, the warrior-trained woman he loves. His future and Earth's is assured. Assuming he can convince his xenophobic sister to accept the Lupan's alpha warlord in marriage before the assassin she's put on his tail succeeds in killing him. Assuming he can thwart another deadly uprising by the interstellar criminal organization called Ho Tong. And before his ruling relatives on competing worlds manage to execute him for treason. 
Jezekiah manages to stay one step ahead of his foes, until his Lupan warlord-partner reaches Earth. And these two most powerful men suddenly find themselves in love with the same woman. A woman who just may be the most deadly assassin of them all.

Interview with Author Bonnie Milani

EM: We welcome Bonnie Milani, author of Home World to the blog today. I met Bonnie when I joined an online critique book. I'm not exaggerating when I say this woman taught me how to write. Maybe not single-handedly, but pretty a major factor. Needless to say, she is an amazing person and even more amazing writer. You're not going to want to miss this book. SoBonnie, you have created a phenomenally detailed world in your book Home World. Where did you draw inspiration from?

Bonnie: Pretty much everywhere: in the case of Home World, the entire story started with a dream. Then as I tried to work through where my heroine - a Samurai-trained young woman who was pretty definitely not Japanese - could possibly come from I realized the story could only happen in Hawaii. Voila! All of a sudden all sorts of elements started to fall into place. I'm lucky enough to live in CA, so I've been doing the island hop at least once every couple of years for ...welllllll....a lot of years. I've been there often enough to have gone exploring outside the tourist areas, to sit & listen to teens chat, catch the flavor of the local dialect. Over the years I also picked up a good many of the local stories about Tutu Pele, Hawaii's volcano goddess. Every last bit of it helped inspire Home World's story.

EM: I didn't know this all started as a dream! That's pretty neat. And so is being able to spend time in Hawaii! So you mentioned your heroine. I have to say, through the first part of Home World, I wasn't sure who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Each character is drawn so completely that you have sympathy for each one. Seriously....Letticia is my favorite villain of all time. I want a t-shirt that says "Team Letticia". Did you mean to make your good guys do bad things and for your readers to have such sympathy for the villains or did that just naturally happen as you wrote the characters?

Bonnie: Oh, my dear, you DO warm my heart! Actually, the blurred lines between good & evil, and the sympathy for Letticia really was intentional. I wanted to explore the inner worlds of each character, so that readers could see why each of these people did: that they were working to protect themselves & their worlds. I wound up surprising myself by developing a real respect for JP & discovering that Octavian is actually quite an honorable fellow, & embarrassed as hell about it. With Lush - I wanted readers to be rooting for Lush to redeem herself. Hell, I kept hoping Lush'd redeem herself. Only she just wasn't going in that direction. Which was a GOOD thing for the story! Funny thing was that the only character who really gave me shudders was Grandfather Ho. He's even scarier than the Ta'an assassin. Incidentally, it was the Ta'an in this story who got me thinking about another character I'm hoping will fit into the sequel (God should grant me life enough to write it!). That one's Koh, a Ta'an who gets his first-ever introduction to kindness and compassion from Keiko and discovers there just may be other things to do with new & interesting people besides killing them. Don't know where or whether or if he fits, but now he's awake he's doing the damned cat-around-the-legs routine.

SEQUEL!!!!! Oh yes! So you've told me before that it took a long time for you to write Home World. Now that you have one book under your belt, do you think it will be easier/quicker to write and publish another?

Yes, feels to me like the old adage 'first time is always the hardest' holds true for story-telling, too. I learned far more about structure & character & conflict by writing (& re-writing &re-writing & re-writing....) Home World than I ever did by either taking classes or teaching them, for that matter. And as any teacher will tell you, you learn more about your subject as a teacher than you do as a student. That is SO true! Now...thanks to Home World I don't just have the outline for the sequel in my mind, I'm now able to see how the plot needs to unfold, to see what has to happen where in the through line for the story to make sense & develop the emotional wallop it needs. (If you think HW has a bittersweet ending just wait till you see the next one!)
Time-wise: I hope to GOD it doesn't take me longer to write than Home World! Right now, though, I'm working on a few of the short stories that've been kicking around the back of my mind for a number of years. Emotionally, I need to work on some SHORT stuff for a while to build up the energy to tackle the next installment of the Home World series.Mind, I haven't left the Commonwealth even in the shorts. I'm just doing a bit of a tour of its outlying regions.
The other thing that's been a pleasant surprise is how effective working with a micro-publisher has been. I've done the agent routine in the past, and even got an early version of Home World picked up by one of the legacy publishing houses for a proposed new line of sci fi novels. Only that deal fell through leaving me high & dry. I knew then I did NOT want to spend a year or two trying to get some 'name' publisher's attention. I was thrilled when a dear friend &mentor introduced me to Promontory Press. Here's hoping this works out as well as I expect!

EM: I hope it all works out for you too, Bonnie. You and Home World really deserve it. So you talk about the bitter-sweet ending. There are many of those moments in the book. What scene in the book was the most difficult to write for you emotionally?

Bonnie: Hands down, no questions asked, the most difficult scene emotionally was the scene where Teufelsman & his henchmen subject Keiko to Venus Seed. That was just ...So. Damned. Hard. It came too close to home, dredged up some memories I'd managed to submerge. But that's part of the reason writing is both so painful and so healing. If you as a writer try to protect yourself from what your character is suffering, if you try to keep the terror or agony or shame at arm's length,then you cannot tell the truth of your story. As a writer you just have to wade through it with them, even if that means you can't see the screen for the tears. What makes it worthwhile is that by enduring the pain with your character, you have to force yourself to take control of the memories you must call on in order to create the scene. You have to force yourself to re-live them - but this time by molding them into another shape. By taking control of them. Once you've managed to do that you drain those memories of the power to hurt you again. You don't just shove them back into the genie's bottle; you bend that amorphous, pervasive threat into a concrete, controllable blot & expunge it by embedding it in the page. So terribly painful? Emotionally draining? Yes, on both counts. But worth it many time overs.

EM: And I think this is why Home World is such an amazing story and you are such an amazing author. You have literally POURED yourself into it. I think this is something aspiring writers need to know. You're stories won't pack a punch unless you take the same punches your characters do. Are there any other words of wisdom you would have for someone thinking of writing a novel?

Bonnie: Wisdom she wants... I don't know about wisdom, but I can sure talk to getting the book written.  There are two consistent complaints I hear from aspiring authors:
1.Lack of writing time
2.Lack of helpful feedback

Taking these in order:  when it comes to writing time, you will never find time to write.  Trust me on this.  Scrubbing down the kitchen never feels quite so appealing as when you're staring at a blank page that does nothing more than stare back.  Then there's that cousin you've been meaning to call for the past month - suddenly that call just feels urgent.  And, of course, there's always the family, who're more than happy to soak up every second they can possibly get.  Something, some how, will always get in the way of your story unless you recognize your writing time as your own, uniquely personal form of worship. I read once that while the entire human species loves a good story, only about 1% of us actually have the gift of story-telling.  Don't let those millions of indie books on Amazon or Goodreads or Wattpad fool you:  take one look through the majority of them and you'll realize that simply slapping words onto a page does NOT, a story make.  I'm not trying to be snooty or elitist.  It's just that those of us with the gift LIVE with a whole universe of unexpected people popping in and out of the back of our minds.  To make those characters come alive on the page for readers who've never met them (or had to listen to them spout off in the middle of Uncle Arnold's 450th recounting of winning that blue ribbon) we have to learn the craft of writing.  We have to learn structure, learn HOW to make the excitement we feel work on the page, HOW to weave an action-reaction pattern into a through line and then fit the protagonist's character arc into the whole.  And that's just flat out HARD.  And the only way to learn it is to park your butt in the chair and MAKE time to DO it.  Suggestion?  Pick one set time of day and one specific work spot.  Then declare that spot and that hour your sacred time.  During that time you don't answer the phone, or spouses, or kids (okay, so for little ones the rules get bent) or do anything else.  That is the time you give to yourself to use the gift God gave you.  It works.  

Lack of feedback is a real challenge.  It amazes me just how difficult it is for any aspiring writer to find a reliable critiquing group.  Even in our internationally interconnected internet age it's still terribly hard to find a real writer's group whose member provide useful, honest, yet supportive feedback.  Family's nice - but let's face it, 'Wow, cool!' doesn't help a whole lot.  Yet hard as it is to find a compatible group it's worth the search.  No one can grow as a writer without fresh, unbiased eyes to say whether a scene creates the emotional impact we think we wrote into it - or even works, for that matter.  The GOOD news is that there are some great blogs (shall we mention names?) that can provide helpful links and recommendations.  I cannot urge your readers strongly enough to invest the time and effort to find a group that fits their individual needs.

Of course, there's another side to feedback.  And that's learning how to take it.  Maybe the hardest thing for any newbie to learn is to separate him or herself from the words on the page.  The 'giving birth' analogy is quite apt.  Stories are like our children in so many ways.  While they're in us, they need to be nurtured and shaped and disciplined.  But once those stories hit the page they turn into teenagers and have to be able to stand on their own.  A good critique points out what's right AND what's wrong with a story.  To become a good writer you have to learn to step back from the emotion you've invested in the story and see the words on the page for themselves.  Otherwise, you'll never be able to fix the flaws in your story.  You'll just spend a lot of hours nursing a broken heart.

EM: Thank you so much Bonnie for taking time out of your writing schedule to speak with me. I wish you all the best of luck with Home World. Readers...if you like scifi....GET THIS BOOK!  You will not be disappointed.

My Review

I reserve my 5 star rating for books that have that have a lasting effect. Home World has that power. I had the honor to read an advanced, advanced review copy and it is simply amazing. It's everything good scifi should be: well built future world with lots of tech and history, new and interesting "types" of people, and a vision of future earth that is believable. Milani also throws in a love.triangle...or square, but not in a cheezy way. Her characters are so vivid, you will be cheering or screaming at them. If there were a t-shirt....I'd be on team Letticia! She has to be my favorite villain of all time!

It has mild language, but there are some sexual themes that will probably preclude younger audiences from reading, but older teens and up will enjoy this masterful work of Science Fiction.

Buy Links


  1. Thank you to both of you lovely ladies for being part of this WOW! Women on Writing book blog tour! It is always such a pleasure working with wonderful readers and writers.


  2. You're welcome! I'm glad to be a part and to get the opportunity to showcase Bonnie!